Düsseldorf is filled with art, fashion and history yet a stroll along the River Rhine promenade is a must.
The name of the header photo above is called Time Field, painted in 1986 by the German contemporary artist, Klaus Rinke (born 1939-). He trained as a decorative artist and poster painter, before studying painting. He has lived, painted and exhibited around the world.
In 1965, he returned to Düsseldorf and began creating contemporary sculptural pieces. He was Professor of Sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1974-2004. Since 1981 he has maintained a studio and apartment in Los Angeles, California.
We were amazed to discover that in the USA, the state of Montana (population 1.14 million) and in Canada, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador (population 522,000) are each slightly larger than the entire country of Germany. However Germany has, by far, the greater population – currently 84 million.
Germany’s official name is The Federal Republic of Germany. It has 16 states and we are currently in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Düsseldorf, population 638,000, lies at the junction of two rivers, the Rhine and the Düssel.
One interesting symbol we saw in Düsseldorf was ‘the cartwheelers’. Cartwheelers are found in several statues and fountains in the city, on souvenirs like keychains, mugs, chocolates and we even spotted them on the street maintenance manhole covers.
There is a tale that in 1288, after defeating the Archbishop of Cologne in a bitter battle, residents of Dusseldorf, especially the children, cartwheeled down the streets to celebrate Dusseldorf being granted ‘town’ privileges.
In the 19th and 20th century, children performed cartwheels for coins for travelers heading to the city’s many major exhibitions and fairs. Annually in June, Düsseldorf still celebrates with a cartwheel competition held for children on the chic shopping street Königsallee. More than 500 children participate each year.
Dating to 1873, City Museum is the oldest museum in Düsseldorf. It is dedicated to sharing the history of the city, from ancient times through to modern day, which makes it an ideal first stop for us.
This 1647 copper engraving by Matthäus Merian (1593-1650) is titled Düsseldorf seen from the Rhine. It is the oldest known complete view of the waterfront albeit in an idealised form – the central buildings and fortifications are painted taller than they actually were.
Düsseldorf history is showcased through the exhibitions of art, archeology, fashion, music, photography, objects of historical importance, including a good collection of paintings by the German masters. We discovered a handful of new-to-us artists whose style we found appealing, including Anton Alexander von Werner (1843-1915) a painter known for his history paintings of notable political and military events; Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) known for his black and white woodcuts; George Grosz (1893-1959) known for his caricature drawings and paintings of 1920’s Berlin life and who immigrated to the USA in 1933; and Peter Ludwigs (1888-1943) sculptor and painter – known for his anti-fascist paintings.
We were familiar with Max Ernst’s (1891-1976) work but this was the first time we actually enjoyed his paintings. We also liked the painting “The Tin Drum” created in 1957/58 by painter German Becerra (1928-2021) in collaboration with sculptor and painter, Franz Witte (1927-1971). During a party one evening an innkeeper of a pub frequented by artists wanted to have his regular guests painted. Witte and Becerra painted 55 people into the group picture and 35 of them were artists.
K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Another very enjoyable art museum we visited was K20. There are three different exhibition venues scattered across the city, but the K20 focuses on art created in one of our favorite time periods – the 20th century.
In 1960, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen was established with the purchase of 88 works by Paul Klee from the collection of Pittsburgh steel manufacturer G. David Thompson. Paul Klee was a Swiss-born German artist. (1879-1940) His style was influenced by expressionism, cubism and surrealism. Unfortunately there were only a fraction of Klee’s paintings currently on display.
In addition to works by Paul Klee, the museum exhibits paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Georges Braque as well as postwar American art by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, among others.
In 2010, British-American artist Sarah Morris, known for her large-scale and colorful origami-like grid paintings, created this mesmerizing painting titled Hornetbon on an enormous wall out front of K20.
We spotted 3 beautiful churches as we walked the city, each with a distinct style. The tall brick colored building on the left in the picture below, is the Evangelical, Johannes Church and the yellow and gray church on the right is the Catholic, St. Andreas Church.
The third, St. Lambertus Basilica was built in 1288. Following a fire in 1815 that destroyed the spire, the new build used fresh, damp wood, which resulted in the twisted roof of today. Alternatively there is a legend that the devil twisted the church tower as he tried to uproot the church.
We did not visit St. Lambertus but we found this charming painting below, showing the interior of the Basilica painted by Hubert Ritzenhofen (1879-1961). He titled his painting: Whit Sunday in St. Lambertus.
Notes on Düsseldorf
King Henry VIII’s fourth wife was Düsseldorf’s Anne of Cleves (1515–1558). Six months after their wedding, the marriage was annulled. She received a settlement from Henry and became known as the “Kings Beloved Sister”. She outlived King Henry VIII and the rest of his wives and was alive to see the coronation of Queen Mary I, the daughter Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII.
The German composers and pianists, Robert and Clara Schumann lived and worked in Düsseldorf and are said to have also often hosted the composer, Johannes Brahms in Düsseldorf.
Düsseldorf’s most elegant shopping area is Königsallee, translates as “King’s Avenue” in Engish, and is referred to as the “Kö”. The affluent shopping boulevard has the amazing plane trees (platanus) that provide dappled shade, lining both sides of a lovely water filled canal and 3 elegant bridges that cross the canal.
The Rhine Embankment Promenade or Rheinuferpromenade offers one of the best ways of enjoying the city’s wonderful views along the Rhine.
The promenade opened in 1997 and was built to cover and hide one of the city’s busiest roads (it is enclosed beneath the promenade). The riverfront walkway is lined with cafés, restaurants, galleries and shops on one side, where we enjoyed a delicious light lunch, and western Europe’s 2nd longest river, the Rhein River, on the other. (Called the Rhine in France, Rijn in the Netherlands and Rhein in Germany)
Have you heard of “the longest bar in the world”? The Düsseldorfer Altstadt is known by that moniker. It is not “one” bar though. Instead Old Town has more than 300 bars and restaurants – that may or may not have connecting doors – and all are tucked into a small area. The charm of the brewery inns in this neighborhood are their long wooden tables where anyone can take a seat. Altbier is the traditional craft beer of choice. They claim it has always been hand-made and long before the art of brewing was rediscovered.
Remember too when you visit Düsseldorf to keep an eye out for the merry Cartwheeler. It is a reminder that Düsseldorf is serious about being happy.
Prost from these Düsseldorfers,
Ted + Julia
View our City Museum Düsseldorf photo album here
View our K20, North Rhine-Westphalia art collection photo album here