Kosmos Wiepersdorf


Stop 3: Painter’s studio
© Dirk Bleicker

Stop 3
Painter’s studio

From a manor house to a castle: The painter Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde

Before you, diagonally to the left, is an extension of the castle measuring approximately five by eight meters, with a large window facing in your direction. In front of the window, five small sculptures known as Callot figures are arranged in a semicircle—but more on them in a moment. This north-facing castle wing has only one floor, unlike the two-story main building. However, its white rendered walls and red mansard roof echo the design of the main building. Because a similar extension has been built on the other side of the main building, that is, to the south, the castle presents a symmetrical picture.

Creating the impression of a harmonious ensemble was certainly the intention of the person who commissioned the extension: Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde. The grandson of Bettina and Achim von Arnim was a painter, and the extension served as his studio. The entire building complex, which was previously a manor house that primarily catered to farming purposes in its function and appearance, owes its present palatial character to Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde.

Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde, born in 1848, initially studied law, but soon decided to pursue a career as an artist and study painting, first in Berlin and then in Munich. At the age of 28, he inherited the Bärwalde estate and moved to Wiepersdorf farm. The estate already had a simple manor house on it, which had been built in the 18th century. It belonged to the Royal Prussian Major von Einsiedel as part of the Bärwalde estate since the 1730s, before it came into the possession of the von Arnim family in 1780, namely into that of Joachim Erdmann von Arnim, Achim the writer’s father.

Joachim, however, leased out the farms and lived mostly on his properties in Zernikow, near Gerswalde and Boitzenburg, in the Uckermark region. Achim von Arnim, not only a writer but also a farmer in Wiepersdorf, added a barnyard. After Bettina and Achim’s eldest son, the artistically less ambitious Freimund von Arnim, had successfully managed the estate, the writer couple’s grandson, Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde, pushed ahead with transforming a farm house into a manor house with the appearance of a Baroque castle.

The painter’s studio is now part of the Wiepersdorf Castle Museum. The museum adheres to a concept that shows Wiepersdorf as a historical site of Romanticism, but also illuminates the history of the residence during the GDR years and reunification. In addition to exhibits on Bettina and Achim von Arnim, it also houses testimonies to GDR culture and cultural policy—as well as works by the painters Bettina Encke von Arnim and Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde. The painter had his hand in shaping almost everything that surrounds you. Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde is buried in the family cemetery next to the church.

Now to the five Callot figures that can be admired in front of the studio: they are part of the sculpture collection amassed by Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde. These figures, disparagingly also called the “baroque garden gnomes,” are mostly representations of beggars, drunkards, and musicians. They go back to the French draftsman and etcher Jacques Callot and a series of his etchings from 1616, the Varie Figure Gobbi, meaning “various hunchbacked figures.” Callot's engravings were modeled after small people suffering from skeletal deformations who were forced into the roles of court jesters at European courts.

The sculptures, created a century after Callot’s grotesque pictorial models, became popular additions to numerous Baroque gardens. They fascinated not only Achim von Armin-Bärwalde, but also, for example, E.T.A. Hoffmann, a contemporary of Achim and Bettina von Arnim and fellow Romantic writer. Based on such products of an extravagant fantasy, which set the scene for deviations from the norm, animal nature, and the dark side to the light of reason, Hoffmann even wrote a story entitled “Fantasy Pieces in Callot’s Manner.”

You will learn more about the castle and its eventful architectural history, which owes so much to the painter Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde, at the next stop on the way towards the pond.