Marking the 200th anniversary of his death, the Hamburger Kunsthalle
is presenting the first major retrospective exhibition in over thirty years dedicated to Philipp Otto Runge (17771810). Runge, who grew up in Wolgast, then lived in Copenhagen, Dresden and finally Hamburg, is considered one of the most versatile artists of the nineteenth century. Together with Caspar David Friedrich, he is the leading founder of German Romanticism. The exhibition Runges Cosmos pays tribute to this short-lived genius and his innovative artistic vision.
In his famous sequence of arabesque prints Times of the Day (1805/1807) and the paintings The Small Morning and The Large Morning (1808/1809), Runge gave apposite expression to the Romantic view of nature that was based on cyclical patterns of life. His colour theory continued to exert influence well into the twentieth century, and in the genre of portraiture Runge also made a considerable contribution. His series of self-portraits, for instance, offer compelling evidence of his self-questioning mind. With his portrayals of children, particularly his painting of the Hülsenbeck Children (1805), Runge introduced a new way of seeing the infant individual in art. He was also a pioneering figure with his idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art. Runge was inspired by the vision of incorporating various arts poetry, painting and music into a single architectural and spatial context. In his quest to renew art he served as role model for many artists of his time. A further instance of Runges versatility is offered by his delicate paper cuts also included in the exhibition masterpieces of precise natural observation and abstraction.
Besides documenting the artistic process of his work, a crucial aspect of the exhibition is to show this visionary artists struggle to find definitive expression for his ideas. From the initial sketch to the finished painting, viewers are given the impression of looking over the artists shoulder while he works. Runges creative process provides the clues to a deeper understanding of his concept of the image and of art. New insights into Runges manner of working are to be expected from a project supported by the Philipp Otto Runge Foundation that is concerned with analyzing the painting techniques he employed. In the course of the project several of Runges major paintings were subjected for the first time to detailed analysis, the results of which are also documented in the exhibition.
A substantial part of Runges oeuvre belongs to the permanent collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Additional loans from other international museums and private collections have now made it possible to present the entire panorama of his creative output. Runges Cosmos brings together 35 paintings, over 200 drawings, as well as 50 paper cuts and silhouettes. Among these are also several drawings which were previously thought lost or were unknown.
Accompanying the retrospective, the Hamburger Kunsthalle is publishing a comprehensive catalogue, as well as an anthology of the lectures given during the Runge symposium in the Hamburger Kunsthalle in October 2009. Both publications will be on sale in the museum shops or can be purchased online at www.freunde-der-kunsthalle.de
(catalogue: 408 pages, 40 Euro; anthology of the lectures: 360 pages, 34 Euro) and from all major booksellers.
Following the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the exhibition will be shown at the Kunsthalle der HypoKulturstiftung in Munich (13 May till 4 September 2011).
Exhibition curators: Dr Jenns Howoldt, Dr Markus Bertsch and Dr Andreas Stolzenburg