Renaissance & Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer & Cranach

The Pharao's Hosts engulfed in the Red Sea, 1530, oil on limewood © Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München / Sibylle Forster

Masterpieces from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Munich on show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Opening today at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a major exhibition featuring key works of German art from the 16th century. The event is being attended by the directors-general from Berlin (Michael Eissenhauer), Dresden (Marion Ackermann) and Munich (Bernhard Maaz), the CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA (Michael Govan) and the deputy head of the Directorate-General of Culture and Communication of the Federal Foreign Office (Michael Reiffenstuel).

Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach takes a fresh look at the period of the Reformation and its broader historical context. “The profound changes that took place in intellectual history during the Reformation period were not only motivated by theological or philosophical considerations. A veritable war of images broke out at that time, too. This struggle for a new pictorial language can be visualized in all its manifestations through our collections. At the exhibition in Los Angeles, we can show how the Reformation has shaped the cultural landscape of Central Europe and beyond right up to the present day,” said the three German museum directors-general in a joint statement.

In essence, each of the three German museum associations traces its history to the centuries-old collections of princes and electors of the Holy Roman Empire. Important paintings, drawings, sculptures, and precious objects illustrate the many different facets of this key period in German history. The Renaissance was marked by religious, social, and political upheavals; and it was an age that in turn spawned so many innovations. Works of art were freed from a purely religious context and developed aesthetic qualities of their own. This transition marked the dawn of the autonomous work of art and the modern figure of the artist, recognizable to us today. At the same time in humanism, the ideals of antiquity blossomed in Europe once again. This period of flourishing artistic expression in the German lands is best represented through masterpieces by renowned artists such as Dürer, Cranach, Holbein, Riemenschneider, and Grünewald.

Curated in close collaboration with LACMA, the exhibition features a rich spectrum of art dating from around 1500, with a total of 120 works by these artists and their contemporaries. Highlighted themes include the politics of images during the Reformation and contemporary court culture and portraiture.

“This exhibition is a unique opportunity in Southern California to experience the greatest achievements of German Renaissance art,” said Michael Govan, CEO of LACMA, and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA. “We are delighted to present these works on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.”

In their joint statement, the three German directors-general declared: “Nowhere else outside of Europe is the cultural and intellectual history as profoundly influenced by Protestant thinking as in North America. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation thus presents us with the ideal occasion to shed light on this key period of German history with the exhibition now going on show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.”

The exhibition has been made possible through the support of the German Federal Foreign Office, under the auspices of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

On 18 November, 2016, the Philharmonic String Quintet of the Berlin Philharmonic will perform an exclusive concert at LACMA’s Bing Theater to mark the opening of the exhibition.

The Getty Research Institute is hosting an academic symposium on February 2–3, 2017 as part of the exhibition program.

To coincide with the exhibition, the Villa Aurora has joined with the Getty Research Institute to award two scholarships for art historians for 2017.
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