A Small History of the Kaulbach-Villa


The House in the Era of the Painter Kaulbach [1]

Friedrich (Fritz) August von Kaulbach (1850–1920) [2] was a much sought-after painter of portraits and genres in the era of the prince regent and the Wilhelminian era; he was especially well-known for his female portraits. Horst Fuhrmann tells how,[3] in the middle of the 1880s, a portrait of Bismarck by Franz von Lenbach (1836–1904) cost Marks 30.000, and adds: "To have one’s portrait painted by von Kaulbach cost Marks 80.000 to 90.000, approximately ten to twenty times as much as the annual wage of a well-paid German university professor".

The wealth that resulted from his painting made it possible for Kaulbach to have a representative villa erected in the style of Italian renaissance ("Ville suburbane") in Munich by his friend, architect Gabriel von Seidl (1848–1913), after becoming director of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in 1886 (Obere Gartenstrasse 4, since 1886/87 Kaulbachstr. 15,[4] named after historical painter Wilhelm von Kaulbach (1805–1874). To do this, he acquired the estate of Count Karl von Moy for Marks 140.000 and had the existing building knocked down.

When the Kaulbach-Villa was erected, "requirements of living" had to be connected with "those of a studio".[5] The houses center is made up by the studio (132 sqm) with a high window to the North, which today serves as a library and room used for lectures and colloquia. The interior decor was created by the same craftsmen from Munich who were generally hired by Seidl. The valuable stuccoes and gold-plated items were probably created by gold-plater Barth (1840–1924); the erection of the building was overseen by Seidl’s collague Heinrich Kronenberger (1860–1912).

Next to the studio on the first floor there is a loggia which was originally open to the garden; its ceilings depicted genre szenes. Loggia and the garden front of the middle wing with its vast terrace with perron were influenced by the Villa Giulia and Villa Medici in Rome. In view of the weather, however, the open Loggia on the west side of the house was encased in glass after a few years.

In 1900, another story was added as there was a lack of living space in the house – Kaulbach had three daughters with his second wife Frida (born Schytte, 1871–1948), a virtuoso violinist). His youngest daughter, Mathilde (1904–1986), married painter Max Beckmann in 1925; she lovingly called him "Quappi".

The Kaulbach-Villa’s Garden

The garden [6] (4.200 sqm), in which magnificent trees were planted, was adorned by Kaulbach with partly original, partly copied Italian antiques. Two pillars of Veronese marble were integrated into the music room on the ground floor at the 1930s. At the perron, which leads far into the garden (leading right to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek), a path made up of pebbles starts; behind it there is a pool located along the garden front’s middle axis, which can be reached by five stairs. A fountain’s bowl can still be found there which used to be located in the pool’s center. Behind it, we find the only tree left from the era Kaulbach, a common beech, which has by now become an official natural monument. The old trees in the back part of the garden, however, were destroyed by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek’s rubble during World War II.

Auction of the Art Collection Kaulbach 1929

After Kaulbach’s death in 1920, the widow spent most of her time living in the summer house in Ohlstädt by Murnau together with her daughters. Until 1929, the house in Munich served mostly as a depot for Kaulbach’s art collection. On October 29/30, 1929, this collection was sold at an auction by antiquarian Hugo Helbing.[7]

Sale by Kaulbach’s Widow 1931

In 1931, Kaulbach’s widow Frida sold the house for Marks 225.000 to the student association "Bavaria" e.V. The student’s society rebuilt the house and redesigned the studio, as put by Fritz Gablonsky in his history of the house, in a "less-than-gentle fashion" to a "banquet hall". In the middle of the 1930s, new owners extended the attic and the northern stairwell by a superstructure.

The House’s Acquisition by the State of Bavaria 1937

The house’s acquisition by the state of Bavaria was closely connected to changes in the surrounding city landscape. On Adolf Hitler’s wish, Von-der-Tann-Straße was embroadened to ensure that by the official opening of the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst" on July 18, 1937, a spacious connection between Prinzregentenstraße and Ludwigstraße would be in place. This building measure also resulted in the disappearance of several buildings on the Von-der-Tannstraße’s south side, which had served as government flats of Bavarian state ministers. Searching for new objects to be used for this purpose, the state of Bavaria became interested in the Kaulbach-Villa and acquired it for Marks 240.000 in the end of January 1937. It was turned into the government flat of state minister of the interior and Gauleiter of the so-called Traditional Gau Munich-Upper-Bavaria, Adolf Wagner (1890–1944). Wagner, one of the few persons on a first-name basis with Hitler, lived there from 1937 till 1944. The studio served as his office and reception room.

New Rebuilding of the House by Gauleiter Adolf Wagner

The building authority rebuilt the house for Wagner one more time; this was achieved by assistant head of government Fritz Gablonsky (1876–1971) within four-and-a-half months. Responsible for the interior design (reception rooms on the ground floor as well as living rooms and office on the first floor with tapestries, curtains, carpets, and furniture) was Gerdy Troost, widow of Hitler’s architect Paul Ludwig Troost (1878–1934), who was responsible for, among others, the party’s buildings at Königsplatz and the Haus der Kunst. The furniture, modelled after designs by Ludwig Troost, were manufactured by Vereinigte Werkstätte.

Adjacent to the south wall, a film projection room was added, from which the films were projected onto the room’s north wall. On the day of the official opening of the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst", the house and garden were used for the first time by the new owner for a larger social event, where Adolf Hitler also appeared. He would later be a frequent guest, often together with Eva Braun, especially for film projections.

In 1939, a bunker was erected in the center part of the garden (on the side to Walter-Klingenbeck-Weg). A subterranean passage led from the houses cellar to the bunker. One could leave the bunker via stairs to reach the garden. The entrance to the bunker is sealed today, the bunker itself cannot be reached.

Use of the Kaulbach-Villa by the American Radio Station for Soldiers AFN

After World War II, the house was not too damaged (there were only a few fire bombs), and the AFN (American Forces Network) moved into the Kaulbach-Villa. On June 8, 1945, the station went on the air.[8] In the middle of November 1984, the AFN then switched to Kaulbachstr. 45.[9] It continued broadcasting from there until February 1992.

After Its Founding, the Historische Kolleg Searches for a Representative Residence

After its founding, the Historische Kolleg had taken up work on a floor at Sonnenstraße 10 (2. floor) in May 1980; however, this residence was seen only as a temporary solution due to loud traffic noise. The state capital of Bavaria had provided a large apartment of 230 sqm at this central, yet less representative location for the period of five years, and had also made possible its renovation by contributing DM 500.000. The driving force was Munich’s 2nd mayor, Winfried Zehetmeier.

On October 20, 1980, the official opening of the Kolleg took place there. It was already on this opportunity that Theodor Schieder (1978–1984), who had himself studied in Munich, stated that the scholarly atmosphere, the Genius Loci, which existed in Munich as in no other place, would be decisive in the Kolleg’s success. What had then been formulated as an ideal goal would become more concrete in the following years.

The Historische Kolleg Acquires the Kaulbach-Villa

The attempts of those responsible in the curatorship to acquire a representative residence for the Historische Kolleg were determined by their own demands as well as the example of comparable institutions, such as the Wissenschaftskolleg of Berlin, which resided in a Grunewald-Villa (Villa Franz und Erika Linde, Wallotstraße 19) and had been opened on November 6, 1981, with 12 fellows. For a time a house in Bogenhausen on Scheinerestr. 11 came into question, a neo-classicist villa ercted in 1910, where the Osteuropa-Institut was housed from 1959–2007.

In the course of 1983, the Kolleg learned that AFN would leave the Kaulbach-Villa, which was the property of the state of Bavaria. The house was not only a representative building from the Wilhelminian time. It also offered perfect conditions which allowed the fellows to do their scientific work in an atmosphere of peace and concentration and was located in direct proximity to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, a whole range of libraries belonging to the individual institutions of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, as well as the Bayerische Hauptstaatsarchiv. In a priority notice to Alfred Herrhausen (1930–1989) concerning possibly moving into the Kaulbach-Villa, it was suggested: "Thus, the Historische Kolleg might receive a residence that would correspond to the international standard and where the idea of the Kolleg as a meeting place for historians from Germany and abroad would come to full fruition.  Thus, the Kaulbach-Villa poses a chance in regard to geographical position and the building itself that might never return."[10]

On a first careful inquiry at the Ministry of Education, however, the chairman was made understood that a move to the Kaulbach-Villa was not feasible, as it was "already earmarked for other uses" after AFN’s moving out.[11]

When the Historische Kolleg Award was first conferred in the Munich Residence on November 15, 1983 – the winner was ancient historian Alfred Heuss – the Bavarian State Minister Franz Josef Strauß invited the participants to a state reception at the Munich Residence’s antiquariaum. Alfred Herrhausen, speaker of the directorate of Deutsche Bank AG and member of the Historische Kolleg’s curatorship, and Horst Niemeyer (1929–2005), General Secretary of the Stifterverband and managing member of the curatorship, used this opportunity to present anew the idea of moving the Kolleg into the Kaulbach-Villa.[12] Theodor Schieder, first chairman of the Historische Kolleg’s curatorship, had seeked the attention of the Bavarian State Minister of Education, Hans Maier, in a parallel move. The latter answered Theodor Schieder on February 29, 1984, that he had supported the idea in front of the minister-president and the state ministry of finances.[13] His letter continued verbatim: "Be assured that it will be of primary importance to me to act in the interest of the Historische Kolleg in the cabinet’s upcoming decision regarding the future use of the unoccupied Kaulbach-Villa."[14]

On June 19, 1984, the Bavarian council of ministers decided to give preference to the Historische Kolleg in regard to the future user of the Kaulbach-Villa. In the course of the year, the goal became jeopardised due to the Bavarian state ministry of finance’s opposition. But Minister of Education Maier and Minister-President Strauß again supported the Historische Kolleg with force. On November 21, 1984, the minister-president wrote to the general-secretary of the Stifterverband, Horst Niemeyer, among other things: "It is also my concern that the Historische Kolleg, which was founded in the Bavarian state capital, find an appropriate home here."[15] These words reflect the state of Bavaria’s cultural committment in the tradition of the Wittelsbachers, as well as the CSU’s chairman and Minister-President Strauß, who was born in Munich’s Schellingstraße.

On December 6, 1984, Minister of Education Hans Maier was able to give the general secretary of the Stifterverband definitive notice that the Kaulbach-Villa would be left to the Historische Kolleg’s uses.[16]

In the "Bayerische Staatszeitung" Leonhard Lenk lauded the government’s decision in his article "A Refuge for Historians. The Kaulbach-Villa: Ideal Residence of the Historische Kolleg". He closed the article with this wish: "When residing in an artist’s home, the Kolleg’s members are subtly reminded that historical science, too, is a high and difficult art. And this, in turn, can only be of value in regard to the quality and readeability of their works, and thus, in regard to their wide-spread impact".[17]

Renovation of the Kaulbach-Villa under Otto Meitinger’s Leadership

The Kaulbach-Villa is comprised of three floors and a utilizable space of 760 sqm. This offers space for representative rooms (garden hall and foyer), the lecture hall on the first floor inside the former studio, as well as room for offices and conference rooms (curatorship, manager, scientific staff, and secretary’s office). The first floor also contains three generously sized working rooms for fellows, the second two additional ones. Furthermore, the Historische Kolleg also provides a guest room and an apartment for its Honorary Fellows. The cellar contains a kitchen, a magazine, and a workshop.

Before the building could be put to use by the Historische Kolleg – this became clear quite soon – a general renovation became necessary in the house, which had been erected in the years 1887 till 1889, after the building’s fabric had been neglected during its use by the AFN. Despite measures to drain the building, a complete renewal of the heating system, the sanitary facilities, and the electrics became necessary.

In December 1986, expected costs ran at DM 5.4 million. The state of Bavaria declared its willingness to provide up to DM 3.5 million for the renovation, the Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank offered up to DM 2 million in addition to the Kolleg’s general funding, which were to be set off against future rent. The Bavarian state ministry of science and the arts lauded in a press release, "that thus a long-term settlement of the Historische Kolleg in Munich has been ensured".[18]

Property developer of the renovation was the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, chairman of the building commission was the former general secretary of the Deutsche Bildungsrat (1966–1976), Permament Secretary Dr Franz Letzelter (1926-2013) (in authority of the Stifterverband). Authorized representative of the renovation were Graduate Engineer (FH) Jürgen Grünwald (Deutsche Bank, Bauabteilung München), and Georg Kalmer, manager of the Historische Kolleg.  The commission was obtained by Professor Otto Meitinger and the architects Michael Braun, Wolfgang Hesselberger, and Mauritz Freiherr von Strachwitz. From April 1985 till April 1989, the Bauausschuss convened in more than 30 sessions.

On November 19, 1987, a press conference was held when the renovation was concluded. In the press release it was stated:

"During the renovation, which was supported by the Bauabteilung Deutsche Bank as well as the Landbauamt Munich and organized in co-ordination with the Bayerische Landesamt für Denkmalpflege, the different parts of the building were treated in accordance to their individual history:

  • The main parts on the ground floor, in which major original parts from the era Kaulbach were preserved during all later rebuilding, were to keep their historic character. In this regard it became necessary to take preservational conservation and restauration measures.
  • The other rooms, which were furnished in a simpler fashion, were renovated with less effort and could be fashioned with greater freedom as regards their new purposes.
  • The former studio represented a special case. Due to its unusual dimension, this room had been changed in each rebuilding phase and adjusted to each type of use: studio – ballroom – office and reception room – studio. An ‘original condition’ could not be discerned. This put the renovators into the position to redesign the room according to its new manifold purposes as library and conference room and to create an atmosphere appropiate to the Historische Kolleg’s purposes. In future, the Kolleg’s international conferences and smaller lectures will take place there.

The building’s exterior was changed back into a state which largely corresponded to the original condition. At part original windows were reinstalled or, as in case of the studio window, restored to their original condition.

The villa’s vast garden, whose original composition was disturbed by the building of a bunker during World War II, could only be restored provisionally at the building’s immediate proximity for the time being. A restitution of the entire garden would be desirable in the near future."

The concluding paragraph states: "By leaving the Kaulbach-Villa to the Historische Kolleg and by providing considerable means for the building’s renovation, the Bavarian state continues supporting the historical sciences as it had been doing since the era of King Max II. in the middle of the last century. It has thus provided a further example of how government-sponsored science and private funding can collaborate fruitfully."

On the Kaulbach-Villa’s official opening as seat of the Historische Kolleg on November 24, 1988, the Technische Universität München’s president, Otto Meitinger, also addressed the question of the appropriate use of historic buildings, which is worth a whole paragraph to the Bavarian monument protection law [19]. His conclusion: The villa’s use by the Historische Kolleg is especially appropriate: "The Kolleg’s need for room is almost entirely congruent with the space offered by the house, so that any interferences with the building’s structure did not even have to be discussed. Above all, however, the representative rooms’ lush decor, which, carefully restored, reflects the spirit of the times when it was created, does not stand in opposition to the rooms’ use by the Historische Kolleg; on the contrary, they are in compliance with this important institutions’ requirements of its seat."[20]

On November 24, 1988, the houses official opening as the Historische Kolleg’s seat took place. [21] This was followed by an "open house" on November 26, 1988.

The restoration of the garden, half of which was used as a parking lot with garages during the AFN era, took another two years. In summer 1990, its recreation was celebrated.




[1] Fritz Gablonsky: Baugeschichte des Kaulbachhauses in München. München 1940; Karl-Ulrich Gelberg: Die wechselvolle Vergangenheit der Kaulbach-Villa. In: Akademie Aktuell Nr. 75, Nr. 3 (2021), S.20-23.

[2] Klaus Zimmermann: Friedrich August von Kaulbach 1850-1920. Monographie und Werkverzeichnis. München 1980.

[3] Horst Fuhrmann: Die Lehre vom Haus und das Haus des Gelehrten. In: Ders. (Hg.): Die Kaulbach-Villa als Haus des Historischen Kollegs. Reden und wissenschaftliche Beiträge zur Eröffnung [24.11.1988]. München 1989, S. 17-36, hier S. 27f.

[4] Vgl. allg. Christine Hoh-Slodczyk: Das Haus des Künstlers im 19. Jahrhundert (= Materialien zur Kunst des 19. Jahrhunderts 33, Forschungsunternehmen der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, AK Kunstgeschichte). München 1985, S. 68-73, S. 172.

[5] Heinrich Habel, Johannes Hallinger, Timm Weski: Denkmäler in Bayern. Landeshauptstadt München Mitte. 3 Bde. München 2009, hier: Bd. 2, S. 402ff.

[6] Cornelia Batisweiler: Der Garten der Kaulbachvilla. Die Geschichte eines Münchner Bürgergartens 1813-1985 (Abschlussarbeit TU 1985).

[7] Vgl. Sammlung Fritz August v. Kaulbach München. Eingeleitet von August L. Meyer (= Katalog von Kunsthandlung und Kunstantiquariat Hugo Helbing anlässlich der Versteigerung im Hause Kaulbach, München, 29. und 30. Oktober 1929). München 1929.

[8] http://www.bobfm.de/afn_foto_2.html (letzter Zugriff 14.12.2010). Hermann Wilhelm/Gisela Kunz: Jazz in München, o.O. 2007, S. 49-54.

[9] „Der AFN zieht ein paar Häuser weiter“: SZ 17./18.11.1984.

[10] Unterbringung des Historischen Kollegs in der Kaulbach-Villa, 15.1.1985 (Archiv Historisches Kolleg).

[11] Ministerialrat Karl Weininger an Georg Kalmer, 19.9.1983 (Archiv Historisches Kolleg, Kultusministerium Bayern 1980–1987).

[12] Dies unterstrichen sie auch mit ihrem Schreiben im Nachgang zur Preisverleihung am 30.11.1983 an Ministerpräsident Strauß (Archiv Historisches Kolleg, Kultusministerium Bayern 1980–1987).

[13] Das Staatsministerium der Finanzen war der Auffassung, dass für die Nutzung primär Eigenbedarf des Bayerischen Staates geltend zu machen wäre, z.B. für die Bayerische Landesanstalt für Aufbaufinanzierung, die Beamtenfachhochschule oder die Bibliotheksschule. Mit der Bayerischen Landesanstalt für Aufbaufinanzierung war bereits ein Vorvertrag geschlossen worden.

[14] Hans Maier an Theodor Schieder, 29.2.1984 (Archiv Historisches Kolleg, Kultusministerium Bayern 1980–1987).

[15] Franz Josef Strauß an Horst Niemeyer, 21.11.1984 (Archiv Historisches Kolleg). Die Entscheidung zugunsten des Kollegs fiel endgültig Anfang im November/Dezember 1984; vgl. Hans Maier an Horst Niemeyer, 6.12.1984 (Archiv Historisches Kolleg).

[16] Hans Maier an Horst Niemeyer, 6.12.1984 (Archiv Historisches Kolleg, Kultusministerium Bayern 1980–1987).

[17] Bayerische Staatszeitung, 21.2.1986.

[18] Pressemitteilung des Bayerischen Staatsministeriums für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 19.11.1987 (Archiv Historisches Kolleg).

[19] Bayerisches Denkmalschutzgesetz vom 25.6.1973, Art. 5: Nutzung von Baudenkmälern.

[20] Otto Meitinger: Übergabe des Hauses durch die Architekten. In: Horst Fuhrmann (Hg.): Die Kaulbach-Villa als Haus des Historischen Kollegs. Reden und wissenschaftliche Beiträge zur Eröffnung. München 1989, S. 13ff., hier: S. 14.

[21] Vgl. Horst Fuhrmann (Hg.): Die Kaulbach-Villa als Haus des Historischen Kollegs. Reden und wissenschaftliche Beiträge zur Eröffnung. München 1989.