In the beginning, there was the Nationalgalerie, the sacred repository of German art, which I wrote about in a previous post. Then came the partition of Berlin, and the Nationalgalerie, along with other great institutions located on Museum Island, was in the Eastern Zone. The Western powers decided there had to be a national gallery on their side, and it should focus on modern art, and had Mies van der Rohe design a stunningly modern building for the new propaganda tour de force. From that point on, there was the Alte Nationalgalerie and the Neue Nationalgalerie, and you don't need much German to tell the difference as we visit the Neue today.
Downstairs, the permanent exhibits provided a chronological view both of German art in the 20th century and of the German society and history reflected in it. I'll have to take more than one post to tell you about this fabulous collection, so I'll start with the earliest parts. In the 20s, for instance, Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) artists wanted to distance themselves from war and emotions, painting cool and precise pictures of architecture and technology.
Oskar Nerlinger, Funkturm und Hochbahn (Radio Tower and Elevated Railway), 1929
In contrast to these cool characters, another school of art seized on politics for its subjects, with scathing views of the social turmoil following the World War. (Today is what we used to call Armistice Day, commemorating the end of that war on the Western Front, at 11 AM on 11/11/18.)
Josef Scharl, Ecce Homo/Der Verstümmelte (Ecce homo / Mutilated Man), 1931
Curt Querner, Agitator, 1931
Conrad Felixmüller, Der Agitator, 1944
Reinhold Rossig, Polizieterror (Police Terror), 1933
George Grosz, Stützen der Gesellschaft (Pillars of Society), 1926
Both my husband and I have always loved Grosz and his savage portrayals of German society between the wars. Seeing so many of these images, both by Grosz and others, was a real punch in the gut. This museum has a powerful impact throughout but nowhere as strong as in these pictures, which presciently anticipate the even greater turmoils ahead (note the swastika on the tie of the guy in front).