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

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ksenia L (6 months ago)
I finally saw my favorite picture of Böcklin's Island Of The Dead (Die Toteninsel), an incredible feeling. Love this museum!
Vicky Beckett (6 months ago)
An amazing gallery with an incredible collection. The audio tour is great. The staff are very strict though!
Lara Dinç (7 months ago)
The museums location is very easy to access. The paintings inside are amazing, all of them are wonderful. The building itself is beautiful as well.
Ian Watters (7 months ago)
Not known as the Menzel gallery, but given how much of it is taken up by Adolph's work - including sketches and unfinished works - perhaps it should be. Unless you are a fan, probably not worth paying for on its own, but worth a look if you have a Museum Island or Berlin Museum Pass that includes it. OK, that's a bit unfair, but it would help if so much wasn't sorted by artist rather than theme or style.
Marc Albert (8 months ago)
One of the best museums I ever visited. Your 10 EURO fee includes an audio guide. The museum has mostly German artists I never heard of but there are some fantastic pieces. I loved the number of sculptures too. Of course there are Renoir, Monet, Manet, etc to enjoy too.
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