Rodin, Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Jean Arp, Yves Klein… They all created outstanding art in the truest sense of the word—reliefs. This summer, the Städel Museum is presenting a major exhibition on the relief from 1800 to the 1960s.

Your visit


About the Exhibition

Is it painting or sculpture, surface or space? Hardly any artistic medium challenges our sense of sight like the relief. And that is what has always made it so appealing for the most famous artists. From 24 May to 17 September 2023, the exhibition will present prominent works spanning some 160 years by Bertel Thorvaldsen, Jules Dalou, Auguste Rodin, Medardo Rosso, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Archipenko, Jean Arp, Kurt Schwitters, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Yves Klein, Louise Nevelson, Lee Bontecou and others.

For the exhibition, the Städel Museum collaborated with the Hamburger Kunsthalle to bring together works from their own collections and leading European museums, among them the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Picasso and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. The show will also feature rarely exhibited works from private collections.

An exhibition of the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Curators, Städel Museum: Dr Alexander Eiling (Head of Modern Art), Dr Eva Mongi-Vollmer (Curator for Special Projects)
Project management: Dr. Friederike Schütt

Sponsored by: Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain gGmbH, Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V. – Städelfreunde 1815
With support from: Georg und Franziska Speyer'sche Hochschulstiftung

Media partners: Süddeutsche Zeitung, ARTE, Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main
Culture partner: hr2-kultur

“This summer, our visitors will have the opportunity to encounter an exciting artistic medium—the relief: an art form between painting and sculpture that literally breaks through the confines of the frame and bursts the boundaries of our sense of sight! We are devoting a major exhibition to this sometimes underacknowledged medium.”

Philipp Demandt, Director, Städel Museum


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    Pablo Picasso, Violin (Violon), 1915

    Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

    Violin (Violon), 1915
    Painted sheet metal and iron wire, 100 x 63.7 x 18 cm
    Musée national Picasso, Paris
    © Paris, Musée national Picasso – Paris, bpk | RMN – Grand Palais | Béatrice Hatala

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    Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Shells and Flowers (Coquilles et fleurs), 1938

    Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943)

    Shells and Flowers (Coquilles et fleurs), 1938
    Oil on wood, 60 × 60 × 7.7 cm
    Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau und Gottfried Keller-Stiftung, Bundesamt für Kultur, Bern
    © Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau und Gottfried Keller-Stiftung, Bundesamt für Kultur, Bern/Jörg Müller

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    Alexander Archipenko, Bather (Baigneuse), 1915

    Alexander Archipenko (1887–1964)

    Bather (Baigneuse), 1915
    Wire, papier-mâché and plaster, 47.5 × 23 × 18.5 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023, Foto: U. Edelmann

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    Auguste Rodin, Young Mother in the Grotto, 1885

    Auguste Rodin (1840–1917)

    Young Mother in the Grotto (Jeune mère à la grotte), 1885
    Plaster, 36.3 x 26.8 x 24 cm
    Musée Rodin, Paris
    © Musée Rodin, Photo: Christian Baraja

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    Daniel Spoerri, Restaurant Spoerri, 1968

    Daniel Spoerri (*1930)

    Restaurant Spoerri, 1968
    Various objects, glass, metal, paper, ceramic, wood, ash, pencil, acrylic glass, 76 × 76 × 18 cm
    Kunsthalle Mannheim
    © Kunsthalle Mannheim / Margita Wickenhäuser / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

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    Yves Klein, Relief éponge bleu (Kleine Nachtmusik), 1960

    Yves Klein (1928–1962)

    Relief éponge bleu (Kleine Nachtmusik), 1960
    Sponge, stone and pigments on wood and canvas, 145 x 116 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    © The Estate of Yves Klein / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Audio Guide

Audio Guide

  • Available as free App

    Discover the exhibition and experience works of relief art with the audio guide app. The approximately 60-minute guide contains audio tracks and images on approximately 30 artworks. Available for free in the App Store and Google Play Store.

    To the Audio Guide



Individually bookable offers

Tours are available in English, German, French, Italian, Russian, Dutch and Japanese.
Please contact us to arrange your group visit even if you do not wish to book a guided tour.

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Art Talks

Beyond surface value
Thursday, 13 July, 7.00 pm

English is your native tongue and you’d like to talk to others about art in that language? Or you’re a non-native speaker and would be interested in building on your knowledge of English outside your professional environment? With Art Talks we offer a programme of guided tours providing a relaxed atmosphere in which the fine arts will inspire you to perfect your English. The prerequisite is good command of English; no special knowledge is required.

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Exhibition views

Exhibition views

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    Exhibition view
    Photo: Städel Museum - Norbert Miguletz

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    Exhibition view
    Photo: Städel Museum - Norbert Miguletz

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    Exhibition view
    Photo: Städel Museum - Norbert Miguletz

About the relief

About the relief

From antiquity, we are familiar with the relief primarily as architectural decoration. In the Renaissance it played an important role in the competition between painters and sculptors over which medium best imitates reality. When the relief began to figure increasingly in art-theory debates around 1800, it was referred to as an intermediate medium among the arts. In the zone between the second and third dimension, however, it remained a primarily sculptural endeavour.

“The relief is one of humankind’s oldest pictorial mediums. As a hybrid it not only occupies a place between painting and sculpture, but also—in the viewer’s perception—a sensory realm between sight and touch. Our exhibition is devoted to the special possibilities and opportunities offered by the relief in art from Neoclassicism to the 1960s.”

Alexander Eiling and Eva Mongi-Vollmer, exhibition curators, Städel Museum

As time went on, a new artistic interest in overcoming the traditional boundaries between the mediums took hold. Painters made sculptures; sculptors preoccupied themselves with painting. In that context, the relief became a laboratory for experimentation with new forms, materials and techniques. Reliefs were no longer made primarily of the classical materials—that is, stone, clay, plaster or bronze. Artists began using everyday and found objects to open surfaces out into the third dimension. Whether glued or nailed, made with natural sponges or a soup ladle, the relief took on entirely new manifestations. Its significance for society grew with the cataclysmic changes of the early twentieth century: the relief became a place of utopias and a mirror of the departure for a new world.