The library in the nineteenth century

The library of the Hamburg Kunsthalle was founded in 1863 and opened to the public in 1869. At that time, it functioned as a reference library for the painting gallery, the print cabinet and the sculpture collection. The stock consisted of general and specialist reference works, language dictionaries, bibliographies and handbooks. Indeed, that range is still available. The basis for the library was part of the private library of Georg Ernst Harzen (1790-1863), a Hamburg art dealer and collector.

In 1891 the reading room was opened in the old building of the museum, and as a result the library became accessible to the public. From the outset, the room was intended to cater both for the library, and the prints cabinet. The library took its lead from the work of the Museum. The aim was the creation of a specialist art library for north Germany. To that end, it began to acquire important reference works and monographs.

In 1889 the library obtained a collection of Ludwig Richter's work from the Richter-specialist Johann-Friedrich Hoff. With 134 volumes, it now possesses an almost complete collection of illustrated works by Ludwig Richter. In addition, they acquired art-historical journals. The historical collection includes 165 periodicals, nine from the eighteenth century, and has been increased through donations and legacies.

In 1895, 410 exhibition catalogues were donated to the library by Cipriano Francisco Gaedechens, an independent scholar of Hamburg, and contemporary of Harzen. To begin with, the library's acquisitions rate was between 200 and 300 volumes a year. In the early twentieth century, this number increased to 800-900 volumes.

The library in the twentieth century

In 1922, the reading room was moved to the new wing of the old building of the Kunsthalle. The furnishings, now preserved under the historic monuments scheme, were designed by Fritz Schumacher. During the transfer to the new wing, the library was completely reorganised.

In 1925, the library acquired the stock of the University Department of Art-History, together with the greater part of the library of August Kalkmanns, a classical scholar and friend of Aby Warburg. However, the stock of the Kunsthalle remains separate from that of the Department of Art-History, whose strength lies in architecture.

During the period of National Socialism, government funding was reduced to a minimum, so the library's stock grew mostly through donations. During World War II part of the stock was evacuated, but already in the Autumn of 1945 the library was moved back into the Kunsthalle. Part of the stock was, however, lost or damaged.

Since then the library has grown to more than 165 000 publications.