Among the more than twenty thousand artists who are represented here are Old and New Masters such as Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Dürer, Caspar David Friedrich, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz and Pablo Picasso, but also contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter and Wolfgang Tillmans. The selection is not restricted to artists from Europe: Japanese, Chinese and Indian works are also part of the collection that spans 800 years of art history.
Kupferstich-Kabinett (Cabinet of Prints, Drawings and Photographs)
Sheets of paper that mean the world: The Kupferstich-Kabinett holds a vast array of works on paper ready to be discovered. Alongside the copper engravings, or Kupferstiche, which give the collection its name, there are drawings, watercolours, etchings, lithographs as well as illustrated books, posters and photographs. Both the quality and the scope of the collection, with its more than half a million works, make the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett one of the most significant museums of its kind in the world.
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The richness of this collection looms large, yet the individual works are marked by their lightness. It is a special quality of works on paper that they may be transported easily and are a relatively affordable medium. With them, ideas for images could be taken along on travels and artists could get to work anywhere, independently of their patrons. Rembrandt, for example, immortalized his wife with Saskia im Bett (Saskia in Bed) around 1635–36 on a postcard-sized sheet. In this case he did not have a painting in mind, but wanted to preserve the intimate scene for its own sake. He completed a good hundred such sketches of his family in his lifetime; they are like short diary entries.
Works on paper require special measures to protect them. The fragile material should normally not be exposed to light or else it will yellow and fade. For this reason, the museum presents a selection of works in themed temporary exhibitions in its halls on the upper floor of the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace).
Public study room
For the many works that are not on show, there is a better solution: In the public study room of the Kabinett, visitors can, by reservation, view any of the individual sheets, with only a few exceptions. Works may be selected with the help of study room staff or using the online collection – otherwise, there are always preselected works to enjoy.
Rembrandt completed several drawings of his wife Saskia von Uylenburgh, to whom he had been married since 1634, showing her in a domestic environment. This sheet shows Saskia close up, sitting in her alcove. Her attentive eyes are directed at the viewer.
This extremely rare sheet is part of a series of three depictions, each showing two girls separated by different kinds of "misty fabric". Here, we see an elegant, richly dressed and expensively coiffed young lady behind a semi-transparent bamboo blind, and in front a young woman in simpler apparel, likely the older one's servant. The highly technically refined print is a work of Utamaro at the height of his powers.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
In the mid-1890s, Toulouse-Lautrec delved deeply into the subject of the Parisian demimonde and the brothel scene. His portrayals of the Montmartre entertainment scene and especially his posters make him known as the artist of the turn of the twentieth century, the "belle époque". In many paintings, drawings and lithographs, his large-scale figurative scenes and portrait-like representations of individuals show the lively hustle and bustle of people of all stripes in cafes and cabarets, studios and galleries, in concert halls, salons and dance halls.
Dutch (?), Sieben Frauenstudien
This remarkable silverpoint drawing brings together seven female figures in different views, a study of the posture, clothing and hairstyle of female models around 1440-1450. Although neither the sitters nor the draughtsman are known, this does not detract from the extraordinary artistic quality of the work, which was still attributed to Jan van Eyck as late as the nineteenth century. Rare in the corpus of works of early Netherlandish drawings is the refreshing immediacy of this view, the limited presence of pentimenti (so-called repentances, i.e. small corrections) and also the drawing's lively manner - all of which suggest a study from nature.
This perhaps most famous depiction of the first human couple in graphic art was created the year before Dürer went on his second journey to Italy. Thought to have served him as a "calling card", it is striking proof of his mastery as an engraver and of his ability to autonomously emulate the Renaissance's classical ideal figure. The copper engraving bespeaks the artist's many years of studying human proportions. Here, two ancient sculptures served him as prototypes: the Apollo of Belvedere (Vatican) and the Venus de' Medici (Uffizi, Florence). It made sense for the progenitors to be used in a scene showing the ideal figures of man and woman, as Adam and Eve before the Fall still possessed timeless beauty and flawlessness.
Adolph von Menzel
The sketchbooks from three trips to Verona which Menzel took in 1881,1882 and 1883, as well as more than 100 individual works on paper comprise the complete drawings used in preparation for the 1884 work Piazza d'Erbe in Verona, one of the artist's central works. With other studies for the work and unrelated drawings by Menzel, this study of a stonebreaker sitting on the floor entered the collection just two years after its creation. It was complemented with a study of a head and two studies of feet. The work on paper went missing after the war, but in 1994 the opportunity arose to reacquire it from the London art market. The painting was then acquired for the Dresden Gemäldegalerie in 2005. It shows a variation on this figure, turned around its vertical axis, at the very front of a group of stone layers who are puttering around in the busy market place.
Dresden's baroque buildings in all their splendour are famous the world over. In the eighteenth century, Bernardo Bellotto's veduta prints helped bring international fame to the Frauenkirche, the Hofkirche, the Zwinger and other grand buildings. And the works became famous themselves: Thanks to their virtuosic execution, the large-format etchings are first-class artworks. In the course of his career in the royal seat of Dresden, the artist created more than twenty such views of local architectural structures. This view of Dresden, showing the right bank of the Elbe beneath the Augustus Bridge, is from 1748. At the right edge, one can make out the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace), which houses the Kupferstich-Kabinett.
In a form that had never been seen before, Tillmans used his camera to capture the vibe of certain young subcultures without ever exuding a sense of voyeurism in his photographs. He agreed to a shooting for the American magazine Vogue, but only on the condition that he work with Kate Moss, the only “Vogue-class model” who moved him emotionally. In the image shown here, his mise-en-scène is an orgy of red tones, but whether Moss is presenting herself as an offender or a victim remains open. It speaks to the subversive quality of Tillmans’s photographs that no fashion spread for the most influential fashion magazine in the world resulted from this sitting. His selection of five photographs, one of which is the present image, was not in line with the magazine’s beauty ideal.
The early panel is part of Glöckner’s Tafelwerk, which he began in 1930. With this closed body of works, which can be characterized as an independently developed art genre, the artist worked in a purely constructivist-abstract manner. Thus, the Tafelwerk is a considerable contribution to the international current of concrete art.
The panel work served Glöckner as “autodidactic serial testing” by which he hoped to arrive at a creative systemization of material and questions of form. The blanks for the cardboard elements that were painted on both sides or glued, and whose format was standardized, were produced by the artist himself in a lengthy process. The resulting panels were three-dimensional objects which Glöckner deliberately did not frame and which he conceived of as moving in space, viewable from both sides.
In 1965, Baselitz began to explore the subject of a “new type” and this seated figure leaning against a tree belongs in this exploration. Portrayed here is a “type” who is lost in melancholy and whose body is divided in two at the waist. His torso is supported by a tree slice and on it a dog rests before him. His lower body is seated on the ground. The tree trunk acts as an element of visual connection; next to it floats the severed left hand. Searching for the autonomous image that would remain figurative, Baselitz, starting in 1966, began to work increasingly with the compositional element of fracture, before finding his way to the upside-down motif. In the case of the chiaroscuro woodcuts, he did not aim at technical perfection, but rather experimented with the incalculable element of offsetting, which renders every print a unicum.