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The Gemäldegalerie was opened in 1830 in the "Royal Museum" next to the Lustgarten. It was designed by Schinkel and later renamed the Altes Museum. The core of the collection was formed from the art treasures belonging to The Great Elector (1620 - 1688) and Frederick the Great (1712 - 1786). The gallery's first director, Gustav Friedrich Waagen, steadily built up the collection using systematic, scientific methods unique in Europe at the time.
The collection's international renown must be attributed to Wilhelm von Bode who directed the gallery from 1890 to 1929. Thanks to his great dedication the gallery made many significant acquisitions and set up a collection covering almost all aspects of European art.
In 1904 the Gemäldegalerie moved with its growing collection to the newly built Kaiser Friedrich-Museum (later named Bode Museum) which was originally conceived as a Renaissance museum. Bode inspired wealthy citizens to support the purchase of works of art and in 1897 founded the "Kaiser Friedrich-Museums-Verein", a society still active today.
The Second World War put an end to the continuous development of the collection. The museum was badly damaged and more than four hundred large-format works were destroyed. The division of the city was accompanied by a splitting of the collection with two separate exhibition centres.
Until 1997 most of the works were shown in Berlin-Dahlem and others in the Bode Museum on Museumsinsel (Museum Island) in Berlin-Mitte. After more than fifty years of separation this superb collection can now be enjoyed in its original splendour in the newly built Gemäldegalerie at the Kulturforum.