I’d go to the mat for this: the Gemäldegalerie is the best painting collection in the world

The central courtyard. Notice how there are NO OTHER PEOPLE IN THIS GIANT ROOM?!?! WIN.
The central courtyard. Notice how there are NO OTHER PEOPLE IN THIS GIANT ROOM?!?! WIN.

The Gemäldegalerie, the painting branch of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, (which is a handful to pronounce), is the perfect size, pleasantly attended, and provides one of the most thorough presentations of late medieval-renaissance-baroque painting from northern AND southern Europe that exists anywhere. If you want to see good paintings (cough way more interesting than the Mona Lisa cough) and a huge variety of them, THIS Is the museum to do it in.

How about a little Jan van Eyck??
How about a little Jan van Eyck??

A considerable distance from Museum Island in Mitte, where a ton of Berlin’s fanciest museums are located, it’s still SO EASY to get to because Berlin’s public transportation wins the universe.

Or a seriously slutty Caravaggio, you know, NBD.
Or a seriously slutty Caravaggio, you know, NBD. image via wikimedia commons
or Giovanni Baglione's DIRECT response to the Caravaggio painting, conveniently hung 10 feet away??!?! Thank GOD for German thoroughness!
or Giovanni Baglione’s DIRECT response to the Caravaggio painting, conveniently hung 10 feet away??!?! Thank GOD for German thoroughness image via wikimedia commons
See!! Right across the doorway from each other (and that lurking guard was one of the few other souls in the place)
See!! Right across the doorway from each other (and that lurking guard was one of the few other souls in the place)

And while it suffers a bit from the tendency to display Old Master paintings in stuffy rooms with jewel toned walls (which is what makes the European Painting wing at the Met a giant let-down for me, despite its recent renovation), because the rooms are arranged around the central, light-filled courtyard you never feel like you’re suffocating in dusty history. Just suffocating in pretty, pretty paintings.

Oh Vermeer, you get me every time. Image via wikimedia commons
Oh Vermeer, you get me every time. Image via wikimedia commons

I wrote about the Gemäldegalerie before, right after I visited, but I feel like I’ve grown to appreciate the museum more in the time that’s passed since then. I was a bit crabby about admissions prices at that point. I was living on a Fulbright in Rome then and while I am extremely grateful for that experience, all aspiring Fulbrighters in Italy should be aware that it pays terribly. It’s like much of the English aristocracy– all prestige, no money. Anyways, It should be pointed out that while Berlin in general is super economical, going to a lot of the museums there adds up quickly, so while I don’t always advocate for such things, a museum pass or city card might be the way to go. I would recommend looking into it, being honest about your interests and deciding what plan makes the most sense for you.

PS- also, some readers might’ve gotten a sneak peak at this post last night. Due to my own stupidity I managed to publish it while still in draft form. Sorry about that.

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10 thoughts on “I’d go to the mat for this: the Gemäldegalerie is the best painting collection in the world

    1. Haha! Trust me, for most native English speakers, German (or any language) pronunciation is tricky! I’ve even taken a few German classes (mostly for reading, zee Germans are excellent art historians and you can’t ignore their scholarship) and I find it difficult to articulate all those vowels and “ch” sounds! For example, I didn’t realize (and this was after many classes and slow plodding through lots of German art historical texts) that “e” at the end of most German words is pronounced! Tricky, tricky!

      1. hehe, I was also kidding – I commonly heard that German is supposed to be one of the hardest languages to learn… we also have a lot of exceptions to the rules… maybe Chinese is more difficult? Anyways, I know very much what you are saying – I often have to work through texts in French and that is very exhausting for me… I think researchers nowadays should publish their results in English and that’s it… no more language hassle for me please! 🙂

      2. Any language is difficult, but for me at least, German was (and is) quite a bit harder than French or Italian, though I want to keep working at it. As frustrating as it is though, I like it when some things are untranslated. By a huge margin I have the most facility with Italian and there are a few phrases or words that can ONLY be expressed in Italian. I’m sure that’s true for all languages. And besides, except for in the hands of Nabokov–ironic since he wasn’t a native English speaker–or Cormac McCarthy and a few others, English can be a really ugly language.

  1. I agree with you partly! I think that language is a big part of the culture and if I travel to Italy, for example, I believe that people would not be the same without their language and their style of expression. I also enjoy watching movies in their original language, even if I don’t speak it (like Hindi)… I can imagine that in the world of art and history language is extremely important and that in these circumstances nuances can sometimes not be translated properly. But in my kind of research which concerns geology, it is mostly about transfering facts and then the language might not be that important, I believe (maybe even should not be important!?)…
    Why do you think that English is or can be an ugly language? I like reading English books (often I prefer them to the translated version, too) and I also like to use the language to talk to people…
    Of course my essential problem with using French or other languages in scientific articles is that I don’t speak the language… 🙂

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