The Kunsthalle Munich is showing approximately one hundred masterpieces by famous artists including Carracci, Velázquez, van Dyck, Lorrain, Watteau and Canaletto. They illustrate the roots of the legendary rich Dresden Picture Gallery and its flourishing throughout the Baroque era and the Age of Enlightenment.
The Augustan Age
The exhibition focuses on the reign of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670–1733), also known as the Strong, and his son Augustus III (1696–1763). During the “Augustan Age”, an
era of economic and cultural flourishing, the manifold building projects, vibrant cultural life and the enhancement of the royal collections all embodied the electoral court’s new claim to power. The construction of the Cathedral and the Frauenkirche during this era gave Dresden its world famous silhouette. Moreover, prestigious painters like the Italian Bernardo Bellotto (1721–1780) or Louis de Silvestre (1675–1760) were drawn to Dresden, where they were engaged as court artists. This dynamic, prosperous era forms the backdrop behind the painted masterpieces and their stories.
Collection and Inspiration
The development of the Dresden Picture Gallery, its presentation, focus and appeal throughout the 18th century is expounded in seven chapters. The exhibition examines the inception of the painting collection under Augustus the Strong, which may be interpreted as the expression of his heightened need to demonstrate his status on being crowned king of Poland in 1697. Significant works from various genres like history painting, landscape, still life and portraiture highlight the profile of the royal collection, which continued to grow throughout the 18th century. A frequent visitor to the Dresden Picture Gallery was the famous art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), who wrote an account of his experiences, thereby contributing to immortalise the collection’s legendary reputation. The exhibition presents numerous works that he encountered while roaming the royal gallery and which found his appreciation. Over the course of the 18th century, the collection evolved into a place of learning and exchange of ideas, luring numerous artists to draw inspiration from the Old Masters. The exhibition concludes with the reopening of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts under the direction of Christian Ludwig von Hagedorn (1712–1780); he succeeded in engaging prestigious painters as teachers, who gave the development of art in Dresden fresh momentum, thereby foreshadowing the modern trends of the 19th century.
A contemporary view
This presentation of Old Masters also contains a contemporary approach: The video artist Christoph Brech (born 1964) was recently invited by the Dresden Picture Gallery to give new artistic expression to the masterpieces in the museum. The resulting film, Sistine Madonna, is being shown in this exhibition for the first time. Brech’s optical illusion of Raphael’s 1512/13 original allows for surprising new possible interpretations for this icon of art history, the Picture Gallery and the city of Dresden.
An exhibition organised by the Dresden State Art Collections in collaboration with the Kunsthalle of the Hypo Cultural Foundation.
The entire exhibition – with details of all pictures and with all accompanying info texts – now on Instagram. (you need a smartphone to view the digital exhibition)