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Alfred Lichtwark - 150th anniversary exhibition
The Collection of Pictures from Hamburg
15 November 2002 - 01 June 2003



In his inaugural speech of 12 December 1886, Alfred Lichtwark described his vision of a modern museum. One of the key elements of his museum concept was the integration of both the museum and modern art into Hamburg's public life. Above all, young artists living in Hamburg were to play an important role in this undertaking. To this end Lichtwark established the 'Collection of Pictures from Hamburg' in 1889, and from then on awarded commissions above all to the painters who had joined together to form the 'Hamburg Artists' Club'. Alfred Lichtwark had very specific ideas about the development of this collection, which was initially composed only of Hamburg landscapes, 'in pastel, watercolour and gouache'. But very soon other subjects were added: the harbour, the city and its churches, rural life in the Vierlanden and Marschlanden districts, and, from the mid-1890s onwards, portraits of leading figures from contemporary society in the Hanseatic city. Lichtwark's aim was to create a modern image of his native city that would make both the beauty of Hamburg and its contemporary painters known beyond the city boundaries. In 1893, with the addition of a pastel of the Kirchenallee by Max Liebermann, Lichtwark began to extend the concept of the collection by inviting modern artists from the whole of Germany to Hamburg to create a landscape, and usually also a portrait. Besides Liebermann, this brought the most important painters of the time to Hamburg: Wilhelm von Uhde, Wilhelm Trübner, Gotthard Kuehl and Lovis Corinth. In later years Lichtwark also turned his attention to modern artists from other countries, beginning with the Scandinavian artists Anders Zorn and Laurits Tuxen, followed by the French painters Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard in 1913. Similar projects with Gustav Klimt and Ferdinand Hodler, which Lichtwark made every effort to realize in the period leading up to his death, unfortunately never came to fruition. After Lichtwark's death in January 1914, the collection - a unique endeavour in the whole of Germany - was not developed further; his successor, Gustav Pauli, later added only one more portrait.

Astonishingly, Lichtwark's 'Collection of Pictures from Hamburg' has never before been reconstructed and analyzed in its entirety. Studies carried out over the past months in the Hamburger Kunsthalle show that the collection once encompassed more than 200 works, a number of which are still on permanent display. With few exceptions, the collection has remained in the Kunsthalle; only a small number of works were destroyed in the war or, as in the case of Zorn's notable watercolour of the harbour, were sold by Lichtwark's successor.

Opening on 14 November 2002 to mark the 150th anniversary of
Alfred Lichtwark's birth, the exhibition in the Hamburger Kunsthalle presents the most important works from this unique collection. The accompanying exhibition catalogue will provide the very first documentation of the collection as a whole.