Today we would like to introduce you to the Kuenstlerdorf Worpswede and a group of painters who were inspired by this little village in the north of Germany, and its surrounding moor called Teufelsmoor, or Devil’s Bog.
Two of the early painters of the colony were Otto Modersohn, who painted the above “Autumn on the Moor” in 1895, and Carl Vinnen, who painted the following painting called “Moonlit Night” around 1900.
Fritz Mackensen is credited with having been the first painter who settled there, and here is one of his paintings titled “Church Service Outside”:
You should already get an idea of the kind of landscape these painters were influenced by: It was somewhat bleak, like moors tend to be, with a wild and also implicitly dangerous beauty. On a sandy dune in the midst of this lonely place, a few cottages sat at the foot of an old, equally sandy hill, misleadingly called Weyerberg (54.4 meters (178 ft),
and the farmers were eking out a meager existence which included growing buckwheat and cutting peat which was shipped down the small river Hamme towards the nearby city of Bremen. You can still take tours on the Hamme river in the kind of boats they used, as depicted below:
At the time, everything seemed up in the air, to a degree, and painters as well as poets, sculptors and composers expressed the emotions that came with the dawning of a new century in various ways, some more hopeful than others. The spring painting below was painted by Hans am Ende around 1900, and he also painted the featured image entitled “Weites Land” (Open Country) around that time.
But not only painters settled in Worpswede for a time. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was one of the artists that made his home in Worpswede for a while, where he married the sculptor Clara Westhoff. The above mentioned Modersohn married another painter, Paula Becker. Heinrich Vogeler, among other things an architect, lefts his mark on the village, much like architect Bernhard Hoetger who also designed the Böttcherstraße in nearby Bremen. Below you can see Vogeler’s famous painting “Sommerabend” (summer evening), in which some of the artists mentioned are portrayed:
The painting shows a concert on the porch of the Barkenhoff where Vogeler lived. The house had become the center of the early artists colony. Center front you see Vogeler’s wife Martha dreamily gazing into space. At her her feet lies her dog, a Russian Barsoi. Vogeler painted himself half hidden on the far right, playing the cello, on his left his brother Franz is playing the violin, while his brother-in-law Martin is playing the flute. On the left you see, left to right, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Agnes Wulff und Clara Rilke-Westhoff. The bearded gentleman in the background is Otto Modersohn.
As you might have noticed, birches feature prominently in many paintings of the moor, and the brooks along which they grow, as well as thatch-roofed houses that can still be seen in and around the area. Very picturesque, indeed, both in the spring and in the fall.
Later on, the artists went quite diverse ways, ranging from Heinrich Vogler becoming a communist to Fritz Mackensen joining the Nazi party, so a more biographic approach to the painters involved would surely take us too far for a modest introduction such as this.
Worpswede is still an artists colony, but also a tourist attraction these days. Worth a visit, I dare say, if you are ever in the area. 🙂