The Alte Nationalgalerie is located on Museum Island in Berlin. Our class made a visit and I enjoyed it very much. It was an excellent opportunity to see in person the works of the Romantic painters we had discussed in class. The audio guide that I picked up was extremely helpful to gain further insight into the works.
For example, I learned that Caspar David Friedrich, a landscape painter, never actually visited the Alps, even though he painted them. Instead, he studied paintings of other artists as source material. It makes sense that it would be difficult to travel great distances at the time, but it’s also very strange to imagine someone painting nature without actually seeing it in person, especially when nature was so prevalent in Romantic paintings. In his painting “Abbey Among Oak Trees,” the trees remind me of the Asian style of painting trees; I was curious if he was influenced by some of the Orientalist painting styles that had occurred in the 19th century.
|Fritz von Uhde [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In class, we had viewed a photo of “Come Lord Jesus” by Fritz von Ulde, which shows Jesus arriving to the dinner table at a poor family’s home. We were curious about the background of this photo. The audio guide from the museum was very illuminating; it notes that the painting references the prayer das Tischgebet, or saying grace. In class some students had speculated that the painting references the idea of setting an extra place at the table in case Jesus showed up for dinner. This painting is basically the same idea, except that Jesus did actually show up in person, instead of being present in spirit. When this painting was unveiled, conservative Christians were very offended because it showed Jesus, returning from the dead, visiting peasants in an impoverished environment. Such a viewpoint is incredibly ironic, given that Biblical literature indicates that Jesus was always ministering and spending time with the poor and outcasts of society. Based on Biblical information, it’s hard to imagine Jesus coming back and only wanting to hang out with the bourgeois.
There were many other fine works by the Neoclassicists, Biedermeiers, and Romantics in the museum. It was an excellent visit and I viewed as much art as was possible. I found the work of Friedrich and von Ulde especially striking; the audio guide really helped to illuminate the historical backgrounds of the pieces and make sense of what is not easily understood by modern eyes.