The Busch-Reisinger Museum, an integral part of the Harvard University Art Museums, is the only museum in America devoted to promoting the informed enjoyment and critical understanding of the arts of central and northern Europe of all periods, with a special emphasis on the German-speaking countries.
Founded in 1901 as the Germanic Museum through the eﬀorts of Kuno Francke, professor of German literature at Harvard, the museum originally contained only reproductions, notably plaster casts of major Germanic sculptural and architectural monuments. Under the curatorship (1930–1968) of Charles L. Kuhn, the museum developed into one of the leading collections of modern art from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and related cultures. The museum was renamed the Busch-Reisinger Museum in 1950 in honor of the related St. Louis families who had contributed decisively to its support.
Today the museum has especially important holdings of Austrian Secession art (Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Josef Hoﬀmann), German expressionism (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Vassily Kandinsky), 1920s abstraction (El Lissitzky), and material related to the Bauhaus (including archives of Lyonel Feininger and Walter Gropius). In addition to notable collections of late Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque sculpture, 16th-century painting, and 18th-century porcelain, the museum has recently focused on deepening its holdings of postwar and contemporary art from German-speaking Europe, including important works by Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and many others. The collection of unique and editioned works by the postwar artist Joseph Beuys is among the world’s most comprehensive.
This elegantly designed volume, the only full-scale publication on the collection currently available, oﬀers a stunning selection from the entire range of the museum’s collection, illustrated in a stimulating sequence of color plates. With two provocative and probing essays on the museum’s character and potential by leading scholars in the ﬁeld and a full chronological overview of its rich history, this book will appeal to historians of art, museum scholars, and all lovers of central and northern European art.
Peter Nisbet is the Daimler-Benz Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums. Joseph Leo Koerner is Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University.