Hot spot: Treasure trove of Romanticism

The German Romantic Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to the era of German Romanticism, has opened next to Frankfurt’s Goethe House.

“A gem”, “a gesamtkunstwerk”, “a jewel of a new museum”, “a spectacular contemplative space” – the media are singing the praises of the German Romantic Museum, which after lengthy preparations opened in September 2021 right next to Frankfurt’s Goethe House, where Germany’s most famous poet was born and grew up. This praise is due first and foremost to a rather congenial duo. Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken, as Director of the Freie Deutsche Hochstift, has worked tirelessly to get the project underway and promote it. And Frankfurt-based architect Christoph Mäckler has cooperated closely with her to create a new home for this unique collection on German Romantic literature. The result is a building rich in allusions that casts Goethe and Romanticism in a new light.

The three-part, almost windowless façade links up to the Goethe House but gives little away about the spacious two-story foyer with panoramic windows facing the courtyard and garden. On the right-hand side, Christoph Mäckler has preserved the firewall to the Goethe House. On the left, above the ticket desk, a monumental wall of books surprises. An architectural highlight is the staircase running parallel to the façade, which leads up to the three upper stories and tapers conically so that it appears longer and higher. It is bathed in blue light, the blue of Romanticism, and leads past a bay window with blue glass blocks that give just a hint of Frankfurt skyline that lies beyond. The adjoining exhibition rooms are entirely windowless, since the valuable exhibits cannot tolerate daylight, and this proves favorable in the examination of the collection’s treasures. The Goethe Gallery on the first floor features the artists that Goethe met at his family home: paintings by eccentric Swiss artist Johann Heinrich Füssli (“The Nightmare”), portraits by Anton Graff, who gave the epoch a new face, scenes from Italy by Johann Philipp Hackert, and portraits by Angelica Kauffmann. In this respect, the gallery forms the transition between the house where Goethe was born and the Romantic exhibition. The second floor features priceless manuscripts, letters from Brentano and Arnim, notes written by Heine and E.T.A. Hoffmann, and the accumulated first editions. The originals are exhibited at 35 stations that convey different aspects of Romanticism  with the final station of the exhibition on the third floor dedicated to Robert Schumann’s “Scenes from Goethe’s Faust” and thus a highlight in the musical reception of Goethe’s work. It offers insights into the development of this key work of German Romanticism, which the Freie Deutsche Hochstift was able to purchase at an auction in 2018.

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