Museums In the early 1990s Struth was moved by a range of experiences to begin a new series of large-format colour pictures, what have come to be known as his ‘Museum Photographs’. Stays in Naples and Rome and a brush with a culture in which painting and religion are intimately connected inspired him to a meditation on the various functions of art in a secular world. He wanted to know how visitors to the museums of our day receive historic paintings. Although the photographs he took in the 1980s, apart from a few individual and family portraits, display traces and signs of human activity, they only rarely feature human beings.
When Struth began taking pictures of visitors to museums, in 1989, he knew exactly where he wanted to go: to the Louvre in Paris, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the National Gallery in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Art Institute of Chicago. In the mid-1990s he photographed visitors to the Pergamon Altar in Berlin, and in 1999 attended the exhibition of a single work by Delacroix – ‘Liberty Leading the People’ (1830) – at the National Museum of Art in Tokyo, where he was struck by the unorthodox presentation. There followed two more museum photographs and a self-portrait in the manner of Albrecht Dürer’s self-portrait, painted in 1500. Struth created one last museum photograph, again dedicated to the exhibition of a single work, Vermeer’s ‘Woman with a Lute’ (1662–64), before producing what he considers the final installment of his museum photography, a series of works based on several visits to the Prado in 2005.