Every good birthday includes a museum…or two

October 1, 2012


Well, it won’t surprise you to know that my choice way to spend my birthday and a day off work to boot was visiting museums. This time last year I was on a birthday outing to the Currywurst Museum, whereas this year I was exploring Museum Island with my friend who had come over to visit from Edinburgh. She works for the National Galleries there, so is also a bit of a #museogeek.

When we arrived at Museum Island, we were greeted by a lovely rainbow outside the Altes Museum. I love rainbows almost as much as I love museums, so how perfect for a birthday. We didn’t actually go in to the Altes Museum though, as we were headed for the Pergamon Museum to see some of the highlights – Pergamon Altar and Ishtar Gate to be exact – and visit the exhibition “Pergamon. Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis”, which was closing at the weekend. It was my third time in the exhibition, and I still found it really impressive.

Pergamon Altar

Pergamon Altar


Ishtar Gate

Ishtar Gate



Timeline of the gods in “Pergamon. Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis”


After that, we moved on the the Alte Nationalgalerie, where my friend was excited to see the paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. As I have mentioned before on this blog, art of any kind isn’t really my forte, and it made such a difference to go around the gallery with someone who actually knew about the things we were looking at. It made the whole experience so much more enjoyable, as did her tangible enthusiasm.

I learned that Friedrich is a German Romantik painter from the 19th century (and also one of the most famous German painters), known for his landscape settings with moon, sea and people looking out into the distance. My friend was also really excited about a painting by the late 19th century symbolist Arnold Böcklin from Switzerland. There are three versions of his “Isle of the Dead”, but sadly the National Galleries in Edinburgh were unable to secure any of them as a loan for their symbolist landscape exhibition. So we bought a postcard of it instead^^

I also learned more about some of the French Impressionists we saw. I was already familiar with Monet and his famous water lilly paintings, but I was surprised to discover that he also painted cathedrals. Whereas Manet, I learned, can be recognised by his use of black e.g. in clothing and backgrounds and Renoir on the other hand by his dappled bright paintings. His scene of a woman and children reminded me a lot of my favourite painting, the Swedish Carl Larsson. And we saw a still life with a lobster (not French Impressionist, I hasten to add), which led me to jokingly comment that now I felt like I had been to a ‘proper’ art gallery :P

still life with lobster

Still Life with Lobster, Carl Schuch 1876/77 – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Alte Nationalgalerie


All in all I had a lovely birthday, with an appropriate amount of museums. Then we went to eat cake!

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