Between 1906 and 1908, the Belgian designer and architect Henry van de Velde created Hohenhof as a residence for the family of Karl Ernst Osthaus. The villa is a Gesamtkunstwerk of Art Nouveau. As part of the planning for the life-reforming garden city of Hohenhagen, it symbolises Osthaus’s Folkwang idea: the attempt to reform social life through art and design.
As an art collector and art patron, Osthaus once said that “without the involvement of art, the most important questions of life are irresolvable.” In his hometown of Hagen, in the heart of an industrial region, Osthaus promoted social and educational projects. He also initiated an experimental testing ground for forward-thinking architecture and design, as exemplified by Hohenhof. In 1920 Osthaus ran the reformist Folkwang School from within his home, which was intended to be the reference point for a “Stadtkrone” (city crown) designed by Bruno Taut.
In Osthaus’s residence, Hohenhof, everything is art. All the rooms merge to form a stylistic whole. Van de Velde, who also paved the way for the Bauhaus as the founder of the School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar, designed the villa’s interiors in their entirety, including the furniture, wallpapers, floor coverings, curtains and cutlery, as parts of a total work of art. For the lady of the house, Gertrud Osthaus, he even designed the reform dress that she wore during evening soirées. Various works of art dominate the main rooms and define the colour composition of the furnishings, such as Ferdinand Hodler’s “The Chosen One” in the reception hall or Édouard Vuillard’s “Autumn Outside Paris” in the ladies room. Henri Matisse painted the tiled triptych “Nymph and Satyr” for the winter garden, while the staircase glazing and the colourful stencil painting in the study were made by Johan Thorn Prikker.
Due to the First World War, Hohenhof was one of only a few parts of the garden city of Hohenhagen that were realised. Still preserved today are the Cuno and Goedecke Houses by Peter Behrens and a row of houses by the architect J. L. Mathieu Lauweriks. Hohenhof was renovated with great attention to detail in the early 1980s. Today, the villa houses the Osthaus Museum, which focuses on the “Hagen Impulse” – a movement from the period between Art Nouveau and the founding of the Bauhaus in 1919, whose allure radiated far beyond its source in Hagen. [KL/DK]