Who never dreamed about living in a house by a beautiful lake? Not everybody can afford such a chimera, but the German painter Max Liebermann made this dream come true. Today his dream feeds the imagination of everyone that visits this stunning permanent art exhibition space. But before we talk about this hidden-treasure-by-the-lake, let’s find out who was Max Libermann and why is he important to the German art history.
One of the masters of the German Impressionism, influenced by the French painter Jean-François Millet, Liebermann is renowned for his portraits and self-portraits, as well his nature inspired oil paintings.
Son of a wealthy Jewish businessman, Liebermann was raised at Pariser Platz, right next to the Brandenburger Tor. In 1909, the artist decided to build a summer residence on the outskirts of Berlin, in one of the most exclusive villa districts of the city. With this intent, he bought one of the last waterfronts plots on the Wannsee lake, where he set up his property.
Liebermann wanted to escape from the noise of the city, creating a refuge where he could concentrate on his painting. His villa, with its stunning garden – a peaceful oasis – was a huge source of inspiration for his work, where he produced more than 200 artworks, mostly portraits and garden scenes.
The painter spent every summer on his villa, until his death in 1935. Five years later, his wife Martha was forced to sell the property to the Nazi government. After the end of the Second World War, the villa was converted into a hospital and in 1951 the house returned to his family, who decided to sell it to the city of Berlin in 1958. The estate was used for different purposes until 2002, when an association started restoration works to turn the house and the garden into a museum, finally opened to the public in 2006.
Today the Liebermann-Villa showcases an intimate permanent exhibition, assembling a small collection of the garden paintings, scenes from the day trippers at Wannsee and portraits, drawings and pastels of the artist’s family. On the first floor, where Libermann had his atelier, around 40 paintings related to the garden and to the villa are exposed. The ground floor focuses on the history of the Liebermann family and the building itself. Temporary exhibitions are also scheduled for every quarter. Unfortunately, no furnishings from the house have survived.
We dare say that the main attraction of the villa is its wonderful garden, which is divided in two sections by the house: the lake front garden and the street side garden. On the lake front side, there is an amazing view over the lawn to the shores of Wannsee. There is also a birch path, a flower terrace and three hedged gardens.
On the street side garden, there is a gardener’s cottage and the garden itself, modeled as a farmer’s garden, with flowers and vegetables, inspired by the north German cottage garden tradition. This garden is separated from the building’s front courtyard by a row of lime trees. The beautiful dahlias and tithonias, in the flower section, and the cabbage and tomatoes, in the vegetables section, grow today, as they did when Liebermann lived in the villa.
The enchanted atmosphere and the powerful landscape make the museum unique. Where else can you admire the artworks of an artist on the site of their creation? It is definitely an unforgettable experience to witness the different combinations of forms and colors of the flowers that inspired Liebermann in some of his garden oil paintings, exhibited on the upper floor of the villa.
You can easily spend an afternoon here. Besides the exhibitions, you can enjoy a traditional German coffee and cake at the Café Max, on the former dining room of the house or on the terrace, both with views towards the shores of Wannsee.
Insider tip alert! For a more intense experience at Liebermann Villa, take your coffee and cake to the tea pavilion, just in front of the lake, passing through the lovely birch-lined path and contemplate the idyllic atmosphere of this very unique site in Berlin. It is simply breathtaking!
How to get there:
From the S-Bahn station Wannsee, take the Bus 114 in the direction of Heckeshorn and stop at the Lieberman-Villa. Or you can just take a 25 minutes walk along Am Grossen Wannsee, admiring the other villas up on the hills, turning right on Colomierstrasse.
If you are in the mood for exploring the area and perhaps taking your bike all the way around the lake and into beautiful Potsdam, check out this cool bike route we created!
Entrance Fee: 8 Euros.
*Article written by Domingos Lepores and edited by Tulio Edreira.