Two hundred years ago in June 1817, Karl Freiherr von Drais from the German state of Baden took the first ride on one of his ‘running machines’ – inventions we now celebrate as the earliest form of the bicycle. To mark this notable anniversary, the Kunstbibilothek of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin has chosen around 80 objects from its graphic design, fashion image, and photography collections that focus on the bicycle. The items provide a glimpse of the bicycle’s turbulent history – from early velocipedes to cult objects of the 21st century – and also trace its development in terms of graphic form, photographic aesthetics, and fashion trends over the last two centuries.
The exhibit in the foyer vitrines of the Kunstbibliothek at the Kulturforum contains posters, photographs, prints, books, and magazines ranging in date from 1817 to 2017. The first piece is a copperplate of one of Drais’s inventions in the Allgemeine Moden-Zeitung newspaper from 1817 – proof that knowledge of the new invention spread rapidly.
Many of the earliest posters illustrate the enormous growth of bicycle manufacturing that began in the 1880s, as economic and social changes helped to make cycling one of the most popular forms of transportation. They reflect the aesthetic zeitgeist of the years around 1900: silhouettes of bicycles merge with flowing Jungendstil forms. In caricatures, public health pamphlets, and other contemporary publications, it is clear that cycling was a political issue – especially if women were on the saddle. It inspired new fashions and played a role in female emancipation. In the early 20th century the athletic aspect of cycling gained in prominence: artistic cycling and races were in vogue. Eighty years of fashion photography illustrate that the bicycle has – right up to today – always been an important lifestyle accessory.
The exhibition contains works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Bruno Paul, Will Bradley, Eugène Samuel Grasset, Johann Vincenz Cissarz, Raoul Marton, Robert L. Leonard, Willy Römer, Henning Wagenbreth, and others.
The exhibition can be visited during the opening hours of the Kulturforum: Monday to Friday from 10 am till 6 pm as well as Saturday to Sunday from 11 am till 6 pm. Admission is free.
Sun 11:00 - 18:00
Mon 09:00 - 20:00
Tue 09:00 - 20:00
Wed 09:00 - 20:00
Thu 09:00 - 20:00
Fri 09:00 - 20:00
Sat 11:00 - 18:00
Opening times on public holidays Plan your visit