The Collection of the Banker J.H. Wagener
The Formation of the National Gallery
The formation of a national gallery had been the focus of countless debates and numerous efforts since the early 19th century. It was not until 1861, however, that a national gallery for contemporary art finally opened in the German capital. The decisive impetus for its creation came when Joachim Heinrich Wagener, a Berlin banker, donated to the Prussian king some 262 pictures from his private collection, which he had amassed for over forty years for this very purpose, with the proviso that they form the heart of a future national gallery. Just a few weeks after the gift was accepted by the king, on 22 March 1861, the very first exhibition opened its doors at the Academy of the Arts' former building on Unter den Linden. The exhibition bore the title 'The Wagener and National Gallery'. The National Gallery's own building on the Museum Island was only officially opened 15 years later, in 1876.
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