The scuptures of the Kolonnadenhof
Between the boxwood hedges stand eight bronze sculptures. They are a foretaste of the rich collection of sculptures in the Nationalgalerie’s holdings.
Alexander Calandrelli (1834–1903)
Equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, 1875–1886.
Sculptor Alexander Calandrelli (1834–1903) created this impressive bronze monument, from 1875 to 1886, after designs by Gustav Blaeser. Paying tribute to Friedrich Wilhelm IV as patron of the arts are the allegorical figures of Religion, Art, History, and Philosophy, arranged on the pedestal. It was Friedrich Wilhelm IV who came up with the idea of creating a museum island on this land. The monument is the continuation of a series of equestrian statues of Hohenzollern rulers erected in central Berlin. The series includes Andreas Schlüter’s memorial to the Great Elector, Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg (which originally stood on Lange Brücke and now stands in front of Schloss Charlottenburg), Christian Daniel Rauch’s statue of Frederick the Great (Friedrich II, on Under den Linden), the statue of Friedrich III by Rudolf Maison (now-destroyed), which was erected in front of the Bode Museum, and the statue of Friedrich Wilhelm III by Albert Wolff, which once stood before the Altes Museum.
Reinhold Felderhoff (1865 – 1919)
Bronze (cast 1910)
Diana, goddess of the hunt, is seen strapping her arrow bag to her back, wearing high-laced sandals. This rendering was first unveiled as a statuette at the ‘Great Berlin Art Exhibition’ in 1898. The 1.74 metre-high bronze sculpture in the Kolonnadenhof was cast in 1910 at the Noack foundry in Berlin. The work combines influences of the Begas School (evident for example in the soft modelling of the hair) with Secessionist expressivity.
Louis Tuaillon (1862–1919)
Amazon on Horseback, ca. 1890/95
Bronze (cast 1895)
Representing a mythical people of fighting women, Tuaillon’s Amazon is not depicted as a dangerous warrior (as in August Kiss’s sculpture at the front of the Altes Museum), but as the epitome of self-control, mastery, and concentration. The ‘Amazon’ is regarded not merely as a key work of its creator Tuaillon (a pupil of Begas), but of fin de siècle German sculpture in general. It was purchased by the Nationalgalerie as early as 1896 and placed on view in the space between the (Alte) Nationalgalerie and Neues Museum in 1897. In its formal clarity and austere self-control, it marks a break from the language of forms of the opulent Neo-Baroque.
Constantin Meunier (1831–1905)
The Sower, 1896
Bronze (probably cast 1st third of 20th c.)
Constantin Meunier’s art honours the value (and the burden) of manual labour. It was not until 1886 that the Belgian artist made his breakthrough as a sculptor at the Paris Salon. His interest in portraying working-class subjects is also reflected in the ‘Sower’. A modified version of this sculpture was intended for Meunier’s major project to create a ‘monument to labour’. The sower also alludes to the traditional theme of the seasons, and represents spring and the perpetual renewal of nature. His clenched fist is full of seeds about to be flung, a subject and gesture also found a few years earlier in the works of Vincent van Gogh.
August Gaul (1869 – 1921)
August Gaul was one of the first modern sculptors in Berlin; his status as a modern sculptor was recognized by his contemporaries during his lifetime as an artist. This life-size lion statue was unveiled at the first Deutscher Künstlerbund exhibition in Munich in 1904. The sovereign calm and dignified alertness it exudes epitomizes August Gaul’s approach to art and, by extension, Secessionist sculpture as a whole. Gaul, who studied animals at Zoologischer Garten, was keen to capture the essence and nature of individual species. All literary, anecdotal, and generic allusions were thus excluded from the depiction, as well as the conventional iconographic significance attributed to the species as a heraldic animal or symbol of ruling power. The viewer’s attention is instead directed to its formal qualities, the clear silhouette and the closed, self-contained overall visual impression.
Max Klein (1847–1908)
Hercules and the Nemean Lion, 1878
Bronze (probably cast 1879)
This complicated composition depicts Hercules, half-god and hero of Greek mythology, strangling with bare hands a lion that was previously thought invincible. The athletic male nude and the lion with gaping jaws are so tightly interlocked in struggle that the viewer must walk around the work to make sense of it. The compositional chaos lends the work a sense of dynamism of near cinematic proportions, which was nevertheless quite in keeping with the Neo-Baroque style which Max Klein learned from his teacher Reinhold Begas.
Adolf Brütt (1855–1939)
The Fisherman (‘Saved’), 1887
Brütt first exhibited the sculpture in 1887, at the tender age of 22, whereupon it won a prize, making its creator famous overnight. The two-figure sculpture is of a muscular, bearded fisherman in foul-weather gear holding a girl in his hands, who he has just saved from drowning. The narrative tone of the scene, which Brütt claimed to have witnessed with his own eyes, made the depiction of an everyday hero a popular work with the public. The bronze cast produced by Gladenbeck using the lost-wax method was commissioned by the Nationalgalerie itself.
Ferdinand Lepcke (1866 – 1909)
Female Archer, 1905/1906
Column-like, a rigorously drawn, clearly proportioned female nude stands on a small round plinth, holding a tensed bow. Various titles have been assigned this work. In a newspaper clipping of unknown provenance it is referred to as ‘Amazon’, while in more recent literature it is called ‘Diana’. With its descriptive indifference, the original, decidedly non-literary title allows room for the viewer to conjure up his or her own associations. The rigorously frontal view, balanced composition, and starkly reduced form bespeak the influence of Adolf von Hildebrand, whose theories found their greatest resonance around 1900.
Reinhold Begas (1831 – 1911)
Centaur and Nymph, 1881 – 1886
The young woman attempts to elegantly straddle the centaur’s broad back. To assist her, he has lowered his rear legs and holds out his left hand to support her as she mounts. Half-man and half-beast, the coarse mythological creature embodies the untamed forces of nature, while the female figure symbolizes culture, as evidenced in her fine robes and hairstyle. The contrast between the two highlights the contrast between the sexes and their roles. In this regard, Begas’ work very much stands in a Baroque tradition. At the same time though, the composition can be equally viewed as a consciously-formulated, near humorous contrast between antiquity and modernity, as the archaic figure of the centaur is juxtaposed by that of a woman who entirely conforms to the ideal of female beauty that prevailed during Germany’s founding period or ‘Gründerzeit’ (1871–1890), as demonstrated in her posture and hair.
Atelier Van Lieshout:
This public, site-specific artwork, executed in bronze, is on display on the Museumsinsel from September 2015 for the next two years. The Monument is a clear reference to classical equestrian monuments, and to the political, military, and representative function of such statues. This reference sets up a critical and reflexive level in relation to the nearby equestrian statue of Frederick William IV of Prussia (Alexander Calandrelli, 1875-86), directly in front of the Alte Nationalgalerie. The artwork by Atelier Van Lieshout formulates an unmistakable comment on German Empire's social and political past in the years before WWI. The figurative and visual language of the work should also be read as a warning signal, however, directed towards the present and future.
Link to busts of the Kolonnadenhof
All images © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/ Andres Kilger
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