From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) in Berlin is a gallery showing a collection of Classical, Romantic, Biedermeier, Impressionist and early Modernist artwork, all of which belong to the Berlin National Gallery Collection. The museum is situated on Museum Island, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.
The initial ideas about the national gallery began in the year 1815. The movement gained momentum during the 1830s, but without an actual building. In 1841 the first real plans were created. These plans never made it out of the planning stages, but finally in 1861 the nationalgalerie was founded, after the donations of 262 paintings by banker Johann Heinrich Wagener from both german and foreign painters. This donation formed the basis of the current collection. The collection was first known as Wagenersche und Nationalgalerie and was housed in the buildings of the Akademie der Künste. The current building, shaped like a Roman temple with an appended apse was planned by
Building and related developments
Friedrich August Stüler started in 1863, following a sketch by King Frederick William IV of Prussia to plan the building. 2 years, and 2 failed plans later, his third proposal was finally accepted. Stüler died before the building was finished and Carl Busse handled the remaining details. in 1866 after the Kaiser's cabinet meeting the Kommission für den Bau der Nationalgalerie (Commission for the construction of the national gallery) was created. They broke ground in 1867 overseen by Johann Heinrich Strack d. Ä. The frame was completed in 1872 and the interior work began. The building was first opened on March 22, 1876 in the presence of the Kaiser. Because of the building's modern design with brick and iron, it was widely believed to be fireproof. The exterior and outer staircase were constructed from Nebra sandstone (Trias). At the opening the collection was still relatively small. Next to Wagener's collection, originally, was a display of Cartons from Peter von Cornelius left behind by the Prussia government. The goal became to collect early Prussian art, as Berlin at the time had no other museums with such collections.
Socialistic period and World War II
After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Ludwig Justi was placed in the director role for the gallery, where he stayed until 1937. During his time he initiated several expansion projects. He was followed by Paul Ortwin Rave, who stayed until 1950, although because of World War II the building was closed much of that time period. The building was heavily damaged in World War II air raids. It was partly reopened in 1949, but reconstruction continued until 1969. Between 1998 and 2001, the museum was renovated thoroughly. Some extra halls were added on the uppermost floor and now contain the Romantic works.
The collection contains works from Classicism and Romanticism (by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and Karl Blechen), of the Biedermeier, the French Impressionism (Édouard Manet, Claude Monet) and early modern works (Adolph von Menzel, Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth). Among the most important exhibits are Friedrich's Mönch am Meer, Menzel's Eisenwalzwerk and sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow's Prinzessinnengruppe, a double statue of princesses Louise and Friederike of Prussia. The Alte Nationalgalerie houses one of the largest collections of 19th century sculptures and paintings in Germany.
The Alte Nationalgalerie, together with the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Bode Museum, the Pergamon Museum, the Berlin Cathedral and Lustgarten, make up the Museum Island complex in Berlin. It is situated in the middle of the island, between the rails of the Berlin Stadtbahn and Bode Street on the eastern banks. It is connected to the Pergamon-Museum to the north, and to the Neues Museum, the Altes Museum and the Berlin Cathedral to the south. The building was designed by Friedrich August Stüler, with an architectural style that is a mix between late-Classicism and early-Neorenaissance, and realised by Johann Heinrich Strack. The exterior of the building still retains its original looks, whereas the interior has been renovated many times in order to suit the exhibits.