Our Fine Arts Collection documents and investigates Jewish history from the perspective of visual culture. The holdings currently comprise approximately 470 paintings, 5,300 art prints, 2,000 drawings, and roughly 240 sculptures and architectural models.
Focus Areas and Subject Matter
One of the collection's focuses is Modernism, with works by artists such as Max Liebermann, Lesser Ury, and Ludwig Meidner. In this emphasis, we are carrying on the tradition of the first Jewish Museum in Berlin, which was forced to close in 1938. Another area of interest is contemporary art, as reflected in our museum’s own architecture. Until December 2017, you could also find installations by Menashe Kadishman, Via Lewandowski, and Arnold Dreyblatt in our permanent exhibition.
Graphic prints make up another extensive and important part of our art collection. This category also includes posters and commercial art and is closely associated with the works of book art in the library’s holdings. Working together with our archive and photographic collection, we also collect biographical and documentary material about artists, such as photographs, correspondence, and printed matter.
Biblical themes and Jewish motifs are well represented subjects, but we are also interested in other pictorial subjects, particularly aesthetic responses to experiences of persecution and emigration. As in any collection of cultural history, portraits also play an important role in the Jewish Museum Berlin collection. Many of them come from collections of family keepsakes that were donated to our museum alongside documents, photographs, and other objects. In addition, the portraits of philosophers of the Jewish Enlightenment in the eighteenth century are especially noteworthy.
The paintings in our holdings are listed in the fourth and subsequent editions of: Schweers, Hans F. Gemälde in deutschen Museen: Katalog der ausgestellten und depotgelagerten Werke (Paintings in German museums: catalog of exhibited works and depository holdings). 4th rev. and exp. ed. Munich: Saur, 2005.
What Artworks Tell Us about Jewish History
A cultural history museum’s interest in art is always also motivated by its themes. As we consider each artwork, we pose the same questions that our museum generally asks: questions of tradition and remembrance, of the Jewish present and visions for the future.
In the works of Jewish artists and the expectations of the Jews who commissioned them, the imagery of Jewish tradition is blended with imagery of their own era. The artworks show how Jews participate in the cultural life of their time. They shape and interpret their environment, position themselves in German society, and reflect on their attitudes to Judaism. Another significant role of Jews in the art world is as commissioners of works such as portraits. For us today, their aesthetic preferences are an important testimony to their cultural identity.
The same is true of contemporary artists. By documenting current developments in the fine arts, we reflect the fact that a museum can only consider history from its position in the present.
At times the paths by which works of art reached us tell little stories of their own about the history of German-Jewish relations. Take the example of Elisabeth Wolff's sculpture Girl Walking, which we present in greater detail on our website , further investigating its provenance. See for yourself how much the other objects from our collection, profiled here on the website, reveal about their time and the people who created them.
Curator of Art
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Jewish Museum Berlin
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The Restitution of the Banquet
The Story of a Search, by Heike Krokowski
27. Jan 2017
Paintings, printed graphics, sculptures, and more art from our collections (in German)
Provenance Research at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Where do the artworks and ceremonial objects in our collection come from?
“The architect’s way of thinking is through the eyes.”
Zvi Hecker, Jewish Primary School Berlin: design drawing “Rainwater Collection”
From our Holdings
Selected Objects: Fine Arts Collection (12)
Fine Arts Collection
Glance through our art holdings featuring modernist works by Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth, and commercial graphic art by Louis Oppenheim. The motifs span from biblical and Jewish themes to intimate portraits and Felix Nussbaum’s haunting response to his experience of persecution.
Albertine Mendelssohn-Bartholdy as a Bride by August Theodor Kaselowsky
In this painting, Albertine Heine appears to be a Christian Madonna. She holds the ring near her heart, wearing a white dress with her gaze modestly lowered.
Biblical map of the Holy Land
This "New and Original Biblical Map of the Holy Land" from 1893 was probably never intended to be used by pilgrims or travelers on the ground.
Loneliness by Felix Nussbaum
Nussbaum is nearly unique among artists for his striking examination of his plight as one of the persecuted. He painted it in Brussels, where he was in hiding, in 1942.
The Plesch Family Portrait by Max Slevogt
Max Slevogt created this painting of his friend's family in 1928. It captures the intimacy of family life while fulfilling a group portrait's representative function.
Composition by Otto Freundlich
Otto Freundlich painted this abstract composition in 1938 – one year after another artwork of his had been branded "degenerate art" in Nazi Germany.
Moses Looks upon the Promised Land by Lesser Ury
For artist Lesser Ury, the painting marked the end of a lifelong preoccupation with the figure of Moses. Unfortunately, only a pastel sketch for the painting survives.
S. Adam Advertising Poster by Louis Oppenheim
With this poster by the well-known graphic artist Louis Oppenheim, the S. Adam clothing store advertised its products to male and female sports enthusiasts in 1908.
Passage through the Red Sea by Jakob Steinhardt
This woodcut by Jakob Steinhardt illustrates a 1920s Haggadah. The people barely escaped with their lives—as is revealed in the expression on Moses’ face.
Girl Walking by Elisabeth Wolff
The sculpture by Elisabeth Wolff was a trophy at the first sporting festival held by the Reich Committee for Jewish Youth Associations, in 1934. The artwork has only been entrusted to our collection for safekeeping.
Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Max Liebermann
In this late self-portrait, the artist presents himself as bourgeois in a dark suit and a Panama hat. Two years after his eightieth birthday, he painted himself here with a touch of resignation and melancholy.
Sabbath by Jankel Adler
Jankel Adler's painting Sabbath shows a parlor scene on the weekly day of rest. But the artist has not depicted the festive, pleasurable moment of welcoming the Shabbat.
Petermannchen by Lovis Corinth
Lovis Corinth painted this portrait of his student and wife-to-be during a beach vacation on the Baltic coast. It contains a secret romantic message.
Shalekhet by Menashe Kadishman
Areas of interest and subject matter
All About ...
The History of Our Collections
Initial inspiration and transition to the Jewish Museum Berlin
The First Jewish Museum in Berlin
Inka Bertz on our collection, the seizure of the museum's holdings in 1938, reconstruction, and more
Art Vending Machine
Contemporary art by international, Berlin-based Jewish artists