Gallery of Modern Art

Klassische Moderne

The department of "Modern Art" at the Hamburger Kunsthalle belongs to the most distinguished and important of its kind within Germany. All directors of the Hamburger Kunsthalle strove to rebuild, extend and present this collection after the losses incurred during the "degenerate art" programme implemented by the National Socialists in 1937. Diversity and foci characterise this department, which comprises art works dating from 1900 until about 1960.

To begin with there is a comprehensive group of paintings by Lovis Corinth. His oeuvre is impressively documented with main works of his realist early period through to his painterly late period, such as The Dressing Table or Flora. Equally, the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch is represented in the collection with main works. One version of his famous Madonna and Three Girls on a Bridge are merely two climaxes of a group of paintings by the artist. Similarly an entire room is designated to present the work of the sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck. All in all seven works, early terracottas, provide an overview over his plastic work of the period 1910 to 1918, the year prior to the artist's death

The "Brücke"-artists, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Emil Nolde in particular, constitute a further important emphasis of the collection. Kirchner's Staberhof Estate, painted on the island Fehmarn, his Selfportrait with Model or The Livingroom, an early selfportrait from Davos, are exceptional examples of his work, much like his landscape Lofthus, which he accomplished in Norway and the figure composition Break in the Studio by Schmidt-Rottluff painted in his Hamburg studio. Among other works by Nolde, the collection comprises an early main work of his religious paintings, the triptych Maria Aegyptiaca. Works by Erich Heckel and Otto Mueller complement this impression of a crucial chapter in German art history.

Important individual works by Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke and Alexei Jawlensky document the development of the "Blaue Reiter". Placed in the vicinity of contemporary French artists such as Pablo Picasso, George Rouault, André Derain and Robert Delaunay their influence on German artists becomes apparent. Picasso's early cubist work Portrait of the Art Dealer Clovis Sagot or Delaunay's Window Painting of the Eiffel tower are exceptional works in the development of modern art.

Modern tendencies are also visible in the bodies of work of artists who, since the founding of the "Bauhaus", taught in Weimar and later in Dessau: Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky and Lyonel Feininger. Klee's world-famous Golden Fish, his Revolution of the Viaduct, Schlemmer's Staircase Scene, and Feininger's Eastchoir of the Cathedral of Halle represent culminations of this movement.

The collection of paintings of the "Neue Sachlichkeit" is less significant in size, yet important: Christian Schad's Portrait of the Reporter Egon Erwin Kisch, John, the Women-Murderer by George Grosz, the impressive Selfportrait by the Hamburg artist Anita Rée, and Mother with Child by Otto Dix exemplify this new realism after the First World War. Dix also drew the large cartoons for his famous war-triptych, which is now in Dresden, as well as the large-scale preliminary drawing for his mural for the Dresden Hygiene Museum, which has been destroyed (for conservation reasons these highly light-sensitive works cannot be presented on a permanent basis).

Loans, especially those of works by Max Ernst, and René Magritte from the "Stiftung Sammlung Dieter Scharf in Erinnerung an Otto Gerstenberg", will (provisionally until early 2006) complete the Hamburger Kunsthalle's small group of surrealist works. Thus this influential art historic movement is presented with all its facets.

Max Beckmann's oeuvre is ascribed a singular position in the department of modern art. Like Corith's, Munch's and Lehmbruck's, a monographic room is devoted to his work. Reaching from his early Selfportrait, which he painted in 1907 in Florence, to the large main work Ulysses and Calypso, to his late landscapes and two of his rare sculptures, one of them being the original plaster for his bronze Adam and Eve, Beckmann's oeuvre is illustrated with important works.

The move towards abstraction is documented in the works of the predominantly German and French artists, who founded the group "Abstraction – Creation" before the Second World War: Otto Freundlich, Jean Hélion, Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and Man Ray. Together with abstract works by Walter Dexel, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, Karl Buchheister, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, these works represent a progression, which was brutally interrupted by the political developments and the Second World War.

The new artistic beginning after 1945, this completely altered perception, is documented partly in existentialist art from Paris – works by Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Germaine Richier or the painters of the Ecole de Paris are exemplary here. On the other hand Ernst Wilhelm Nay's work shows an individual and independent approach to a plane-decorative abstraction. The inclusion of works by the outsider Giorgio Morandi, or late works by the founders of modernity, Picasso, Marc Chagall or Oskar Kokoschka, show that the collection presents modern fine art with its multiple aspects.

Ulrich Luckhardt