{Germany} Nice to meet you, Mr Schinkel

October 9, 2012


On this day in 1841, Karl Friedrich Schinkel died at the age of 60. I’d never heard of Schinkel before moving to Berlin, but here he’s everywhere. Schinkel was a 19th century Prussian painter and architect (1781 – 1841), who also designed stage sets and furniture. It feels a bit like he built about half of Berlin, and he was some kind of talented genius who was well versed in both the neoclassical and the neogothic. Last month a new exhibition opened at the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) here in Berlin, which runs until 6th January and presents Schinkel, the universal artist, in all his facets. Featuring around 300 exhibits, “Schinkel. History and Poetry” includes works not only from the Kupferstichkabinett itself, but also from numerous museums and collections in Germany and abroad.

I went in to see the exhibition knowing next to nothing about Schinkel and with no particular expectations. I came out over an hour later and have to say it was thoroughly fascinating and also very well presented. The exhibition takes you on a chronological journey through Schinkel’s life and career, from his early fascinations with gothic monuments to his lasting legacy today. The exhibits, which include everything from personal possessions – such as his glasses, family portraits, or his medical report – to sketches, drawings and paintings, are presented in ten sections, each laid out in a different colour. I particularly found some of the architectural prepatory sketches interesting, showing e.g. grids and measurements, and the section introducing drawing methods and techniques that he researched, such as different ways of reproducing and transferring his drawings from one medium to another or his experiments with different types of paper.

As well as his architectural designs that Schinkel is most famous for, he was also appointed court architect and commissioned to furnish the city’s royal palaces, and later championed the advancement of crafts and design. Exhibits here include e.g. furniture, chimney designs, dining vessels and an ostentatious chandelier. By the late 1830s he had become renowned as an architect throughout Europe, and produced designs for other palace projects e.g. in Athens and Moscow. Sadly for Schinkel, none of these were ever realised, but luckily for us, we still get to see his inspiring visions in the exhibition. My favourite part of the exhibition, however, was the section on Schinkel’s stage designs. He produced more than 100 scenes for over 40 theatre productions, and many of them – such as the backdrops for the Queen of the Night and the Temple of the Son in the Magic Flute – are absolutely gorgeous. The piece de résistance is a reconstruction of an optical stage set representing the fire of Moscow, which comes alive every 15 minutes with lights, sound effects, and figures moving across the 3D set.

Whether you’re a fan of Schinkel or, like me, you had never heard of him before, you won’t fail to be amazed by this wonderful and engaging exhibition. The text panels are in English as well as German, and your ticket – 12 Euro full price, 6 Euro concession, children up to 18 go free – also grants you entry into the rest of the Kulturforum, including the Gemäldegalerie with its world renowned collection of Old Master paintings. And if you want to extend your visit beyond the exhibition, there are many Schinkel related locations around Berlin for you to discover – there’s even a Foursquare list of ‘Schinkel in Berlin’ to guide you around the city.


Disclosure: Please note that although I work for the National Museums in Berlin, of which the Kupferstichkabinett is part of, all views and opinions here on the blog are my own. I had no involvement whatsoever with this exhibition, except for producing the Foursquare list.


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7 Responses to “{Germany} Nice to meet you, Mr Schinkel”

  1. Eva Says:

    Hallo Jenni,

    ich hab früher ja immer geglaubt, Schinkel wäre einfach ein Stadtteil von Osnabrück, bevor ich dann irgendwann etwas klüger wurde :). Dank BYW bin ich nun hier gelandet und ich vermute, dass ich hier demnächst noch sehr viel Zeit mit Lesen verbringen werde und deinen Blog noch an manch anderen Museumsbegeisterten weiterempfehlen werde. In Edingburgh war ich bislang nur für eine Woche, aber das war schon grandios.

    Viele Grüße, Eva


    • jennifuchs Says:

      Liebe Eva – herzlichen Dank für Deinen netten Kommentar. Es freut mich, dass Dir Museum Diary gefällt :-) Viel Spaß noch mit BYW! Beste Grüße, Jenni


  2. Ish Says:

    Can’t see the exhibit, but will now google him like mad. Always love to meet new unknown (to me) genius. Great rundown of his life and the exhibit.

    Seraphina (byw)



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