Colmar's most famous son. While Eiffel may be the most famous of those who worked on the Statue of Liberty in New York, it was Bartholdi who conceived of the idea, designed the statue and made the whole thing happen. Today his memory is treasured in his home town, first by his museum on Rue des Marchands, but also in a replica 12 meter high Statue of Liberty on the outskirts of the town.
The museum is hosted in the house where he was born, and here you can find, among other things, the original designs for the Statue of Liberty.
Perhaps the major driver of the tourist trade in Colmar is the Unterlinden Museum, which by itself attracts over 200,000 visitors every year to its expansive art collection spread out over a four thousand square meters. It's the most visited museum in Alsace, and one of the most popular in France - not bad for a small town. It's set to get even bigger. The construction work that so blighted the building on my visit looks set to double the exhibition area and bring in 500,000 visitors when complete - nearly ten times the population of Colmar.
So what brings people to this museum? A collection of art from the middle ages to modern day, including artists like Dürer, Cranach, Picasso, Léger and Poliakoff, capped off by the famous Isenheim Altarpiece.
In a beautiful 16th-century mansion, formerly a Turenne school, you can find the Natural History and Ethnography Museum in Colmar. The museum explains the geophysical evolution of the region from the Ice Age and tells you about various endangered local species.
We did not have time to visit the museum.
It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at the Unterlinden Museum and we were a little weary. The building caught my eye and I decided to take a few photos and as we came to the entrance gate I noticed the beautiful well.
Instinct told me this was a special place and we paid our entrance fee, entered the first display room which immediately confirmed that we had made the right decision.
The museum is celebrating 160 years and has a broad cross section of exhibits. We stayed an hour or more and enjoyed our visit but had to leave early as we had to catch the train back to Strasbourg.
Frederrie Auguste Bartholdi was born in Colmar on 2nd August, 1834. After his father died in 1836 his mother moved the family to Paris, keeping the family home in Colmar which is now the home of the Bartholdi Museum.
His best known work is the Statute of Liberty located in New York City.
Since 1922 the former family home has housed the largest collection of his works, models and souvenirs.
On display in the inner courtyard is the "Grands soutiens du monde" (bronze 1902).
Here's my journal entry for the museum:
"Followed signs through ancient sculpture, a very dark Alsatian wine cellar (no doubt authentic), XV and XVI century painting . . . and really appreciated the English audio guide. Walked through XVI century sculpture, a not-completely-assembled Martin Schongauer exhibit to Colmar’s pièce de résistance . . . the Issenheim Altarpiece. Again, the audio guide was invaluable!"
I highly recommend using the audio guide. It makes the experience more meaningful. The Issenheim Altarpiece is stunning and very well displayed. There is also enough room to enjoy it and plenty of explanations available.
General admission is 8 euros (in 2011) Check the web site below for changes. They are currently restoring the issenheim Altarpiece but it continues on display so you should be able to see it.
This building once served as a Dominican convent, under some linden trees (hence the name "underlinden"). This museum houses some impressive exhibits, including one of France's best collections of medieval art. Probably the most famous is the priceless Isenheim Altarpiece, inside the chapel. It also houses some artifacts from Colmar's long history. This should be on anyone's itinernary. In addition, there is a new gallery of modern art.
A number of paintings and sculptures of the 15 and 16C are also on view in the nave and the adjacent galleries. The best paintings are by Cranach (The Melancholy) and a Female Portrait (by Hans Holbein the Elder) and what may possibly be the first still life, from 1470 (anonymous). 16C wood sculptures expand the period with works of Master H.L., Veit Wagner and others.
The first very important artist in Colmar was also the first great engraver in Norther Europe. He is remembered here for several paintings and for many fine engravings. His most famous work is the Virgin in the Rose Bower at the Collegiate Church but there are two diptyches in the Unterlinden and some 16 panels of A Passion for which he did much of the work. Fine work by primitives lead the way to his work, these can be seen in an adjacent room of the museum by Gaspard Isenmann and Hermann Schadeberg as well as other early examples from the North.
The most terrifying scene is in the left one of the lateral now paired panels of the rear section of the altar. It is the Temptation of St. Anthony. It relates the internal feelings that were held in those times by about disease. The Antonites were believed to be able to cure ergotism (and possibly also erysipelas or streptococcal infection) which were almost always fatal in those days. Note the sick patient in the bottom left corner with a swollen figure and feet being replaced by a demon. The right picture is a visit by St. Anthony to the hermit St. Paul. The central tryptich is by Nicolas de Haguenau with St. Augustin on the right and St. Jerome on the left. In the lower right panel kneels a church leader one Guy Guers, while at the base of the central panel are two offerants.
When the outer surface of the retable was originally opened, a set of four panels came into view. Today the lateral pair are shown together and nearby the middle two are presented. The viewer must supply the sequence as he wishes. In correct sequence the first on the left is an Annunciation, next an Angel's Concert, then a Mary and Child Newborn Alone and lastly an unusually Rising from the Tomb. Each panel is both restrained and intense and subtly has associated stories in the scenes. Enjoy this.
The outer side of the closed multiple paneled altar piece has a large central painting of the Crucifixion. On the right side of the painting is St. Joseph supporting a distraught Mary and next to the Cross a kneeling Magdalene. On the left of Jesus is John the Baptist (two years dead) with a lamb. In a lateral painting to the right is St. Sebastian.
The Issenheim Altar was made between 1512-16 by Mathis Gothart (known as Grunewald) and was the Altar piece of the of a convent following the rule of Saint Augustine (the Antonites) in that town. In 1793 the set of works was moved to the place Unterlinden and installed in the ex-Dominican chapel which in 1849 became a museum containing the Grunewald masterpiece and works by Schongauer and others. The altar is nicely detached so that one can move among the several wings and approximate the progression of a suppliant. Starting from the outside of the retable which has three panels with a two panel predella Entombment past the second level made up of a set of four panels (originally in one group of 4) now shown as two pairs of important large pictures and on to the third level at the rear with lateral paintings and a central tryptich of sculptured wooden figures while below there is a carved predella of Jesus and the Apostles.
The Museum was started in 1849 by Louis Hugot who managed to keep the building from demolition and who subsequently was able to instal there works by Schongauer and works from many religious communities around Colmar. as well a Roman mosaic from Bergheim.Although theveryone comes primarily to see the Isenheim Alterpiece there are a variety of other items in the collection ranging from primitive painted panels to 20C works by such as Picasso and one should also enjoy the cloister which is where you enter the museum.
"The building of the former Turenne school, built in the 16th century, has since 1985 housed the Colmar Natural History Museum, which was founded in 1859. Initially established in the Unterlinden premises until 1940, the collections were transferred in 1959 to a house which has since disappeared in the Water Tower park, where they were viewed until 1983. The main departments are zoology, mineralogy and ethnography."
Opening hours :
From 1st February to 22nd December: every day except Tuesdays: 10-12 am and 2- 5 pm. Sundays: 2 -6 pm. Closed: 1st May- 1st November and 25th December. Guided tours on request by appointment.
Archaeology, Folk art, Ethnography, Geology and natural sciences