Sunday, July 1, 2018

On the Road: Munich Art Museums (continued)

After visiting the Alte Pinakothek, I walked the short distance to the Neue Pinakothek, which turned out to be not as Neue as I had imagined. The building is new, but the art is mostly 19th century art. I have always associated the place with Impressionist and Post Impressionist art, but the museum was founded by King Ludwig I of Bavaria in 1853 (the original building was destroyed during World War II; the building that houses the collection today opened in 1981) and much of the collection is art that was contemporary around that time and not long after—in other words, 19th century art. It's not until the last three or four of more than twenty galleries that any modern painting appears (modern in the art historical sense).

The Anatomist (1869) by Gabriel von Max
Among the older works, there were some oddities that caught my eye, including a painting entitled The Anatomist (1869) by Gabriel von Max. The anatomist of the title is in shadow, alone in a dark room with a pretty female corpse, lifting the white cloth that drapes her, about to expose a lifeless white breast. He seems perplexed more than anything, as if doesn't quite know what to do with the body. Another odd painting shows a group of monkeys sitting on top of what appear to be crates for shipping paintings. The edge of a gilded frame appears to the left side. The amusing title is Apes as Art Critics (1889). It was also painted by Gabriel von Max.

Apes as Art Critics (1889) by Gabriel von Max

Arnold Böcklin, Playing in the Waves (1883)
Another oddity was Arnold Böcklin's Playing in the Waves (1883), which shows a group of people (if "people" is the right word) playing in the ocean. The men appear to be centaurs and at least the large foreground figure is a mermaid. The upturned bottom of the swimmer diving under the waves at upper right is a particularly amusing touch that suggests at least some of the swimmers are human. I liked this painting the more I looked at it, strange as it is. It's not clear to me what's going on here, but it made me laugh. Aside from that, the use of color is appealing and the way the half-submerged figures disappear into the depths as the light fades under the surface of the water is convincing. I wonder about the title. "Playing" might be the wrong term. The mermaid doesn't look especially happy....

Nymphéas (1915), Claude Monet
 There were many good pieces by Caspar David Friedrich as well. I particularly liked Riegengebirgs Landscape with Fog Rising (1819-20), but the atmospheric effects didn't photograph well.

Vincent Van Gogh, View of Arles (1889)
The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist galleries at the end of the museum, if you follow the suggested route, are impressive. The walls are painted strong colors that suddenly bring the museum alive as you turn a corner—a bit startling at first, as the colors the Impressionists used were when these paintings were new. All three of the Van Goghs here I've seen before but only in reproduction. There is an early Cézanne still life, a large Monet waterlily, one of the Van Gogh sunflower paintings, a very large, very interesting Bonnard view of a colliery using a lot of his characteristic yellows and oranges despite the subject matter, and a beautiful Gauguin, among others. I had thought there were more modern works in the museum than were on display, but it was wonderful to see these. Perhaps a lot is kept in storage and rotated often, or maybe lent frequently. I don't know....

Lignite Colliery (1918), Pierre Bonnard
The Birth–Te Manari No Atua, Paul Gauguin, 1896
Vincent Van Gogh, Vase with Sunflowers (1888)

Poster designs by Ikko Tanaka
at Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
Next, I visited Pinakothek der Moderne to see its collection of modern art. There was a lot to see and I was tired by the time I got there, so I went around in something of a daze, but I got to see a special exhibit of graphic design by Ikko Tanaka in addition to the permanent collection, which, not surprisingly, is strong in German artists and artists working in Germany, including Max Beckmann and the Expressionists. I rarely get enthusiastic about sculpture, but a pice by Oskar Schlemmer caught my eye (below) along with a few pieces by painters unfamiliar to me.

Black and white at
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
In a large gallery of starkly black and white paintings, a woman dressed from head to toe in black was an irresistible subject. I'm not sure she was unaware as I photographed her from a distance.

Abstrakte Figur (Freiplastik G)
Oskar Schlemmer (1921)


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