We got off the subway at Marienplatz, the city center. We hadn't seen this Marienplatz from the tour bus, because Munich took the big step of making its busiest downtown thoroughfare into a pedestrian-only street. It turned out to be a great success. This Sunday morning we walked past the Neues Rathaus with its old clock; the Frauenkirche, where we saw the devil's footprint near the door; the fishing and hunting museum; the Michaelskirche, to the Karlstor, passing lovely fountains and monuments along the way. It was early and cold and rainy, therefore not at all crowded.
In Karlsplatz we boarded the streetcar for the Alte Pinakothek, built in 1826-36. This museum contains European painting from the middle ages through the eighteenth century; there are separate museums for nineteenth century painting, for twentieth-century art, and for Greek and Roman antiquities. On the first Sunday of each month admission is free, lucky us! Neues Rathaus clock
We ascended sixty-seven marble steps in a long straight staircase to reach the first floor galleries. We could hardly imagine so many old masters in one building. The museum abounds with Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Titian, Botticelli, Tintoretto, Durer, Cranach, Raphael, and even a da Vinci. We read in the guidebook how the Durer self-portrait had been splashed with acid in the 1970s and since restored.
We discovered that not all Old Masters are Great Art; at least not to our eyes. For one thing, the topics are quite repetitious: scenes from the bible or the lives of saints or classical mythology; heroic scenes, often overcrowded Baroque dragon climbing with figures; landscapes; and still lifes. We find we admire those portraits which capture the character of their subjects.
With many of the paintings by European Old Masters being commissioned by Catholic monarchs, we found ourselves curious about a point: during the 16th through 18th centuries in Europe, was there a body of Protestant Christian art? Was there a body of Jewish art? Any of our readers who can educate us, please do.
Because another gallery was under repair, the Alte Pinakotek had made room to display the works of Max Beckman, a contemporary of Picasso; they were in sharp contrast to the old masters. We admired his bold style, and especially BMW museum display a self-portrait. Beckman had been banned under the Nazi regime.
After lunch we went to the BMW Museum. Munich is their corporate headquarters, in fact just across the street from the Olympic Park. Their museum is a striking building in the shape of a cup, with a spiral ramp leading to the top. There are exhibits with audio plug-ins in four languages.
The museum is highly polished, according to one guidebook; we agree, but felt it was not up to the standard of other corporate displays. The displays of BMW cars, planes, and motorcycles through the years was great, but we kept looking for the theme of the museum. We would have been satisfied with a good sales pitch, but that, too, was missing.