Art in the Woods

December 15, 2011 by

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Some of the beautiful paths in Grunewald. Photo courtesy of pixagraphic via Flickr.

Grunewald is one of the largest stretches of forest in the Berlin metropolitan area. It defines the western edge of the city, and offers miles of paths for walking or cycling. Whether dressed in new spring green or winter white, it’s a welcome oasis of calm away from the city center (despite the railway and highway running through the middle).

Along with its natural attractions, Grunewald is home to two very different art collections which bridge the centuries.

At the dawn of the 20th century, various groups of artists were working in an idiom which would later be termed “Expressionism.” Common to all of them was the audacious use of color and line to communicate inner sensations, along with subject matter which didn’t shy away from the darker corners of human existence.

German collective Die Brücke (“the bridge”), was one of the most prominent of these groups, and featured names like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde. The Brücke-Museum, housed in a late Modernist building at the edge of the forest, houses the foremost collection of works by Die Brücke artists in the world. A program of temporary exhibitions encompasses the full expressive range of these groundbreaking artists.

After a few minutes’ walk through the forest you arrive at Jagdschloss (“hunting palace”) Grunewald. This is Berlin’s oldest royal residence and, as the name suggests, it was built to house and equip hunting parties. But while the old ruling elite were hog wild for boar, they were just as keen on hunting down great artworks.

And so in this handsome yet modest construction, you’ll find an important collection of paintings, including numerous works by the father-and-son masters of the German Renaissance who both went under the name Lucas Cranach.

- James Conway

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