Between Dresden and St. Petersburg. Artist Twin Brothers von Kügelgen

Art Museum of Estonia
Kadriorg Art Museum
Press Release
20 October 2015

The international exhibition Between Dresden and St. Petersburg. Artist Twin Brothers von Kügelgen will open at the Kadriorg Art Museum on Friday, 23 October at 6 pm. The exhibition embodies independent Estonia’s most significant collaboration with Russia’s and Germany’s largest art museums – the State Hermitage and the Dresden State Art Collections.

The initiative for the exhibition came from Estonia and it focuses on the Enlightenment Era artists Franz Gerhard (1772–1820) and Karl Ferdinand (1772–1832) von Kügelgen. In the fine arts of Estonia (as well as Latvia) at the turn of the 19th century, the twins are so important that there is reason to speak of the “era of the Kügelgen brothers”.

For the first time, it is possible to get an excellent survey of the works by the Kügelgens that can be found in German and Russian museums, as well as in private collections. Works have been lent to the exhibition by the following institutions: the State Hermitage, the Pavlovsk Palace and Park, the Dresden State Art Collections – the New Masters Gallery and the Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, the Dresden City Museum, the Kügelgenhaus – Museum of Dresden Romanticism, the Latvian National Museum of Art, the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, the University of Tartu Library, and many private collections in Germany and Estonia. “Along with the loans from St. Petersburg and Dresden, the pride of Estonia’s art heritage is also on display. This includes views of Tallinn commissioned from Karl von Kügelgen by the tsar and Gerhard von Kügelgen’s portraits of the great men of German literature – Goethe, Herder and Wieland – which belong to the University of Tartu and are some of the most internationally renowned works of art in Estonia,” says Kadi Polli, the curator of the exhibition.

In the cultural memory of Germany, Russia and the Baltic countries, the von Kügelgens are a renowned family with many members who were important artists, writers and intellectuals. The founders of this creative dynasty were the brothers Franz Gerhard (1772–1820) and Karl Ferdinand (1772–1832) von Kügelgen, identical twins who were born in the small town of Bacharach on the banks of the Main River in Germany. The brothers’ artistic careers started in the largest centres near their home, Koblenz and Bonn, were supplemented in Rome, the premier art metropolis of the 18th century, and blossomed on the outskirts of Europe, in Riga, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. Right from the start, one of the brothers was interested in people and the other in nature views. Gerhard von Kügelgen, who was later a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden, is known in Germany as the painter of Goethe and as the friend of Caspar David Friedrich, and in Russia as the portraitist of Paul I’s family. Karl von Kügelgen has gone down in history as the artist who recorded the landscapes of Tsarist Russia’s new possessions: Estonia, Crimea and Finland. This exhibition focuses on the Kügelgen brothers’ ties to Estonia by presenting them as masters of major importance in Baltic art history. The Kügelgen brothers introduced the values of the Era of Enlightenment and a new artistic level to portraiture and landscape painting in Estonia and Livonia, and also raised the status of the artist’s profession generally, by seeing themselves not as artisans, but as belonging to the circle of free creators and intellectuals, and by entering into familial relationships with the Baltic nobility.

The exhibition is accompanied by a voluminous catalogue. The book, a collaborative undertaking of Estonian, German and Russian authors, provides a thorough survey of the oeuvres of the von Kügelgen brothers and their fields of activity in the area between Dresden and St. Petersburg, the cities with the greatest impact on Baltic cultural life.

The exhibition is accompanied by various public programmes, curator tours, “More Light” educational programmes for young people, and an art competition for school children (the latter with the support of The Integration and Migration Foundation Our People).

More information:

The international exhibition Between Dresden and St. Petersburg. Artist Twin Brothers von Kügelgen will be open at the Kadriorg Art Museum from 24 October 2015 to 13 March 2016.

Exhibition curator and catalogue editor: Kadi Polli
Designers of the exhibition: Mari Kurismaa and Mari Kaljuste
Designer of the catalogue: Kätlin Tischler

Supported by: the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and Karl Storz Video Endoscopy Estonia OÜ

The exhibition visuals are available in the Art Museum of Estonia’s digital collection.

More Information:

Aleksandra Murre
Director, Kadriorg Art Museum
Tel. +372 606 6406, + 372 521 3748

Kadi Polli
Exhibition Curator
Tel. + 372 505 5905