How did Kehinde Wiley get so famous

Ernst Rietschel is back. Some visitors will have missed the famous 19th century Saxon sculptor in Dresden's Albertinum. You can now look forward to meeting some of his figures again in the mosaic room. It is not a special show that the museum people have set up, but a promise for the long term.

Ten of the 24 newly erected figures are Rietschel's work. His Lessing greets prominently in the lower center of the room. The Dresden sculpture collection is showing the cast model of the monumental Lessing monument that the Saxon Rietschel once created for Braunschweig. Goethe and Schiller, the German poet princes whom the sculptor once placed in the city for the Weimar family, can also be seen as designs in the Albertinum.

Above, behind the mosaic in the floor that gives the hall its name, the model of a famous building sculpture, “The Music”, is enthroned even more prominently. Ernst Rietschel created this gable for the First Court Theater, which Gottfried Semper designed for Dresden. A great group of figures with swans singing on one end and fluttering owls on the other.

The paintings by Ferdinand von Rayski are new in the mosaic hall and also intended as a permanent presentation. The contemporaries - Rietschel was born in Pulsnitz in 1804 and Rayski was born in Pegau in 1806 - were great portraitists. Ernst Rietschel chiseled rulers and artists in stone or cast them in bronze. The Saxon nobility preferred to be painted by Rayski. "Rietschel's sculptures are still clearly associated with classicism, even if his Lessing is already wearing everyday clothes," says sculpture expert Astrid Nielsen. Holger Birkholz, a specialist in painting, adds: “Rayski's painting style was realistic comparatively early on. While epaulettes and collars sometimes look like sketched with broad brushstrokes, he placed much more emphasis on psychologizing and capturing the character of what is depicted - as, for example, with Count von Einsiedel. The fact that Rayski also had a sense of humor and was able to ironically can be seen in the portrait of Friedrich von Boxberg as a hunter. "

But what is this black muscleman doing here? In a military hero pose, he mingles with Saxony's nobles in front of bright yellow-green narcissus wallpaper. Of course, this is not a contemporary of Rietschel and Rayski. And he is even less a man of the 18th century, even if the picture is called "General John Burgoyne" and the sitter is posing, as this British officer and writer, who was also called gentleman Johnny, did it in 1766 for the painter Joshua Reynolds.

The man in the picture lives in New York, is American and probably a good friend of the artist Kehinde Wiley. He, in turn, was born in 1977 and is so famous in the USA that he was allowed to paint the official presidential portrait of Barack Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in the manner of the old masters. Elton John and Denzel Washington were also portrayed by Wiley. Wiley became known for his large-format portraits, which depict people of Afro-American origin in ancient poses of European rulers, soldiers or nobles: profound black-and-white painting, in the style of the old masters, political in the statement.

Wiley looks for his models on the street of his residential area in New York. In the studio he shows them paintings by old masters. You can choose the model that Kehinde Wiley uses to paint it. The background, clothing and accessories such as the sword of the modern “General John Burgoyne” are ingredients of the present. Only the pose is history. But it fits very well into the ranks of the Saxon nobles. Holger Birkholz was able to borrow the painting from a Belgian private collection for a year and got in touch with the sitter via Instagram, who is a screenwriter in real life. "He thinks it's exciting that the picture is hanging in Dresden and has promised to visit the Albertinum," says Birkholz.

Albertinum Dresden, entrances on Georg-Treu-Platz and on the Brühl Terrace. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.