The Kolonnadenhof (colonnade courtyard) is a large open space that connects the ensemble of buildings made up by the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Neues Museum and the Pergamonmuseum. With columns and pillars lining three of its sides, it provides the perfect place to linger and to take a closer look at the numerous bronze sculptures on display, allowing visitors to contemplate art under the open skies.
The monumental bronze sculptures such as Louis Tuaillon’s Amazon on Horseback, Constanin Meunier’s The Sower, August Gaul’s Lion or Reinhold Begas’s work Centaur and Nymph are some of the highlights of the Nationalgalerie’s extensive holdings of international sculpture. This collection is presented in the Alte Nationalgalerie and in the nearby Friedrichswerdersche Kirche. A separate plinth is always reserved for a contemporary artist, and carries on the original idea of the Nationalgalerie, which was founded in the 19th century as a site for contemporary art.
Sculptor Alexander Calandrelli (1834–1903) created this impressive bronze monument, from 1875 to 1886, after designs by Gustav Blaeser. Paying tribute to Friedrich Wilhelm IV as patron of the arts are the allegorical figures of Religion, Art, History, and Philosophy, arranged on the pedestal. It was Friedrich Wilhelm IV who came up with the idea of creating a museum island on this land.
The monument is the continuation of a series of equestrian statues of Hohenzollern rulers erected in central Berlin. The series includes Andreas Schlüter’s memorial to the Great Elector, Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg (which originally stood on Lange Brücke and now stands in front of Schloss Charlottenburg), Christian Daniel Rauch’s statue of Frederick the Great (Friedrich II, on Under den Linden), the statue of Friedrich III by Rudolf Maison (now-destroyed), which was erected in front of the Bode Museum, and the statue of Friedrich Wilhelm III by Albert Wolff, which once stood before the Altes Museum.
Diana, goddess of the hunt, is seen strapping her arrow bag to her back, wearing high-laced sandals. This rendering was first unveiled as a statuette at the ‘Great Berlin Art Exhibition’ in 1898. The 1.74 metre-high bronze sculpture in the Kolonnadenhof was cast in 1910 at the Noack foundry in Berlin. The work combines influences of the Begas School (evident for example in the soft modelling of the hair) with Secessionist expressivity.
Representing a mythical people of fighting women, Tuaillon’s Amazon is not depicted as a dangerous warrior (as in August Kiss’s sculpture at the front of the Altes Museum), but as the epitome of self-control, mastery, and concentration. The ‘Amazon’ is regarded not merely as a key work of its creator Tuaillon (a pupil of Begas), but of fin de siècle German sculpture in general. It was purchased by the Nationalgalerie as early as 1896 and placed on view in the space between the (Alte) Nationalgalerie and Neues Museum in 1897. In its formal clarity and austere self-control, it marks a break from the language of forms of the opulent Neo-Baroque.
Constantin Meunier preist in seinem Schaffen den Wert (und die Last) der einfachenArbeit. Erst 1886 gelang dem Künstler aus Belgien der Durchbruch als Bildhauer im PariserSalon. Sein Interesse für Arbeiterdarstellungen klingt auch in der Gestalt des Sämanns an,der in abgewandelter Form auch für Meuniers großangelegtes Projekt eines „Denkmalsder Arbeit“ gedacht war. Der „Sämann“ knüpft darüber hinaus an die traditionelleJahreszeiten-Thematik an, steht für das Frühjahr und damit für den Erneuerungszyklus derNatur. Mit ausholend-aussäender Geste, die man wenig früher auch im OEuvre Vincentvan Goghs findet, wirft er sein Korn in den Acker.
August Gaul was one of the first modern sculptors in Berlin; his status as a modern sculptor was recognized by his contemporaries during his lifetime as an artist. This life-size lion statue was unveiled at the first Deutscher Künstlerbund exhibition in Munich in 1904. The sovereign calm and dignified alertness it exudes epitomizes August Gaul’s approach to art and, by extension, Secessionist sculpture as a whole. Gaul, who studied animals at Zoologischer Garten, was keen to capture the essence and nature of individual species. All literary, anecdotal, and generic allusions were thus excluded from the depiction, as well as the conventional iconographic significance attributed to the species as a heraldic animal or symbol of ruling power. The viewer’s attention is instead directed to its formal qualities, the clear silhouette and the closed, self-contained overall visual impression.
This complicated composition depicts Hercules, half-god and hero of Greek mythology, strangling with bare hands a lion that was previously thought invincible. The athletic male nude and the lion with gaping jaws are so tightly interlocked in struggle that the viewer must walk around the work to make sense of it. The compositional chaos lends the work a sense of dynamism of near cinematic proportions, which was nevertheless quite in keeping with the Neo-Baroque style which Max Klein learned from his teacher Reinhold Begas.
Brütt first exhibited the sculpture in 1887, at the tender age of 22, whereupon it won a prize, making its creator famous overnight. The two-figure sculpture is of a muscular, bearded fisherman in foul-weather gear holding a girl in his hands, who he has just saved from drowning. The narrative tone of the scene, which Brütt claimed to have witnessed with his own eyes, made the depiction of an everyday hero a popular work with the public. The bronze cast produced by Gladenbeck using the lost-wax method was commissioned by the Nationalgalerie itself.
Column-like, a rigorously drawn, clearly proportioned female nude stands on a small round plinth, holding a tensed bow. Various titles have been assigned this work. In a newspaper clipping of unknown provenance it is referred to as ‘Amazon’, while in more recent literature it is called ‘Diana’. With its descriptive indifference, the original, decidedly non-literary title allows room for the viewer to conjure up his or her own associations. The rigorously frontal view, balanced composition, and starkly reduced form bespeak the influence of Adolf von Hildebrand, whose theories found their greatest resonance around 1900.
The young woman attempts to elegantly straddle the centaur’s broad back. To assist her, he has lowered his rear legs and holds out his left hand to support her as she mounts. Half-man and half-beast, the coarse mythological creature embodies the untamed forces of nature, while the female figure symbolizes culture, as evidenced in her fine robes and hairstyle. The contrast between the two highlights the contrast between the sexes and their roles. In this regard, Begas’ work very much stands in a Baroque tradition. At the same time though, the composition can be equally viewed as a consciously-formulated, near humorous contrast between antiquity and modernity, as the archaic figure of the centaur is juxtaposed by that of a woman who entirely conforms to the ideal of female beauty that prevailed during Germany’s founding period or ‘Gründerzeit’ (1871–1890), as demonstrated in her posture and hair.
This 7.5 x 25.5 cm aluminium plaque featuring the words “Men don’t protect you anymore” is part of Jenny Holzer’s Survival series, which she created between 1983 and 1985. Since the 1970s, US artist Holzer has been experimenting with the medium of language in public spaces. Holzer initially positioned her Truisms – thought-provoking aphorisms that seem to reveal an element of truth – without explanations around the city of New York. Later, she occupied increasingly prominent locations such as Times Square, placing her ambivalent statements on brightly lit billboards.
Since 2001, Jenny Holzer’s work has been represented in the collection of the Neue Nationalgalerie with a specially designed light installation for the collection of the Nationalgalerie. This work, installed in the Museumsinsel Berlin’s Kolonnadenhof to coincide with the exhibition Fighting for Visibility: Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919, ensures that the issue of the visibility of women artists remains present outside of the galleries as well.
This life-size statue depicts a mounted warrior, armed with a shield and bow and arrow, bending down from his horse in order to glance down upon a skull. While the horse, walking resolutely forward, shies away from the gruesome sight, a satisfied smile appears to play across the face of the Hun, who with squinted eyes, broad nostrils, full lips and plaited braids is marked as foreign.
Ethnographic elements play an important role in Erich Hösel’s later work, as is apparent in the multiple studies of heads that he created on prolonged journeys through other continents. Hösel’s “Hun on Horseback” is also indebted to the symbolism of the late 19th century, which turned its fascinated attention in equal measure to the ominous, the eerie and morbid; and to the unknown, the foreign and the exotic.
The sculptor Erich Hösel (1869–1953) studied at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, where he exhibited his work for the first time in 1887. The “Hun on Horseback”, which the Nationalgalerie acquired from the artist in 1897, ranks among his earliest and at the same time most popular creations, which is attested to both by the many miniatures in bronze and porcelain, and by the reproductions on postcards. In 1903, Hösel became the director of the design department of the Meissner Porcelain Manufactory.