Known as the cultural heartland of Germany, the state of Saxony in eastern Germany, presents its rich collections of art from the Middle Ages to contemporary galleries and installations in its new brochure, The Allure of Art: History, Museums and Workplaces. From the 22 collections in Dresden’s State Art Collection to the hipster galleries in Leipzig and surprising hotspots, such as Chemnitz, Saxony is flooded with no less than 69 places of intriguing art and history supported by four different schools and a myriad of additional private collections in castles and homes.
Amid the extraordinary architecture and castles in Saxony, there are incomparable art collections and museums throughout the entire state and especially in the cultural capitals of Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz. From the extraordinary Dresden State Art Collection to the galleries of Leipzig and the lesser known yet important collections in Chemnitz, the quality of the art and the pieces are world class, and are highly historical as the acquisitions and donations reflect the political, social and economic atmosphere of Germany at the time.
Art in Dresden
Art in Dresden is a multifaceted affair going back centuries. The extraordinary collections of the State Art Collection were started in 1560 by the rulers of the Wettin dynasty which ruled for 829 years. Thereafter, the Wettin rulers continually added to the collections with the massive contributor being Augustus the Strong, the “Saxon Sun King.” As a young elector of Saxony and King of Poland, Augustus was one of Europe’s strongest leaders and wanted an art collection that represented his power and interests. Augustus the Strong created Dresden into the baroque city it is today. He built, amongst others, the Zwinger Museum, the Taschenbergpalais, Pillnitz Palace, expanded the Royal Palace, constructed the new bridge and supported the construction of the Church of Our Lady which fitted in nicely with his plan to turn Dresden into the “Venice of the North.” He also was the initiator of Meissen Porcelain in 1710 which became Saxony’s most lucrative export business and set a new cultural standard for Europe. Still today, visitors relish a trip to the Meissen factory where they can see it being made and painted and even choose to dine on the porcelain. The porcelain collection in the Zwinger Palace is considered the finest in the world today.
During his reign, Augustus the Strong went on a buying spree, the results of which are still spread throughout Dresden’s collections. He installed most of his collections in what is today called the Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe) and this baroque treasury is one of the world’s most extraordinary collections, and includes Dinglinger’s “Royal Household of the Grand Mogul Aureng-Zeb” and the 41-carat Green Diamond.As early as 1724, the rooms of the Grünes Gewölbe were opened to the public. Augustus’ son continued his father’s passion for collection and he focused on paintings and, over time, Dresden became a city of intellectual and artistic elite with a famous art academy.
The Venetian painter, Bernardo Bellotto (otherwise known as Canaletto) and, some years later, the romanticists including Caspar David Friedrich all congregated in Dresden. Today, the Dresden State Art Collection includes 22 separate museums and collections from the galleries of the new and old masters to the Grassi musical instrument museum in Leipzig. The Municipal Art Gallery also offers a rich overview of the development of 20th century art in Dresden.
Outside of Dresden’s city center and in the vicinity are several important house museums and libraries that are home to important art collections. The Kuegelgen House in Dresden-Neustadt has a rich assortment of the Dresden Romanticists; the Saxon State and University Library has famous Maya and French as well as 700 medieval manuscripts. The Robert Sterl House on the banks of the River Elbe is one of the most popular starting points for hikes through Saxon Switzerland and it houses over 100 paintings from different creative periods of the Saxon impressionist. Käthe Kollwitz was the most significant German graphic artist and sculptor of the 20th century and her house in Moritzburg is where she lived the last part of her life and died. The upper floor of the house gives an overview of five decades of her creations.
Art in Leipzig
Many people know Leipzig as the city of music as Bach, Telemann, Schumann, Wagner and Mendelssohn, among many other musical greats who worked and lived in Leipzig. Other people know Leipzig as the city whose citizens brought the Communist regime in East Germany down with peaceful demonstrations. Everyone is right but what is also true is that Leipzig is now one of Europe’s most sophisticated contemporary art markets with galleries and work spaces sprouting and growing, including the Spinnerei, a former cotton spinning mill where many artists from the New Leipzig School work to this day. In the 1990s, the New Leipzig School burst on the international art scene and set a style and a vibe in Leipzig that has attracted a whole new group of expressive and contemporary young artists to the city.
Unlike Dresden’s art collection founded by royalty, Leipzig’s art collection, known originally as the Municipal Art Association, was started in 1837 by wealthy merchants. Over the years, the collection grew to comprise a wide range of important artists and paintings from Caspar David Friedrich, Ludwig Richter to Cranach and Holbein. After the destruction of the museum and relocation after WWII, the collection focused on works of the proletarian revolution art as well as the expressionism of the Leipzig School. Later, in the 1990s, the collection bought many pieces from the New Leipzig School
Other important art destinations in Leipzig include the Gallery of Contemporary Art in the former villa of the newspaper publisher Edgar Herfurth which has about 1,500 objects by 300 artists and focuses on the post reunification period; the German Museum of Books and Writing that is home to the Elizabeth Manuscript and the Nuremberg Chronicle; the art collection at the Tuebke Villa which includes not only works by the Realist painter but also the permanent collection of the Frankfurt patron, Fritz Mayer. And, the G2 Kunsthalle shows the private collection of Steffen Hildebrand where the focus is on contemporary painting in Leipzig as well as renown painters from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Art in Chemnitz
The Chemnitz Art Collections are truly an extraordinary assemblage of art through the ages. In the city once relegated to history as the Karl Marx Stadt, Chemnitz offers a surprising compilation of world class art. Started by the bourgeoisie in 1909, the collection includes 19th century paintings from Max Liebermann and Ludwig Richter among others to sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas as well as artists from German Modernity, such as Georg Kolbe. As Chemnitz was a textile region, it also has a significant collection of fabric prints and fashion textiles and an unusual inventory of 4,000 stockings going back to 1900. Museum Gunzenhauser was opened in 2007 and includes more than 2,400 works by artists of Classical Modernism and nearly 400 works by Otto Dix and the Russian Expressionist Alexey von Jawlensky. The Schlossberg Museum in a former monastery with its Gothic sculptures and the New Saxon Gallery in Chemnitz round out what is a very worthwhile triangle with Dresden and Leipzig.
Art in Churches
Art in churches is prolific throughout Saxony. As Saxony became wealthy with the discovery of iron ore, gold and silver mining, the people built churches with lavish altars and art. St. Anne’s Church in Annaberg is home to the famous Bergaltar by Hans Hesse, depicting the mining in the Ore Mountains in the 16th century, the Tree of Jesse altar and the beautiful door by Hans Witten whose unique Tulip Pulpit can be found in Freiberg Cathedral; sculptures by Peter Breuer adorn the church in Zwickau. Lucas Cranach the Elder emerged in the time of the Reformation under Frederick the Wise, and through his art and publications, he played a valuable role in spreading Luther’s reputation. His numerous paintings and altarpieces can still be seen throughout Saxony with over 50 of them in Dresden alone. The Cranach studio tended to dominate the church art and decoration of 15thand 16th centuries. In Zittau, the Great Zittau Lenten Veil hangs in the Museum of the Church of the Holy Cross and it shows 90 scenes from the old and new testaments and is one of the few remaining textiles from the 15th century.
In addition to these classic museums and galleries, the art scene in Saxony consists of two art colleges, regional galleries, private collections and temporary exhibitions and new and creative locations for young artists and their works.