Exhibition | Spirit and Splendour of the Dresden Picture Gallery

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 29, 2014


Bernardo Bellotto, called Canaletto, The Ruins of the Old Kreuzkirche in Dresden, 1765, 80 x 110 cm (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; photo by Elke Estel/Hans-Peter Klut)

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From the museum:

Rembrandt—Titian—Bellotto: Spirit and Splendour of the Dresden Picture Gallery
RembrandtTizianBellotto: Geist und Glanz der Dresdner Gemäldegalerie
Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 22 August — 23 November 2014
Groninger Museum, Groningen, 13 December 2014 — 25 May 2015
Belvedere Winterpalais, Vienna, 11 June — 26 October 2015

The Kunsthalle München is showing some one hundred masterpieces by famous painters including works by Caracci, Velázquez, van Dyck, Lorrain, Watteau and Canaletto. They illustrate the roots of the legendary rich Dresden Picture Gallery and its flourishing throughout the Baroque era and the Age of Enlightenment.

The exhibition focuses on the reign of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670–1733), also known as the Strong, and his son Augustus III (1696–1763). During the ‘Augustan Age’, an era of economic and cultural efflorescence, the manifold building projects, vibrant cultural life and the enhancement of the royal collections all embodied the electoral court’s new claim to power. The construction of the Cathedral and the Frauenkirche during this era gave Dresden its world famous silhouette. Moreover, prestigious painters like the Italian Bernardo Bellotto (1721–1780) or Louis de Silvestre (1675–1760) were drawn to Dresden, where they were engaged as court artists. This vibrant, innovative era forms the backdrop behind the painted masterpieces and their stories.

The development of the Dresden Picture Gallery, its presentation, focus and appeal throughout the 18th century is expounded in seven chapters. The exhibition examines the inception of the painting collection under Augustus the Strong, which may be interpreted as the expression of his heightened need to demonstrate his status on being crowned king of Poland in 1697. Significant works from various genres like history painting, landscape, still life and portraiture highlight the profile of the royal collection, which continued to grow throughout the 18th century. A frequent visitor to the Dresden Picture Gallery was the famous art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), who wrote an account of his experiences, thereby contributing to immortalise the collection’s legendary reputation. The exhibition presents numerous works that he encountered while roaming the royal gallery and which found his appreciation. Thus, over the course of the 18th century, the collection evolved into a place of learning and exchange of ideas, luring numerous artists to draw inspiration from the Old Masters. The exhibition concludes with the reopening of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts under the direction of Christian Ludwig von Hagedorn (1712–1780); he succeeded in engaging prestigious painters as teachers, who gave the development of art in Dresden fresh momentum, thereby foreshadowing the modern trends of the 19th century.

Roger Diederen, Bernhard Maaz, and Ute Christina Koch, eds., Rembrandt—Tizian—Bellotto: Geist und Glanz der Dresdner Gemaldegalerie (Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2014), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-3777422022, €40.

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Note (added 15 December 2014) — The original posting omitted information on the catalogue as well as the Groningen and Vienna venues. At the Groninger Museum the exhibition is entitled The Secret of Dresden: From Rembrandt to Canaletto (in Dutch Het geheim van Dresden – Van Rembrandt tot Canaletto).

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