The Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin resembles a classical Greek temple from the outside and included a colonnaded sculpture garden of classical feel. Except for a strange but appealing sculpture of a tank or a tractor made from scrap metal. We snapped many photos of the bronzes but did not linger in the cold for long. We were grateful not to have to climb the ceremonial stairwayS to the top of the temple, but went in between the arms, so to speak.
We went straight to the bookshop, where we did have to go down stairs [we later discovered the elevator] and got the guidebook to began our systematic campaign to conquer the 3 stories of great art—from the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th. These may be the most dynamic centuries in art as far as change and innovation, swinging from pure Classicism to Impressionism, and every combination and permutation in between. With few exceptions, however, sculpture remained classic and representative. Both marble and bronze paid homage to the Greek ideal—and that’s ok by me. The exception was an intentionally unfinished work by Rodin called “Man and his Thoughts.” The man’s thought is a naked girl with no head.
We fell in love with romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich—again, having admired him in the Louvre and then forgetting him entirely. Each of his paintings is haunting and draws you in. You want to know the story behind the characters in the paintings and why they are where they are.
BTW, one of my favorite games in an art museum is to expound on a painting with great authority, as to what the artist intended and what the back story is, while really knowing nothing about it that isn’t obvious. I sometimes inadvertently capture an audience this way and, depending on their reaction, let them in on the joke or not. One needs a willing straight man for this and, so I don’t sound too demented, I often begin innocently enough in analyzing and wondering to my partner [usually Ron].
For 11ses, we stopped for “milk cakes”, in the charming bookstore / tea shop, then resumed our assault.
Many many Germans of this time frame went on the Grand Tour to Italy and the art reflects this. Swinging from the Realism prompted by the artist wanting to clearly remember the scenery, to Impressionism, those sketch-like paintings which evoke mood more than reality. And a few artists joined the neo-Gothic trend, recalling the Middle Ages with a glamour never truly present at that time. [I used to belong to The Society for Creative Anachronism—SCA—which had the same goals].
We went over to the Neues Museum for a late lunch, inviting another couple by gestures to sit at our table. We all gestured and were ultra polite til we realized we were all Americans! They were from Maryland and asked us what to see on Museum Island in 1 day, as they were leaving the next. We were inwardly amazed, since we were barely fitting in the must-sees in 5 days, but we gamely recommended the bust of Nefertiti and the Ishtar Gate. I know you are dying to know what I had for lunch—the same as the day before: mozzarini [a panini of mozzarella and tomatoes] with the luxurious $7 coke.
Resuming our storming of the battlements, we saw: portraits, both flattering and brutal; landscapes of imagination and reality; study paintings and still life; mythological and religious subjects, all from the German perspective. In flipping through the guidebook, this strikes me as meaning that they used more dark paint than the Italians.
It struck us, as we closed down the museum and walked to the hotel through the spitting rain, that we were getting over our jet lag and, though very fatigued, felt ‘more the thing’ as the Brits say. After a rest but not sleep at the hotel, Ron braved the weather to bring us teriyaki bowls from Happy Noodle. We added dried fruit to the meal and watched “Young Frankenstein,” our nod to German culture, on Ron’s tablet, in the “easel” position. No, that’s not a sexual reference.