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"August Kopisch: Painter, Poet, Discoverer, Inventor" on view at Alte Nationalgalerie
August Kopisch, Ein Schiff auf dem Meere von Delphinen umschwärmt, 1826/28. Öl auf Leinwand, 20,5 x 34 cm. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie. Foto: Andres Kilger.

BERLIN.- In this exhibition on the work of August Kopisch (1799–1853), Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie focuses on one of the most versatile nineteenth century artists. Like nobody else, the Breslau-born artist combined painting, poetry, and the spirit of discovery and invention. He first made a name for himself as the discoverer of the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri, since then a popular tourist destination. As a painter, Kopisch created works of their very own poetic brilliance, using a magical blue or a sumptuous twilight red to depict light phenomena in an impressive way. One of his many literary achievements was a brilliant translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. But his greatest claim to fame is the poem “Die Heinzelmännchen,” still beloved today.

Kopisch already took instruction in drawing as a young boy. He left his hometown at age 15 to study at the art academy in Prague, continuing his studies of painting in Vienna and later in Dresden. He travelled to Italy in 1824, spending a year in Rome and arriving in Naples in the spring of 1826. The southern landscape and Neapolitan life inspired him to folkloric poetry, translations, and paintings intense with color. In 1829, Kopisch returned to Breslau, where he created a pleorama of the Gulf of Naples with Carl Ferdinand Langhans in 1831. In 1833, he moved to Berlin, where he surrounded himself with poets, scholars, and artists, consorting with the likes of Alexander von Humboldt, Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling and Crown Prince Frederick William, who named him an official art consultant after his coronation in 1840, awarding him a pension in 1841. During his Berlin years, Kopisch published important works and showed his painting regularly at academy exhibitions.

In five rooms, the exhibition presents over 40 paintings and drawings and around 80 additional objects, including inventions like the so-called “fast furnace,” musical settings, letters, publications, and illustrations, are presented to testify to Kopisch’s wide variety of work. The show begins with the discovery of the Blue Grotto and numerous paintings by Kopisch and his counterparts. The exhibition continues with Kopisch’s studies, his stay in Italy, his painting, and his writing, culminating with an installation that takes the visitor on a fictional boat trip along the Gulf of Naples.

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