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History of the Collection

A tour through the exhibition rooms of the Galerie Neue Meister tells you little about how the collection came into being. The most conspicuous characteristic is that in the Dresden collection the modern era begins with Caspar David Friedrich, i.e. at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century. The timing of this point of separation from the ‘Old Masters’ and the identification of the ‘New Masters’ with modernity is based on the notion that the image world of the 19th century still reflects a consciousness that people in the 21st century can recognize and relate to. Today's transport and communication media have advanced well into the 21st century, but people's consciousness and the models they use to orient themselves by are deeply rooted in the early 19th century. The specific experience of time, the changing times of day and the seasons, life in urban and rural environments, the activity of walking in the countryside – these all testify to a day-to-day frame of reference that was largely defined in the 19th century.

The Galerie Neue Meister as an institution was not founded until 1959. The museum's collection grew out of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, for which contemporary works were increasingly purchased after 1843. The history of its establishment is closely associated with the Saxon State Minister Bernhard von Lindenau (1779-1854), who was able to provide considerable funds for the purchase of contemporary paintings. It is partly thanks to this tradition that the museum has retained a strong interest in collecting 20th century art, with particular emphasis on contemporary Dresden painting and on the establishment of a gallery specialising in the international avant-garde. An important aspect of the history of the museum was the campaign against so-called “Degenerate Art” during the National Socialist period, in which the collection lost 56 paintings, including works by Edvard Munch, Max Beckmann and Emil Nolde. After the return of the works of art that has been transported to the Soviet Union after the war, the Galerie Neue Meister found a new domicile as a separate museum in the Albertinum in 1965.