Museum Junkerhaus Lemgo

The Junkerhaus in the small town Lemgo in the west of Germany is a nearly incomparable Gesamt-kunstwerk (a synthetic total work of art) carved singlehandedly by architect, carpenter and painter Karl Junker inside and out.

Karl Junker (1850-1912), born and raised in Lemgo, probably had a more refined understanding ofart than the contemporary common person in his hometown. After his hands-on apprenticeship he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and traveled through Italy to study the roots and developments of European art styles.

In 1889 he began building his house on the Hamelner Straße in a then sparsely populated area of Lemgo, much to the awe of the townsfolk. What they witnessed wasn’t the construction of a typical historistic Bürgerhaus like the ones that lined the streets of the historical town centre, but an eclectic amalgamation of wooden grotesques.

Since its conception the Junkerhaus and its creator have therefore elicited a wide array of reactions: from horror and confusion to a more recent development inspiration and admiration. On one hand Karl Junker’s unique vision may have been an expression of a potential posthumously

attested schizophrenia and the tragic loss of his parents and brother at a very young age. On the other, it may just as well be a monument to his extraordinary creative genius and unending artistic drive.

Past and present academic views on Junker’s art style have been just as varied as his public per-ception. The modern communis opinio places his house, furniture and oil paintings in a line with early Expressionism and Art Nouveau movements with an inherent callback to Historicism, enforced by Junker’s obsessive urge to depart from traditional art theory.

With that said, the former disregard for his work in art critic and psychologist circles makes Junker an interesting candidate for a discussion in the realm of Outsider Art and Art Brut as well. Nazi psy-chiatrist Gerhard Kreyenberg’s analysis of his character was to blame for the depreciation and so-lidification of Junker and his art as that of a mentally ill outsider in the early 20th century.

However, this dark reputation also opened doors for new academic and creative approaches on an international level with artists such as the London based Karen Russo who produced a film about the Junkerhaus which was showcased in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art or exhibitions of his artworksin Basel, Berlin, Frankfurt and Cologne.

His association with Outsider Art may have finally awarded him with his long desired wish for artistic recognition: “I will invent a new style. I will not be understood right away. But later, in fifty, maybe in a hundred years, they will appreciate me.“

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