Los Angeles museum shows the art that accompanied Luther′s Reformation | Arts | DW | 21.11.2016
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Los Angeles museum shows the art that accompanied Luther's Reformation

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has opened a show on German art from the 16th century. The exhibition brings art from the European Renaissance to California.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has brought European masterpieces to California that predate the discovery of America. Christopher Columbus only made it to the shores of America in 1492 - the same era when these artworks were created in Europe.

Nonetheless, the same influences that characterized European art at the time also went on to be incorporated into American cultural history.

The exhibition "Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach" opened at LACMA on November 20. The show aims to shed new light on this historic age, which was largely defined by the impact of the Protestant Reformation and its ripple effects. The exhibit uses key pieces of German art from the 16th century to narrate this.

Lucas Cranach, the Younger's portrait of Adam and Eve, 1537 (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister/Hans-Peter Klut)

Lucas Cranach the Younger painted Adam and Eve in 1537

As the Martin Luther anniversary year, marking 500 years since he pinned his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, gets underway, three other US exhibitions in New York, Atlanta and Minneapolis, highlight Martin Luther's role in history. The show in Los Angeles, however, only focuses on the changes that the art world underwent at the time.

According to the directors of the three German museums that provided artworks on loan to LACMA - the National Museums in Berlin, the Dresden State Art Collections and the Bavarian State Painting Collections -, the intellectual revolution of the Reformation was not contained within theological or philosophical motivations.

Art with a lasting impact

If it wasn't for these loans from their abundant collections, the exhibition in California would not have been possible.

Michael Eissenhauer (National Museums in Berlin), Hartwig Fischer (Dresden State Art Collections) und Bernhard Maaz (Bavarian State Painting Collections) stress in a joint statement that artworks from this era rate among the most important chapters of German and of European art and cultural history.

They say that there was a great deal of disagreement among artists at the time: "Our collections demonstrate the rich variety of ways in which artists were searching for new means of expression. The exhibition in Los Angeles tells the story of how the Reformation created a lasting impact on central European culture and beyond."

Renaissance under the California sun

The art show resulting from the collaboration between the three museums is impressive, breathing new life into this multifaceted era with about 120 paintings, drawings, sculptures and more.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) außen (picture-alliance/Richard Cummi)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will host the exhibition until March 26

These include works by Dürer, Cranach, Holbein, Riemenschneider and Grünewald. The exhibition hopes to reach a diverse audience by providing such varied insights into the religious, social and political upheavals of the times.

The organizers of the show also hope to attract new audiences that may not be that familiar with the events of the era and how they were reflected in art.

LACMA director Michael Govan says that the exhibition provides a "unique opportunity to experience the greatest achievements of German Renaissance art in southern California."

Not just any museum

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is regarded as one of the most outstanding museums in the US. Established in 1965, it is now the biggest art collection in the western United States, holding a collection of more than 120,000 objects. From antiquity to contemporary art, the museum highlights art from across the world spanning across the entire history of art.

With such a stellar reputation it's no surprise that the German Foreign Ministry is one of the sponsors of the "Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach" exhibition, as Germany celebrates 500 years of Reformation. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the patron of the exhibition.

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