Germanic Drawings at the Getty

Spirit of an Age: Drawings from the Germanic World, 1770-1900
At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
March 29-June 19, 2011

LOS ANGELES-In the past few years, the Getty Museum has focused on building its holdings of German and Austrian drawings from the 18th through the early 20th centuries thanks to important acquisitions and gifts, which will be unveiled for the first time. Spirit of An Age: Drawings from the Germanic World, 1770-1900, on view March 29 through June 19, 2011 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, brings together more than 40 works from the Museum’s superlative drawings collection which highlight this new area of collecting and celebrate an era when drawing was an essential expression of the age.

The exhibition highlights a period when the Germanic world underwent profound intellectual, social, economic, and political changes. Events such as the publications of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), the Industrial Revolution, the formal unification of Germany into a nation state, and the invention of psychoanalysis shaped modern life and its representations. In the early 1800s, the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1831) professed that art was a fundamental mode of consciousness whereby humans could reach a profound understanding both of themselves and the world. Art, therefore, reflected the spirit of the age in which it was created; this influential notion held sway over the 19th century. In fact, drawing-along with music- became an essential expression of the period; it achieved an elevated status among the visual arts, sustained by the rise of art academies, which particularly emphasized draftsmanship as part of artistic training and practice. This exhibition will explore manifold aspects of the period through two thematic groupings.

Views of Italy and the Homeland
Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Vienna were the most vibrant cultural centers of the Germanic world, each with a lively artistic tradition and a strong identity. But none could claim to be either dominant or nationally representative―as did Paris and London in their respective lands. Rome, however, was the only city that came close to being a leading center for German artists. Indeed, many of them traveled to the Italian peninsula, including Goethe, lured by the remains of classical antiquity and the picturesque scenery of the countryside.