Bernard Hoetger (1874-1949)

Bernard Hoetger was born on May 4, 1874 in Hörde, near Dortmund. He took an apprenticeship in Detmold to become a stone cutter and a sculptor, which he ended with a craftsman “tour” that took him to Dresden. From 1895 to 1898, he then became the technical director of “studio of sacred art” in Wiedenbrück.

After 1898, he carried on his studies at the Fine Arts School in Düsseldorf. With his fellow students and under the direction of the art historian Paul Clemen, he took a trip to Paris in order to visit the 1900 International Exhibition. Back in Germany, he designed works influenced by Rodin and the Art Nouveau style (Loïe Fuller; The Dream). He also devised anecdotic or socially vindictive sculptures: The Blindman; The Coal Bearer. He also participated in collective exhibitions, and received both a financial support and recognition from Julius Meier-Graefe (an art critic), Hugo von Tschudi (the director of the National Gallery in Berlin) and from the art collector Karl-Ernst Osthaus. In 1904, he took a trip to Brittany. The following year, he presented his Torso at the Fall Salon, and sculptures and watercolors in Eugène Blot’s foundry, along with Camille Claudel. At that time, Rodin’s influence paradoxically declined in his oeuvre.

After his marriage with Hélène Nathalie Haken, he regularly spent time in the Holthausen cloister between 1906 and 1911, in order to work on various ornamental or furniture art projects. He made the Fountain of Justice (1908) in Eberfeld for August von der Heydt. He made numerous drawings, a torso which he entitled Youth, and a Walking Young Man. In 1911, he was appointed professor at the Kunstlerkolonie in Darmstadt and later that same year, he spent some time in Florence. He then participated in an important exhibition in Düsseldorf before having his first personal exhibition in a gallery in Munchen. In 1914, he took part in the third exhibition of the Künstlerkolonie in Darmstadt; he also made the Hanover Walderseedenkmal and moved to Worpswede. The following year, the art dealer Paul Cassirer organized the artist’s second personal exhibition in his gallery in Berlin.

During the war, he worked for Hermann Bahlsen, a cookie maker. After these troubled times, he was commissioned to work on several architectural projects: from 1921 to 1923, he built the Winukuk Café and the Sonnenhof Exhibition Hall in Bad Harburg; in 1925 he designed another hall for the city of Worpswede; and in 1926-1927, Paula Becker Modersohn’s Exhibition Hall. In 1924, he took some time off work which he spent travelling in Italy and Egypt. In 1924, he settled in Bremen, Böttcher Street (where his museum is now sited), and arranged his house’s courtyard. Two years later, he was trusted with the Atlantis House project in this very street. He then travelled to the South of France, to Portugal and Switzerland. In the course of his trips, he made numerous watercolors and drawings. In 1936, his art was said to be “degenerate” and he had to flee to Switzerland and then to Portugal, but he eventually returned to Germany in 1938. In 1943, his house was destroyed by the bombing and he had to seek refuge in Eichendorf. In 1946, he moved to Switzerland, in Beatenberg, where he died on 18 July 1949.