In 1847 the rotating exhibition organized by the Swiss Fine Arts Association from 1840 onwards provided the impetus to annex a small gallery designed by Gustav Albert Wegmann to the original premises. For a long time the new ‘museum’ was dominated by the collection donated by Colonel Keller zum Mohrenkopf in 1854, a representative selection of Zurich painting from Hans Asper to the 18th century.
« Here at the Kunsthaus we wish to dedicate ourselves to that end and draw encouragement to make our house into a house of art. » — Prof. Arnold Meyer, Rector of Zurich University, in the formal address at the opening of the Kunsthaus Zürich on 17 April 1910
« Let our home be far removed from all false appearance and grandeur, from all luxury that is not in tune with its means (…). » — Prof. Arnold Meyer, Rector of Zurich University, in the formal address at the opening of the Kunsthaus Zürich on 17 April 1910
Owing to the small size of the collection, the first curator and later Director from 1909 until 1949, Wilhelm Wartmann, initially concentrated on Swiss art and alongside the most interesting works of the time he put together groups of late Gothic painting and pictures by Henry Fuseli.
When the Kunsthaus held a large Ferdinand Hodler exhibition in 1917, it became clear that the financial resources of the Kunstgesellschaft were insufficient, and Alfred Rüetschi responded by founding the ‘Vereinigung Zürcher Kunstfreunde’ (Society of Zurich Friends of Art), which to this day regularly helps to extend the Kunsthaus Collection with significant acquisitions. Rüetschi himself made a number of large compositions and important landscapes by Hodler available to the Kunsthaus.
In 1920 the Kunsthaus was bequeathed the collection of Hans Schuler and with it, for the first time, works of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism by Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Bonnard. After many years of preparation Wartmann organized his first exhibition of Edvard Munch in 1922 and began to build up the largest collection of works by the Norwegian artist outside Scandinavia.
Karl Moser extended the Kunsthaus in 1925 and in 1929 Dr. Hans E. Mayenfisch began to buy works by living Swiss artists for the Kunsthaus; by the time of his death in 1957 the collection had increased to over 450 works. The Nobel Prize winner Leopold Ruzicka set up a foundation in 1949 with his outstanding collection of 17th-century Dutch painting. When René Wehrli replaced Wilhelm Wartmann as Director in 1950 he moved the focus on to French painting since Monet; following the Monet retrospective the two large water lily panels were acquired.
Highlights from the history of Kunsthaus
Renovation of the buildings and structures
From 1998 to 2000 the Villa Tobler, a protected historic monument located at Winkelwiese 4, was restored in a manner befitting its status as a new renaissance palazzo to become the new home of management and to serve as a venue for official events. In September 2000 Christoph Becker succeeded Felix Baumann as the new Director and the electorate of Zurich voted in favour of a loan of 28.5 million Swiss francs for renovation of the Kunsthaus. In 2001 the museum board adopted a new artistic strategy, with in-house working groups and a public commission of experts on the future of the Kunsthaus to support reforms of internal structures, while renovation work began.