The “long” 19th century was both a period of Romantic enchantments as well as one of acceleration, forging the German nation and industrialization. It was an era of the scientification of history, art and nature, as well as the establishment of a middle-class public. Everything changed during this period: subjects of art, the process of creating paintings and other images, aesthetic categories and the artistic self-image. This change becomes more quickly and clearly apparent in the medium of drawing than in any other art form. Drawing illustrates the creative processes directly, reflects social realities, and plays with the notions of fragmentation and atmosphere.
The selection of approximately 130 original works from the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin reveals essential aspects of the break with the classical art tradition that led to Modernism. Brush drawings by C. D. Friedrich, Blechen or Schnorr von Carolsfeld are juxtaposed with line drawings by Overbeck, Olivier, Schinkel and Leibl. Menzel’s highly virtuoso paintings on paper contrast with the monochrome, blurred head studies of his later years, which are characterized by a complete dissolution of line. And finally Hildebrandt’s Weltreise cycles or outstanding works by van Gogh, Redon and Signac, show international aspects of drawing and their development into autonomous forms of art.