HOME AND STUDIO

HISTORY OF THE AUGUST MACKE HOUSE

The August Macke House in Bonn is the former home and studio of August Macke, one of the most important and well-liked German artists of the early 20th century. Macke lived here with his family from 1911 to August 1914, the period of his greatest artistic productivity. In 1910, when Macke was only a youngster, the family moved to Bonn in the Rhineland. Bonn soon became the focal point of young August Macke's life. It was here in 1903 that 16-year-old August met his future wife and “second self,” Elisabeth Gerhardt. Elisabeth was a year younger than August and both of them were still in school. It was in Bonn that August Macke matured into the artist who today is so widely known and admired.

In the autumn of 1910, when the young married couple returned to Bonn from Tegernsee with little son Walter, Elisabeth's family handed them the keys to the late-classicist house at the corner of Bornheimer Strasse and Hochstadenring as their new residence. The house stood on the grounds of the company owned and operated by the Gerhardt family in what was then the rural outskirts of town. The Gerhardt's had purchased the house from a farmer named Heinrich Wolff who had had the house built together with barn and stables in 1877/78.

The house has three stories plus basement and attic, the latter which was redone in accordance with Macke’s own instructions into a light-filled studio in the winter of 1910/11. The roof on the garden side was raised to the height of the gable, a mansard roof with a double pitched dormer was installed, and a large window built into the side as a skylight. The result was the creation of a room measuring slightly more than 40 square meters, slightly angular and with optimal light. August Macke painted a large number of his best known works here. Many of them show the room's view of the home's immediate surroundings. He also created sculptures here and designed pieces of handicraft art. Together with his friend Franz Marc he painted the 4 x 2 meters programmatic mural Paradies on a studio wall in the autumn of 1912.

August Macke and his wife Elisabeth were known for their hospitality while living in the home. The house was a meeting place for the Rhineland’s young art scene and the starting point for Macke’s unending participation in the politics of the art world which made him one of Expressionism's most important protagonists. 

August Macke & Franz Marc
Wandbild Paradies, 1912
Öl auf Wandverputz, 398 x 181 cm
Original seit 1981 im LWL Museum für Kunst und Kultur

Walter Gerhardt, Wolfgang und Helmut Macke, Walter Macke mit Lothar Erdmann und Elisabeth Erdmann Macke im Atlier, um 1918

1915–1980
After August Macke’s early death in the First World War, Elisabeth and the children lived in the house with her second husband, Lothar Erdmann, one of the closest friends of August Macke, until 1925 when the family moved to Berlin as required by Lothar’s job. The house was rented out except for the studio. In the 1930s Macke’s younger son Wolfgang lived in the house for a while as a university student.

Widowed for the second time, Elisabeth returned in 1948 to the former studio, now converted into a tiny apartment. After her death in 1978 the house was sold and the mural painted by Macke and Marc was removed to the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur in Münster.

Rettung in den 1980er Jahren
The efforts of a group of Bonn’s civic-minded citizens were crucial in preventing plans to convert the house into a tavern, and a spectacular rescue operation saved it from being gutted. With the assistance of the state of North-Rhine/Westphalia and a private donor, the city of Bonn was able to purchase the house in June of 1989 without expenditure of its own funds.

After the house was awarded historical monument status and the studio returned to its original condition, it opened its doors for viewing by visitors in 1991. The entire infrastructure of a museum was installed. More than 80 special exhibitions on August Macke and his artistic environment and, above all, on topics related to Rhineland Expressionism, assured the reputation of the small museum, operated by the non-profit August Macke House Association and since 1994 supported by the August Macke House Foundation of the Sparkasse in Bonn.

Empfangsbereich nach der ersten Sanierung des August Macke Hauses, 2011

Vision des neuen Museumskomplex mit modernem Erweiterungsbau. Foto: Architekturbüro KKW

Neuausrichtung in den 2000er Jahren
The wishes and needs of visitors as well as public and private lenders ultimately revealed that a new concept was needed. An expansion of the structure became the goal and was initiated in 2004 upon the acquisition of the adjacent property. The planning was undertaken with the objective of devoting the former residence and studio building entirely to the life and work of August Macke and making it wheelchair accessible. All of the other functions were to be relocated to a modern annex, designed to meet museal standards.

In the course of the planned measures, the artist’s house was extensively renovated in 2010/11 and its rooms reorganized. Between 2015 and 2017 a large modern extension was built onto it according to the designs of Bonn architect Karl-Heinz Schommer; construction was implemented by Architekturbüro KKW Lüdenscheid.

The financing of the ambitious undertaking was safeguarded by the substantial support of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German state of North-Rhine/Westphalia, the Nordrhein-Westfalen-Stiftung, Landschaftsverband Rheinland, and numerous private donors, as well as by the untiring efforts of Germany’s former Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Dr. Guido Westerwelle. Ground-breaking ceremonies took place on 22 June 2015. Construction was finalized in the autumn of 2017 and the enlarged building opened its doors on 3 December as the August Macke House Museum.

Museum August Macke Haus
Immediately adjacent to August Macke’s former residence and studio a more than three-times larger functional annex now stands with its own story structure. The annex is exclusively reserved for special exhibitions. Depots and administration offices, as well as an archive with a collection of original documents, make careful museal work possible. Areas for events and a museal-pedagogic studio, library, reception area, and shop offer visitors a good infrastructure, supplemented by a museum café, rooftop patio, and an idyllic garden between the artist’s home and the modern annex which is shielded from the street by a self-supporting high glass-facade.

The 14 intimate rooms of the residence and studio building accommodate a multi-media and interactive permanent exhibition conceived by Dr. Ina Ewers-Schultz and designed by Bielefeld Designbüro Arndt & Seelig with numerous original artworks by August Macke.

Blick in den neuen Sonderausstellungsraum des Museums August Macke Haus