Dachau near Munich was home to a remarkable artists' colony in the late 19th century, its importance and effect can be largely ascribed to the circle of artists around Adolf Hölzel, the co-called "Neu-Dachauern" (New Dachau Artists). However, it was not about an actual artists' association, but more like three artist friends: Adolf Hölzel (1853-1934), Arthur Langhammer (1855-1901) and Ludwig Dill (1848-1914). It was only Fritz von Uhde who was close to the three Dachau artists and counts among the group's members.
The story of the Dachau painters' colony has its beginning in even earlier times, as the small town had been attracting artists for some time, because of its picturesque situation in a high moor. Georg von Dillis is said to have executed studies in the moss near Dachau around 1834, later joined by Carl Spitzweg, Christian Morgenstern and Eduard Schleich. Another important figure was Adolf Lier (1826-82), who captured the Dachau landscape in intimate paintings after he had returned from a longer stay in France.
Around 1880 the latest, when the School of Barbizon, en plein air painting and Impressionism had reached their heyday, Dachau and its inspiring landscape had attained broad popularity among numerous artists. The knowledge of the place's beauty would also motivate Adolf Hölzel, Arthur Langhammer and Ludwig Dill to settle in Dachau in 1888. The friends worked together closely an developed the New Dachau Style (Arthur Roeßler), which slightly varied with the individual artist, according to their personality. Figures were a favorite subject of Arthur Langhammer, a master colorist; Ludwig Dill is regarded as the intuitive "re-discoverer" of the Dachau landscape. Adolf Hölzel, on contrary, was more of a theorist, who sought to simplify the picture, but also emphasized the pictorial moment. Besides landscapes, Adolf Hölzel would also turn to figurative scenes from time to time. His most famous cycle "Der Zeiten Wiederkehr" (Return of the Days) was made in 1903, two years later he made the paintings of the moos near Dachau in a powerful flow, as well as the "Komposition in Rot I" (Composition in Red I), which already hinted at a decomposition of the object in favor of a more abstract concept of color and form.
Adolf Hölzel, who had undergone the most intensive development of all the group's members, operated a private painting school in Dachau as of the 1890s. He taught his students (among them Ida Kerkovius, Theodor von Hörmann and Emil Hansen, who should soon call himself Emil Nolde), to see and grasp landscape as a planar construct.
The New Dachau Artists presented their works to the general public in Berlin in 1898 for the first time and also celebrated great successes in the exhibitions of the Munich Secession.
After the New Dachau group had found its end, the decisive point of this process was marked by Adolf Hölzel's call to Stuttgart in 1905, Dachau would still remain a place for artists, some 30 artists are said to have lived in the new colony east of the Münchner Straße, a new location that had sprung up around the turn of the century, among them were Carl Thiemann, Walter Klemm, Richard Graef and Hermann Stockmann. The "Künstlergruppe Dachau" (Dachau Artists' Group) was founded by Felix Bürger in 1919, followed by the "Künstler-Vereinigung Dachau" (Dachau Artists' Association ) in 1927.
However, the heyday of the Dachau colony endured just a few years, those years that were strongly shaped by Adolf Hölzel and the people around him.