Old Masters

The current presentation of the Old Masters at Museum Wiesbaden encompasses over 100 exhibits of central works from all epochs of art history from the early Middle Ages to the 19th century. The collection has a long tradition that accompanies the history of the museum through all its phases. Its festive beginning coincides with the opening of the museum on April 1, 1825, in the palace of the crown prince in Wilhelmstraße. At that time, the picture gallery mainly comprised the 156 works from the private collection of Johann Isaak von Gering (1767—1837), who in 1826 had given them together with antiquities and „naturalia“ to the state of Nassau in return for an annual annuity. The initiative for this transaction can be traced to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who suggested to Gerning that his collections be made publicly accessible in Wiesbaden.

Landscape painting

Hans Thoma
Collecting landscape paintings has been and remains very much part of the museum’s culture, as our broad representation of the genre makes palpable. Across the centuries, the genre with its view to the natural world underwent notable transformations, disruptions and often surprising upheavals. By the turn of the 17th century, the landscape, once merely a setting for mythological or historical scenes, had become a genre of painting in its own right. The Dutch painters liberated the depiction of nature from its previous constraints on content and established it as an autonomous subject worthy of the canvas. Their focus was no longer on the representation of order within an entire world, but to reproduce the greatest possible, immeasurable expanse, limited only by the confines of a picture frame.

Still life

The still life unites various categories of painting, featuring motifs such as flowers, books, fish, fruit, and musical instruments. These works attract our attention through their apparent yet veiled layers of meaning, provoking the viewer to reflection about suffering, transitoriness, and death, while their moral and religious, even erotic, implications warn us of the decadence of excess.

Dutch painting


The Golden Age of Dutch Painting

Museum Wiesbaden’s uniquely varied collection of Dutch painting offers visitors a cross-section of the full spectrum of possibilities in its “golden age” of the 17th century, a period of profound social transformation. The growing prosperity in broad circles of society, the disappearance of the Catholic Church as patron, and the dominance of Protestantism in the northern Netherlands intensified the demand for paintings for private citizens from the middle-classes. This newfound interest in art coincides with a general tendency to observe and explore nature, as well as with the flourishing of cartography, which experienced rapid growth as a result of Dutch overseas trade. Genre painting, along with the landscape, is considered the most significant and characteristic contribution of the Dutch to 17th-century painting. Genre painting is figurative painting. Unlike traditional history painting with its historical, mythological, and religious subjects, genre painting does not invent its themes but takes them from every-day life.



The Mythology room offers visitors a look into the world of ancient Greek myth, spanning from the seemingly harmless Putti playing with arrows in a piece by Francesco Primaticcio to the blatant eroticism of Sebastiano Ricci’s Danae and the dramatic binding of Prometheus in Luca Ferrari’s work through to more serene images by Pietro Liberis depicting Venus and her followers.

Religion in painting and sculpture


The religious art of Museum Wiesbaden’s collections includes, in part, very large format Mariological and Christological pictorial panels from the 15th to 18th centuries. These themes, for example, depictions of Christ, illustrate the dynamic relationship between religion and its visual representation.
The craquelé work of Frankfurt artist Jan Schmidt illustrates that paintings are clocks without hands. They tick internally – their lifespan is limited, especially if they are wooden panels. A small network of fissures relates the history of their lives thus far. Like wrinkles in a human face, they bear witness to our present condition. Schmidt raises the transformed surface to an art and „paints time.“


Walsdorfer Kruzifix
The church hall was built in 1915 by Theodor Fischer specifically for the purpose of housing pictorial works from the Middle Ages from the end of the 13th century to the beginning of the 16th century. In good historicist spirit, the octagonal central room returns to the figures, once displayed in more sacred spaces, something of their original ceremonial quality.
Photos: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert
Photos: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert

Bringing these objects to back their home in the newly renovated “church” in 2013, the current presentation sustains this tradition. In essence, even the church hall of the museum from 1915 still resonates with something of that romantically based educated bourgeois mysticism that offered the experience of art as a path to salvation, demanded the disciplining of body and senses, and created its own enormous cult buildings for this purpose.

Selected portraits from the Old Masters collection

Entrée: Grapheme

Robert Seidel’s (1977, Berlin) installation Grapheme forms the entryway to the Old Masters exhibit. Like a tunnel, the room condenses and expands through the effects of color, reflection, sculpture, projection, and sound, taking the viewer on an atmospheric journey to unknown worlds. The journey sets into motion several centuries of artistic expression through color, form, and space. Seidel’s installation symbolizes the continual living presence of our cultural heritage.

Robert Seidel, Grapheme, 2013. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021. Photo: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert
Robert Seidel, Grapheme, 2013. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021. Photo: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert

Funakoshi’sSphinx in the church hall

Katsura Funakoshi, Sphinx, 2005. Photos: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert
Katsura Funakoshi, Sphinx, 2005. Photos: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert

The intensely emotional sculptures of Japanese artist Katsura Funakoshi (*1951) derive their force from a mysterious dichotomy. The simultaneity of their entrancing, timeless mien and the provocative estrangement of body parts form the nucleus of an unpredictable, mesmerizing tension. Museum Wiesbaden acquired Funakoshi’s sculpture A Tale of the Sphinx in 2005.
Thematically, Funakoshi, baptized in the Christian faith, moves between the cultures of his birthplace, the Orient, and the Occident. His torsos of fragrant camphorwood take up the European tradition of wood sculpting of the late Middle Ages, as well as Japanese wood carving of the Kamakura period (1185—1333). In a rather unusually expressive interpretation, at least in Japan, Funakoshi renders a traditional technique in a modern format. The human being in all its complexity, which “unites all humans within itself and is yet unique.”

View into the exhibition

Jan Schmidt, Tod der Maria, 2011.  © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021.
Jan Schmidt, Tod der Maria, 2011. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021.
Alle Fotos: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert
Alle Fotos: Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert


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    KUNSTPAUSE Rebecca Horn - Federn, Flügel und Motoren
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    VORTRAG „Wasser, Farbe, Licht!“Max Pechstein, endlich ist er angekommen….

Art Prizes

Two art prizes are associated with Museum Wiesbaden. The first is the Alexej von Jawlensky Prize of the state capital Wiesbaden, which commemorates the life's work of the great Russian painter, who lived in Wiesbaden from 1921 until his death in 1941. It is awarded every 5 years with the financial support of the Hessian state capital, Spielbank Wiesbaden, and the Nassauische Sparkasse, among others.

The second is the Otto Ritschl Prize. The artist lived in Wiesbaden from 1918 until 1976. After his early figural and, later, more Surrealist works, Ritschl began, in the 1950s, to move progressively toward geometric and, finally, more expressive abstraction. The increasingly meditative work of his late period, beginning in the early 1960s, focused on immaterial space, shaped entirely through color. The Museum Association Otto Ritschl began bestowing the prize in 2001 in Ritschl’s honor to keep the artist’s name alive.

Educational programs

Museum Wiesbaden offers a variety of programs for all ages, from guided tours to workshops for preschools and schools, to teacher training and programs for students, private groups, or families with children.

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