The Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München was established in the former residence of the artist Franz von Lenbach and is most known for its world-class and unique collection of works by the artists of The Blue Rider, accented by eminent works of the Art Nouveau and New Objectivity, the art of the 19th century as well as international contemporary art. Here you find an overview of the different areas of our collection.

Franz von Lenbach

The Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus) was established in the former residence of the artist Franz von Lenbach in 1929. In the late 19th century, Lenbach was a central protagonist in the rise of Munich as an almost mythical center of the arts.

Born to a lower-middle-class family, he was trained at the Academy of Fine Arts; after 1870, he became a celebrated portraitist and honed his image as an urbane artist and virtuoso of his craft.

Between 1887 and 1890, he collaborated with Gabriel von Seidl, then Munich's most renowned architect, to build himself a large studio and residence in the immediate vicinity of Königsplatz square.

Many prominent members of society came to his home to have their portraits painted. His technique was inspired by Old Masters such as Rubens, Titian, and Veronese, but he was not above employing the new medium of photography either. The restored reception rooms convey an impression of the former magnificence of Lenbach's villa.

more about Franz von Lenbach

19th Century

Until the 1950s, the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, which opened in 1929, primarily collected and presented nineteenth-century paintings from Munich and early twentieth-century German art. With the works of the villa’s former resident, Franz von Lenbach, this original focus constitutes the collection's historic core.

In the nineteenth century, the "Munich school" enjoyed international renown, attracting artists to the city whose works were prized by collectors around the world. The most important venue for the local bourgeoisie, which took a lively interest in this art, was the Münchener Kunstverein, founded in 1823, whose exhibitions primarily presented landscapes and genre paintings. As a municipal institution, the Lenbachhaus initially focused its collecting efforts on this more private and bourgeois art, in programmatic contradistinction to the Bavarian State Painting Collections, which built on the holdings of the Bavarian royal house and the work of the Academy of Fine Arts of Munich.

A romantic conception of the landscape, a realism inspired by Gustave Courbet’s work, enthusiasm for the art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the influences of Belgian, Dutch, French, and English painters informed the development of the art produced in Munich. In the Lenbachhaus's collections, eminent artists such as Wilhelm von Kobell, Johann Georg von Dillis, Thomas Fearnley, Ernst Kaiser, Christian E. B. Morgenstern, Carl Rottmann, Carl Spitzweg, and Eduard Schleich the Elder represent this period. The museum also has examples of the outstanding painterly craftsmanship of the Leibl circle (Wilhelm Leibl, Carl Schuch, Wilhelm Trübner, and Hans Thoma), works by exponents of academic painting such as Carl Theodor von Piloty, Hans Makart, Gabriel von Max, and Albert von Keller, and portraits by the so-called princes of painters, Franz von Lenbach and Friedrich August von Kaulbach.

With the establishment of the Munich Secession in 1892, new tendencies appeared on the scene; the group united a wide variety of styles between Impressionism, art nouveau, and avant-garde conceptions of the picture, as illustrated by paintings by Franz von Stuck, Lovis Corinth, Max Slevogt, Fritz von Uhde, and many others. These works mark the transition to the collection’s holdings of the art of the "Neue Künstlervereinigung München" (New Artists‘ Association Munich) and the Blue Rider group.

Over the years, the Lenbachhaus has frequently had the opportunity to add important individual works to its collection of nineteenth-century art, which has also been enlarged by substantial bequests. The collection is rounded out by permanent loans such as the holdings of the Munich Secession, the estate of Johann Georg von Dillis, which is held by the Historical Society of Upper Bavaria, and the estate of the founder of "Simplicissimus", Thomas Theodor Heine.

In time for the museum's reopening in 2013, the Lenbachhaus received the Christoph Heilmann Foundation's holdings of paintings of the German romantics and the Barbizon school, adding an international dimension to the nineteenth-century collection as well.

The Blue Rider

The Lenbachhaus has the world's largest collection of art of "Der Blaue Reiter" (The Blue Rider), one of the most important groups of avant-garde artists in the early twentieth century. The core of this treasure consists of the generous donation by the painter Gabriele Münter, who was Wassily Kandinsky's companion until 1914.

On occasion of her eightieth birthday in 1957, she bequeathed more than a thousand works by the Blue Rider artists to the Lenbachhaus, among them ninety oil paintings by Kandinsky as well as around 330 watercolors and drawings, his sketchbooks, reverse glass paintings, and his printed oeuvre. The bequest also included more than twenty-five paintings and numerous works on paper by Münter herself and works by other eminent artists such as Franz Marc, August Macke, Paul Klee, Alexej Jawlensky, and Marianne von Werefkin. This extraordinary donation made the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus a world-class museum.

more about the Blue Rider

New Objectivity

The dominant movement in the Lenbachhaus’s collection of art from the period after World War I is the Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity, which is paradigmatic of the art and art politics of the 1920s and 1930s.

In his book "Post-Expressionism – Magic Realism: Problems in Recent European Painting" of 1926, Franz Roh, an art historian and artist living in Munich, surveyed the diverse developments since the end of World War I. Many artists who were profoundly distressed by what they had experienced disavowed the formal innovations of the avant-garde such as Cubism, Expressionism, and abstraction and focused their energies on soberly realist depictions of the world around them.

Others built on the achievements of the prewar period to break new ground: the Bauhaus fused abstract tendencies with new principles of design, Expressionism blended with realism, Dadaism and Surrealism devised distinctive variants of figuration, and the cosmopolitan artists’ initiative "Abstraction-Création", which counted Kandinsky and Jean Hélion among its members, promoted abstract and concrete art.

Joseph Beuys

On May 12, 1921, 100 years ago, Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld. With his plastics and environments, he is one of the most important artists of the post-war period. In 1979, the director of the Lenbachhaus, Armin Zweite, brought social issues of contemporary art to the fore with the purchase of the work "zeige deine Wunde".

The presentation in Franz von Lenbach’s studio wing offers a comprehensive overview of Joseph Beuys's work in sculpture, with key pieces from all stages of his creative evolution. "Stove," "Bathtub," "Hare's Grave," and many other works illustrate the range of sculptural possibilities that Beuys explored between 1948 and 1968. After 1970, he focused his energies on making sprawling large-format installations. The two iconic environments "show your wound" (1974/75) and before the departure from camp I" (1970/80) exemplify this phase in his oeuvre.

artworks by Joseph Beuys


Contemporary Art

Since the 1980s, the Lenbachhaus has collected international contemporary art and works by artists whose lives are associated with Munich. One principle guiding the museum's acquisitions policy has been the focus on selected artists, whose artistic development is closely followed.

Today the Lenbachhaus owns one of the most extensive and interesting museum collections with works by Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Günter Fruhtrunk, Rupprecht Geiger, Maria Lassnig, Sarah Morris, Isa Genzken, and others.

The collection of post-1945 art emphasizes abstract works which build on the aspirations of modernist art. The history of conceptual art and new media, especially video art, and the artistic engagement with photography also figure prominently in the collection.

The Lenbachhaus’s efforts to enlarge its collection are supported by the KiCo Foundation and the Förderverein Lenbachhaus e.V., the society of friends of the Lenbachhaus.

contemporary artworks