Sunday, August 16, 2015

Alte Pinakothek

So when I draggled out of bed Sunday just past noon, the question was where to go: to what Alex Ross described in a comment as the "daft Stuck House museum" or the Alte Pinakothek, Munich's Old Master gallery.

The Alte Pinakothek won, largely because it is closer to my apartment in Schwabing and I did not know how long I would last walking around. The building has been under renovation for some time, and the renovations will continue until 2017 or 2018, and so something like a quarter or more of the collection is inaccessible. What's left covers roughly the 15th to 17th centuries; I did not see a lot from before, say, 1450. Most of it is German, though there's a good helping of Italian and Dutch work in there as well. I saw some Van Dyke painting, but not a single Rembrandt, and I'm guessing that most of the Dutch masters are in the rooms currently under renovation.

My overall impression is that it's an excellent collection, but I was not left gaping as I was when I saw the Uffizi Gallery's early collection in Florence in 2004. That is a collection of uncommon splendor.

Not that there aren't a whole lot of fine paintings; there are. I was particularly struck by the flowing overall architecture and beautiful individual paintings of the Kaisheim altarpiece by Hans Holbein the Elder, with the inner and outer views hung on the same wall. These are enormous, probably 15 or so feet high, and beautifully painted. There's another magnificent altarpiece, by a different artist, in the same room.

But I also saw some very odd details, like the Fathers of the Church altarpiece where the heads of two of the fathers look as though they were pasted onto the bodies, and where two of the fathers have hands that look like they were painted by a studio apprentice who didn't quite understand how fingers and wrists work anatomically.

Then there's the roomful of Titians and Tintorettos: every painting in that room has such dull colors that I wondered whether they are in need of a good cleaning. And...well, after the 25th crucifixion or scene from the life of the Virgin Mary, it does get to be a bit of thematic overkill.

I did love a few of the paintings in the gallery. The smallish Durer self-portrait is a marvel of intensity and directness, and what a beautiful young man he was. In a room adjacent to it, there's the exceptionally beautiful Lippi Annunciation, so much lighter in spirit than the many weighty German paintings.

And a few paintings to right of the Lippi, I nearly fainted when I caught sight of a small Virgin and Child, because I had not realized the museum had a Leonardo. I did not need to see the label to know what I was looking at; there was simply no mistaking who the artist was. It is the Madonna of the Carnation, so called because Mary is amusing the Christ child with a small red flower. Seeing it immediately put everything else in the museum into a particular odd perspective, that of an excellent collection in which a single painting seems to overwhelm everything else.


Henry Holland said...

Very nice, seems like you had a good time. I flashed on going to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam in 2007 and unfortunately it was a construction site too. Will you be going to the Pinakothek der Moderne on your visit?

The Da Vinci looks amazing even in .gif images on my shitty computer screen, it must have been incredible "live". I'll never forget the feeling I had when I stood before Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, Vermeer's The Art of Painting and View of Delft , to name a few.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Not sure about the Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne. I think that tomorrow I am going to the Villa Stuck Museum, which is a madhouse of Art Nouveau, from what I can see of it (h/t Alex Ross for the recommendation in a comment here some months ago).