Old National Gallery

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Oscar Palmer

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THEAlte Nationalgalerie in Berlin it is a gallery that exhibits a collection of neoclassical, romantic and impressionist art; it is part of the five museums located on Museum Island, and is connected to the Pergamonmuseum to the north, the Neues Museum, the Altes Museum, and the Berlin Cathedral to the south.

The first impulse to found a national gallery in Berlin came in 1815, but only in 1861 was a real museum established, when the banker Johann Heinrich Wagener donated 262 paintings by German and foreign artists to the Prussian Kingdom. This donation formed the basis of what is now the Alte Nationalgalerie.

The collection

La collection of the Alte Nationalgalerie contains works from the neoclassical and romantic movements of artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Carl Blechen, from Biedermeier, from French Impressionism such as Édouard Manet and Claude Monet and from the early Modernism, including Adolph von Menzel, Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth.

In 1896, the then museum director Hugo Von Tschudi acquired the paintings "In the conservatory" by Edouard Manet, and "View of Vetheuil" by Claude Monet, making the Alte Nationalgalerie the first museum in the world to buy impressionist works and at the same time risking conflict with the authorities, as the gallery originally had to exalt only German art.

Among the most important works are the The monk by the sea by Friedrich, theIron rolling mill by von Menzel and the Princesses group by sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow. Today the museum houses approximately 1800 paintings and 1500 sculptures, spread over the three floors of the building.

  • Al first floor the building houses a selection of sculptures including the famous “Princess Luise and Friederike” by Johann Gottfried Schadow. Past this area there is a wing which houses numerous European paintings.
  • Al second floor the main axis is formed by a gallery of impressionist paintings and the gallery of German Romantic artists, among which Arnold Bocklin stands out. In the adjoining rooms there are works by Anselm Feuerbach and the Munich School, which attest to the diversity of artistic expression in the second half of the 19th century.
  • Al third floor you will find the rest of the 19th century art collection, with paintings from the "Goethe era". The most important pieces here are frescoes of the Nazarenes created for the Bartholdy House in Rome and paintings by Carl Blechen.

The building

The current building that houses the Old National Gallery, in the shape of a Roman temple with an added apse, was designed by Friedrich August Stüler and after his death, made in detail under the direction of Carl Busse. The architecture of the building had to express "the unity of art, of the nation, and of history", therefore it has in itself aspects that recall a church, (the apse), a theater (the staircase), and a temple .

A equestrian statue of Frederick William IV it is placed at the top of the staircase, while the stairs inside carry a frieze by Otto Geyer depicting German history from prehistoric times to the 19th century.


Architect Friedrich August Stüler began work on the project for the construction in 1863, based on a sketch by the king Frederick William IV of Prussia. In 1866, by order of the king and his cabinet, the Kommission für den Bau der Nationalgalerie (Commission for the construction of the national gallery) was created. The inauguration took place on March 22, 1876 in the presence of the Kaiser.

The twentieth century

Like many of the Berlin museums, the Alte Nationalgalerie suffered extensive damage during the second World War, as well as remaining largely closed during the Nazi period. It was partially reopened in 1949, but reconstruction continued until 1969. Between 1998 and 2001 the museum was completely renovated by the German architect HG Merz.


To consult the possibilities of visits that the museum offers, it is advisable to take a look at the official website, which in addition to the permanent exhibitions also lists any temporary exhibitions. The museum opening hours are as follows:

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: from 10.00 to 18.00
  • Thursday: from 10.00 to 20
  • Monday closed

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