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Pictures of Clouds
The Discovery of Heaven

24.09.2004 to 30.01.2005

Alte Nationalgalerie
Alte Nationalgalerie

Clouds and dreams seem to have much in common. Just like dreams, the airiness and evanescence of clouds has inspired the fantasies of numerous artists. This exhibition, organised in conjunction with Hamburg's Bucerius Kunstforum and the Jenisch Haus, is devoted to clouds, as an exciting and rich source of inspiration.

During the Baroque era, architecture was decorated with heavenly creatures, saints and gods, floating on clouds. Landscape paintings from the Netherlands, introduced by artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael, brought a shift in focus, with natural scenery coming to the fore. As this new sensibility developed, artists became attuned towards nature in all its guises. A cloudy sky then came to symbolise the reflection of space or even infinity.

Around 1800 artists such as William Turner and Pierre-Henri Valenciennes, and also romanticists such as Carl Blechen, Caspar David Friedrich and Johan Christian Dahl, tried to catch the variations of light reflected on drifting clouds in their works. The characteristic immateriality of Turner's landscapes was an expression of his fascination with clouds. The potential carried in such abstract depictions of clouds was used later on by classic modernists like Emil Nolde, August Strindberg, Ferdinand Hodler and Piet Mondrian.

With the rise of rational science the interest in clouds became more and more scientific. The development of a system for their classification began which continues to be of great importance to meteorologists. The English painter John Constable, above all, devoted himself to a series of 'Cloud Studies'. Quickly, this spark reached the continent where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took the ideas further with his intense study of clouds.