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Exhibition brings together all of Wilhelm von Kobell's Napoleonic Wars paintings
On the Third Day of the Battle of Hanau, 1814, 206 x 323 cm, Oil on canvas, Inv. Nr. WAF 446. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen - Neue Pinakothek Munich.
MUNICH.- ‘B for Battle Paintings …’ presents yet again works from the extensive collection of the Neue Pinakothek . ‘B for Battle Paintings …’ is nevertheless something special. For the first time in over thirty years, the exhibition brings together in Munich all of Wilhelm von Kobell’s paintings from his two cycles of battle paintings dedicated to the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century and held in the collection of the Neue Pinakothek . A large number of these works are on permanent loan to the Bayerische Armeemuseum in Ingolstadt , which on this occasion has kindly allowed them to be displayed at the Neue Pinakothek for the duration of the exhibition. The two cycles of battle scenes – painted for Marshal Berthier, Napoleon’s Chief of Staff, and for Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria – form the centrepiece of the presentation. Due to their size, the battle scenes painted for Ludwig will be on show not in Room C, but in Room 2.

The depiction of battle scenes commands a special place within the genre of history painting. Such scenes recall the heroic deeds of emperors and kings or mark turning points in the history of countries or entire continents. In the 19th century, the intention was to complement the glorification of the heroes and events represented in the paintings with the character of realistic reports. However, this ambitious endeavour and reality soon went their separate ways. Though conceived as a reminder and commemoration to subsequent generations, there is hardly any other genre that finds less recognition today than that of battle paintings. As a consequence, this presentation has deliberately chosen to focus less on the events of what, in 2014, took place two hundred years ago and to concentrate instead on the question of the changing function of this genre in 19th-century painting. And so the selected 45 works are not limited merely to battle scenes but also trace the shifts in motif and changes in pictorial language with which art accompanied a century at war.

With this presentation the Neue Pinakothek draws on a specific group of works for closer inspection. The concept of a study gallery is to demonstrate both the possibilities and limitations of such a project. The Study Gallery presents the masterpieces from the gallery’s upper floor in a wider historical context whilst also facilitating an understanding of the paintings as individual works. The rise and fall of different genres are revealed as are the function and significance of a pictorial language that was in a state of constant change. At the same time, the exhibition creates a greater understanding of the collection by bringing to life the history of the museum through the number and nature of the collected works. Restricting this presentation to works held by the gallery does, though, imply a limited perspective on the individual themes and subjects. This means that some questions must remain unanswered and certain observations in need of a wider horizon unexpressed – but perhaps, after all, this is what a gallery of studies is all about. Consequently, there is no scientifically weighty exhibition catalogue to accompany the presentation. Instead, it is left to the comprehensive catalogues of paintings held by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, which are available at this exhibition, to provide informative access to the exhibits."

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