Atlantis Alumni

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fabulous Art In Berlin!

Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio...just a sampling of the painters represented in the two museums in Berlin that we visited on Saturday.


Berlin is one of the great museum cities in the world. There are many, many venues all organized under the heading of “State Museums.” During our short time in the city we only had time to visit two: the Gemaldegalerie (the home of the royal Prussian collection, which covers European art from the 15th to 18th centuries) and the Neue National Gallery.

The Gemaldegalerie is particularly strong in German Renaissance art, the Italian Renaissance, the Flemish and Dutch Baroque. They also have Spanish, French and English paintings, but on a lesser scale. One of the most provocative and erotic Caravaggio paintings is his “Cupid,” which depicts a leering Roman street hustler posing as the god of love. The Rembrandts are very numerous in the museum, and Jim’s favorite, shown in the photo, shows a gesticulating Samson; Rembrandt’s metaphorical, Biblical scenes are among his most interesting. There are two Vermeers in the Gemaldegalerie, both first-rate. The one shown in the jpg is “A Glass of Wine,” a large interior with two superbly drawn and contemplated figures who converse in the artist’s special, magic light. Colors are rich yet subdued and the still life details speak volumes about how Vermeer appreciated the everyday on ritual and spiritual levels.

At the New National Museum, on Museum Island, we saw Berlin’s collection of first rate German and foreign paintings from the 19th century. Though there are works by Constable, Courbet, Manet, Monet and others, the vast majority of works are by the lesser known German artists. The early Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich is the most remarkable in my opinion, for his special poetry and the delicacy of his landscapes. Jim enjoyed the late Romantic works by the fantastic artist Frederick Bocklin. Illustrated on this blog is a painting of Ruggiero and Andromeda, which Jim found especially endearing for its spectacular blue dragon, who seems to sense that things will take a turn for the worse—for him. Knights on horseback and dragons usually didn’t relate well to each other, to say the least. Another, more famed Bocklin in the Museum is the “Isle of the Dead,” a mystical painting which inspired Rachmaninoff’s famed tone poem of the same name.

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