Saturday, October 17, 2009

Museum Visit: Alte Pinakothek

The Alte Pinakothek, as its name suggests is the oldest of Munich's major art museums.  Dedicated to the art of painting from the 14th to 18th centuries, the Alte Pinakothek has an impressive collection of Old Masters, including Durer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Brueghel, and many others.  The exhibition is arranged in more or less chronological order and so provides a progressive history in the development of technique and the choice of subject.

Much of the early work is religious, artists needed patrons and money sat with the church.  The colours of this era are bright and primary, age not seeming to diminish the brilliance.  Many of the paintings are in 3 components, presumably originally intended to decorate a church alter:

Later artists had a great deal more freedom in choice of subject.  Although many paintings were still driven by wealthy patrons, the subjects are now secular portraits and compositions that conveyed in some way the wealth and power of the elite.  However, in some of the smaller side galleries were groups of paintings offering a glimpse into more normal life:

This quartet by Adriaen Brouwer was painted in the early 17th century.  These and similar images provide the  social documentary of the day showing life as it was, highlighting the peasantry rather than the nobility.  The colours are earthy and the compositions simple but balanced.  These spoke to me as they relate to photographic images far more strongly than the highly staged religious art or formal portraits.

Among the portraits in the Spanish gallery the following 3 pictures interested me, not because of the subjects, but what each had within their hands.  I assume that each object was selected to emphasize the character of the sitter and add symbolism to the portrait:

Skull - Mortality

Bible - Piety

Jewellery - Wealth

The final painting that caused me to pause and comment directly relates to an upcoming project in the "Art of Photography"

The implied sight line of the angel has actually been represented by words being whispered across the painting.  I guess this will not count as an implied line for the project!

In common with the other galleries in Munich the Alte Pinakothek is an impressive architectural monument.  The main gallery is a long series of huge rooms with interconnecting doors, allowing a visitor to see from one end of the building to the other

The following two images show the corridors and strairs that run alongside the main gallery.  Clearly, whoever commissioned the gallery wanted to impress the visitor with more than simply their art collection:

Finally, one of the great motivations to visit the museum district is "Trevnevski's", a bar/restaurant that serves a superb Sunday breakfast, and serves as a work of art in its own right:

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