Willinghauser Art Colony
As early as in 1814, before the first Paris artist got on their way to Barbizon, a painters' colony arose in the remote Hessian village of Willingshausen in the Schwalm depression. Its founding was based on a coincidence: The young Gerhardt Wilhelm von Reutern (1794-1865), who had been wounded in the Battle of Leipzig, came to the town in order to recover, in the end he stayed. Goethe encouraged the talented young man to make drawing, and Emil Ludwig Grimm (1790-1863), the third of the brothers Grimm, often visited Willingshausen to teach Reutern and to pursue his folkloristic studies. When Gerhardt Wilhelm von Reutern went to Düsseldorf to begin his studies in 1835, the circle of artists there soon learned about Willingshausen's pristine and idyllic location. There soon was a great interest in the small village, for instance Jakob Fürchtegott Dielmann (1809-85) went to Willingshausen in 1841/42 and made paintings of rural scenes up until the late 1850s, when he started a painters' colony in Kronberg together with Anton Burger.
Ludwig Knaus (1829-1910) introduced the second phase of the Willingshausen artists' colony in 1849: The young painter turned to Realism and sought to capture the real content of nature and the people. Rural genre scenes and often folkloristic motifs were the preferred subjects in the 1850s and 1860s. Numerous artists from the Düsseldorf School would soon spend the summer months in the small village; meanwhile Willingshausen had become an established name among artists.
The next generation of Willingshausen artists would put their emphasis on en plein air painting: Hugo Mühlig (1854-1929), Otto Strützel (1855-1932), Adolf Lins (1856-1927), Theodor Matthei (1857-1920), Emil Zimmermann (1858-99), Heinrich Otto (1858-1923) and numerous other artists were active in this field in the 1870s and 1880s. Carl Bantzer (1857-1941) became the most formative figure in those days and was accompanied by a large number of students and friends. Wilhelm Thielmann (1868-1924) also counts among the colony's main representatives during those days.
The importance began to decrease with the outbreak of World War I, even though most artists achieved to gain in popularity, as their folkloristic subjects were in line with the prevailing national conservative ideology of those days.