The National Gallery Presents STRANGE BEAUTY, 2/19-5/11
This was strongly evidenced in 1856 when the Trustees of the National Gallery sold the Krüger Collection - the only time in its entire history that the Gallery has had an Act of Parliament passed to de-accession and sell pictures. This group of 64 early Westphalian paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries was acquired for the Gallery by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Gladstone, in 1854. However just three years later, 37 works were sold as they did not fit in with the 'present state of the Gallery' (as National Gallery Trustees Minutes noted at the time). Rarely publically displayed contemporary documents from the National Gallery archive will be featured in the exhibition in order to illustrate this episode.
A highlight of the exhibition will be, for the first time ever, a reconstruction of the Liesborn altarpiece. This work was created after 1465 and originally formed the high altarpiece in the Benedictine Abbey of Liesborn in Germany. In 1803, on the suppression of the monastery, it was dismembered, sold and scattered across the globe - eight pieces remain at the National Gallery as part of theKrüger Collection. Now for the first time, visitors will be able to visualise the completed altarpiece as it might have looked during the 15th century.
The first room of Strange Beauty introduces the types of paintings that were admired in 1824, when the National Gallery was founded. Room 2 presents some of the German Renaissance painting acquisitions finally made by the National Gallery during the 19th and early 20th centuries - not all of which were immediately appreciated or admired. The third room focuses on the qualities of expressiveness and technical and stylistic invention which are so important within German Renaissance art. The masters of this genre, Holbein, Dürer and Cranach, will be exhibited in Room 4, highlighting their distinctive style. Past letters and documentation continue to reveal the historic reception to these paintings. Room 5 discusses themes of beauty and nature, examining the distinctive interpretation of these concepts by German Renaissance artists.
The final room of Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance will be an interactive experience, inviting today's visitors to comment, and vote, on their reactions to German painting.