The Institute Mathildenhöhe

Project partner of Philipps-Universität Marburg (UNIMAR)




The Institute Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt is an internationally renowned house with several sectors of fine and applied art located in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main Region. With its prestigious Exhibition Hall, Wedding Tower, the Museum Artists’ Colony, and the municipal art collection, it forms a remarkable place of research, presentation and mediation of art and culture with a special focus on modernism and the present. Especially the Exhibition Hall on the Mathildenhöhe, which opened in 1908 together with the Wedding Tower, is a venue for innovative exhibitions regarding international contemporary art as well as art and culture around 1900. The founders of the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony, the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hessen-Darmstadt and his Viennese architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, established, with the help of the colony’s artists’ creative input, a unique environment that combined architecture, fine arts, crafts, theatre, and music to form a total work of art. The artistic and urban effects are to this day radiated far beyond the Region, which is a key reason for the City of Science Darmstadt recent application for the UNESCO World Heritage status.

The museum, which is located in Ernst-Ludwig-House (built in 1901), documents the history of the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony and gives a survey of the creative work of its members, e.g. Peter Behrens, Hans Christiansen, Bernhard Hoetger, Patriz Huber, Albin Müller and Jacob Julius Scharvogel. The collection, situated in the former studio building of the Artists’ Colony, unites important paintings, sculptures, models of architecture, graphics, book art, furniture, textiles, chinaware, jewellery, goldsmith’ s works and portrays the members of the Artists’ Colony as trend setting all-round artists of their time. The idea of the total work of art, as ideal of the Art Nouveau movement, can be experienced through entire spatial ensembles, like the ‘Wertheim Zimmer’ (Wertheim Room) by Peter Behrens. In the sculptors’ studios of the museum cultural-historic presentations as well as current design positions are on display.


Featured Artists:

Peter Behrens’  (1868 Hamburg - 1940 Berlin) participation in several exhibitions and articles in art magazines endorse his prestige, attracting the attention of the Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt. In 1899 the latter hired Behrens as one of the first members of his Artist’s Colony, where he worked until 1903. His first work as an architect was the construction of his own villa on the Mathildenhöhe. The Behrens House was developed as a total work of art and with its interior design it belonged to the most renowned contributions to the Artist’s Colony’s exhibition “A Document of German Art” 1901. Behrens’ festival production “The Sign” (“Das Zeichen”) performed on the day of the exhibition’s opening was his contribution to the theatre reformation movement. 1903 he became the head of the School for Applied Art in Düsseldorf and worked as an architect, designer and typographer. From 1907 onwards he was artistic advisor to the electric power company AEG in Berlin, where he became a leading figure in industrial architecture and industrial design.


In 1897 Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867 Troppau - 1908 Düsseldorf) was a founding member of the Viennese Secession and developed the plans for the Secession Building in the Friedrichstraße. In 1899 he was founding member of the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony and, in the following year, he was appointed to a professorship. Around the same time he began the work for the 1st Artists’ Colony Exhibition, which took place in 1901. Olbrich was in charge of its overall concept and planned numerous buildings, e.g. the Olbrich House, the Christiansen House, the two Glückert Houses, the Artists’ Colony Museum itself, and the temporary exhibition halls, as well as posters, and other promotional material. He designed numerous decorative artworks like furniture, textiles, glass- and tableware, cutlery, timepieces and musical instruments. For the 2nd exhibition in 1904 further houses were built, so that the architectural appearance of the Mathildenhöhe is, still today, characterized by Olbrich’s style.


Due to his outstanding skills as a designer 21-year-old Patriz Huber (1878 Stuttgart - 1902 Berlin) became, in 1899, a founding member of the Darmstadt Artist’s Colony. Besides the interior design of his own apartment in the Ernst-Ludwig House, he designed furnishings, carpets, lightings, and other equipment for the exhibition “A Document of German Art” in 1901. The serially produced jewellery and silverware endorsed Huber’s fame and popularity. He carried out several private commissions after this 1901 Darmstadt exhibition, e.g. interior designs for Darmstadt publisher Alexander Koch. In 1902 he left the Artist’s Colony to found his own Studio (“Atelier Patriz Huber”) in Berlin. Together with his brother, architect Anton Huber, he received the commission to design a new residential area near Posen (today Poland).

Jacob Julius Scharvogel (1854 Mainz - 1938 München) worked for the earthenware factory Villeroy & Boch before he founded his own pottery near Munich in 1898 that specialized on the creation of flamed earthenware vessels and tiles. He exhibited his ceramics at the Darmstadt Artist’s Colony Exhibitions in 1901 and 1904. Scharvogel became head of the 1904 founded Grand Duke’s Ceramics Factory in Darmstadt. Around the same time he became a member of the Artist’s Colony. The most important works created by the Darmstadt Factory were the artistic ceramics for the health resort in Bad Nauheim (1907-11). In Darmstadt the Factory’s artistic construction ceramics are still visible in the Municipal indoor swimming pool (1909), the Technical University’s guest house (1910/11), and Main Station (1911/12). In 1914 Scharvogel returned to Munich and assumed a professorship for construction ceramics at the Technical University.


Albin Müller (1871 Dittersbach - 1941 Darmstadt) evolved a wide range of design objects, including textiles, household utensils, furnishings, and architecture. In 1906 Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hessen-Darmstadt summoned Müller to his Artist’s Colony. After Joseph Maria Olbrich’s death in 1908, Albin Müller advanced to a leading position inside the Darmstadt Artist’s Colony. The “Apartment House Group” and its interior design were his main contributions to the last Colony’s exhibition in 1914. They were demolished in 1944 apart from the studio section, the later “Werkkunstschule”. At the Mathildenhöhe the water basin in front of the Russian Chapel, the garden pavilion (“Swans’ Temple”), and the mosaic niche at the rear of the exhibition hall belong to his finest preserved works.




Images, Institut Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt

1. Joseph Maria Olbrich
Ernst Ludwig House/Artist’s Colony Museum, 1901
Photo: Nikolaus Heiss

2. Peter Behrens
Coffe cup
H 7,5 cm, diam. 6,5 cm
Small plate
Diam. 16,1 cm
Porcelain, grey decor in overglaze
Ex.: Pozellanfabrik Gebr. Bauscher, Weiden/Oberpflaz

3. Joseph Maria Olbrich
Home Cloth, about 1902/03
Linen damask with red decor
H 71 x B 58 cm

4. Patriz Huber
Belt buckle, 1900/01
Silver, semi-precious stones, 2,4 x 2,3 cm
Ex.: Schmuckwarenfabrik Th. Fahrner, Pforzheim

5. Jacob Julius Scharvogel
Dish, about 1906
H 7,5 cm, diam. 16 cm
Ex.: Großherzogliche Keramische Manufaktur, Darmstadt

6. Albin Müller
Mantel clock, about 1904
Cast iron, enameling
H 56 x B 27 x T 18 cm
Ex.: Fürstlich Stolbergsches Hüttenwerk, Ilsenburg/Harz