Until 30 August 2019
"To stimulate the appreciation of art"
The Hamburg Kunstverein at 200

With forty works from its own holdings, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) has been providing insights into the history of the Hamburg Kunstverein (art association) founded in 1817 by a circle of art collectors and devotees. Nineteen of these dedicated and art-loving citizens of the Hanseatic town – among them Michael Speckter – were also members of the Patriotische Gesellschaft von 1765 (Patriotic Society of 1765). This circumstance suggests that Hamburg’s cultural enlivenment was a concern already firmly rooted in the minds of those who in 1822 – the year of the Kunstverein’s formal establishment – backed the cause. The association set itself a number of ambitious goals, not the least of which were to mount public art exhibitions and develop its own art collection. Both were intended as means of refining the visual perception of art enthusiasts, collectors and young artists by offering opportunities for the first-hand contemplation of art. This decision represented an important initial step and provided a decisive impulse for the founding of museums in the decades that followed. The Hamburger Kunsthalle opened its doors in 1869, the MKG in 1877 – and Hamburg’s two first and largest public museums for the "promotion of the arts" had thus been established. The MKG possesses a number of books, prints and historical photographs closely related to the figures of Hamburg society from whose midst the Hamburg Kunstverein emerged. Among these objects are fables and fairy tales with illustrations by Otto Speckter, for example the Gestiefelte Kater (Puss in Boots). Many of these books were issued by publishing companies that had their origins in Perthe’s famous Sortimentenbuchhandlung, a bookshop on Jungfernstieg that – as the secret centre of intellectual life in Hamburg in the early nineteenth century – was also frequented by the Kunstverein founders.

Photo: Carl Ferdinand Stelzner (1805-1894), The Hamburger Künstlerverein in his summer residence in  Caffamacherreihe, 1843, Daguerreotype © MKG