Villas and Artists on Lake Starnberg
Historical villas and country houses still characterize the area surrounding Lake Starnberg to this day. Social life in these summer retreats built in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries marks a special chapter in cultural history. The exhibition takes a closer look at some of these villas via works of art associated with them. Because these paintings and drawings are directly connected to the houses and their inhabitants, the exhibition affords a private glimpse into the villas’ interiors and gardens. Artists were often guests at these houses. Some even moved their studios there temporarily. They enjoyed summer on the lake, and used the opportunity to paint and think. Some of the works on display are artistically significant, while others are mainly valuable as contemporary documents. Most of the works have never been presented in public before and are on loan from the historical villas. The works of art provide evidence of friendships between artists and their clients. They tell of summer visits and festive get-togethers by the lake, and depict the lifestyle of the prosperous bourgeoisie as well as social conventions. The reason why only two female artists are featured in this exhibition is primarily because women were denied formal artistic training until the twentieth century.
Dr. Carl Joseph von Linprun, a royal councilor and personal physician to Prince Karl of Bavaria, had his summer residence built just a stone’s throw away from the prince’s own Villa Almeida. His simple, elegant house is reminiscent of Italian architecture, an impression reinforced by the pale shutters, paintwork in a delicate shade of pink, and two airy verandas facing the lake. From 1893, Villa Linprun was inhabited by the sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand, who had alterations carried out by Emanuel von Seidl. Around 1900, he sold it to Eugen Thomass, a wealthy, highly respected brewer. Some of his descendants still live in the villa. The small painting by Jugendstil painter Hanns Pellar is thought to have hung in Villa Linprun for over a century. Pellar was a pupil of Franz von Stuck, and his works reflect the spirit of Jugendstil – the German answer to Art Nouveau.
Painter Franz von Lenbach was personally involved in each stage of the planning and construction of his grand summer villa on Mühlberg hill. His plans kept growing until it seemed that a veritable palace was to be built. The imposing villa with two spacious wings was designed by Gabriel von Seidl. The architect had previously planned a townhouse with an adjacent studio for Franz; now known as Lenbachhaus, these days it houses an art museum. A large studio was also built in the wealthy painter’s villa in Starnberg, while terraces, verandas, and a viewing platform on the roof provided a view across the lake to the mountains. But Lenbach never had a chance to enjoy the vista and didn’t paint a single picture in his summer residence, for he died in May 1904, shortly before the villa was completed.
In 1896, Adolph Thiem, a banker and art collector from Berlin, bought a substantial plot of land on Mühlberg hill for his almost forty-year-old son, the painter Paul Thiem. That same year, the design for a two-story country house with a studio was completed by Munich architect Carl Lemmes. The result was a charming hillside building, giving the artist wonderful views of the scenery at all times of the day. These days, Villa Thiem belongs to the town of Starnberg, and the historical studio is made available to the winners of town’s biennial art award.
The young Oskar Mussinan was an ardent admirer of Lola Montez, a dancer with a scandalous reputation and King Ludwig I’s mistress. When she was expelled from Munich, Mussinan also had to leave the city to escape social ostracism. He emigrated to America, and didn’t return to Bavaria until a quarter of a century later, by which time the scandal had ebbed and Mussinan was extremely wealthy. He had a simple yet thoroughly elegant country house built on the shores of Lake Starnberg as his summer residence. In the early 1920s, Mussinan’s daughter Margarete (nicknamed Maggy) married Hermann Steininger, a distinguished lawyer and a widower. The American painter Edward Cucuel and his wife, Clara Lotte von Marcard, also an artist, were regular guests of the Steiningers during the summer months.
The architecture of Villa Knorr, visible from afar across the lake, blends the Bavarian Maximilian style with Italian elegance. Its design fashionably reflects the essence of the mid-nineteenth century. It was built for Angelo Knorr, who had Italian roots, for his grandfather Angelo Sabbadini had moved to Munich from Udine in 1770. In the decades that followed, Sabbadini built up an extremely successful trading company and amassed a considerable fortune. The pink Villa Knorr was the first house to be built in the colony of villas in Niederpöcking, and also became its centerpiece. Munich’s upper middle classes settled in Niederpöcking and celebrated lavish parties in the summer. Angelo Knorr was fond of the fine arts and invited artists to his house, including the painter Moritz von Schwind. The works from his Opera Frieze were displayed in Villa Knorr for decades after the artist had presented them to the Knorr family in gratitude for their hospitality. He even stayed in Villa Knorr while his own house was being built.
Although Marie von Miller was a talented painter, this didn’t count for much in the nineteenth century. Her role as the wife of Oskar von Miller, the electrical engineer and founder of the German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology in Munich, meant that an artistic career was out of the question. The Millers spent their summers at Lake Starnberg in Villa Quellenheim. This magnificent house was originally owned by Ferdinand von Miller, who had received royal honors for his bronze foundry work and been elevated to the peerage. When the villa was completed in 1855, he gave it to his wife Anna to mark the birth of their tenth child, namely Oskar von Miller. Villa Quellenheim’s bright yellow Maximilian-style façade makes it a prominent landmark on the lake’s western shore. Currently in the fourth generation of family ownership, the family standard can be seen flying on the roof.
Villa Carl on a hillside in Feldafing is actually a superior country house rather than a villa. The chemist and publisher Hans Carl was a modern family man and a great supporter of the Lebensreform social reform movement. He wanted to work at home and live all year round with his wife and children in a healthy environment. The architect and artist Richard Riemerschmid planned the well-proportioned country-style Jugendstil house for the Carl family down to the last detail. He also designed the gardens and numerous pieces of furniture for the interior. Villa Carl has been in the family for over a hundred years. In the post-war period, a portrait of Hans Carl was painted by Lothar-Günther Buchheim.
Villa Waldberta, simultaneously majestic and enchanted, towers high on the hilltop in the colony of villas in Feldafingen. A stunning view of the lake and the mountains can be enjoyed from the terraces and many other vantage points. Although originally built for the Munich banker Bernhard Schuler, he sold it just a year after its completion. After changing hands several times, it was bequeathed to the city of Munich by the German–American couple Franz and Bertha Koempel. With its colorful history, these days the villa acts as a temporary home for artists from all over the world who have been awarded a grant by the city of Munich.
Tanera House was originally a low farmhouse known as “Raffl’s Estate” in the middle of the historical center of Bernried. When the military writer Karl Tanera bought the ancient house in 1893, it had already been converted into a small summer villa by Johann Buchwieser, a hunter from Bernried, who had added a story with a beautifully carved balcony overlooking the lake a few years previously. Since Tanera traveled a lot, he rented out his house to holidaymakers in the summer. The writer Max Halbe describes the villa in his autobiographical novel Turn of the Century as a meeting place for Munich’s bohemians. It was here that Lovis Corinth painted the picture Breakfast in Max Halbe’s Garden in the summer of 1899.
Villa Ebers with its lookout tower and tall hipped roof is one of the most striking buildings in Seeshaupt. The painter and writer Hermann Ebers extended the originally simple building into an imposing villa. He also owned an English-style park, a rose garden, and a small farm. Although Ebers had a studio house erected in the garden, he was a passionate outdoor painter and often walked long distances with his easel. In 1911, Katia and Thomas Mann visited Villa Ebers in Seeshaupt for the first time, where they signed the guest book. Thomas wrote “delighted and grateful,” while Katia added “but unfortunately also envious.”
This grand villa surrounded by a large, beautiful park in Ammerland was originally built for Stuttgart industrialist Gustav Siegle. However, it takes its current name from Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a Munich physician, who became famous for his study of the paranormal. Schrenck-Notzing came from an ancient family of patricians from Munich. His marriage to Gustav Siegle’s wealthy daughter Gabriele made him so financially independent that he was able to entirely devote himself to his novel methods of treatment and his experiments in the field of hypnosis and parapsychology in his private practice in Munich. He is considered the first psychotherapist in southern Germany. Magdeleine Guipet rose to fame around 1900 for her dance performances while in a trance. The Munich painter Albert von Keller, a close friend of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, painted her more than twenty times.
Shortly after purchasing the villa, artist Gabriel von Max painted a picture of his new acquisition in Ammerland as seen from the lake. The pretty, white-painted country house with its green shutters and balconies on both floors captures the idyll of summer life on Lake Starnberg. However, Villa Max was also the scene of séances and spiritualist meetings. In 1884, at a meeting of the Theosophical Society, the most famous mediums of the day gathered beneath the time-honored wooden ceiling in the dining room. Regular visitors almost certainly included Albert von Schrenck-Notzing as well as the writers Carl du Prel and Gustav Meyrink.
The very first villa on Lake Starnberg no longer exists. The man it was built for would probably have been long forgotten if a district in Berg hadn’t been named after him. Guiseppe Leoni wasn’t the celebrated star of the Munich opera company he was long believed to have been, and Villa Leoni wasn’t a sumptuous summer residence. In fact, Leoni was simply an average singer and a member of the chorus, while Villa Leoni was an inn. The design of the lakefront property completed in 1825 may have been based on the neoclassical Palais Salabert in Munich, which is now known as Prince Carl Palace. Palais Salabert, designed by the young architect Carl von Fischer, caused a sensation. Leoni, too, was soon known throughout the city, and anyone who was anyone among Munich’s artists regularly visited his hostelry. Guiseppe Leoni was a friend of landscape painter Johann Jakob Dorner the Younger, and is known to have been visited by many other artists such as Wilhelm von Kaulbach and Carl Rottmann. Even King Ludwig I is said to have stopped by at his almost legendary inn.