The ground floor's itinerary starts with a room serving as a link between the beginning and the end of the historical tour at the same time as being a transition into the contemporary collection. Auguste Rodin's Thinker (1904) comes face to face with work from the 1970's to the 1980's. The rest of the visit shifts from pioneers of modernity such as Monet and Gaugin to representatives of the European avant-garde, for example, new German painters (Baselitz, Schonebeck or Lupertz) and the New Realists (Raymond Hains, Arman or Daniel Spoerri) who, since the time of Marcel Duchamp and Dada, had sought a rethinking of the object's place in art.
The nodal point of the tour is Strasbourg's emblematic figure Hans Jean Arp, whose work accompanied the greater part of the historical avant-gardes from Dada to Post-War Abstraction. A group of rooms honors Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, evoking their collaboration with Théo Van Doesburg for the creation of a monument of modernity that was the Aubette (Strasbourg 1926-1928).
Every major trend in the art of the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century revolves around this focal point in the collection: Impressionism and post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and Post-Cubism, Purism, Abstraction, Return to order, Surrealism, painting of the German "New Expressionists", New Realism, with works by Monet, Gauguin, Signac, Valloton, Dufy, Kupka, Kandinsky, Larionov, Gontcharova, Delaunay, Picasso, Picabia, Herbin, Ernst, Magritte, Masson, Brauner, Baselitz and Spoerri, and others.
A significant place has also been devoted to Alsatian Decorative Arts circa 1900, notably represented by Spindler and Carabin.
A choice in the artwork's hanging
To allow a variety of transversal views and oftentimes unexpected comparisons, the paintings have been hung in a manner encouraging a dialogue between artistic movements of the early 20th century. Thus the relationship between abstraction and figuration, emblematically illustrated in an oil on panel painting by Francis Picabia presenting, recto, a simple abstract rounded form and on the back, the portrait of a woman borrowing a pin up's realism: or again, the transition between primitivism and free abstraction but also between cubism and constructive logic, underlined in works by Kandinsky and Kukpa. Arp builds bridges between surreal oneirism (Victor Brauner and Max Ernst) and an organic abstraction he uses elsewhere when applying Theo Van Doesburg's constructive rigorousness to studies for the Aubette's collective project. Post-war Abstraction reactivating the opposition between lyricism and geometry gave way to German Expressive Figuration and the French movement of New Realism which asserted themselves on the European artistic scene in the early 60's.
The Gustave Doré Gallery
Careful attention has been taken to highlight the work of native Strasbourg artist Gustave Doré, in an effort to present his large canvas entitled Christ leaving the Praetorium measuring 6 meters in length by 9 meters in width in the best possible light. The eleven-meter high room was designed to focus around this major work: zenithal lighting is projected onto the canvas and a perched balcony evokes a theater box with a view from above. A selection of Doré's most beautiful paintings in the collection completes the hanging, allowing one to discover yet another aspect of the painter's talent. A smaller room equipped with mural windows provides the setting for Doré's world-renowned talent as draftsman and illustrator, indeed, his engravings conjure up the topic of Dante's Hell world-wide. A sculpture on display in the same room reminds us that Doré was also a sculptor.