Stephan Kemperdick Awarded the Kupferstichkabinett’s Max J. Friedländer Prize


On 29 June 2023, the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is awarding the prize honouring art historian Max J. Friedländer. Endowed with 15,000 euros, it is funded by Christoph Müller, a patron of the arts in Berlin. The prize has been granted in 2023 to art historian, curator and Early Netherlandish specialist Stephan Kemperdick.

Dr Stephan Kemperdick studied fine arts at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, followed by art history in Bochum and at Freie Universität Berlin. After completing a master’s degree in 1992 and a doctorate in 1996 with a thesis on the Master of Flémalle, he served as a research assistant at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt (1999–2002) and the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin (2004). Since 2009 he has been curator of Dutch, German and French painting until 1600 at the Gemäldegalerie (Old Masters Painting) – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Kemperdick has curated numerous exhibitions, including Hans Holbein the Younger (Basel, 2006), Rogier van der Weyden (Frankfurt and Berlin, 2007–08), Jean Fouquet: The Melun Diptych (Berlin, 2017), Late Gothic (Berlin, 2021) and Hugo van der Goes: Between Pain and Bliss (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, until 16 July 2023).

In choosing Stephan Kemperdick, the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatliche Museen Berlin is honouring a brilliant art historian whose linguistic precision and outstanding connoisseurship closely resemble the exceptional scholarship of Max J. Friedländer.

The Max J. Friedländer Prize of the Kupferstichkabinett

This year, the prize is granted by a jury consisting of its benefactor and the director of the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The prize is not awarded by an application process but based on internal proposals for candidates with completed or advanced projects concerning the Kupferstichkabinett holdings or Max J. Friedländer’s life work. Awarded previously in 2014 and 2016, the prize can also be bestowed on a museum’s curator of Early Netherlandish art or a particularly gifted writer in the field of cultural history.

As the benefactor of a prize honouring Max J. Friedländer, I long felt the need to do something to acknowledge the role of Friedländer (Berlin, 5 June 1867 – 11 October 1958, Amsterdam), who enjoys far too little public recognition and insufficient biographical consideration in comparison with Wilhelm von Bode. As the long-time director of the Kupferstichkabinett (1908-30) and later acting director of the Gemäldegalerie (1930-33), Friedländer played a decisive role in expanding the Staatliche Museen and continues to be the most-cited source regarding the entire spectrum of Early Netherlandish art. Last but not least, he remains a timeless role model as a superb stylist. His essayistic masterpiece Von Kunst und Kennerschaft (On Art and Connoisseurship) is a compendium providing competent and accessible knowledge on all matters to do with art. Upon publishing of the slim volume by Europa-Verlag in 1946 and its first release as a paperback by Ullstein in 1955, the author was heralded – also with respect to his humanity – as a great inspiration for our time, on a par with Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Max Weber and Albert Schweitzer.

Christoph Müller, art collector, patron and former publisher