Realism &


Drawings from Max Beckmann to Gerhard Richter

“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 will be presented in a concentrated exhibition, impressively reflecting the quality of the collection and its historically evolved focal points.


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    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Berlin Street Scene, 1914

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938)
    Berlin Street Scene, 1914
    Pastel chalks and charcoal on laid paper
    677 × 503 mm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    Photo: © Städel Museum

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    Hermann Glöckner, Surface Division in Black and White, 1957

    Hermann Glöckner (1889–1987)
    Surface Division in Black and White, 1957
    Gouache and folded paper, mounted on prepared paper
    size varies (min. 149 × 210 mm, max. 296 × 210 mm)
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
    © Photo: Städel Museum

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    Georg Baselitz, Oberon, 1964

    Georg Baselitz (*1938)
    Oberon, 1964
    Pencil and coloured pencil on laid paper
    318 × 256 mm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    © Georg Baselitz 2019
    Photo: © Städel Museum

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    Ernst Wilhelm Nay, My 13 (Mykonos), 1964

    Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902–1968)
    My 13 (Mykonos), 1964
    Watercolour on rough wove paper
    602 × 420 mm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    © Elisabeth Nay-Scheibler, Köln / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
    Photo: © Städel Museum

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    Thomas Bayrle, Untitled, 1970

    Thomas Bayrle (*1937) Untitled, 1970
    black coloured pencil on transparent paper, folded around thick, light-coloured wove paper with drawing in graphite
    397 × 296 mm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
    Photo: Deutsche Bank

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    Sigmar Polke, Large Head, 1979

    Sigmar Polke(1941–2010)
    Large Head, 1979
    Brush and acrylic paint and watercolour, splatters of paint on a cut stencil made of wove cardboard
    980 × 680 mm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    © The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
    Foto: © Städel Museum


About the exhibition

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, are 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 reveal the technical diversity of the medium of drawing, the specific characteristics of which the artists exploited, each in their own way. The drawings are 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.

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Evening Special

From 23 Oct 2019 through 31 Jan 2020, a reduced admission fee of 14 EUR will apply Tue–Wed from 5pm and Thu–Fri from 7pm, public holidays excluded. Available online and at the museum cashier’s desk.

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The exhibition opens with masterful drawings by Max Beckmann (1884–1950) and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938), which also provide comprehensive insight into the draughtsmanship of the two artists. This is followed by works by members of the artist group “Die Brücke”, including Erich Heckel (1883–1970), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884–1976) and Emil Nolde (1867–1956). Following on from Expressionism and its abstracting tendencies, drawings by Rolf Nesch (1893–1975), Werner Gilles (1894–1961) and Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902–1968) are presented, as are watercolours by Paul Klee (1879–1940), whose works oscillate between a closeness to the subject and abstraction. Also in divided Germany during the post-war period, this preoccupation with the representational and the non-representational was characteristic for many artists. This can be seen in works of the Art Informel movement, as well as in neo-expressionist tendencies and Pop Art, as exemplified by the works of Karl Otto Götz (1914–2017), Joseph Beuys (1921–1986), Gerhard Richter (1932), Georg Baselitz (1938), A. R. Penck (1939–2017), Sigmar Polke (1941–2010) and Anselm Kiefer (*1945). The exhibition brings together works by a total of roughly forty artists.

The scientific research of twentieth-century German drawings has been made possible by the Gabriele Busch-Hauck Foundation, Frankfurt am Main.



Supported by the Gabriele Busch-Hauck Foundation


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