Alte Nationalgalerie

Berlin, Germany

The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) in Berlin is a gallery showing a collection of Neoclassical, Romantic, Biedermeier, Impressionist and early Modernist artwork. It is the original building of the National Gallery, whose holdings are now housed in several additional buildings. It is situated on Museum Island, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

The idea of establishing a cultural and educational centre across from the Berlin Palace dates back to the time of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who dreamt of creating a 'sanctuary for art and science' on the site. The basic architectural concept for the Alte Nationalgalerie – a temple-like building raised on a plinth decorated with motifs from antiquity – came from the king himself. The building was designed by Friedrich August Stüler, a student of Schinkel who also designed the Neues Museum. It was completed after Stüler’s death by another of Schinkel’s students, Johann Heinrich Strack.

The initial impetus for the construction of the Nationalgalerie was a bequest to the Prussian state in 1861 from the banker and consul Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Wagener, whose collection featured works by Caspar David Friedrich, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, painters from the Düsseldorf school, and history painters from Belgium. The bequest came with the stipulation that the paintings were to be publicly displayed in a 'suitable location'. Just one year later Stüler received the commission to draw up plans for the building. After ten years of construction the Nationalgalerie ceremoniously opened on 21 March 1876 for the birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm I, becoming the third museum on the island in the Spree.

The building suffered direct hits on several occasions during the aerial bombardment of the Second World War, sustaining heavy damage particularly after 1944. The collection itself had gradually been evacuated with the war’s onset. Among other places, it was stored in Berlin’s anti-aircraft towers near the zoo and in Friedrichshain, as well as in the salt and potash repositories in Merkers and Grasleben.

After the war’s end the building was quickly though provisionally restored; parts of it were re-opened in 1949. The second floor was made accessible to visitors one year later.

During the division of Germany, the 19th-century paintings that had survived the war in Western zones of occupation were housed in the Neue Nationalgalerie, starting in 1968, and in Schloss Charlottenburg’s Gallery of Romanticism from 1986. After the fall of the Berlin wall, the growing collections were united in their original building, now called the Alte Nationalgalerie, on Berlin’s Museumsinsel. Accommodating the collection meant repairing the damage the war had wrought to the building as well as adding new rooms. The architectural firm HG Merz Berlin was entrusted with this work in 1992. In March of 1998 the Alte Nationalgalerie was closed for renovations. The museum was finally re-opened in December 2001, marking its 125th anniversary.

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Address

Bodestraße 1, Berlin, Germany
See all sites in Berlin

Details

Founded: 1861
Category: Museums in Germany
Historical period: German Confederation (Germany)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Giovanni Micheletto (2 months ago)
Pretty good and nice selection... Still not at the level of National Gallery or Prado or similar. Anyway worth going :-)
Eva (2 months ago)
Amazing collection, nicely curated as well. I would've liked some more information about the painting on the signs next to the artwork though!
Bekalu Tadesse (4 months ago)
Interesting and breath catching site. Recommend for wedding photography!
Dr Pete Unicorn (5 months ago)
The fine arts museum on Berlin's Museumsinsel (Island of museums) is worth a visit not solely because of its great collection of German and European paintings and sculptures - by famous artists such as Casper David Friedrich, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and others - bus also to see the amazing architecture of this museum-palace in the very centre of the city.
Anne Merrill (6 months ago)
I'm honestly not usually much of a paintings person, so it took me a long time to finally make it to this museum. What a delight! So romantic.
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