Marvel at famous works of art and architecture from 19th century Europe with a visit to the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Caspar David Friedrich, Paul Cézanne and Pierre-Auguste Renoir — these are the famous names you will meet in the Alte Nationalgalerie. The museum is part of the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the gallery, you will see paintings and sculptures from the 19th century. The building itself looks like an ancient temple - built in the style of Prussian classicism.
From classicism to romanticism on three floors
Stop for a while before heading into the Alte Nationalgalerie. Admire the imposing neoclassicist building. The upper section is framed by pillars, entirely in the style of an ancient temple. The idea comes from King Frederick William IV of Prussia. His ideas influence Berlin's architecture in the 19th century, as it does with the design for the Alte Nationalgalerie - a classicist temple building. Once you enter the museum, you are still surrounded by Prussian classicism. In the entrance and on the first floor, you will find statues and paintings from this period. The floor continues to the detailed works of Adolph Menzel. Continue the tour to the second floor to the Impressionist paintings. Here you will stand in front of famous monuments by Monet, Renoir and Manet. Plan some time to look at famous paintings like Renoir's "In Summer". The rooms are spacious, and every work of art is given enough room to be admired fully. On the third floor, you will find works from the Romantic Goethe period. One of the highlights is the hall, completely dedicated to the works of Caspar David Friedrich. Imagine his "Monk by the Sea" and let the wide, grey night sky appear to you.
Not only does the museum display works of art, but the building itself has an interesting history. It begins in 1861 with the death of a banker. In his will, the banker in question, Joachim Heinrich William Wagener, bequeaths his collection of paintings the Prussian state to be enjoyed by all lovers of art. Architect Friedrich August Stüler soon begins work on a worthy home for Wagener's artistic treasures. Johann Heinrich Strack then takes over and finally completes the construction. In 1876, the museum opens its doors. However, it does not stay open. In World War II, bombs hit the building. The gallery is renovated, but does not immediately return to its former glory. Germany is now divided, and the exhibits are spread over several locations in the GDR and West Berlin. Only after the reunification of Germany in 1990 do they return to their original location. The city rehabilitates the museum once again in the 1990s. A new edition is the highly praised hall for Caspar David Friedrich. In 2001 the Alte Nationalgalerie re-opens its doors and has remained open until today.
Five famous masterpieces
- Adolph Menzel’s paintings ‘The Balcony Room’ (1845) and ‘Iron Rolling Mill’ (1875).
- Double Statue of the Princesses Luise and Friederike of Prussia (1795-1797) by Johann Gottfried Schadow.
- Bronze equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1875-1886) sculpted by Alexander Calandrelli. This is located on the staircase in front of the museum.
- Oil painting titled ‘Monk by the Sea’ (1808-1810) by German artist Caspar David Friedrich.
- The oil-on-canvas painting titled ‘In Summer’ by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1868).
Places to visit near the Alte Nationalgalerie
As it is one of the five museums on the Museumsinsel, you can start exploring nearby attractions with the Neues Museum where Egyptian exhibits like the bust of Nefertiti is on display among other archaeological treasures. Next, head to the Pergamon Museum and admire the striking Ishtar Gate, which is one of the gates of the city of Babylon. The next place to visit is the Bode Museum, located right behind the Pergamon. This magnificently designed place is home to Byzantine art and sculptures as well as an impressive numismatic collection of over 50,000 coins. Here you can also view the works of Tilman Riemenschneider, sarcophagi from Rome, and late antiquity artworks. Make your final stop of an art-filled day of sightseeing at the Altes Museum (Old Museum). This classical building houses Greek and Roman artefacts including the portraits of Caesar and Cleopatra.
Tips from visitBerlin
Museumsinsel is located in Berlin Mitte. To get there, take the S-Bahn to Hackescher Markt. There is no parking on the island so you will have to park near Alexander Platz. Stay late at the museum on Thursdays, when it is open until 8pm. You can use the Berlin Welcome Card Museum Island to explore all the museums on Museum Island over three consecutive days. With a Museum Pass Berlin you can visit 50 other museums in Berlin for free. For school classes, there are numerous educational programmes such as guided tours, workshops and others events.
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