Cult of the Artist: In the Temple of Art. Artistic Myths

01.10.2008 to 18.01.2009

Alte Nationalgalerie

As part of the series of exhibitions on the 'Cult of the Artist' the Old National Gallery will be presenting three special exhibitions. 'Artistic myths. The 19th century' investigates the recurring themes of the depiction of the self and the artist's existence in relation to others in the 19th century.

Thorvaldesen's quasi-fraternal portrait of himself with his two friends, the Schadow brothers Wilhelm and Ridolfo, exemplifies certain core aspects: the artists vie with one another in an idealized way, showing off their archaeological and art historical roots from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and presenting themselves as busy in the studio and in the same company as their greatest creations. Portraits of the self and of the self with companions have always played a great role here; and yet the inquisitorial self-questioning and the organization of individuals into artists' associations count as one of the central phenomena of the art system.

This exhibition allows us to cast a look back at the primordial artistic myths, to Apollo as the guardian of the arts and to Prometheus as the archetypal suffering creator, as well as to the 'invention of painting'. Furthermore, the mutual intertwining of various art forms will be made subject for discussion, as being not only a trend that has always occurred throughout history but which was also brought to a head in the Renaissance in the paragone: painting and sculpture vie as much with each other, as subjects and individuals from the world of literature and music are to be found in painting.

Caspar David Friedrich's works reveal the extent to which he transformed isolation and asceticism into being integral elements of both his own life and the way he approached his work. In Adolph Menzel's 'Foot of the Artist' we come across a radically ironic take on the self-portrait genre, while in Lovis Corinth's 'Samson Blinded' we again come full-circle, as even the forces majeures which threaten the act of creation cannot be foreseen or prevented.