Sources of inspiration
Libraries of German Artists in Rome 1795 – 1915
Museum Casa di Goethe Rome
until 20 September 2020
Curated by Michael Thimann, Ulf Dingerdissen and Maria Gazzetti
With the first exhibition on German artist libraries in 19th-century Rome (28.02. - 20.09.2020) the Casa di Goethe opens a new chapter in German-Roman art history. Little was known until today about the fact that German artists studied books in the libraries set up for their purposes with the same passion they devoted to Rome’s countless art works. The exhibition is intended to make these “Sources of inspiration” visible and tangible: The works of art, books and archive documents on display not only tell the complex history of these collections and their use, but also shed light on the reading’s influence on art works.
Until 30 September reduced entrance fee for all visitors (5,oo euro), "Sconto Covid-19"
The exhibition concentrates on the Library of the German Artists' Association (Deutscher Künstlerverein), active between 1845 and 1915 in Rome. Since 2012 the important book collection with a turbulent past has been kept in the Casa di Goethe together with the Association’s historical archive. The collection’s history is an additional value, since it started long before the foundation of the Artists' association itself. In 1900, the Association Library was expanded to include the holdings of the libraries previously founded in Rome: the Gemeinschaftliche Lesebibliothek der Deutschen (1795), the following Bibliothek der Deutschen (1821) and the Bibliothek der deutschen Künstler (1832). The particularity of the 4.700 bound resources is due to the large number of copies with dedications, marginal notes and sketches and its excellent state of records. The Künstlerverein’s archives contain catalogues of holdings as well as library access and borrowing lists.
The exhibit is part of the project “Künstlerwissen und Künstlerlektüre im Rom des 19. Jahrhunderts. Die Bibliothek des deutschen Künstlervereins und ihr wissensgeschichtlicher Kontext “ [Artist Knowledge and Artist Reading in Rome of the 19th Century] funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and carried out in cooperation with the Department of Art History of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen under the scientific direction of Prof. Dr. Michael Thimann. During the last years, the valuable library of the Künstlerverein has been studied and inventoried in the Casa di Goethe, followed by its historical reconstruction and recording in an online catalogue.
With the focus on artist readings and the first public presentation of a comprehensive collection of sources the exhibition breaks new scientific ground. It spans an arc from the circle of artists around Carl Ludwig Fernow, to the artist communities of Sant'Isidoro, of the Capitol and Villa Malta and to Anselm Feuerbach and Arnold Böcklin as important members of the artists' association. In addition to the association's historical books, documents and and archive records, theme-specific works of art from the collection of the Casa di Goethe are on display as well as loans from private and public institutions, including museums such as the Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.
The exhibition features selected portraits as well as paintings created in Rome in which reading itself or the adaptiation of the subject matter read play an important role. Anselm Feuerbach, for example, created a famous "reading picture" with his Laura in the park of Vaucluse (Historisches Museum der Pfalz Speyer). Friedrich Overbeck addresses the great importance of reading for the visual artist in his Self-portrait with the Bible (Lübeck, Museum Behnhaus Drägerhaus).
The show is structured chronologically and thematically, starting with the Gemeinschaftliche Lesebibliothek der Deutschen founded by art theorist Carl Ludwig Fernow. Goethe's housemate in Rome Friedrich Bury was a member as well as Wilhelm Friedrich Gmelin, Joseph Anton Koch, Jacob Wilhelm Mechau, Friedrich Rehberg and Johann Christian Reinhart and Asmus Jacob Carstens. This part of the exhibition concentrates on the ideal of art and artists in Rome around 1800 in relation to the writings Fernow acquired specifically for the artists.
The "new" Bibliothek der Deutschen, founded in 1821 by artists around Johann David Passavant together with intellectuals and diplomats such as Christian Karl Josias von Bunsen, Ernst Zacharias Platner and August Kestner continues in the tradition of Fernow's "old" library. In the second exhibition room it is juxtaposed with the Bibliothek der deutschen Künstler, created in 1832 and supported by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who gave it a home in his Villa Malta and generously donated books. The example of these two institutions shed some light on the self-organization and personal constellations of German artists in Rome.
The third section deals with the artists reading behaviour and the artistic reception of what they have read - largely based on the example of the reception of religious writings and works of German poetry. The exhibition does not only focus on works of art with their respective literary sources, but also on the process of reading as well as the acquisition and implementation of knowledge.
The fourth exhibition space is dedicated to the German artists' involvement with the Italian poets Dante, Petrarca, Tasso and Ariost. As the artistic and intellectual centre of the Germans in Rome the Künstlerverein’s library, open daily from 1845 onwards, is in the limelight. Arnold Böcklin, whose reading habits could now be reconstructed in detail, illustrates how important this book collection was for individual artist personalities.
Catalogue (in Italian and German)
Quellen der Inspiration. Deutsche Künstlerbibliotheken in Rom 1795 – 191
Edited by Ulf Dingerdissen, Maria Gazzetti and Michael Thimann. Two essays by Ulf Dingerdissen and Michael Thimann, 241 pages , 82 illustrations, € 18,00
The exhibit is the first initiative dedicated tot he Künstlerverein’s history and ist members. In spring 2021 an exhibition on Friedrich Noack (1858-1930) will be opened. The author of many books on the history of Germans in Rome had been for many years president oft the Künstlerverein.