Sights, Sites & Scenes

Villa Esche (Parkstrasse 58)

The Villa Esche at Parkstrasse 58

This building was constructed in 1902/03 for the businessman Herbert Eugen Esche in accordance with the plans of Henry van de Velde.

The entire work of art in the Art Nouveau style was the first major work of the artist in Germany and went down in art history. The focal piece of the two-storey building is the hall with skylight.

The building, which was in need of complete renovation, was extensively reconstructed. On 13 December 2001, the building was officially opened by the Federal president Johannes Rau and the minister president of the state Kurt Biedenkopf. Part of the original interior decoration can be found in the city art collections.

Villa Esche houses the Henry van de Velde Museum, which is among the art collections of Chemnitz.

A complete work of art by Henry van de Velde

Villa Esche in Chemnitz is the first building that the Belgian artist Henry van de Velde (1863-1957) constructed on German soil. The industrialist Herbert Eugen Esche (1874-1962) commissioned him in 1902 to design a house and ideal living environment for him and his young family. Together, they chose the plot of land in the then new exclusive residential quarter of Kappel.

According to the period of Art Nouveau the self-educated architect Henry van de Velde designed not only the house but also the park, interior decoration, the furniture, the tableware and other articles of daily use up to the owner’s pipe. The Villa, which was constructed in 1903/04, therefore became a showcase total work of art. As early as 1906, various interior views were published in the well-known magazine "Kunst und Künstler" (art and artists).

In a second construction phase (1911) the house was extended under the direction of its designer. The completion of a terrace, which was originally omitted in the design of the structure, gave the villa a more perfect image and pointed Henry van de Velde's artistic development in the direction of the Modern.

Since the end of the Second World War, changes have been made to the building but as a whole it has been preserved. Initially, it was used as the headquarters for the Soviet Military Command, afterwards was used by the East German State Security and from the 1960s onwards, it was the educational institution for the Chamber of handicrafts. In 1990, after the reunification of Germany, Villa Esche was placed on the Federal list for the preservation of historical monuments. The city of Chemnitz purchased the empty Villa Esche in 1998 and from then until May 2001 took the villa including the garden construction as far as possible back in time to its original condition.

Henry van de Velde in Chemnitz, 1902 to 1914

The Belgian artist and architect Henry van de Velde (1864-1957) came to Chemnitz for the first time in 1902. The first contact, however, is documented as early as 1898. The textile manufacturer Herbert Eugen Esche (1874-1962) and his fiancée Johanna Luise Körner (1879-1911) were impressed by the designs of the man from Brussels which were published in Julius Meier-Graef's Munich magazine "Dekorative Kunst" (decorative art) and contracted him with the construction of their first matrimonial house in Kassberg.

After the newly married couple had visited the van de Velde family in 1900 in the house in Brussels, constructed by the artist, the relationship took on a more friendly character. In 1902, the contract was awarded for the Villa Esche. Herbert Esche requested an environment that was consistent with his modern furniture.

At this time, van de Velde had been appointed to Weimar and the links between the families were strengthened. Van de Velde was, more or less, the artistic consultant for Herbert Eugen Esche, who soon developed into a patron of the arts. On the recommendation of van de Velde, Esche had the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch paint his family's portrait. The artist spent several weeks in the Villa Esche in 1905. The extended stay is described in the memoirs of the painter Ivo Hauptmann (1886-1973), son of the writer Gerhart Hauptmann, who later married Erica von Scheel (1881-1966), a student of Henry van de Velde.

Henry van de Velde became the house architect of the Esche family. Fritz Eugen Esche, the brother of Herbert Eugen, awarded van de Velde his next construction contract in Chemnitz in 1906: the clubhouse of the lawn tennis club. The building, completed in 1908, became one of the most architecturally interesting works of van de Velde (it was demolished in 1945). At the same time, for another brother, Arnold Esche (1880-1967), van de Velde updated the interior decoration of the Lauterbach mansion at Crimmitschau, the family's country house, constructed in the style of Neo-Renaissance. Van de Velde was also commissioned with a similar order around 1908 for Mr Körner, the father-in-law of Herbert Eugen Esche and owner of the Beyer ink factory, who had the hall of his Historism period villa "Qui se sana" at Beyerstrasse 28 newly designed.

On the opposite side of the street, his son Theodor commissioned a modern villa in 1913. The "Villa Körner-Commerz", completed in 1914, was Henry van de Velde's last commission in Chemnitz. It was largely destroyed by bombings in 1945.

After the outbreak of the World War II, the Belgian artist had to end his residency in Germany and fled to Switzerland in exile. The relationship with Herbert Eugen Esche, however, was maintained after Herbert Eugen Esche himself moved to Küsnacht (in Zürich) in 1945 to his daughter's Erdmute Luchsinger.

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Homepage of Villa Esche



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