Picture Perfect – Views from the 19th Century

February 21, 2017 – December, 2018 at Lenbachhaus

Picture Perfect — Views from the 19th Century


Picture Perfect – Views from the 19th Century
Opens FEBRUARY 21, 2017 at Lenbachhaus

Picture Perfect – Views from the 19th Century

The nineteenth century is the age of pictures. Visual art reached larger audiences than ever before. Artists—women and men—powerfully shaped the culture of their time, the spectrum of themes considered worthy of depiction was substantially enlarged, and "picture perfect" became the highest form of praise. The motifs that were invented then still define our ideas of romantic feeling, of sadness and beauty. Over the course of the nineteenth century, an enormously diverse universe of narrative visual art emerged whose capacity for formal innovation remains thrilling today.

"Picture Perfect" presents a reinterpretation of the Lenbachhaus’s collection of nineteenth-century art. The new display covers an unusually wide range of artistic styles and subjects in an effort to offer fresh perspectives on this rich visual culture. Complemented by photographs and film and audio samples, it charts the contemporary context in which themes and imageries originated and spotlights some of the ways in which the long nineteenth century continues to inform contemporary culture today.

In the nineteenth century, the people who visited exhibitions and collected art, who read books, journals, or travel guides expected to encounter vivid portrayals and entertaining stories, and so many artists tended to affirm existing realities rather than subject them to critical scrutiny, but we can also glimpse moments of irony that suggest an awareness that their productions were often based on models and façades. Still, the rapid growth of the imagery in public circulation meant that the world of individual experience was drastically enlarged.

In the hands of artists, natural scenes became the picture-postcard vistas we still like to take in. Traditional dresses and rural traditions were revived or, in some instances, invented out of whole cloth in the nineteenth century; some proved so compelling that people around the world now flock to Oktoberfests to perform as "Bavarians". In the German mind, the forest is central to the relationship between humans and nature, a visual and emotional space.

Painters who moved to the countryside not only interpreted the rural world, they also experimented with modern ways of life, and their art conveyed a sense of vitality unmarred by the constraints of urban decorum. As portraitists of the bourgeoisie and aristocracy, they helped define the public image of these social strata; they explored the relations between the sexes and class differences. The entire "grand theater" of the modern world waited to be cast into visual representations: phenomena as diverse as life in the historic past, the problems of the natural sciences, or the allure of spiritism.

Curated by Susanne Böller


Picture Perfect – Views from the 19th Century, EDITION LENBACHHAUS 04, 2017, texts by Susanne Böller, German / English, 204 p., many images, 18 €
The exhibition catalogue is now available at our museum shop and online.


Lecture "... ich selbst bin in diesem Augenblick das Kunstwerk... -
‚Der Leitfaden des Leibes‘ bei Joseph Beuys und Friedrich Nietzsche"
Kirsten Claudia Voigt
Associate and Curator, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
Tue, March 14, 2017, 7pm
at Lenbachhaus

Lecture "Ein Kanon ist zum Singen da!
Die Kunst der Moderne am Städel Museum Frankfurt"
Felix Krämer
Head of Collection and Curator Modern Art, Städel Museum Frankfurt
Tue, May 23, 2017, 7pm
at Lenbachhaus

Presentation of the conference transcript
"Landschaftsmalerei, eine Reisekunst? – Mobilität und Naturerfahrung im 19. Jahrhundert"

edited for the Christoph Heilmann Stiftung by Claudia Denk and Andreas Strobl, Berlin / Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag 2017
Mon, October 23, 2017, 7pm

Free admission


Tue, March 14, 21, April 18, September 19, October 10 and 24, December 19, 2017, February 27, 2018, 6pm
Sun, March 19 and 26, April 2 and 30, May 7 and 21, September 24, October 15 and 29, 2017, January 28, 2018, 2pm
at Lenbachhaus

Tue, March 28, 2017, 6pm
Matthias Mühling, Director at Lenbachhaus

Fri, April 7, 2017, 4pm
Susanne Böller, Curator of the exhibition

Tue, May 16, 2017, 6pm
Susanne Böller, Curator of the exhibition

Tue, June 7, 2017, 6pm
Karin Althaus, Head of Collection and Curator 19th Century Painting and Sculpture, New Objectivity

Wed, 20. September 2017, 5.30pm
Matthias Mühling, Director at Lenbachhaus

Wed, October 18, 2017, 5.30pm
Karin Althaus, Head of Collection and Curator 19th Century Painting and Sculpture, New Objectivity

Fri, December 8, 2017, 4pm
Susanne Böller, Curator of the exhibition

Duration: 1 hour
Costs: 2,50 Euro / p.p. plus admission
Tickets are sold at the cash desks inside the Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau, online and at the München Ticket reservation kiosks.

What's on

Gabriele Münter


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