Artist Couple in the Modern Movement

Emil Maetzel and Dorothea Maetzel-Johannsen

23.11.2019– 15.03.2020

In the last twenty years, works by Dorothea Maetzel-Johannsen were always among the most impressive pictures in the special exhibitions shown at the Edwin Scharff Museum. The exhibition "Flächenbrand Expressionismus" ("Conflagration Expressionism") included a glimpse into Emil Maetzel's work. The current exhibition focuses entirely on the artist couple and thus introduces two important representatives of Hamburg's Avantgarde. 

Emil Maetzel studied architecture and was a self-taught painter. Although Dorothea Maetzel-Johannsen attended drawing school, she too was not professionally trained as an artist. In Berlin, where Emil Maetzel was stationed during the First World War, the couple benefited from opportunities to visit important exhibitions such as the Berlin Secession and Herwarth Walden's "Der Sturm" Gallery. A decisive event for the artists was their discovery of African art, which they began to collect and whose figures they integrated into their works.

1919 to 1923 were the years of Hamburg's first artist festivals, which ignited a veritable firework of racy performances by dancers, singers and actors and provided the outlet for a more permissive societal cohesion. The festivities helped bring staid citizens together with members of the artistic Bohème. The ever exotic settings and costumes were the results of the fantasy of artists, among whom Emil Maetzel played a prominent role as painter. Artistic freedom found its intellectual expression in the emancipation of living styles from conventional ideas of morality.

The Maetzels followed diverging artistic paths in the 1920s. With visits to Paris (1925) and Gotland (1929) Dorothea Maetzel-Johannsen underlined her increasing independence before she died of heart problems in 1930 at the age of only 44. Emil survived her by 25 years. In 1933 he was dismissed from the civil service by the National Socialists. In his house in Volksdorf he then spent lonely years, although taking advantage of the opportunity for painting excursions in northern Germany. After 1945 he started out on a new and voluminous productive phase.

With more than 150 paintings, sculptures, print graphics, and photos, the Exhibition, which was prepared and shown for the first time in 2017 by the Kunstmuseum Stade, gives visitors the most comprehensive look to date at both the work of this artist couple and a momentous chapter in Hamburg's Expressionism. The show is based on the holdings of Hamburg collector Tim Tobeler who has explored the work of Emil Maetzel and Dorothea Maetzel-Johansen for many years. Besides the artistic estate of the Maetzel family, the Tobeler collection boasts the largest holding of works by the artist couple. Additional loans from public and private collections, as well as from the artistic estate of the Maetzel family complement the exhibition.