The art collection of the municipal museum of Zwickau can be found in the museum's building, which was built by the architect Richard Schiffner from Zittau as the “König-Albert-Museum” with a prestigious cupola hall between 1912 and 1914. There the extensive urban archives were housed, the valuable amount of the “Ratsschulbibliothek”, as well as the collections of the “Altertumsverein”, the art club and the nature study club, founded in 1857. The construction uniting both the museum and the library is obtained until now. The emphasis of the museum’s collections in the “Lessingstraße” has changed with the opening of the “Priesterhäuser” in favour of the valuable art collections though.
The geological scientific department is situated on the ground floor. The core is a collection by Ernst Julius Richter that has belonged to this department since 1868. The late gothic and early baroque sculpture collection is one of the most significant in Saxony. Some of the most important representatives for Saxon late gothic are the carver Peter Breuer, as well as Michael Heuffner and Leonardt Herrgott. The famous carver workshop of Schneeberg “Böhme” owns sculptures out of the 17th century, with Karl Albiker, Eugen Hoffmann or Alfred Hrdlicka representing the 20th century.
Before the opening of the museum in 1914 the art club of Zwickau, founded in 1864, mediated the purchase of works for a civic painting collection. Above all the collection contained impressionism and art nouveau paintings by professors of the art academy in Dresden like Carl Bantzer, Eugen Bracht, Oskar Zwintscher or Gotthard Kuehl. The foundation of the art historian Walter Hentschel (Dresden) realized an extension of the collection in 1971 with significant works from the 16th to 19th century: paintings from the Netherlands (Vries or Vlieger), Italy or Germany (Cranach or Dahl).
Due to engaged actions by the first director Hildebrand Gurlitt, the museum was enlarged in the 1920s to become a modern art collection of national importance. Gurlitt acquired works by artists like Chagall, Pechstein, Marc, Klee, Dix or Grosz. Unfortunately a part was lost in 1937 due to the national socialist activity “Entartete Kunst” (degraded art). Up to now Max Pechstein has been a special artist of Zwickau, as well as Fritz Bleyl being an important co-founder of the expressionistic art group, too.
Until today the works of the artist Max Pechstein born in Zwickau, have been the particular centre of the collection. The graphical collection contains about 30,000 creations of the 15th – 20th century like prints of Cranach, Dürer and other german artists, of artist of the Romanticism (Johann Chr. Klengel, Adrian Ludwig Richter), of the German Realism (Käthe Kollwitz), creations of French cartoonists (Daumier) and German Impressionists (Sterl, Slevogt, Liebermann, Corinth) and of the Modern Trend of the 20th century up to the national and international contemporary art.
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