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A Close Look at Hamburger Kunstahalle

September 24, 2014

I’ve been home for two weeks already, yet I still haven’t told you about the thing that I liked the most in Hamburg (apart from that huge crafts shop, of course, that I showed some of you on Instagram – by the way, you’re always welcome to follow me there, simply search for decorartuk).

Anyway, it’s easy to call it a thing, especially when you’re looking at its tiny model…

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Hamburger Kunsthalle – model

This is Hamburger Kunsthalle or Hamburg Art Museum. It is said to be “one of the largest and most important museums of art in Germany”.

In reality it’s a big complex of three buildings.

 The oldest of the three buildings (1869)

The oldest of the three buildings (1869)

“The Hamburger Kunsthalle consists of three striking buildings: the brick building from 1869 with its ornamental facade, the neoclassical extension building from 1919 made of light-coloured shell limestone, and the white cube of the Galerie der Gegenwart designed by architect Oswald Mathias Ungers and opened in 1997.”

Inside the "cube"

Inside the white cube building – Galerie der Gegenwart

Continuing the architectural talk, I have to mention Kunsthalle’s location, In my opinion it’s brilliant – right next to the main train station. If you’re hopping on the train just for one day, just to see this museum, you won’t have to walk far, which is always a bonus, don’t you think?

Sadly when we visited (the very beginning of September 2014) not all collections of the Hamburger Kunsthalle were on display, as they were preparing for some modernisation work” (seems like they will open to the public once again in spring of 2016). Only the so called white cube building was open and we saw just a small collection that they have named SPOT ON. It featured “a selection of more than 200 masterpieces from six centuries of art history”.

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That’s what the curators are saying about this small exhibition:

We’re turning the spotlight on the finest works in the Hamburger Kunsthalle collection! SPOT ON is a display of more than 200 masterpieces from our permanent collection, spanning from the Old Masters to 19th-century art and Classical Modernism through to the art of the present day. Visitors can see almost 600 years of art history… SPOT ON reflects the strengths of the Hamburger Kunsthalle collection – Dutch Golden Age painting, French Impressionism, the Expressionist artists’ groups Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter, as well as Pop art and Vienna Actionism – and also features major groups of works by Caspar David Friedrich, Philipp Otto Runge, Max Liebermann and Edvard Munch that are among the museum’s most significant holdings.

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Some of my favourite paintings?

I loved architectural images painted by Dutch painters of the Golden Age. The were amazing! I could see that creating these images involved careful preparation and this is what I found out – “the artists began by sketching church interiors in situ and taking their own measurements of architectural elements. These initial sketches and recorded details were then used to make the construction drawings on which their paintings were based. … Highly artificial visual constructs in paintings like these demonstrated the artists’ expertise in geometry and optics, and the images came to symbolise the ordering power of the human spirit and the constructive force of a culture shaped by Christian values.”

By the way, I decided against using my photographs of the paintings as they were taken without flash in not very bright artificial light, so the colours are somewhat distorted. I’ve linked to the original websites, where the images were found. Information about each artist came from Wikipedia.

Wilhelm Schubert von Ehrenberg – a Flemish Baroque painter mainly active in Antwerp who specialized in architectural church interiors as well as paintings of fantastic Renaissance palaces and churches.

The "Scala Regia" in the Vatican (Oil on canvas, 1667)

The “Scala Regia” in the Vatican (Oil on canvas, 1667) – image was found here

Gerard Houckgeest – specialized in painting imaginary church interiors and renaissance buildings.

The Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, with the tomb of William the Silent (Oil on panel, 1650)

The Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, with the tomb of William the Silent (Oil on panel, 1650) – image was found here

Other names that you should have a look at, of course if you liked these architectural paintings, – Emanuel de Witte, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam and Bernardo Bellotto called Canaletto.

The next lot were painted by German Romantic painters, I think they will deserve a post of their own (when I get a chance).

Philipp Otto Runge – a Romantic German painter and draughtsman. He made a late start to his career and died young, nonetheless he is considered among the best German Romantic painters.

Morning (First Version) - Oil on canvas, 1808 - image can be found here

Morning (First Version) ( Oil on canvas, 1808) – image was found here

Caspar David Friedrich – a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world.

- image found here

Meadows near Greifswald (Oil on canvas, 1821/22) – image was found here

And this probably won’t surprise you – lots of impressionists!

Edouard Manet – a French painter, one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life, and a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

Nana (Oil on canvas, 1877) - image can be found here

Nana (Oil on canvas, 1877) – image can be found here

Pierre Auguste Renoir – a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.

Madame Hériot (Oil on canvas, 1882) - image was found here

Madame Hériot (Oil on canvas, 1882) – image was found here

Max Liebermann – a German-Jewish painter and printmaker, and one of the leading proponents of Impressionism in Germany.

Amsterdam Orphans in the Garden (Oil on canvas, 1885) - image was found here

Amsterdam Orphans in the Garden (Oil on canvas, 1885) – image was found here

There also were some contemporary exhibits, but I wasn’t too keen on them. I went to see the works of the old masters, so I didn’t pay much attention to the new stuff. Well, after walking from one room to another full of beautiful paintings I guess it’s easy to loose your interest when you see a pile of burnt wood. I’m not saying I dislike contemporary art, but when you put together something old, that was created by a very skillful artist, and new, that looks just like a scribble, you can guess which I will prefer.

Anyway, we went to Hamburg just for a few days and wanted to squeeze in some sight seeing and some cultural experiences, so I guess it worked well that the current exhibition was just a small collection of the best artworks owned by the Hamburger Kunstahalle. I’ll gladly return in a few years time.

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I’ll have to plan a longer trip and explore all of their exhibits! I recommend you do the same.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2014 1:01 pm

    Nice trip! I was in Hamburg many years ago! I loved that city!

    • September 24, 2014 5:58 pm

      There’s definitely loads to see there. It’s a perfect city for summer strolls, as they have so much water! City in the harbour. K.

  2. September 24, 2014 5:41 pm

    Living in the Netherlands, there’s really no excuse not to make the small trip to Hamburg…..it goes on the list of things to do!

    • September 24, 2014 6:03 pm

      Brilliant! I’m sure you’ll love the city and everything it has to offer. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, always appreciated! K.

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