Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A Secret Place

On a semester break in 1884 an art student by the name of Fritz Mackensen accepted an invitation to visit the remote home village of a university friend. There, he fell in love.

Fritz Overbeck, Buckwheatfield on the Weyerberg (1897)

Worpswede - tiny and lost in the ice-age Teufelsmoor (Devil's Swamp) of North Germany - was as wild and untouched as can be: it had only been inhabitable for a hundred years through the draining of the swamps, and most inhabitants lived in straw huts and harvested peat. Mackensen was enchanted. Inspired by the light, the power and simplicity of the region's nature and its people, he decided to stay.

Fritz Mackensen

Otto Modersohn, Swamp Landscape

Soon enough his friends from art school in Düsseldorf started to join him: Hans am Ende, Otto Modersohn, Fritz Overbeck, and Heinrich Vogeler (a sort of German William Morris). More people descended on the province, and by the dawn of the 20th century a proper artists' colony was forming, like those in Poland's Zakopane and all across Europe and the USA.

Fritz Overbeck

The Parade of the Daisies: Heinrich Vogeler, Fritz Overbeck, Hans Müller-Brauel, Fritz Mackensen, Otto Modersohn und Hermann Allmers
Heinrich Vogeler, The Concert, (1905)

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke came too. He met his wife - wearing Empire dresses - at the gatherings in Heinrich Vogeler's villa and wrote a book, "Worpswede". 
Inevitably, institutions followed suit: cafes, hotels, galleries. Today the peat farmers have disappeared and tourists outnumber the artists. Even if the place has kept some of its charm, I often wonder what it must have been like to arrive here and feel like the first.  


  1. You make me dream again !

    The Painting "the concert" is amazing, looks like a photo montage !!

  2. thank you Mlle Briquet! :-)