The Darmstadt Painting Gallery has a history spanning over 200 years and offers visitors a tour through circa 700 years of painting history.
At the beginning of the tour, altarpieces, paintings from the Dürer and Cranach era, as well as the world-famous "Magpie on the Gallows" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder are showcased. Early German still lifes from the first half of the 17th century are also on display, including Georg Flegel's "The Apricot Branch." In the basement, additional Flemish paintings are exhibited, including Peter Paul Rubens' "Diana Returning from the Hunt," and works from the "Dutch Classicism."
A selection of works from the 15th to the 20th centuries on the venerable theme of the crucifixion includes devotional panels, Golgotha scenes by Johann Seekatz, and works by Otto Dix, Arnulf Rainer, and A. R. Penck. The exhibition also features the Frankfurt Goethe painters around Christian Georg Schütz the Elder, the Darmstadt court painters, and works by Hessian painters from the 19th century.
The Hessian State Museum houses the largest collection of paintings by Arnold Böcklin outside of Switzerland, including the large-scale "Prometheus Landscape" and the "Ruins of a Villa by the Sea". Also on display are Anselm Feuerbach’s "Iphigenia" and Eugen Bracht’s "The Shore of Oblivion". The idea of a union of art and life in the total work of art inspired the Munich Symbolists like Franz von Stuck and the English artists John William Waterhouse and Walter Crane, who are represented with major works.
In addition to important positions in Impressionism such as Lovis Corinth, Max Slevogt, and Max Liebermann, the exhibition illustrates the departure towards modernity: Expressionism and New Objectivity are represented by Egon Schiele, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Paula Modersohn-Becker, among others, as well as by Max Beckmann, whose last work "San Francisco" is part of the collection. Sculptures by Aristide Maillol, Ernst Barlach, and Emy Roeder depict a changing image of humanity.
Representing abstraction in the collection are artists including László Moholy-Nagy, Willi Baumeister, and Hans Arp. Marcel Duchamp, the inventor of the Readymade, is showcased with six major works.
Starting in the mid-1960s, the Darmstadt industrialist Karl Ströher expanded the collection to include works of Pop Art, Minimal Art, and Concept Art. Art after 1945 questions the traditional painting and expands the pictorial space into the real space. Outstanding works in the current collection come from artists such as Gerhard Richter, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Blinky Palermo, Rosemarie Trockel, Jörg Immendorff, and Marina Abramović.