Foto: Claudius Lazzeroni

The Folkwang idea: „Art for everyone“ 

"I remain under the spell of what you allowed me to view yesterday." These lines were written by Le Corbusier on 10 May 1911 to Karl Ernst Osthaus, after Corbusier had had the opportunity to marvel at the Folkwang projects of this museum founder, patron of the arts and cultural mediator in the "unknown little industrial town of Hagen" on the previous day. Osthaus strove to bring art and life into reconciliation and to ameliorate the conditions of human life. In so doing, he was instrumental in making the period when architecture broke out towards the modern at the beginning of the 20th century into one of the most pathbreaking periods in the history of architecture.

Thanks to Osthaus's commitment, modernity became discernible in the province. Together with the most innovative architects of his time, he sought solutions in the territory of architecture and town planning. Osthaus encouraged Bruno Taut, who was to realise the concept of the City Crown in Hagen, and Walter Gropius, whose talent he had recognised early on. Henry van de Velde built the Hohenhof; Peter Behrens and J. L. M. Lauweriks were likewise able to bring projects to fruition.

Le Corbusier was not the only visitor to the "total artwork" in Hagen to get inspiration from the progressive thinking. The stimulating atmosphere at the Folkwang also attracted artists from elsewhere too. The “Deutsche Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe” (German Museum of Art in Commerce and Trade), designed by Osthaus as a mobile museum, showcased its exhibits in the travelling exhibition "German Applied Art" as far afield as the USA. The exhibition presented both industrial design and modern German art. (Stefanie Gernert, Dipl.-Ing, Seminar at the University of Wuppertal, Summer Semester 2008)

Dr. (hon.) Karl Ernst Osthaus, born on 15 April in Hagen (museum founder, patron of the arts and cultural intermediary)
Studied art history, philosophy and natural science in Kiel, Munich, Berlin, Strasburg, Vienna and Bonn.

Founded the Folkwang Museum (now the Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum) in Hagen. The museum reflected Osthaus’s idea that art should be open to all.


Founding of the Folkwang Malschule (Folkwang Painting Academy)


Opening of the Folkwang museum (an art museum and natural science collection)

Became a member of the German Werkbund (a federation of artists, architects and builders) and with its assistance founded the "Deutsche Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe" (German Museum of Art in Commerce and Trade) in Hagen

Publication of his book Grundzüge der Stilentwicklung (Basic features of stylistic development) by his own Folkwang Press

1919 – 33

Bauhaus founded in Weimar by Walter Gropius; moved to Dessau from 1925 / 26

"The building of the future " sought to unite all the arts in an ideal union. This would require a new type of artist, one beyond academic specialisation, the artist whom the Bauhaus aspired to educate. Gropius saw the pathway to this goal in new pedagogical methods, and in trades and crafts as prerequisite for every art, "The school should gradually arise in the workshop". As a result, artists and craftsmen/tradesmen worked together in teaching and production at the Bauhaus in Weimar. In this way the separation between free and applied art was to be abolished ( / Bauhaus-Pädagogik (Teaching at the Bauhaus) / R. Wick)

In reaction to the November revolution and changes in society, Osthaus argued the case for setting up Folkwang schools. Later, he also included music, drama and gymnastics within the concept of the Folkwang schools.

Karl-Ernst Osthaus died on 25 March in Meran

A year after his death, his heirs sold the Folkwang Museum’s entire collection to the city of Essen for 15 million Reichsmarks after the city of Hagen declined the offer.

Motto for the application for “European Capital of Culture”: "Transformation through culture – culture through transformation" (maxim of Karl Ernst Osthaus)"


Wolfgang Röver