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Relationship status: Open. Art and literature at Lake Constance – Zeppelin Museum | 17.12.21-6.11.22

Editors’ Choice

With exhibits by: Max Ackermann, Willi Baumeister, Mia Bernoulli-Hesse, Heidi Bucher, Adolf Dietrich, Otto Dix, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Lotte Eckener, Marie Ellenrieder, Conrad Felixmüller, André Ficus, Bruno Goetz, Erich Heckel, Hermann Hesse, Norbert Jacques, Ernst Jünger, Friedrich Georg Jünger, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Herlinde Koelbl, Erika Mann, Golo Mann, Frans Masereel, Elisabeth Mühlenweg, Fritz Mühlenweg, Eduard Mörike, Tami Oelfken, Hans Purrmann, Karl Raichle, Rainer Maria Rilke, Carl Sternheim, Thea Sternheim, Joseph Victor von Scheffel, René Schickele, Mathilde Vollmoeller-Purrmann, Rudolf Wacker, Martin Walser, Aby Warburg, Ernst Würtenberger …

The scenography of the exhibition was designed by the Knoblauch company with furniture by kff, miinu and muuto.

Image above: Waldemar Flaig, Seehaas am Bodenseeufer

Lake Constance: creative springboard or mental diving station?Why did the art and visual scientist Aby Warburg concern himself with the snake ritual during his stay at the Bellevue sanatorium in Kreuzlingen? How did Annette von Droste-Hülshoff emancipate herself financially and emotionally from the paternalism of her family on Lake Constance? Why did the writer Norbert Jacques come up with the figure of Dr. Mabuse during a boat trip on Lake Constance and how did the partnership of convenience between the painters Willi Baumeister and Max Ackermann work? These and many other questions are addressed in the exhibition “Relationship Status: Open. Art and Literature on Lake Constance”.

For the first time, the reciprocal network of relationships between art and literature on Lake Constance from the 19th century to the present is being examined across countries and genres. The exhibition shows how numerous women artists and writers realised joint projects and supported each other. Collaborations were formed for books, but also for literary and artistic portraits. These new synergies are inserted into the exhibition in the context of the inspiring networks.

The Zeppelin Museum is presenting around 200 exhibits and, in addition to works by Otto Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, is also showing little-known exhibits by artists who are mainly known for their literary work, such as the silhouettes by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff or the Lake Constance watercolours by Hermann Hesse and the drawings by Eduard Mörike.

Homelessness, creativity and boredom

Out of personal crises of meaning, politically induced homelessness or the longing for a paradisiacal place, the artists and writers moved to Lake Constance. They came full of hope, settled for a few years and moved on again. Some only stayed during the summer months, others came late and stayed until they died.

In 1904, for example, the newly married couple Hermann and Mia Hesse moved to Gaienhofen. After moving away in 1912, Hesse summed up that his expectations of the simple life had not been fulfilled. Nevertheless: “I will miss the landscape of Untersee for the rest of my life”. Many of Hesse’s works were created in Gaienhofen. In addition, the author later cultivated a close relationship with the painter Hans Purrmann, to whom he dedicated the poem Alter Maler in der Werkstatt (1953) and encouraged him to paint.

Erika Mann and Gustav Gründgens came to Friedrichshafen on their honeymoon in 1926. As a result of the rather boring stay for the couple, Erika Mann wrote a children’s book about a boy who stowed away in a zeppelin. Things became turbulent when Erika Mann invited her lover Pamela Wedekind and her brother Klaus Mann. Klaus Mann was engaged to Pamela Wedekind despite his homosexuality. However, the wedding did not take place. Wedekind married the much older Carl Sternheim, father of her friend Mopsa Sternheim. The Sternheims had lived in Uttwil on the Swiss side of Lake Constance since 1920, where they had followed the architect Henry van de Velde. Before his stay in Uttwil, van de Velde had received treatment at the Bellevue Sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, which he recommended to the painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Van de Velde’s daughter, Nele, later became his only pupil.

The focus is also on Martin Walser’s productive relationship with the painter André Ficus, who lived in Friedrichshafen for a long time. Ficus portrayed Walser several times, who in turn often dealt with the painter’s works. Two major joint projects were created, the books Heimatlob (1978) and Die Amerikareise (1986), with texts by Martin Walser and pictures by André Ficus.

Top-class loans such as the double portrait by Ernst Würtenberger and Heinrich Ernst Kromer, the portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke by Mathilde Vollmoeller-Purrman, the woodcut portrait of Thea Sternheim by Conrad Felixmüller or the portrait of Robert Binswanger by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner have been acquired for the exhibition. They come from Germany, Switzerland and Austria, such as the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, the Vorarlberg Museum, the Städel Museum, the Kunstmuseum Thurgau, the Grassi Museum and the Lenbachhaus Munich.

An exhibition as a living room

The Zeppelin Museum takes the idea of a museum as a living room that invites you to linger for a while, where you feel at home and can immerse yourself in art and literature literally. Together with the regionally based companies Knoblauch, muuto and kff, rooms are created that are reminiscent of private living rooms. Guests are invited to feel at home in slippers and, with a view of the lake, enjoy the place. With a re-entry ticket, visitors can come back, continue reading the books with the personalised bookmark and turn the museum into a cosy home.


Saturday, 17 December 2021 until Sunday, 6 November 2022


Zeppelin Museum
Seestraße 22
88045 Friedrichshafen

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