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History of the Collection

Those who travel to Pillnitz in order to visit the Kunstgewerbemuseum in the world-famous palace beside the River Elbe are interested in the ornately decorated rooms belonging to the electors and kings of Saxony and in the outstanding objects that bring to life five centuries of the history of regional and international arts and crafts. Few visitors know that this museum was founded in 1876 as part of an arts and crafts movement that began in the second half of the 19th century. In Dresden – as also in other parts of Europe – many people at that time were lamenting a decline in the standards of applied art. The objects presented in the Dresden collection were intended as models and teaching aids for industry and commerce. In a dual institution consisting of a school of art and design (called the ‘Kunstgewerbeschule’) and a museum, it was intended that students should be taught to develop a feeling for form and taste as well as acquiring craft techniques.

The transition from an educationally oriented museum to one with an art historical concept took place under the guidance of Professor Dr. Karl Berling (1857-1940). In 1907 the dual institution moved into the newly built complex with Art Nouveau elements in the road known today as Güntzstraße.

In 1914 the museum was officially separated from the Kunstgewerbeschule and Berling was appointed the first Director of the museum as an independent institution. In 1940, owing to the threat of air raids, the collection’s holdings were evacuated to various castles and palaces in Saxony. Nevertheless, 13,500 objects were lost, with the Far Eastern collection and the tapestry collection suffering particularly extensive losses.

Since 1963 the collection has been held in the Wasser- und Bergpalais at Schloss Pillnitz. The older collecting focal points of textiles, ceramics, decorative ironwork, carpentry and precious metal working were established at the time of the museum’s foundation. After 1945 court art became an additional focal point. Today the museum also collects examples of GDR design. Over the past few years the museum has been enriched by important objects created by contemporary international designers.

  • Ausstellungsraum zum Thema Historismus - im Vordergrund Prunktisch und Kabinettschrank der Kunstmöbelfabrik Otto Bernhard Friedrich in Dresden. 1884-96 © Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Foto: Hans Christian Krass - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.