Fine Arts Collection

Colored abstract design drawing by Zvi Hecker

Zvi Hecker, Jewish Primary School Berlin (Heinz-Galinski-Schule): design drawing of the Jewish Primary School Berlin, rainwater collection, 1993; Jewish Museum Berlin, Photo: Jens Ziehe

Fine Arts Collection

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.

Historical drawing of a portrait bust sculpture of a man, the sculpture is surrounded by meaningful objects below

Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764–1850), portrait of Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) based on a bust by Tassaert, 1786-87; Jewish Museum Berlin, Photo: Jens Ziehe

Contact
Inka Bertz
Head of Collections/ Curator of Art
phone: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 414
fax: 
+49 (0)30 259 93 409
Selected Objects (11) Fine Arts Collection Show all

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.