In 1815 the Frankfurt banker and billionaire Johann Friedrich Städel (1728-1816) established the Stiftung Städelsches Kunstinstitut (Städel Art Foundation). With this foundation he donated his collection to the public and laid the cornerstone for the instruction and support of young artistic talent. In 1817 followed the establishment of the Städelschule, the art college. Already by the 19th century outstanding artists taught at the art college. They included painters such as Moritz von Schwind, Alfred Rethel, Gustave Courbet and Wilhelm Trübner. In the 1920s, under its directors Fritz Wichert, the painter Max Beckmann, the graphic artist Willi Baumeister and city surveyor Ernst May, the Städelschule developed into one of Germany’s most influential art institutes.

When Fritz Wichert was appointed director of the art college in 1923, he re-established it as college for free and applied art and endeavoured to give it new impulses by cooperation with the municipal authorities and industry. The idea of the design of the entire lebensraum was to be communicated in artistic instruction. Along the lines of Bauhaus a reform model was to emerge that joined together free and applied art. Wichert and city surveyor Ernst May jointly published the journal “Das Neue Frankfurt”, a significant publication for Germany’s design avant-garde.

During the Nazi period the Städelschule was initially placed under new temporary control because its progressive concept was a thorn in the flesh of the ruling powers. The restructuring that then ensued corresponded to the forced conformity of public institutions in Germany. Dismissals and suspensions curtailed the college’s reformative and diverse programme and it was changed into a subsequently termed “Handicrafts School”. The courses in free art, architecture and metal were closed down and replaced by handicrafts classes. Among those teachers dismissed and suspended were Max Beckmann, Richard Scheibe, Margarete Klimt and Willi Baumeister, who in 1930 had taken over the design for “Das Neue Frankfurt”. In December 1933 the remaining handicrafts schools were all renamed “craftsman schools” Germany-wide.

The school’s new director, the National Socialist Richard Lisker, convinced Mayor Friedrich Krebs of the importance of free art for the City of Frankfurt. In April 1934, on his own authority, he refounded the classes for free art as “Städelschule”, which now officially existed alonsgide the craftsman school. Three years later the craftsman school was closed. The wording of the ministerial order was: “in its final name the Städelsche Kunstschule may not contain the word ‘craftsman’ (…). In fact it must be clearly designated as “art college”. Krebs used this order to have the school, which had never enjoyed the status of a college, recognized as State Art College on 9 May 1942. With regard to curriculum, however, several lean years were to follow.

After the downfall of Nazi power the City of Frankfurt decided to retain the old Städelschule as “State College for Visual Arts”. From 1947 the Städelschule incorporated the departments sculpture, painting and free graphic art. The class for applied art was closed down. The years 1948/49 saw the establishment of three sculpture studios, four painting studios and a lithography workshop. Several years later the architecture faculty was also reopened.

With the appointment of Caspar König as new principal of the Städelschule a new era commenced in 1988. The City of Frankfurt gave him a small art hall: the Portikus, whose exhibitions, with a mixture of young avant-garde artists and their internationally famous counterparts, soon established its reputation. König also attracted key artists as teachers to the college thereby giving it a European character, which presently makes it one of Germany’s oldest and simultaneously most exceptional art colleges. When König left the Städelschule in the year 2000, Daniel Birnbaum took over the direction, followed by Philippe Pirotte in 2013.

Presently the following courses of study are offered:

Sculpture/plastic art; film; free graphics; free art; free painting and further-reaching opportunities for study.
Architecture; keynote: conceptional design as graduate research study course.

Hochschule für Bildende Künste - Städelschule
Dürerstraße 10
60596 Frankfurt am Main
Phone +49 (0) 69 605008 0
Fax 49 69 605008 66