German Art, Painting by Franz Marc

German Art

German artists have always been integral to the story of European art, notably in the movements of Expressionism and Modern Art thanks to the Blue Rider Group. Some of the most famous German people of all time are artists; you may know names such as Richter, Klee, and Dürer.

Art lovers moving to Germany are spoilt for choice as all major cities (and many smaller ones) are home to a number of prestigious galleries displaying a wide range of work from the Old Masters to Modern Art and a growing number of Contemporary and Urban Art collections.

German Art History

Germany is often overlooked when compared to the influence of Italian and French art

But Germany has a long and rich tradition of art with plenty of significant proponents from the 15-19th centuries. Of the Renaissance period, the most significant artists were Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein. Although he was not appreciated during his time, the most significant German painter of the Romantic era was Caspar David Friedrich.

In the Modern Art era, the Blue Rider group (1911-1914) - which comprised of, among others, Kandinsky, Klee, Marc, and Münter - was one of the most influential artist movements in Europe. The members of The Blue Rider group became the founding pioneers of German Expressionism art, effectively helping to form what we now know as the Modern Art Era.

Modern Art in Germany

Find out more about the story of Modern Art in Germany in the bestselling book, German Art in the 20th Century, Painting and Sculpture 1905-1985 by Christos M. Joachimides.

What art movements originated in Germany?

  • Landscape Art
  • Northern Mannerism
  • Expressionism/Modern Art
  • Bauhaus

What is Germany's art?

Some of the most popular German paintings of all time include:

  • "Melencolia I" by Albrecht Dürer (1514)
  • "The Ambassadors" by Hans Holbein (1533)
  • "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" by Caspar David Friedrich (1819)
  • "The Large Blue Horses" by Franz Marc (1911)
  • "The Elephant Celebes" by Max Ernst (1921)
  • "Stormy Sea" by Emil Node (1930)
  • "Ad Parnassum" by Paul Klee (1932)
  • "Abstraktes Bild" by Gerhard Richter (1986)

Famous German artists and their masterpieces

Who are the most famous German artists?

Albrecht Dürer, 1471-1528

Germany's most significant proponent of the Renaissance era, Dürer is sometimes referred to as "The Leonardo of the North". He is famous for gothic and religious woodcuts which he produced early in his career before moving onto engravings such as "Saint Jerome in his Study" (1514), "Knight, Death and the Devil" (1513) and "Melencolia I" (1514). Based in Nuremberg, Dürer also spent time studying in Italy and was in communication with both da Vinci and Raphael.

Much of his work is made up of religious imagery and noble portraits as well as self-portraits. His later work includes a number of watercolors, many of which became famous landscape paintings. This work contributed to the emergence of landscape art in Europe. His contribution to printmaking and his studies on human proportions helped shape Dürer's legacy as the leading light in the Northern Renaissance.

Gerhard Richter, b.1932

Gerhard Richter is one of the most famous German artists alive today: a leading proponent of both abstract and photorealistic art. Many of his works have set record auction prices including Abstraktes Bild, that sold in 2015 for $44.5 million. The work is one of the most popular Germany paintings thanks to its vivid colors and open interpretation.

Gerhard Richter is celebrated for his signature 'blur', which is found in many of his pieces. He is often compared to the 19th-century artist Caspar David Friedrich due to their similar methods of expressing emotion through painting. Prints of this work are displayed in homes all over Germany and beyond.

Did you know?

Although many Richter masterpieces are privately owned or displayed in galleries in the US, you can find out much more about the artist through the Gerhard Richter Archive, which is housed at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden.

Paul Klee, 1879-1940

Arguably the most famous 20th-century Germanic artist, Paul Klee was born in Switzerland to a German father. He undertook his Fine Arts degree in Munich. One of the most influential artists in the surrealist, expressionist, pointillist, abstract and cubist movements, Klee was an artist who didn't stick to one genre but moved among these Modern Art movements.

Military service in the First World War didn't affect his ability to create paintings, which he created throughout war. His experiences affected the work that he later produced. His most famous works of art include "Senecio" (1922), "Ad Parnassum" (1932) and "Fish Magic" (1922).

Paul Klee in Hamburg

Many of Klee's masterpieces are displayed at museums in New York, but those in Germany will be able to view some of his work by visiting the Hamburg Kunsthalle where you will find the famous Revolution des Viadukts (1937) or at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Dusseldorf, where you can view his "Heroische Rosen" (1938).

The best art museums in Germany

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

For lovers of fine art, and in particular the Old Masters, this is the place to dedicate a day or even two. Major names from European art from the 14th-19th centuries are featured here such as Rembrandt, Botticelli and da Vinci as well as Albrecht Dürer.

Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

Smaller and easier to navigate than some of the larger galleries found in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, this historic gallery is home to Germany's grandest art collections of the 14th to 19th centuries. Gothic Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionist works are all displayed.

Altes Museum, Berlin

A work of art itself, this huge Neoclassical building is situated on Berlin's famous Museum Island. The gallery displays some of the biggest collections of classic art (Roman/Greek/Etruscan) in the world.

While on Museum Island, visitors can incorporate a visit to the Bode Museum, which showcases Byzantine, Islamic and Middle Eastern Art, and the Alte Nationalgalerie, which features western art from the 19th-20th centuries including some of the best examples of German expressionist art.

Museum Barberini, Potsdam

Just a little outside of Berlin in the small, pretty and quaint old capital of East Germany, Potsdam, you'll find the Museum Barberini. Regardless of when you visit, you can expect to see one of the three, exciting temporary exhibitions that the museum hosts each year; recent artists featured include Picasso and Henri-Edmond Cross.

You can expect an emphasis on Impressionist works when visiting the Barberini gallery, as well as a standard collection displaying works of the Old Masters as well as pieces from the Expressionist era and Contemporary Art.

Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, Munich

The Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA) is new, fresh and an antidote to the many galleries displaying Fine Art. MUCA puts the spotlight on artists such as Andy Warhol and Banksy but also gives space to emerging artists. This museum was only opened in 2016 and can be found in central Munich.

Kunsthalle, Hamburg

The biggest and most impressive art gallery in Northern Germany. Perfect for art lovers who enjoy variety, the gallery is home to works by some of the best painters of all time, from Old Masters such as Canaletto and Rembrandt to more modern names such as Munch, Klee, Kandinsky, Picasso, Warhol, and Hockney. Visitors can also enjoy Contemporary Art and a collection of art banned by the Nazis.

Art for less money

Check to see if there are any ways to discover art for less in whatever German city you are in. For example, Berlin offers the WelcomeCard, which allows for unlimited travel within the main city transport zones as well as 25%-50% off on attractions such as museums and galleries. Prices start as low as €20 for a 48-hour ticket, and a 72-hour ticket plus access to Museum Island attractions is only €46.

Learn more about Expatrio

Having lived abroad ourselves, we know that finding the right information on how to relocate and settle in a new country can be difficult. We know that the lack of digitization and personalized support can make navigating German bureaucracy a very frustrating process. Motivated by these issues, we built a fully digital platform that provides all the general information and services to make your relocation to Germany easier.

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