125,000th Visitor to the Exhibition “Fighting for Visibility: Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919”

Alte Nationalgalerie

By the week before it closes, 125,000 visitors have seen the special exhibition Fighting for Visibility: Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919 at the Alte Nationalgalerie – still on view until 8 March 2020. It focuses on women painters and sculptors who succeeded in the art world against the odds and adversities they faced, whose works have entered the Nationalgalerie collection. The exhibition is a re-examination of the museum collection, viewed against the background of current discourse on gender equality.

On 28 February 2020 Udo Kittelmann, director of the Nationalgalerie and Ralph Gleis, head of the Alte Nationalgalerie, greeted the 125,000th visitor to the exhibition: Antoine Pihier (31), who travelled from Rennes (France) to see the exhibition.

Representation of Women Artists in the Long 19th Century

By the beginning of the 19th century, a few women had succeeded in building up exceptional careers within a predominantly male art establishment. However, by mid-century restrictions had intensified for women artists and they were often denied access to art academies, fellowships and grants, as well as to important commissions. In their “fight for visibility”, women artists engaged with artists’ associations, where they fought for possibilities to exhibit and also increasingly for the attention of important supporters as well as the prestigious commissions and purchases associated with them.

The Exhibition Fighting for Visibility: Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919

The exhibition shows more than 60 paintings and sculptural works in the collection created over a 140-year period by women artists, all of which date before 1919. Some of the works have been an integral part of the permanent exhibition for decades: paintings by Caroline Bardua, Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann and Sabine Lepsius, for instance. Others are shown at the Alte Nationalgalerie again after years of slumbering in storage, including works by Friederike O’Connell and Paula Monjé, both of whom were portraitists and history painters.

A great many of these works have never been on view in the Museumsinsel exhibition spaces. Moreover, numerous once successful women artists have fallen into oblivion over time, such as the Norwegian sculptor Ambrosia Tønnesen; the Salon painter Vilma Parlaghy, who was also successful in the USA; and Natalia Goncharova, a pioneer of the Russian avant-garde. In their diversity, these women artists made an essential contribution to the art of their times.

With Fighting for Visibility: Women Artists in the Nationalgalerie before 1919 and other exhibitions, such as Hello World: Revising a Collection, and The Black Years: Histories of a Collection, 1933–1945, we continue our reconsideration of the Nationalgalerie collection, a process that is as unflinching as it is important. For this reason we are all the more pleased that the works of women artists, which came into the Nationalgalerie before 1919, can be appreciated by such a wide audience.

Udo Kittelmann, director of the Nationalgalerie

The restoration of numerous works was made possible by the generous support of the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.

A richly illustrated, accompanying exhibition and collection catalogue, which includes extensive biographies of the women artists represented, is published by the Reimer Verlag in German and English editions.