A Frame for the 'Spring Storm'
If Hellerau has a twin, then it's the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt. The Hessian reform project initiated by the Grand Duke of Hesse produced some of the most beautiful Art Noveau works and occupies an important place in German art and design history. In one of the many original buildings that still exist in Mathildenhöhe, there is a key work of modernism which has been on display since the 1990s: the painting 'Frühlingssturm' (Spring Storm). Ludwig von Hoffmann painted it as a symbol of new beginnings and a youthful belief in the future.
Mathildenhöhe Press: "The prominent Jewish newspaper publisher and entrepreneur Rudolf Mosse had already acquired the work for his extensive art collection at the end of the 19th century. The painting was sold at a forced sale auction in 1934 during the Nazi dictatorship and was transferred to the municipal art collection 'Städtische Kunstsammlung Darmstadt' on 15 December 1941. In 2015, the City of Darmstadt restituted the painting to Rudolf Mosse's heirs and immediately made endeavours to be able to continue showing the work in the city. When the 'Spring Storm' was nevertheless to be auctioned off at the beginning of June 2016, Sylvia and Ulrich Ströher, the auction house and Rudolf Mosses' heirs were able to agree on a sale before the auction and thus secure the painting for presentation in the Artist’s Colony Museum.”
What was missing was an adequate frame. The original had been lost. Our affinity with the Mathildenhöhe gave the Ströhers the idea of giving this project to Deutsche Werkstätten.
A new frame for one of the key artworks of modernism - what a challenge! We first regarded the request with a mixture of curiosity and respect, carefully considering whether we would be up to the task. Before signing a contract for any of our potential projects there is a phase of self-appraisal in which we reflect on the abilities and possibilities we have. The discussions are particularly heated when it comes to a field of work in which we have never been active before. This in turn is routine for us which makes it easier to move into new areas of work. For this reason, we approached the high expectations with respect, but without hesitancy. During the course of the project, different perspectives had to be evaluated and a common approach agreed upon. On the one hand, there was the owner of the painting, who made the exhibition possible through his generous loan. On the other hand, of course, the installation in the wonderful setting in Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt had to be curatorially supervised and evaluated by the experts there. We handed over the responsibility of the design to Gabriel Bensch, a designer who has been working for and with us for more than ten years.
The result speaks for itself. Gabriel Bensch devised organic metalwork that best allows for a modern variation of Art Nouveau. The starting pieces, made of laminated American walnut, were pre-processed with a CNC milling machine and then carefully finished by hand. With a dark stain final finish, the new border flows around the picture, giving the picture support, but also space.
The picture and frame were unveiled on 5 July 2018 after two years of development and production. We are very proud and happy.
Photo 1: New frame made by Deutschen Werkstätten, Copyright Institut Mathildenhöhe, Photo: Gregor Schuster
Photo 2: Old frame from the Fifties, Copyright Institut Mathildenhöhe, Photo: Gregor Schuster