Willi Baumeister, Afrikanische Legende, Ausschnitt

History of the Collection

The art collections administered by the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) are essentially divided into four major collection areas.

A large part of the stock comes from the mixed lot of works that the former Museum für Deutsche Geschichte (MfDG) acquired and collected between its founding in 1952 and the end of the GDR in 1989. Immediately after its founding the museum commissioned artists to paint pictures for exhibition projects that it planned. For the exhibition on the life of Karl Marx in 1953/54, for example, the museum commissioned several works by a number of different artists.

Not only prominent persons, but also achievements of the GDR were deemed worthy of pictorial representation, and the artists were commissioned to paint the pictures in oil. For instance, the many paintings of Stalinallee, a prestige object of the GDR, are part of this series. "Die Weberwiese" by Lothar Howoldt (Inv.Nr. KG 54/7) is one of the more successful examples of this commissioned art.

In the 1960s the MfDG turned its attention to the political artists of the Weimar period. The staff bought picture from the 1920s, usually directly from the artists themselves, which brought together an important and extensive collection of political art from that time. In the course of reunification on 3 October 1990 these collections were transferred to the DHM.

Since its founding in 1987 the Deutsches Historisches Museum has also been able to acquire a collection of artworks which, in accordance with the its brief, reflect history in its European context. From the period up until 1945 they include, for example, works by Lovis Corinth, Käthe Kollwitz and Felix Nussbaum, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. Exemplary works reflecting the history of the Federal Republic are also represented, such as "African Legend" by Willy Baumeister or Hubertus von Pilgrim’s famous head of Adenauer.

A large part of the painting collections stems from the possessions of the German Reich, which were transferred to the DHM in the 1990s. The works – which had been shown in the "House of German Art" between 1937 and 1944 in the so-called "Great German Art Exhibitions" – had remained under the administration of the High Fiscal Direction of the Central Customs Office in Munich for many years.

The last large lot of pictures entered the collection in 2007. These are pictures that were brought to the USA as the "German War Art Collection" in the late 1940s and then transferred in the 1950s and 1980s back to the Federal Republic of Germany. This group includes, for example, the work "France 1940" by Karl Decker.

The art collection in the section "National Socialism" is so extensive that the museum has placed three different databases online. They are the databases "Special Mission Linz" (2008) "Central Collecting Point (CCP) Munich" (2010) and the Hermann Göring Collection.

They are available to provenance researchers around the world.