Vogeler, Heinrich

Vogeler, Heinrich (1872-1942)

Heinrich Vogeler was an outstanding German Symbolist artist. Born in Bremen in 1892 his political views, with a conversion to communism, led him later in life, in 1931, to leave Berlin for Moscow and he died in Kazakhstan ten years later.

His training was at the Dusseldorf Academy and towards the end of this period, in 1894, having met Fritz Mackensen, Fritz Overbeck, Hans am Ende, Otto Modersohn and Carl Vinnen at the artists’ colony in Worpswede he joined them in founding the Artists’ Association of Worpswede which came from 1896 to have his own home ‘Barkenhoff’ as its centre. His work differed from the others as being more imaginative and inspired by fairy-tales.

Whilst in Munich he illustrated for the magazine ‘Die Insel’. In 1904 he was one of those to found the Heritage Association of Lower Saxony. Vogeler was also a designer and manufacturer of furniture and founded the Worpswede workshop in Tarmstedt. He even in 1910 designed the Worpswede train station. Through the First World War he was a military painter.

With the advent of the Russian Revolution and the influence of writers such as Tolstoy, Bakunin, and Kropotkin he moved towards communism and his eventual migration to Russia, where his work became of a very different order as he painted realistic scenes of the Socialist labourer. With the threat of the Nazi invasion of Russia he evacuated to Kasakhstan where he died a year later in 1942.

He shared a close friendship with the poet and writer Rainer Maria Rilke who visited and stayed with him at his home ‘Barkenhoff’ in 1900 at the hight of the Symbolist period.

Vogeler’s Symbolist art was well represented in the excellent exhibition ‘Kingdom of the Soul – Symbolist Art in Germany 1870-1920’ which moved from Frankfurt to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the UK in 2000. The catalogue for this exhibition is well worth obtaining.