GHDI logo

Alfred Lichtwark, Inaugural Address as Director of Hamburg’s Art Gallery (December 9, 1886)

page 3 of 8    print version    return to list previous document      next document

As regards conservation measures, the task of our Kunsthalle cannot be particular or unique. As regards the size and nature of acquisitions, however, it must be guided by principles that derive from our local needs.

It cannot be the responsibility of the Kunsthalle to strive for completeness in all the various areas of its collection – if such a thing is possible at all, then it must be left to the institutes of the great central cities. What matters in our case is not acquiring as much as possible; rather, we have to emphasize the artistic value of each individual item. Beyond that, no other principle can be established; each section must arrive at its own approach to acquisitions on the basis of its own individual character.

Of the two sections of our painting gallery, it will be possible to augment one – the Old Masters’ section – with an acquisition only in exceptional cases. A comprehensive expansion would entail funds whose granting we cannot expect at the outset. We must pursue as a focus the careful development of our gallery of modern art. Its level appears to be very low, and probably could not be otherwise, since so far it has rarely been possible to spend a substantial sum on any single work. In future, the available funds will have to be concentrated on a few significant works. A picture of the first order means more than an entire gallery of middling pieces. To this should be added the fact that up to this point a systematic approach to acquisitions was prevented by the very nature of the subject. Therefore, no one should be surprised that we are totally lacking a great number of German masters. The administration will have to be on careful watch for characteristic works by masters of previous epochs and then arrange for their purchase. We have no Ludwig Richter, no Overbeck, no Cornelius, no Schwind, no Rethel, no Steinle, and no Führich. Moreover, the administration will have to pay close and continuous attention to the current artistic production in all of Germany. No significant work that is taking shape at the moment may go unnoticed by the administration of the Kunsthalle. But in this context, too, the goal is to hold onto funds tightly – [we want to purchase] not a lot, rather only the very best. If there is an opportunity from time to time to acquire an excellent English or French work, then this will prevent our collection from becoming monotonous and will direct the gaze of our population beyond the borders of our homeland in the field of art as well.

Acquisitions in the plastic arts section need to be expanded dramatically.

Concerning the collection of plaster casts, a start has already been made. We have been able to augment our existing collection of casts of ancient works by acquiring several reproductions of original works of artistic and historical interest and by establishing a new section for Christian-era sculpture that places special emphasis on our national art. Soon, we hope to open the halls dedicated to this purpose to the public.

first page < previous   |   next > last page