Magazine article Newsweek

Dresden on the Thames: A Flood's Aftermath Brings a Rare Show to London

Magazine article Newsweek

Dresden on the Thames: A Flood's Aftermath Brings a Rare Show to London

Article excerpt

Byline: Tara Pepper

Just before the river Elbe, which sweeps from Prague to Hamburg through some of Germany's most picturesque towns, burst its banks last August, Martin Roth was awaken by a 5 a.m. text message alerting him that the river was rising dangerously. Two hours later, helped by the German Army, the director of Dresden's art collections and his staff started working frantically to move 23,000 priceless works from the galleries of Dresden's Zwinger Palace. Now a selection of 58 paintings are on show at London's Royal Academy through June 8, giving an international platform to Dresden's Gemldegalerie Alte Meister, one of the least visited and most intriguing of Europe's great museums.

Lavish and passionate patrons of the arts, Dresden's 18th-century rulers Augustus the Strong and Augustus III transformed the city from a provincial capital into a brilliant cultural center. They promoted the exquisite baroque architecture for which the city is known, established porcelain manufacture for the first time in the West and cultivated art and music: some of Strauss's and Wagner's grandest operas were given their first performances in Dresden. The sheer enthusiasm with which Augustus and his son selected each of the paintings in their collection is evident in the London show. "Masterpieces From Dresden" celebrates some wonderful artists, as their patrons did, without binding them to the kind of didactic, overarching theme that can strangle modern exhibits. …

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