Parcours: Revealing the Backs of Pictures

15 October 2004 – 14 April 2005

With the series of exhibitions titled Parcours, the Hamburger Kunsthalle provided visitors with new access points to various aspects of the collection. In the first Parcours (tour or circuit) a selection of artworks was shown from an unusual perspective, from the back side. The backs of the paintings are not only of great interest for academics, but also offer newcomers a variety of exiting and unexpected insights into the works and their creation.

Particularly spectacular are works in which the back is of equal artistic value as the front. The backs of pictures often bear traces of the creative process such as sketches or studies. Turning artworks around reveals the wide variety of materials used as picture supports, ranging from rough canvas to intricate parquetry. Important historical details documenting the origin and changing ownership of the works may also be detected – information which is often crucial to their precise attribution.

Prominent works (paintings and drawings) from the collection were displayed from the front and back in specially designed constructions. Some artworks simply turned their backs on the visitor, with their fronts facing the wall. Other works had actually lost their backs sides; documents testified their fate. Text panels provided information at all different stations of the show, allowing the visitors to gain an understanding of the relevant aspects of the topic in the course of their tour.