Exhibition | Anna Dorothea Therbusch

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 5, 2021

Anna Dorothea Therbusch, Self-Portrait, detail, ca. 1782, 154 × 118 cm
(Berlin: Gemäldegalerie)

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Now on view at the Gemäldegalerie:

Anna Dorothea Therbusch: A Berlin Woman Artist of the Age of Enlightenment / Eine Berliner Künstlerin der Aufklärungszeit
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, 3 December 2021 — 10 April 2022

Born in Berlin three hundred years ago, Anna Dorothea Therbusch (1721–1782) went on to become one of the most important women artists of the eighteenth century. To mark the tercentenary of her birth (23 July), the Gemäldegalerie is honouring this extraordinary artist and forerunner of women’s emancipation with a special exhibition featuring key works from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s own collections.

The daughter of the Prussian court painter Georg Lisiewsky, Anna Doroethea received her initial artistic instruction from her father, alongside her siblings. As the wife of an innkeeper and mother of five children, however, her artistic abilities lay idle for decades. In her forties, though, she dedicated herself to painting with great vigour, and in 1767 she was one of the few women to be accepted into Europe’s most important art school of the time, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris. After returning to her hometown, she became a highly sought-after portrait painter, producing likenesses of figures such as Henriette Herz, Frederick the Great, and the doctor Christian Andreas Cothenius, one of the most important chroniclers of the Age of Enlightenment.

Two branches of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin—the Gemäldegalerie and the Alte Nationalgalerie—boast works by this great local artist, and each has provided museums across the city with permanent loans, with Therbusch’s work on display at the Bode-Museum, the Kunstgewerbemuseum, and at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

One of the painter’s best-known works is a large-format self-portrait from around 1782 in which Therbusch presents herself as a scholar and elegant figure of note. She appears as an approachable and intelligent interlocutor, interested in both objects and her conversation partner, as indicated by the book in her hand and her frontal gaze. Centred around this important painting, the exhibition presents nearly all of Therbusch’s works from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Complemented by key works from her contemporaries, the show provides a comprehensive overview of her oeuvre, her professional milieu, and more broadly the age in which she lived.

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