Wallraf. The Museum.

This is a major art museum near the Cologne Cathedral. Officially it has a more complicated name, the “Wallraf-Richartz Museum & Fondation Corboud”, but when they moved in to their modern new building in 2001 they decided they needed a shorter and snappier name, so for marketing purposes it is now: “Wallraf. The Museum.”

Landscapes in the basement

In the basement there is a large area for temporary exhibitions. In the summer of 2010, they were showing landscape paintings by three leading German impressionist painters: Max Liebermann (1847-1935), Lovis Corinth (1858–1925) and Max Slevogt (1868–1932).

On the upper three floors there is an impressive permanent exhibition of art works from the 13th to 19th (and early 20th) centuries, including what they say is the world’s largest collection of medieval art on the first floor (one flight up).

The most popular floor is the second, where art works from the 17th and 18th centuries are on display, including major paintings by Rembrandt, Boucher, Rubens and van Dyck.

In the museum

The history of the museum began in 1824, when an art collector named Franz Ferdinand Wallraf died and left his entire estate to his native city, Cologne. According to the museum’s website, this meant that “an absolutely immense estate came into the city’s ownership. The number of altars, paintings, drawings, books, coins and other objets d’art that the collector had saved during his life from the ravages of secularization was simply over­whelm­­ing.”

It took many years before a suitable building could be built. In the decades that followed, the collection continued to grow, thanks to “numerous loans, gifts from the citizenry, and purchases of old masters and modern works, above all by the Impressionists.” In 1936 the museum acquired another large collection, with works by Rembrandt and Franz Hals, among many others.

But just one year later, in 1937, “the National Socialists confiscated countless works for its propaganda exhibition ‘Degenerate Art’. The collection lost many priceless exhibits, including paintings and drawings by Picasso, Munch, Beckmann, Gaugin, Dix, and Kokoschka. One blow followed the other: during the night-time bombing raids in 1943, the museum was completely destroyed. The artworks, however, had been evacuated in good time.”

Entrance to the current museum building

My photos in this post are from 2010. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Cologne (= Köln), Germany.

8 thoughts on “Wallraf. The Museum.”

    1. No, I haven’t seen the film, but I’ve read reviews. And the topic of stolen and recovered art works gets regular coverage in the German press.

  1. We were there in 2012 for the special exhibit of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso and Gauguin which was nice but not their outstanding works. Because of the exhibit, they had put their own nineteenth century collection in temporary quarters part of which was a narrow hallway where you were literally nose to nose with the paintings. Good view for detail but a difficult way to view the paintings. Interesting but I’m not sure we’d return.

    1. Yes, they seem once again to have outgrown their building. Last June the city assembly in Cologne approved a plan to build an additional building as an expansion of the Wallraf Museum, but I don’t know how long it will take.

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