Experience Germany Like a Local

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Who Painted You, and Where Have You Been All My Life?

As she handed me my ticket to the Albertinum's galleries, a big dopey grin was already spreading across my face. One of the paintings I was hoping to meet was incorporated into the ticket design. Caspar David Friedrich’ Das Große Gehege bei Dresden, a landscape painting with a sunset sky that’s reflecting in the pools of water of a creek bed in a field.

With landscape paintings, there's typically a man-made object, animal, person, somewhere in the picture to provide a sense of scale. Friedrich’ doesn’t disappoint, there’s a raft nestled into the center of the composition, oh so discreetly.

Caspar David Friedrich' Das Große Gehege bei Dresden • Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

An Ark for Art: A Brief History

An ark for the art! Admittedly, the slogan made me smile. That’s an optimistic, can-do attitude for you, which has been essential for the Albertinum as it's constantly reacted to the various situations it's been dealt in its 129 year long history as a museum. When the original building was no longer needed as an armoury, it was transformed in only four years into a Neo Renaissance Style museum in 1887.

In the beginning, the Albertinum, housed only the sculpture collection. And while the building did sustain damage during the Dresden Bombing by Allied Forces in 1945, it fared better than many of its neighboring museums. In the 1950s it housed the returned art and treasures that could not return to their original homes at the Green Vault, Coin Cabinet, Armoury Museum and others. The museum expanded during reconstruction to add the New Masters Gallery in the 1960s.

After nearly suffering catastrophic losses during the 2002 flood, 40 contemporary artists held a fundraising auction, raising 3.4 million Euros towards making the Albertinum an Ark for the Art. Playfully toying with the Noah’s Ark tale, the 450+ year old building has been carefully modified to make the building flood proof. At the same time, quadrupled the holdings without losing the building’s original character and appearance. The building itself is a work of art, history and modernity melded together. On historic-character pediments and doorways are fun neon-lit directional signs, and the stunning central Atrium with the cafe and gift shop can also be a concert hall. While touring the floors, there were often windows that looked out into the central atrium.

Various Gallery Experiences

While walking through the galleries, I was surprised at the differing styles of exhibitions. There’s one gallery that is quite dark, the walls are painted nearly black, and you’re faced with the image of glass cases full of sculptures that are lit up. Beautiful storage, no need to keep them in a closet! Another hall, that had both paintings and sculptures, had red walls and it felt like a residential palace. Then there was a sculpture hall that had white arched ceilings, church-like in appearance.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of my own to share, but these are my 5 favorites of the Museum's, by David Brandt. If you click on any of these, it will take you to the official site where you can see more.

Official photos of the Albertinum Museum • Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden • by David Brandt

Meeting Paintings

Often your favorite painting keeps good company. While it is nice to meet paintings you’ve perhaps loved from a textbook for a long time, try to be receptive and open to discovering new loves. This painting, Portrait of the Dancer Marietta di Rigardo by Max Slevogt captivated me from across the room. Its an extra large painting, so in size alone it demands attention, but the way the dancer looks out of the painting keeps my imagination entertained. I love loose, expressive brushwork; the tassels of the shawl, the rug, the hint of a background, like swirls of frosting on a cake. I may have come to see Caspar David Friedrich’s work, but Max Slevogt is the one that is burned into my memory, and the postcard I have on my desk looking back at me.

The Portrait of the Dancer Marietta di Rigardo by Max Slevogt • Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Usually the museum gift shop will offer the majority of their works on exhibit as postcards, which I LOVE. Not only do you receive a small little keepsake for a few Euros, but it will often have the size, medium, title, and artist information along with of course the museum information. When I worked in a cubicle, my walls were covered with these postcards. Don’t forget, you must buy the art postcards at the museum it's exhibited in. The museums attain special reprinting licenses in order to make those postcards and sell them, so the kitsch souvenir shop on the corner won’t have them.

Have you ever gone to a museum looking for something, and then been blown away by something new? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Bonus Resources:

•The New Masters Gallery is included in the Google Art Project. Click here to see.

• Visit the official Panorama Tours of the New Masters Gallery and Sculpture Hall.

Visit the Official Panorama Virtual Tours

Sommerschuh, Jens-Uwe. The Fairest of Them All: The Dresden State Art Collections. Trans. Allison Plath-Moseley and Michael Wolfson. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2010. Print.

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