• Duration of the Exhibition19. March 2016 - 17. July 2016
  • VenueAlte Nationalgalerie
  • The exhibition was made possible by the Freunde der Nationalgalerie and suppoerted by the Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft.

August Kopisch: The Crater of Vesuvius and the Eruption of 1828, 1828 | private collection | photo: Norbert Miguletz

In this exhibition, the Alte Nationalgalerie will focus on one of the most fascinating artists of the first half of the nineteenth century, August Kopisch (1799–1853). Like nobody else, this artist combined painting, poetry, scholarship, translation, folklore, music, sculpture, the organization of a festival, joy in experimentation, the spirit of research, and inventiveness.
The universal genius, born in Breslau, made a name for himself when he discovered the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri in 1826, since then a tourist magnet. One of his major achievements was his linguistically brilliant translation of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” But his greatest claim to fame is the poem “Die Heinzelmännchen,” still beloved today.

Kopisch’s creative gifts were recognized in his childhood. In Breslau, his comprehensive humanist education was combined with instruction in drawing and he already wrote promising poetry. His path led through art academies in Prague, Vienna, and Dresden to Naples, where he was inspired by the colorful people and the play of hues over the Gulf of Naples to engage in writing folkloric poetry, painting, and inventing. With painter Ernst Fries, he discovered the Blue Grotto on Capri while swimming, and was in demand as a knowledgeable guide among travelers, participating in Neapolitan folk life. As of 1833, Kopisch was a well-known figure in Berlin, keeping the company of writers and artists, consorting with the likes of Alexander von Humboldt, Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling and the Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who named him an official art consultant after his coronation in 1840.

As a painter, Kopisch created works of their very own poetic brilliance. Bengal fire blue or a sumptuous twilight red were the colors he preferred to depict light phenomena. Kopisch was certainly one of the most versatile artists of the first half of the nineteenth century, and this exhibition will show not just 25 paintings and drawings but also around 100 other exhibits, including inventions, musical settings, letters, first editions, and illustrations, attesting to the wide variety of his works. To open the exhibition, the discovery of the Blue Grotto will be staged with numerous paintings by Kopisch and his contemporaries. The exhibition continues with Kopisch’s productive stay in Italy, his painting, and his writing, culminating in a projection that reenacts a fictional boat trip on the Gulf of Naples, a Kopisch invention.