Prussian Academy of Arts

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Palais Arnim , seat of the Prussian Academy of Arts until 1938

The Prussian Academy of the Arts was founded in 1696 by the Brandenburg Elector Friedrich III. founded as the Academy of Fine Art, Painting and Architecture in Berlin . As the Academy of the Arts of the State of Prussia , it achieved worldwide fame. Its members included Johann Gottfried Schadow , Carl Friedrich Zelter , Christian Daniel Rauch , Karl Friedrich Schinkel , Adolph von Menzel , Heinrich Zille and Max Liebermann . From the division to the reunification of Germany , an East and a West academy fought over their tradition, which has been continued by the Akademie der Künste since 1993 .


Joseph Werner, first president of the academy
Marstall Unter den Linden, first seat of the academy

After the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome and the Académies Royales in Paris, the academy was the oldest institution of its kind in Europe. With a similar founding mandate, other academies emerged in European residences: the Real Academia Española in Madrid , the Royal Society in London , the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm and the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg .

For a long time it was both an artist partnership and a training institution. In addition, the Senate of the Academy performed the task of a state art authority through expert work on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Prussian Ministry of Culture . The academy had a decisive influence on art and art development in German-speaking countries .

The most important stages are the early blooming phases, the temporary solidification of the academy during the Wilhelmine art policy at the end of the 19th century, the subsequent controversy over academic art and modern art as well as the last great era under the presidency of Max Liebermann from 1920 to 1932 In history, the Berlin Academy has experienced numerous changes and renewal processes, which have also been reflected in the respective naming and organizational structure.


  • 1696–1704: Academie der Mahl-, Bild- und Baukunst
  • 1704–1790: Royal Prussian Academy of Arts and Mechanical Sciences
  • 1790–1809: Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Mechanical Sciences in Berlin
  • 1809–1875: Royal Prussian Academy of the Arts
  • 1875–1882: Royal Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin
  • 1882–1918: Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin
  • 1918–1926: Academy of the Arts in Berlin
  • 1926–1931: Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin
  • 1931–1945: Prussian Academy of the Arts

Sections, from 1931 departments

  • from 1833: for the fine arts
  • from 1835: for music
  • from 1926: for poetry (from 1932: poetry, from early June 1933: German Academy of Poetry)



Prussian monarchy

Friedrich Nicolai described in detail the development of the Berlin Academy in the first 100 years of its existence .

“Around 1690, out of love for art, various artists got together to establish a private academy, the Academy of Arts and Mechanical Science. Augustin Terwesten was also from this company. When the elector testified to his satisfaction in 1694 with a painting by him, he took the opportunity to imagine that an academy of the arts could be built in Berlin on the model of the Parisians. The elector did not accept this proposal alone, but also commissioned Terwesten to execute it, who, with the help of Andreas Schlüters, who had come to the electoral service as court sculptor in 1694, made the first draft for the establishment of the academy Elector approved and appointed his first minister, Eberhard von Danckelmann , protector of the new academy. In 1695 the master builder [Johann Arnold] Nering received orders to convert the upper floor of the front facade of the royal stable on Dorotheenstadt [Unter den Linden] into an academy. This was divided into six rooms, which were completed in 1697, so that the elector could also see it and testify to his particular satisfaction with it. The academic teachings began. […] In 1706 the number of students grew so strongly that in addition to the previous three classes, a fourth had to be established. It remained in this prosperous state until 1713, when Friedrich I died. The academy was not respected under King Friedrich Wilhelm, but the training of the apprentices continued, which was still of great benefit [...] "

In 1743 a fire broke out in the basement of the Marstall, which destroyed all the rooms of the academy above and destroyed all paintings, drawings, plaster pictures, copper engravings and the casts of the ancient statues as well as the molds. The loss of one of the few collections of this time, especially the paintings, left a noticeable art-historical gap. The original establishment of the academy was not restored until 1786 under the director Bernhard Rode . After Friedrich Wilhelm II. Had transferred the supervision to Friedrich Anton von Heynitz , he approved a new fund.

“[The money was to be used partly to] cover the costs necessary to draw after life, partly to purchase the drawings, copperplate engravings and plaster models still missing from the Academy; In general, however, in the future, attention should not only be paid to the attraction of painters, engravers, sculptors and draftsmen, but rather to better instruction for those craftsmen who need taste, order and the teaching of the right attitude in their work, and thus a true art school will gradually be established here for the good of the state, such as exist in Nuremberg, Augsburg, England and France. Craftsmen should be shown good drawings and models of foreign inventions and they should be encouraged to invent such things themselves with prizes. As is customary at other academies, a public exhibition of art objects should also take place here every year so that the public can convince themselves of the fruits of this institution and get to know good artists. This exhibition should begin in May 1786. "

- The Royal Academy of Arts and Mechanical Sciences : from Friedrich Nicolai's description of the royal residence cities of Berlin and Potsdam ... from 1786

The art exhibition in 1786 - the very first public art exhibition in Prussia - marked the renewed upswing under Friedrich Wilhelm II after years of stagnation under Friedrich Wilhelm I and Friedrich II. In the Age of Enlightenment , the Berlin Academy became a public forum for art - and cultural discussions and at the same time an instrument for the modernization of Prussia.

From its inception, the Akademie der Künste was above all a school that had been founded on the French model and was under strong Dutch influence; it survived the 18th century mainly as a drawing school. Friedrich II rejected German artists and had, for example, hired the Flemish Antoine Tassaert as court sculptor and designated his workshop as a sculptural training facility, which it remained until 1786.

The reforms that began after 1786 are associated with the names of Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki and Johann Gottfried Schadow , who was the director of the academy in the early 19th century. In 1783, Chodowiecki supported the appointment of his friend Bernhard Rode as director of the academy. In the same year he was promoted to secretary and formulated his ideas about the nature of the academy. In his role, Chodowiecki was also responsible for the academic exhibitions and participated in the first public art exhibition, which opened on May 18, 1786 in the converted stables, with a particularly large number of works. From 1797 to 1801 - after Rode's death and until his own death - he was director of the academy.

The reforms undertaken concerned, on the one hand, the strengthening of the training side through newly hired, well-known teachers. In addition, a chair for art theory was set up and the collection of models expanded. At the same time, antiquity was seen as an ideal model, which contributed significantly to the establishment of classicism as a formative Prussian style. Visible this development was the construction of the Brandenburg Gate by Carl Gotthard Langhans . Above all, the academy developed the program for the figurative jewelry by Johann Gottfried von Schadow and supervised its technical execution.

Rome Prize

Since the end of the 18th century, the Royal Prussian Academy of the Arts has given selected artists travel grants to Rome , based on the model of the French Prix ​​de Rome . Under the guidance of local German artists, the young scholarship holders were to continue their education in the art of antiquity and the Renaissance . After Johann Gottfried Schadow was appointed director of the academy in 1816, he improved the selection criteria. Based on the experiences during his Roman apprenticeship, he tied the award to winning a competition. As a result of his efforts, the Great State Prize of the Prussian Academy of the Arts was awarded to painters, sculptors and architects every year on July 11th, the birthday of Frederick I, starting in 1825 . And from the proceeds of the Michael Beer Foundation , a prize was awarded annually to two young artists, one of whom had to be Jewish, for a year of study in Italy with an eight month stay in Rome. Initially, the artists were accommodated in the Prussian embassy on the Capitol in the Palazzo Caffarelli and in temporary quarters. From 1883 the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin rented studios in the Villa Strohl-Fern for their Rome scholarship holders . The Rome scholarship holders have been staying at the Villa Massimo since 1913 .

The German Imperium

With the founding of the German Empire, artist training at the academy was reorganized and, thanks to the prosperity of the following decades, expanded considerably. Several 'teaching institutions' were set up within the academy, including the College of Fine Arts , founded in 1875 under the direction of Anton von Werner , which gave training for painters and sculptors a new form.

As a result of the reorganization, the rooms for the annual art exhibition within the academy were no longer available. A provisional exhibition building was therefore first erected on the Museum Island between the Mehlhaus and the New Packhof designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel , which was soon referred to as the “ art barracks ” because of its simple furnishings . The art exhibitions from 1876 to 1881 and 1884 took place here. In 1886, the Academy celebrated the 100th anniversary of its exhibitions with the International Art Exhibition in the State Exhibition Building (Glass Palace) at Lehrter Bahnhof . From 1907 the Academy finally resided in their own house, that of Ernst von Ihne converted Palais Arnim-Boitzenburg on Pariser Platz .

In the imperial era, against the background of the official orientation of artistic creation towards genre-like entertainment, contemplation, instruction, popular education and representation in order to preserve what had been achieved and to orientate itself towards the tastes of the masses, "academism" took on more conservative than progressive positions. Emperor Wilhelm II developed great ambition to direct the art of his time in this sense. He supported traditional art movements ( historicism ) and spoke out against more modern styles such as ( expressionism or impressionism ). His preferred painter and artistic advisor was Anton von Werner, the long-time chairman of the Berlin Artists' Association and temporary chairman of the department for the fine arts of the Academy of Arts , who also held the directorate of the Royal University of Fine Arts until his death in 1915 .

According to the artists concerned, the fact that “modern art” could not expect any support from the existing institutions and organizations was finally confirmed when the jury of the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in 1898 rejected a landscape painting by the painter Walter Leistikow . As a result, 65 artists founded the Berlin Secession with Leistikow as organizer. How hardened the artistic fronts were during the imperial era can be seen from the fact that Max Liebermann himself did not receive an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts on his 60th birthday in 1907. Kaiser Wilhelm II was against it. The Berlin Secession organized an extensive exhibition in their new building on Kurfürstendamm .

Weimar Republic

It was not until 1919, when the academy had to reorient itself after the November Revolution, that 'modern' artists such as Ernst Barlach , Lovis Corinth , Georg Kolbe and Wilhelm Lehmbruck were accepted, and with Käthe Kollwitz, an artist was even allowed access again after a hundred years. The election of Max Liebermann as President of the Berlin Academy on June 2, 1920 turned out to be a stroke of luck. He repeatedly succeeded in gaining patrons from the economy, and on the occasion of his 70th birthday he donated 100,000 marks to support visual artists. In the twelve years of his presidency, the academy had taken on a new and strong upswing after the words of thanks from Minister of Education Adolf Grimme and regained its leading position in the German art world.

time of the nationalsocialism

After Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor , the new Minister of Education, Bernhard Rust , put pressure on the academy management. In order to prevent the threatened dissolution of the Academy, Käthe Kollwitz and Heinrich Mann resigned on February 15, 1933 ; they were joined by the Berlin urban planning officer Martin Wagner . Shortly after the Reichstag election in March 1933 , Gottfried Benn carried out rigorous harmonization in the poetry section , the other sections no less: 40 artists, including Ernst Barlach , Ricarda Huch , Max Liebermann , Thomas Mann , Franz Werfel , Leonhard Frank and Arnold Schönberg , were forced to leave or excluded. Benn and Max von Schillings wrote a declaration of loyalty for Hitler, which forbade the members from non-Nazi political activity: “Are you prepared to continue making your person available to the Prussian Academy of the Arts in recognition of the changed historical situation? An affirmative answer to this question excludes any public political activity against the Reich government and obliges you to loyally collaborate in the national cultural tasks assigned to the academy in accordance with the statutes of the changed historical situation. ”The members had to sign when threatened to expel them. Gerhart Hauptmann , Oskar Loerke , Georg Kaiser and Alfred Döblin , who, however , declared his resignation as a Jew , and many others signed. Kaiser was nonetheless expelled on May 5th. On May 5, 1933, their places were filled with systematic cultural workers, including Werner Beumelburg , Hans Friedrich Blunck , Hans Carossa , Peter Dörfler , Paul Ernst , Friedrich Griese , Hans Grimm , Hanns Johst , Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer , Agnes Miegel , Börries Freiherr von Münchhausen , Wilhelm Schäfer , Emil Strauss and Will Vesper .

In 1937, the academy was relocated from its headquarters at Pariser Platz 4 to the Kronprinzenpalais Unter den Linden 3 to make room for Albert Speer and his staff for the building inspector for the Reich capital . After the destruction of the Kronprinzenpalais in 1945, the academy was housed in the building of the Hochschule der Künste in the Charlottenburg district .

Traditional successor

As a result, she was in the four- sector city ​​of Berlin from 1945 in the British sector . In view of the dissolution of Prussia and the division of Berlin, initial attempts at revitalization petered out. The tradition of the Academy began in 1950 with total German claim in East Berlin , the German Academy of Arts , which after Germany policy change of the GDR from 1972 Academy of Arts of the German Democratic Republic said. The West Berlin counter-founding of the Academy of the Arts “sponsored by the State of Berlin” in 1954 was the result of private initiatives.

The training function is performed today by the Berlin University of the Arts (1975: Berlin University of the Arts ).



  • “Art has never been owned by one person” - 300 years of the Academy of the Arts and the University of the Arts. Exhibition at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin 1996, conception: Agnete von Specht, Hans Gerhard Hannesen, Bodo Baumunk, ISBN 3-89487-255-1 .
  • Hans Gerhard Hannesen: The Academy of Arts in Berlin - facets of a 300-year history . Academy of Arts, Berlin 2005, ISBN 978-3-88331-091-6 .
  • National Museums in Berlin - Prussian cultural heritage: Max Liebermann - turn of the century. Exhibition in the Alte Nationalgalerie. Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-87584-978-7 .
  • National Museums in Berlin: Art in Berlin 1648–1987. Exhibition in the Altes Museum. Henschelverlag, Berlin 1987.
  • Berlin Museum: Cityscapes - Berlin in Painting from the 17th Century to the Present . Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung and Verlag Willmuth Arenhövel, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-87584-212-X .
  • Werner Durth , Günter Behnisch : Berlin. Pariser Platz. New building for the Academy of Arts. Jovis, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-936314-36-5 (especially on the buildings 1907-2005).

Web links

Individual evidence

  3. Berliner Zeitung , evening edition, No. 80, volume 62, February 16, 1933, p. 1.
  4. Jan-Pieter Barbian, Literaturpolitik, edition 1993 p. 30, also in all other editions with different page numbers
  5. ^ Database font and image 1900–1960
  6. on the selection of the Rome scholarship holders during National Socialism see: Jobst C. Knigge: The Villa Massimo in Rome 1933–1943. Struggle for artistic independence, Humboldt University Berlin 2013 (open access)
  7. ↑ On this and also on the following see Werner Durth, Günter Behnisch: Berlin. Pariser Platz. New building for the Akademie der Künste , Jovis, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-936314-36-5 , pp. 84–94