“Great Realism &
Great Abstraction”

Drawings from Max Beckmann to Gerhard Richter

13 November 2019 to 16 February 2020

“Great realism, great abstraction” – the Städel Museum’s holdings of twentieth-century German drawings, which comprises roughly 1,800 individual works within the Department of Prints and Drawings, oscillates between these two poles. A selection of roughly one hundred drawings were presented in a concentrated exhibition, impressively reflecting the quality of the collection and its historically evolved focal points.

The drawing takes on a special role in the twentieth century. It has always been a medium of searching, inventing and experimenting. In the modern age, it also gained independence and autonomy and became – especially in times of state surveillance and oppression – a medium of free thought. In its diversity, it also reflects the complexity of the rapidly changing culture and society of the twentieth century.

The roughly one hundred works on view from the twentieth century, supplemented by two paintings, were examined on the basis of various aspects, such as how the artists dealt with reality, how they questioned, further developed or undermined traditional pictorial ideas conveyed at the academies, and last but not least the fundamental significance of drawing within their respective oeuvres. The pencil sketches, brilliantly colourful pastels and aquarelles, and the monumental collages exhibited here also revealed the technical diversity of the medium of drawing, the specific characteristics of which the artists exploited, each in their own way. The drawings were loosely assigned to chronological groups which shed light in different ways on the relationship between closeness to the subject and abstract detachment from the model of nature.

Curator: Jenny Graser (Research assistant in the Department of Prints and Drawings)
Supported by the Gabriele Busch-Hauck Foundation