With its excellent reputation for connoisseurship, its expertise and the recognition it has won in the specialist world and beyond for its contribution to research, the Kupferstichkabinett is involved in many national and international collaborative projects and networks, ranging from academic Clusters-of-Excellence programmes to projects designed to appeal directly to a broader public.
The expertise of the Kupferstichkabinett is particularly in demand for providing specialist advice to museums and academic institutions, as well as to students, scientists, collectors and members of the public at home and abroad, and for training the next generation of specialists. Its well-patronised study room affords researchers the opportunity to study artefacts at first hand. Through its generous lending programme, it also supports many other museums in their exhibition projects.
Among the Kupferstichkabinett’s key tasks is making the results of its ongoing research available, both within the academic forum and, in accessible format, to the general public, particularly through scientific publications, catalogues, online services, exhibitions, public lectures and conferences.
Main research areas
- The artistic and cultural history of the graphic arts, both in Europe and in parts of the world linked to Europe by cross-cultural exchange
- The development of standards for electronically cataloguing and digitising the visual heritage represented by the media of drawing, printmaking, and book-illustration (in collaboration with leading international museums, libraries and picture archives)
- Conserving and preserving works of graphic art and their supports and making them available for public display
- Formulating standard terminology for recording and describing art-technological characteristics
- Approx. 25,000 books which are indispensable for research, including many which are unavailable elsewhere in Berlin (e.g., in the subject area of historical manuscript illumination; antiquarian literature on drawing, etc.), and some which are sole copies
- A collection of historic books dating from 1460 to the 18th century. Very rare and important books from the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century, most of them illustrated and some unavailable elsewhere in Berlin. They include block books which may be sole surviving copies. Over 1,000 volumes.
Photo archive: the Gernsheim Collection (Corpus Photographicum Gernsheim)
- Photographic documentation of every school of drawing, from many graphic collections throughout the world; some 250,000–300,000 photographs. An important research resource for visual comparison, available in Germany only in Berlin and open to the public (in the Kupferstichkabinett, with a smaller selection relating to the applied arts also available in the Kunstbibliothek).
Electronic online database
- under construction; some sections are already complete, for example, the academic online catalogue of works by Schinkel held by the Kupferstichkabinett (www.smb.museum/schinkel)
The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Drawings Collection has been held by the Kupferstichkabinett since 1992. It was founded as a separate department within the Nationalgalerie in 1878, following the transfer of a collection of mainly 19th century oil sketches, watercolours and drawings from what had been the Royal Kupferstichkabinett. During the National Socialist period, the Nationalgalerie acquired around 1,200 works for the Drawings Collection. While some came directly from the artists themselves or from private owners, many were acquired from art dealers and, increasingly from 1938 onwards, from auctions. When purchasing from auctions, Eberhard Hanfstaengl and Paul Ortwin Rave, the Nationalgalerie’s directors during the Nazi period, concentrated on large and famous auction houses, such as C.G. Berner in Leipzig, Karl and Faber in Munich and Hauswedell in Hamburg. Only a few isolated works on paper came from Berlin auctions: works by Max Perl, Rudolph Lepke, Hans W. Lange, Reinhold Puppel and Adolf Herold. Galleries, art dealers and antiquarian art shops, on the other hand, tended to patronise the local Berlin auction houses. The works acquired directly from private owners also came mainly from Berlin or from the surrounding areas of Brandenburg and Saxony. Owners were not usually well-known art collectors: ‘small owners’ could more readily afford drawings than prestigious paintings or sculptures.
Since October 2013, works in the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett’s Drawings Collection have been undergoing systematic provenance research to discover whether their former owners, particularly Jewish owners, were dispossessed of them as a result of Nazi persecution. The conduct of the project is structured around a concept, specially devised by the Kupferstichkabinett for provenance research, of so-called ‘Large Scale Collections’. These are collections whose holdings are not only quantitatively enormous but which contain a relatively large number of works which cannot be identified in external sources, or at least not unambiguously. This may be because of insufficient documentation, the diverse nature of the collection (e.g., prints, books, decorative arts) and the relatively small commercial value of individual items, or because items were acquired as collections. Although works on paper usually have considerably less accompanying documentation than individual paintings or sculptures, for the above reasons, the works under investigation in the Drawings Collection are unprecedentedly well documented. Not only does the entire inventory book of the Nationalgalerie survive in the Zentralarchiv of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, but also an almost-complete record of acquisitions.
Contact: Prof. Dr. Heinrich Schulze Altcappenberg, Dr. Hanna Strzoda
Funded by: Stiftung Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste
In collaboration with: Zentralarchiv, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Duration: October 2013 to September 2016
The Berlin Kupferstichkabinett’s collection of drawings by Rembrandt and his circle is world-famous. The critical inventory catalogue of Rembrandt’s drawings, published in August 2006, is to be supplemented by a catalogue of drawings by the Rembrandt School. This will encompass all the (ca. 150) confirmed drawings by pupils of Rembrandt. It will also include drawings which up until recently – for example in the seminal catalogue of Rembrandt drawings by Otto Benesch (1954-57) – were considered to be by the master’s own hand, but which the latest research has shown to be the work of pupils. These account for about 50% of the previously accepted works, around 70 drawings in all. Then there are some further 80 drawings in the style of Rembrandt.
Contact: Dr. Holm Bevers Duration: until 2018
This three-year DFG Transfer Project, a collaboration with the research group „BildEvidenz. History and Aesthetics“ at the Freie Universität Berlin is studying the structured meaning of exhibits and their presentation in museums and exhibitions. Central to the study is the philosophical concept of Evidenz or ‘immediate and unambiguous intelligibility’. The project aims to make a fundamental contribution to exhibition theory from an art-historical perspective. How can the medium of an exhibition convey and enhance the contexts of meaning and the forms of knowledge embodied in a work of art and, above all, create the effect of Evidenz? The Evidenz concept is used by the group as a heuristic instrument to classify the complex sensemaking processes of pictures and artistic artefacts within a broad context, ranging from rhetoric to epistemic and discursive notions of truth.
A vital platform and basis for research into the exhibition as a means of creating Evidenz is the presentation, jointly devised by the two project partners, entitled “Double Vision: Albrecht Dürer & William Kentridge”, which will run from 20.1.2015 to 6.3.2016 in the upper gallery of the Kulturforum. “Double Vision” focuses on the diverse body of prints of the internationally renowned artist, William Kentridge (born 1955 in Johannesburg), which up until now has seldom received the attention it deserves, and on selected woodcuts, etchings and copper engravings by Albrecht Dürer, who took the vocabulary of post-mediaeval printmaking to a wholly new level around the year 1500. Both the exhibition and the project as a whole will be able to draw on the rich collection of Dürer prints in the Kupferstichkabinett, which is being fully digitised for the first time as part of the Transfer Project and will be made available online for research purposes. The aesthetic of black and white, shared by Dürer and Kentridge and particularly reflected and intensified in their work, was developed by the two artists in quite different printmaking techniques (from woodcuts to photogravure), and is particularly revealing of the artistic processes which create Evidenz. It was this media-specific association – and not primarily the references sometimes evident in Kentridge’s work to particular motifs of Albrecht Dürer – which lay behind this epoch-spanning pairing of the two artists in an exhibition which occupies seven themed galleries.
The presentation, developed in collaboration with the Vienna-based architectural firm Holodeck, will be an experimental object of enquiry for the Transfer Project. Various presentation formats (including art education) will be modelled, developed and tested to reveal their potential, which can then be fruitfully applied in other constellations of history and culture.
Contacts: Dr. Andreas Schalhorn & Dr. Elke Anne Werner (FU Berlin)
Collaborator and DFG grant applicant: Kolleg-Forschergruppe “Bild Evidenz. Geschichte und Ästhetik” at the FU Berlin (Prof. Dr. Klaus Krüger, Dr. Elke Anna Werner)
Financed by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Exhibition)
Duration of the project: January 2015 – December 2017
A collection of drawings spanning the Renaissance and the Baroque constituting a national treasure.
With the acquisition, some years ago, of the so-called ‘Kleine Klebeband’ of the Princes of Waldburg-Wolfegg, a significant collection of 124 artworks, listed in Gemany’s inventory of valuable national cultural assets, was secured for the nation. As an object, the ‘Kleine Klebeband’ is significant, not only for the quality of the artworks it contains, but because they have belonged together for so long and are still physically housed in their original binding. It is now being studied as an outstanding example of the historical tradition of art collection, seen against the background of developments in society over several centuries.
Today the ‘Kleine Klebeband’ is estranged from its original context: one of the oldest and greatest princely collections of graphic art in the German-speaking world. The graphic art collection of the Hereditary Seneschal Maximilian Willibald von Waldburg-Wolfegg was assembled during a period beginning shortly after the end of the Thirty Years War and ending in the year 1667. Since then it has been preserved almost intact. Over the centuries, however, in response to cultural changes and scientific and intellectual developments, the works have been regrouped and shifts of focus have occurred. It was in the course of one such re-arrangement of the collection that the ‘Kleine Klebeband’ was compiled. It formed a special treasury where solitary sheets and master-drawings from various sources within the Wolfegger collection were gathered into their own classified location. In a broadly-conceived project, the ‘Kleine Klebeband’ has now become the centre of an interdisciplinary pilot study. The historical context of the precious individual objects and groups of artworks it contains will be studied from the moment of their creation onwards. The changes which occurred in the way they were used, perceived and valued, reflecting the development of post-medieval scientific thought, will also be investigated, as will the consequences of these changes for the history of art collecting.
Using innovative approaches in the humanities, art history and art restoration, together with modern methods of analysis and conservation, the ‘Kleine Klebeband’ and the groups of artworks it contains will be studied and elucidated in comparison with the original Kupferstichkabinett collection and its socio-historical development.
Contact: Dr. Michael Roth, Georg Josef Dietz
Collaborating partners: Kunstsammlungen und Museen Augsburg - Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart - Institut für Kunstwissenschaft und Historische Urbanistik der TU Berlin - Rathgen-Forschungslabor (SMB)
The Berlin Kupferstichkabinett owns one of the most important collections of French art in Germany. Important groups of works by individual artists, such as landscape drawings by Claude Lorrain, preparatory sketches by Jean Antoine Watteau, designs for illustrations by Hubert François Gravelots and animal studies by Jean-Baptiste Oudrys are supplemented by impressive single sheets of outstanding quality. To accompany the critical edition, there is to be an exhibition in which a representative selection from the rich holdings of the museum will show, for the first time, a comprehensive cross-section of this collection and at the same time offer an impressive panorama of French drawing from 16th to the 18th century.
Contact: Dr. Dagmar Korbacher
Duration: until 2018