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.

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19th Century

From its inauguration in 1929 until the 1950s, the Lenbachhaus primarily presented paintings from nineteenth-century Munich and German art of the first half of the twentieth century. Together with the villa’s representative rooms and the art of the “prince of painters” Franz von Lenbach, these early mainstays define the collection’s historic core.

The collection is enhanced by eminent bequests and permanent loans: the body of works by Johann Georg von Dillis held by the Historic Society of Upper Bavaria, the Christoph Heilmann Foundation with paintings by the German Romantics and the artists of the Barbizon school, the collection of the Munich Secession, and the estate of Thomas Theodor Heine, the founder of "Simplicissimus".

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.

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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.

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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.

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