While tourists in Berlin tend to flock to Museum Island, they often overlook the Kulturforum, home to the city’s great collection of old master paintings, the Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery).
The museum is situated between two iconic buildings – the Berliner Philharmoniker and the New National Gallery, the latter designed by the famous Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It offers an overview of European painting from the 13th to the early 19th centuries.
That Berlin can boast such a superior collection today is remarkable. The Hohenzollern, the royal family here, were not avid collectors. And the museum incurred tremendous losses in the 20th century. After World War I, the van Eyck brothers’ famous Ghent altarpiece was turned over to Belgium as (very modest) recompense for the devastation German forces wrought after violating Belgian neutrality – including the destruction of the great university library in Leuven. In World War II, hundreds of paintings were lost, among them three by Caravaggio, eight by Rubens, and four by van Dyck.
And yet to walk through the museum – between works by Botticelli, Raffael, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and yes, van Eyck, Caravaggio, Rubens, and van Dyck – is still a thrill, even more so because it is rarely crowded, the presentation of the art works is state of the art, and the museum is not so large as to be overwhelming. It is a wonderful introduction to the breadth and quality of Western painting.
The Gemäldegalerie is one of our valued partners.
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