Visit of the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar – My opinion

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The visit of the Unterlinden Museum is a must during a visit to Colmar. It is a magnificent museum both in its architecture and in the richness of its collections. I did not expect it for a small city like Colmar and was really seduced!

Laurène
Laurène
Laurène is the blog's creator. Originally from Brittany but now living in Alsace, she has fallen in love with her adopted region and loves exploring its every nook and cranny to unearth great ideas to share with you!

A museum with remarkable architecture

History of the creation of the Unterlinden Museum

The museum originally consisted of only one building, that of the former Dominican convent of Unterlinden dating from the 13th century and having a beautiful Gothic cloister that can still be admired today. After the departure of the nuns from the convent during the Revolution, the building was abandoned and used as a military barracks until the middle of the 19th century before becoming the Musée Unterlinden.

Several successive events gave birth to the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar: first, the creation of the Schongauer society and a print cabinet by Louis Hugot in 1847, then the discovery in 1848 of a Gallo-Roman mosaic in Bergheim, and finally, the transfer of the works of the revolutionary sequestration in the former convent of the Dominican Sisters. The building was thus saved from abandonment and destruction and the museum opened in 1853.

An extension by Herzog and de Meuron

Major work was carried out between 2012 and 2015 to expand the museum, which now spans the former Dominican convent, the former Municipal Baths, as well as a brand new contemporary extension to the latter, signed by Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron.

An impressive renovation that has been praised by the international press. Indeed, the different buildings are impressive and deserve a visit in themselves!

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What to see at the Unterlinden Museum? The altarpiece, but not only…

The Musée Unterlinden in Colmar is mainly known for its Rhenish art, with collections of paintings and sculptures dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, mainly from the monasteries and churches of the region. But it also hosts many works by 20th century artists.

The exhibition spaces are spacious and bright rooms. Because of its large size, the museum offers a tour of more than 3,300 works, covering more than 7,000 years of history, from prehistory to 20th century art.

Medieval and Renaissance art in the cloister

In the Gothic cloister is presented the art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with works by Martin Schongauer, Hans Holbein, Lucas Cranach and, of course, the famous Issenheim Altarpiece, a masterpiece of Western painting sculpted by Nicholas of Haguenau around 1510 and painted by Mathias Grünewald from 1512 to 1516. It is extremely well displayed in the chapel of the former convent.

There is also a collection of archaeology with objects from domestic life or funerary contexts as well as a collection of decorative arts, arts and popular traditions and exhibitions related to regional history.

19th-20th Century Art and Museum History in the Gallery

The underground gallery that connects the two buildings is made up of a series of rooms devoted to the history of the museum, the arts of the 19th and 20th centuries and the decorative arts.

20th and 21st century art in the museum extension

The contemporary extension (Ackerhof) houses the museum’s modern art collection, with works by the major artists of the 20th century: Monet, Picasso, Otto Dix, Nicolas de Staël, Soulages, Dubuffet… It also houses temporary exhibitions, the Schongauer café, and an events room in the former municipal baths swimming pool. A great space!

  • Architecture of the museum
  • Richness of the collections for a small town like Colmar
  • Organization sometimes a bit confusing in my opinion