Free exhibition of German masterpieces “Storm of Progress”

ST. LOUIS – The Saint Louis Art Museum will showcase its collection of world-class German art in an exhibition featuring more than 120 works from the past 200 years, from the Romanticism of the 1800s to the eclectic globalism that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“Storm of Progress: German Art from the Saint Louis Art Museum” opens on Sunday, November 8 and will be presented for free.

“Storm of Progress” explores transformative moments in German art history and makes connections through time, showing how art, history and politics are inextricably linked.


Through revolutions and violent wars, German artists have produced insightful and empowering images that continue to have a lasting impact.

Due to disruptions to the international transport of works of art caused by COVID-19, museum staff revised the exhibition schedule and developed this main exhibition from a collection area known for its depth and breadth .

“This extraordinary exhibition tells a 200-year story of German art drawing on our collections, a collection virtually unprecedented outside of Germany,” said Brent R. Benjamin, director Barbara B. Taylor of Saint Louis Art Museum.

“This unique civic treasure is a testament to the philanthropic support of our patrons, notably Morton D. May. In honor of these transformative gifts, we are offering this exhibit free of charge. “

May, who ran the St. Louis-based May Department Stores Co., was the most prolific art donor to the Saint Louis Art Museum. His wide array of collections included German Expressionism, and his 1983 bequest included a large collection of paintings by Max Beckmann (1884-1950). The donation prompted the museum to prioritize acquisitions of important works by contemporary German artists. It began in the late 1980s, expanding thanks to the donation of Earl and Betsy Millard in 2003.

Totaling more than 2,500 objects by artists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the museum’s collections include highlights of German Expressionism and post-war German art. The collection continues to grow.

With the recent purchase of “Sunburst in the Riesengebirge”, the museum joined a small number of American museums in owning a painting by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), widely regarded as the leading figure in German Romantic painting.

“Storm of Progress” will present a wide range of media including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints and decorative arts. Highlights include the Friedrich, as well as works by Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz, Joseph Beuys, Isa Genzken, Gerhard Richter, and Georg Baselitz. The exhibition features numerous objects on display for the first time, including a recently acquired painting by Gabriele Münter.

Organized chronologically, the exhibition explores key events and ideas through the prism of the museum’s collection.

In the 19th century, German artists adopted nature as a complex and deeply symbolic subject. Scenic forests, mountains and coastlines offered spiritual and physical renewal, as well as common ground for the fragile nation-building project. Before the creation of the German Empire in 1871, the region was a mosaic of self-governing states. The German landscape symbolized a collective cultural identity that transcended political divisions.

By 1900, Germany had moved from an agrarian society to the thriving crossroads of Europe.

German artists assert their independence from Paris, the capital of the 19th century art world, and Berlin is establishing itself as the industrial metropolis of the new century. Germany’s growth also fueled a nationalism that led to two world wars and mass genocide.

Artists working after the Holocaust faced the nation’s guilt and the political consequences that left Germany divided between democracy and communism.

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and marked the start of a long process of reunification of German society after decades of division.

The exhibition will be visible until February 28, 2021. It is co-organized by Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art; Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art; Melissa Venator, member of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for Modern Art; and Molly Moog, research assistant in modern and contemporary art.

While the exhibit is free, visitors will need to secure timed tickets, now available, in person at the museum or through MetroTix, which charges a service fee.


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Reggie S. Williams

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