© KSW / Silke Briel

The baroque manor house Wiepersdorf was built around 1735 and belonged to the von Arnim family since 1780. Its present form, especially the garden, dates back to the painter Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde, grandson of Bettina and Achim von Arnim. Having acquired a number of statues and vases for the park during his many sojourns to Italy, the manor house took on a palatial ambiance. He had a spacious studio built on the northern side of the house in 1877; its painted ceilings and doors can be seen today in the castle’s museum.

In the 1880s, Arnim-Bärwalde added a three-axis risalit (projection) to the west side of the house. The narrow balcony rests on four columns, above which four pilasters (arrow-like form elements) reach up to the vaulted gable. The modest baroque building elegantly displays the transition from baroque to classicism. The lower park reflects the French school typical of castles throughout Europe. The park grounds are characterized by geometrically arranged flowerbeds; by the visual axis from the garden parlor to the distant western boundary of the park; and by vases and sculptures of the Greek-Roman mythological world acquired in Italy. Arnim-Bärwalde had a spacious orangery built on the southwest side. The façade of the medieval manor church was redesigned in Romanesque style. Here lie the graves of Bettina and Achim von Arnim as well as several of their descendants.

Bettina and Achim von Arnim

Joachim (“Achim”) Ludwig von Arnim was born on 26 January 1781 in Berlin and grew up in his grandmother Caroline von Labes’ city palace, which was located on today’s Pariser Platz. He was raised by a house master, attended the Joachimsthaler Gymnasium in Berlin and studied law and mathematics in Halle and Göttingen. Under the influence of Clemens Brentano, he finally turned to the “light of poetry.” The two began publishing the collection of folk songs, “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” in 1805, which made them famous, not least because of their own original poetry included in the work.

Elisabeth (“Bettina”) Catharina Ludovica Magdalene Brentano was born 4 April 1785 in the Haus zum Goldener Kopf in Frankfurt am Main. Her mother was Maximiliane von La Roche, her father Pietro Antonio Brentano, an Italian merchant from Lake Como. First educated at an Ursulines convent school in Fritzlar, she began living with her grandmother, the writer Sophie La Roche, in Offenbach after her father’s death in 1797.  Furnished with a considerable fortune that her older brothers managed for her, she nonetheless struck out on her own at an early age. She drew, wrote, and played music. In 1802, she met Achim von Arnim through her brother Clemens Brentano. He proposed marriage to her in 1810: „There would be nobody in the world, who I’d rather delight, quarrel, waken, and sleep with.”

In 1811, Bettina and Achim von Arnim married in Berlin. In 1814, they moved to Wiepersdorf, a country estate belonging to the von Arnim family. Hoping finally to rid himself of the perennial “Arnim poverty,” he managed the estate himself so that he could feed his family. He remained in Wiepersdorf throughout 1814, while Bettina soon returned to Berlin. In addition to writing, he assiduously occupied himself with agriculture. His unfinished major work “Die Kronenwächter” was written in Wiepersdorf, the first volume was published in 1817.

While keeping a distance to the Prussian capital proved productive for Achim, Bettina preferred city life. They had a “long-distance relationship” which resulted in a series of letters typical of the romantic era. Until Achim’s death in 1831, the couple exchanged hundreds of letters in which they wrote of their love and the countless challenges of everyday life in Wiepersdorf and Berlin.

After Bettina von Arnim devoted her time to getting Achim’s numerous works published, she focused on her own writing late in life. She published her first work, “Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child,” in 1835. The book was widely discussed and well received internationally. In 1840, she published the epistolary novel “Die Günderode”, which commemorated her childhood friend Karoline von Günderode. Apart from writing, Bettina von Arnim was also committed to fighting for the rights of oppressed minorities in Poland and Hungary, and successfully advocated for the Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s appointment to the University of Berlin.

She dedicated her “King’s Book” to Frederick William IV of Prussia, the “Romantic on the Throne,” by making a claim for social reforms. Unconventional views such as these were discussed at her “democratic salon” in Berlin during the pre-March era, thus prompting her two daughters Maximiliane and Armgart, who frequented the court, to open an “aristocratic counter salon.”  In later years, the urbane Bettina traveled more often to Wiepersdorf. “This splendid solitude makes me happy,” she wrote to her sister in 1849. After her death in 1859, she was buried next to her husband in the Wiepersdorf Cemetery.

The Postwar Era

On April 22, 1945, the Red Army occupied Schloss Wiepersdorf. Friedmund von Arnim’s mother, the last private owner of Wiepersdorf, Agnes, née von Baumbach, was forced to evacuate Wiepersdorf with her three daughters. Among them was Friedmund’s sister, the painter Bettina Encke von Arnim, who saved the house from imminent destruction. She founded a home there for writers to preserve and continue Wiepersdorf’s literary and artistic legacy. She received support from Iwan Katz, a Jewish, communist former member of the Reichstag, who after the war had become a member of the Berlin magistrate. During the National Socialist regime, Friedmund von Arnim and the Enckes had saved him from being persecuted by the Nazis.

As early as 16 July 1946, the Dichterstiftung e.V. was founded in Potsdam, and took over the ownership of the Wiepersdorf estate. The von Arnim family moved from Zernikow and Wiepersdorf to West Germany. On April 1, 1953, by decree of the GDR Council of Ministers, the German Writers’ Association took over the house, which had been very popular with writers. Nonetheless, it was not accessible to everybody. Only by permission from one of the state cultural organizations was one allowed to reside there.

On 4 April 1965, Bettina von Arnim’s 180th birthday, the house was renamed “Bettina von Arnim-Heim”. After extensive restoration, the GDR Cultural Fund was given the new legal rights to the property in 1979. On 10 May 1980, the Minister of Culture, Dr. Hans-Joachim Hoffmann, opened the castle as a “place of work and recreation for writers and artists Bettina von Arnim.”

Wiepersdorf Post-Reunification

After reunification in 1990, the “Stiftung Kulturfonds,” a foundation that emerged from the cultural fund of the GDR, took over Schloss Wiepersdorf. After renewed renovation work, the house was reopened on 7 August 1992 as “Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf”. In 2004, the “Stiftung Kulturfonds” was liquidated and the Künstlerhaus was temporarily closed.

In 2006, the historic property was reopened under the auspices of the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz (German Foundation for Monument Conservation). For more than twelve years, the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz has been vigorously dedicated to promoting, renovating, and maintaining the ensemble of monuments in Wiepersdorf. During this time, the German Foundation for Monument Protection was also responsible for the management of the Künstlerhaus.

In July 2019, the state of Brandenburg established the non-profit cultural foundation Schloss Wiepersdorf, which receives annual grants from the State of Brandenburg. The purpose of the foundation is to operate the Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf, support fellowship holders and to foster art, culture and science. The mission of the Cultural Foundation is to preserve and continue the rich cultural tradition of Schloss Wiepersdorf as an artists’ house and historical site of the Romantic era. To this end, it grants artists working and residence fellowships combined with the opportunity for interdisciplinary, supra-regional and international exchange.