The superb Museum Folkwang is reason enough for a visit to Essen. David Chipperfield’s coolly understated modernist extension – which opened in 2010 – has created a series of spacious galleries grouped around serene internal gardens; the new building seamlessly incorporates the old, with separate areas devoted to nineteenth-and twentieth-century art, contemporary art, graphic art and temporary exhibitions.
The collection’s undoubted highlight is the nineteenth- and twentieth-century section, kicking off with the Romantic period and works by Caspar David Friedrich and Karl Friedrich Schinkel before romping through a treasure-trove of French Impressionists and post-Impressionists: paintings include some wonderful late Van Goghs, Cézanne’s Le Carré de Bibémus and Signac’s pointilliste Le Pont des Arts. German Expressionist works include Schmidt-Rottluff’s spiky Leipziger Strasse with Electric Tram from 1914 and the near-abstract Forms at Play by Franz Marc, painted the same year. The roll call of modernist greats continues with works by Braque, Léger, Picasso, Beckmann and Kandinsky; post-1945 highlights include work by Mark Rothko, Yves Klein and Gerhard Richter.