Rembrandt Bugatti

28.03.2014 to 27.07.2014
Alte Nationalgalerie

Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916) is one of the most remarkable and artistically independent sculptors of the early 20th century. The brother of the renowned automobile designer Ettore Bugatti, Rembrandt Bugatti created in his short lifetime an oeuvre comprising over 300 works, which is unique in its intensity and variety of form.

The exhibition

With over 80 sculptural works, the exhibition in the Alte Nationalgalerie is the first major museum showing of Rembrandt Bugatti's works, setting the stage for a triumphant rediscovery of the artist. Although he enjoyed success during his lifetime and his work is still collected by enthusiasts, Bugatti remains largely unknown to the general public. Museums in Paris, Washington, and Antwerp have agreed to make loans for the exhibition. The majority of the works on display, however, are from international private collections that are showing their treasures publicly for the first time in the Nationalgalerie.


As a young man, Bugatti discovered the subject that would captivate him throughout his life: animals. While at first he mostly sculpted cows, Bugatti was later to find more exotic models in the zoos of Paris and Antwerp. His work featured animals such as anteaters, tapirs, Marabou storks, yaks, secretary birds, and kangaroos, introducing them into European art history as sculptural subjects for the very first time. After a period of intensive observation, Bugatti would create models for nearly all his sculptures directly in front of the animal itself. The artist's extraordinary feeling for "the right moment" made it possible for him to capture an individual animal's most expressive gesture, thus creating incomparably lifelike portraits. He was particularly concerned with a precise depiction of the mannerisms, movements, and sentiments of his subjects.

Bugatti's oeuvre is generally distinguished by a remarkable control of the sculptural medium, and by its artistic spontaneity and freedom. His gift for precise observation and a strong capacity for empathy lend an enormous presence and authenticity to his work. The diversity of his models is as peerless as his sculptures' surfaces.


The son of furniture designer Carlo Bugatti, Rembrandt was born in Milan into a highly artistic environment. The painter Giovanni Segantini was his uncle, and composers such as Puccini and Leoncavallo were frequent guests at his parents' house. His talent was discovered and encouraged from an early age; his first exhibition was shown in Venice and later in Paris when he was only 18. It caused a great sensation, bringing the young artist recognition and success. Through co-operation with gallerist, bronze-caster, and kindred spirit Adrien-Aurélien Hébrard, who also reproduced sculptures by Degas and Rodin, Bugatti's works were introduced into many collections in the form of masterful bronze castings. Troubled by the impact of the First World War, Bugatti took his life in Paris in 1916. He was only 31 years old.

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive catalogue with colour images of all exhibited works, as well as numerous historical photographs and documents. Penetrating essays by well-known authors illuminate the French, Italian, and Belgian periods and contexts in Bugatti's work. The catalogue appears in a German and an English edition.

The exhibition ist promoted and sponsored by the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie and Volkswagen

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