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HFBK's History

With the founding of the drawing school in 1767, the Hamburgische Gesellschaft zur Beförderung der Künste und nützlichen Gewerbe (Hamburg Society for the Advancement of the Arts and Useful Trades, known as the Patriotische Gesellschaft von 1765 or Patriotic Society of 1765 for short) laid the foundations for the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg today. Its goal was to elevate standards of taste and design skills in craft and to provide an ambitious aesthetic education. From 1830 onwards, as a consequence of the debate concerning the setting up of a crafts school, the school, which had originally been restricted to offering architectural drawing and freehand drawing classes, significantly expanded and differentiated the education that it offered. In 1865, the city of Hamburg took over the responsibility for the institution, which had previously been financed by the guilds. From this point on, it operated as a public school of crafts. Its significance grew steadily, first as the Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule, then subsequently as the Landeskunstschule, and, from 1955 onwards, as the Hochschule für bildende Künste, along with the success of its students both at home and abroad.

Foundation of the Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Künste und nützlichen Gewerbe [Society for the Advancement of the Arts and Useful Trades], also referred to as Patriotische Gesellschaft [Patriotic Society], and the decision to establish a drawing school

Installation of the first drawing school that could be attended free of charge, initially directed by several colleagues of the architect Ernst Georg Sonnin

Installation of a class for freehand drawing under Johann Anton Tischbein

Start of the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille

First annual exhibition of works by students of the drawing school organised by the Patriotische Gesellschaft

Hamburg journeymen’s rebellion

Introduction of the class for decoration drawing

Fourth annual exhibition of the Patriotische Gesellschaft, supplemented by privately owned paintings and drawings, including works by Angelica Kaufmann and Wilhelm Tischbein

Appointment of Gerdt Hardorff as teacher in the class for freehand drawing (until 1822)

The proposal by Wilhelm Tischbein to restructure the drawing school modelled on the royal academies is rejected by the Hamburg Senate

Start of the French occupation of Hamburg (until 1814)
Foundation of the Verein zur Förderung des Kunstgeschmacks [Society for the Advancement of Artistic Taste] by the proposing secretary of the Patriotische Gesellschaft, Friedrich Johann Lorenz Meyer
Demolition of the Hamburger Dom

Introduction of the class for ornamental drawing
Termination of the annual exhibitions of students’ works by the Patriotische Gesellschaft due to the strong presence of artistic works in comparison to the crafts

Meetings of the members of the Patriotische Gesellschaft in the house of David Christopher Mettlerkamp to establish a Kunstverein [art society]

Discussions at the Patriotische Gesellschaft on the transformation of their drawing classes into a vocational school

Foundation of a committee for art exhibitions by members of the Kunstverein

Nomination of the architect Alexis de Chateauneuf as the head of the Patriotische Gesellschaft

Foundation of the Klub Hamburgischer junger Künstler [Club of Young Hamburg Artists], later named Hamburger Künstlerverein [Hamburger Artists’ Society]
Modification of the Hamburg guilds’ constitution, but mandatory membership remains in place

Restructuring of the drawing classes: Installation of an evening school for freehand drawing, decoration painting, architectural drawing and architectural-ornamental drawing, as well as a Sunday school

First sales exhibition of the Kunstverein

Great Fire of Hamburg
Destruction of the headquarters of the Patriotische Gesellschaft on Johannisstraße
Appointment of Martin Gensler as teacher in the field of architectural ornaments (until 1865)

Introduction of a drawing class for freestyle ornaments

Construction of a new building for the Patriotische Gesellschaft at Trostbrücke on the site of Hamburg’s burnt-down Town Hall and resumption of drawing lessons, which until then had been held in private quarters, in the third storey

Elections to a constituent assembly, Hamburger Konstituante, seated in the building of the Patriotische Gesellschaft

Appointment of Günther Gensler as teacher in various classes of the school

The Great Exhibition in London provides a new view of the international arts and crafts

Introduction of the class Modelling in all Important Materials under the direction of the sculptor Ernst Gottfried Vivié (until 1863), from 1865 proposing secretary of the Patriotische Gesellschaft
Size of the school: 320 students, half of them “penniless”

Foundation of the Kunst- und Gewerksektion [Arts and Crafts Section] within the Patriotische Gesellschaft chaired by Martin Gensler with the aim of motivating artists to create designs in the crafts

Grand Schiller parade of the Künstlerverein von 1832 [Artists’ Society of 1832]
Assembly of the first Hamburger Bürgerschaft in the building of the Patriotische Gesellschaft

The first Hamburg Constitution takes effect

Initial ideas to establish an arts and crafts museum proposed by the Patriotische Gesellschaft

Termination of mandatory membership in guilds and start of freedom of trade in Hamburg

Death of the longstanding drawing school teacher Gerdt Hardorff (*1769)

Transformation of the private school of the Patriotische Gesellschaft into a state-run vocational school and a school for skilled construction workers
Size of the vocational school: 247 students
Location: still in the third storey of the Patriotische Gesellschaft at Trostbrücke
Director: Otto Jessen (until 1880)

Expansion of the vocational school by a vocational day school for freehand and compass drawing

Opening of the Hamburger Kunsthalle

Hamburg’s first School Law declaring education and training tasks of the state

Foundation of the Kunstgewerbemuseum [Arts and Crafts Museum] in temporary spaces at St. Annen

Inauguration of the new building for the vocational school at Steintorplatz
Size of the school: 1,500 students
Introduction of the class for decorative painting at the vocational day school

Opening of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe [Museum of Arts and Crafts] in the new building of the vocational school
Director of the museum: Justus Brinckmann (until 1915)

New director of the vocational school: Adolph Stuhlmann (until 1897)
Size of the school: 2,273 students

First director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle: Alfred Lichtwark (until 1914)

Start of the state-run, vocational day school in the building at Steintorplatz
24 subjects are taught in specialist classes

Opening of the Staatlichen Kunstgewerbeschule [State Arts and Crafts School] as part of the vocational day school
Introduction of nude drawing

Foundation of the Hamburgischer Künstlerclub [Hamburger Artists’ Club] in Café Felber at Steindamm

New director of the Kunstgewerbeschule [Arts and Crafts School]: Richard Meyer (until 1929)
Efforts to acquire an own building

Numerous new appointments of teachers including Willy von Beckerath (1907–1931 figurative wall painting), Arthur Illies (1908–1933 painting/drawing), Wilhelm Niemeyer (1911–1938 art history), Richard Schmidt (1907–1945 spatial art), Johannes Schulz (1910–1945 printing/graphic art), Eduard Steinbach (1906–1939 painting), Julius Wohlers (1908–1931 painting) and above all teachers from abroad, such as the Swiss Johann Michael Bossard (1907–1944 sculpture) and the Viennese Carl Otto Czeschka (1907–1943 planar art/applied graphic art), Franz Karl Delavilla (1909–1912 textile art), Anton Kling (1908–1923 decorative painting /glass painting) and Richard Luksch (1907–1934 sculpture)

Size of the Arts and Crafts School: 4,000 students
Plans for two relief buildings: Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule [State Arts and Crafts School] at Lerchenfeld and the Technische Staatslehranstalt [Technical College] at Berliner Tor

Maria Brinckmann is appointed as the first female teacher, initially for art embroidery, then from 1916 as head of the textile workshop (until 1932)

Move of the Arts and Crafts School with 605 students to barracks on Spaldingstraße as an interim solution

Start of construction work of a building at Lerchenfeld designed by Fritz Schumacher

Opening of the new building of the Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule [State Arts and Crafts School] at Lerchenfeld to which belong numerous workshops, greenhouses and a zoo
Size of the school: 1,088 enrolled students

Cologne Werkbund Exhibition with a full-size replica of the auditorium entrance hall with window apse by Carl Otto Czeschka
First artists’ festival at Lerchenfeld under the motto Futurumbumbum

First World War: the Lerchenfeld building serves as a military hospital, school activities are suspended

Ceremony dedicated to the completion of the wall painting Die Ewige Welle [The Eternal Wave] by Willy von Beckerath in the auditorium with a speech held by Aby Warburg

Foundation of the University of Hamburg
Foundation of the Hamburgische Sezession

Foundation of the Kampfbühne by Lothar Schreyer with seven performances in the auditorium: Kräfte and Die Haidebraut by August Stramm, Hölderlin’s Empedocles, Lothar Schreyer’s Kreuzigung, Mann and Kindsterben , as well as Herwarth Walden’s Spiel an der Liebe, Sünde (until 1921), collaboration with Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt

Establishment of artists’ festivals organised by the Arts and Crafts School in the Curio building under annually alternating mottos: Die gelbe Posaune der Sieben (1920), Die Götzenpauke (1921), Himmlischer Kreisel (1922), Cubicuria. Die seltsame Stadt (1924), Der siebente Krater (1925), Noa Tawa (1926), Prisma im Zenith (1928), Synthetisches Klanglichtspiel (1930)

First year of the art magazine Die Kündung, 12 issues, edited by Wilhelm Niemeyer and Rosa Schapire and produced by the hand printing workshop at Lerchenfeld for the members of the Kunstbund Hamburg founded in 1920 (from 1923 named Freunde der Kunsthalle)

Renaming to Landeskunstschule [State School of Arts] with the aim of acquiring the status of a university

Foundation of the Kartell Hamburger Künstlerverbände [Cartel of Hamburg Artists’ Associations]
Director at Lerchenfeld: Paul Helms (until 1930)

Director at Lerchenfeld: Richard Schmidt (until 1931)

Director at Lerchenfeld: Max Sauerlandt (until 1933), who as an art historian is simultaneously the director of the Museum of Arts and Crafts

from 1933
The National Socialists seize power: deposition of director Max Sauerlandt at the instigation of the Kampfbund für deutsche Kunst [Militant League for German Art]
Change of directors in rapid succession: Hermann Maetzig (until 1934), Wilhelm Freiherr Kleinschmit von Lengefeld (until 1935), Paul Fliether (until 1942), Paul Helms (until 1945)
Renaming to Hansische Hochschule für Bildende Künste [Hanseatic College of Fine Arts]
Exclusion of the teachers Friedrich Adler, Alfred Ehrhardt, Hugo Meier-Thur, Fritz Schleifer, and Karl Schneider, as well as numerous students

Destruction of the western building and the studio wing during the Allied bombing raid Operation Gomorrah

New constitution as Landeskunstschule [State Art School] under the director Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann (until 1950)

Resumption of teaching activities in January 1946 with the newly appointed professors Wilhelm Grimm (1946–1969 painting), Ivo Hauptmann (1946–1951 painting), Alfred Mahlau (1946–1959 free graphic art), Gerhard Marcks (1946–1950 sculpture), Edwin Scharff (1946–1955 sculpture)

from 1950
Director: Gustav Hassenpflug (until 1956)
Establishment of the artists’ festival LiLaLe as an annual constant in Hamburg’s cultural life following the preceding events Arche Nova (1947) and SiSaSu (1949)

Restoration and expansion of the Lerchenfeld building with, among other things, the construction of the so-called Laterne [Lantern] on the west wing designed by Hassenpflug (1953)

Architecture, until then taught only as a postgraduate course, becomes an independent course of studies

Introduction of the principle of visiting lecturers with the first visiting professors of painting: Georg Meistermann, Ernst Wilhelm Nay and Fritz Winter

Designation as Hochschule für bildende Künste [University of Fine Arts] by the Senator of Culture Hans-Harder Biermann-Ratjen

Appointment of the first female professor: Margret Hildebrand for textile design (until 1981)

Director: Hans-Werner von Oppen (until 1964)

The action Endlose Linie/Die Linie von Hamburg by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Bazon Brock, and Herbert Schuldt is presented at Lerchenfeld but prematurely halted after three days

Director: Herbert Freiherr von Buttlar (until 1976)
Establishment of the departments of industrial design and visual communication

Internationalisation of the visiting professors with, among others, Joannis Avramide (1966/67), Miguel Berrocal (1966), Dan Graham (1976), Renato Guttuso (1968), David Hockney (1969), Allen Jones (1968–1970), Richard Lindner (1965), Peter Phillips (1968/69), Joe Tilson (1970–1972), alongside renowned German artists, such as Bernd and Hilla Becher (1971–1973), Josef Beuys (1974/75), Hans Haacke (1973–1976), Sigmar Polke (1970/71), Gerhard Richter (1967), Thomas Schütte (1976/77)

Raising to the status of an artistic-scientific university
Reinstallment of the glass windows of Carl Otto Czeschka in the auditorium entrance hall

The building is placed under monument protection

President: Carl Vogel (until 1989)

Biennale des Friedens [Biennale of Peace] by Robert Filliou and René Block in the auditorium entrance hall with a simultaneous concert held by Nam June Paik, Henning Christiansen and Joseph Beuys

Introduction of diplomas in free art and visual communication

First female president: Adrienne Goehler (until 2001)

Redesign of the entrance area by Bernhard Winking

since 2002
President: Martin Köttering
Increase in the number of female teachers through the new appointment of numerous female professors including Jeanne Faust (video/time-based media), Geelke Gaycken (basics of sculpture), Jutta Koether (painting/drawing), Annika Larsson (basics of time-based media), Julia Lohmann (basics of design), Hanne Loreck (art and cultural studies), Astrid Mania (art critique and the art history of modernism), Michaela Melián (mixed media/acoustics), Heike Mutter (basics of graphic art/typography/photography), Michaela Ott (aesthetic theories), Katharina Pethke (basics of film), Marjetica Potrč (social design), Angela Schanelec (film), Bettina Uppenkamp (art history) and Lena Ziese (art education)

Constitution of the HafenCity University to which the study area of architecture is transferred from the HFBK

Introduction of the interdisciplinary study course Bildende Künste [Fine Arts] with Bachelor and Master degrees as well as Dr. phil. in artibus with artistic-scientific doctorate

Foundation of the Art School Alliance with initially six international partner universities: Boston – School of the Museum of Fine Arts; Hangzhou – China Academy of Art; London – Goldsmiths, University of London, Department of Art; Paris – École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts; San Francisco – San Francisco Art Institute; Vienna – Academy of Fine Arts; student exchange including special artists’ studios on Karolinenstraße

from 2011
Restoration of the auditorium and the wall painting Die Ewige Welle [The Eternal Wave] by Willy von Beckerath

Celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Fritz Schumacher building at Lerchenfeld
Takeover and renovation of the building Wartenau 15

Launching of an artistic-scientific doctorate graduate programme with 12 doctoral candidates
Modernisation and reconstruction of the library

Makeover and redesign of the Mensa [canteen]
Plans for the new construction of a studio building with 3,000 square metres at Lerchenfeld with an international architecture competition become concrete (completion in 2019)

Festival week on the occasion of the university’s 250th anniversary

Annette Wehrmann, photography from the series Blumensprengungen, 1991-95; photo: Ort des Gegen e.V.

Conference: Counter-Monuments and Para-Monuments.

The international conference at HFBK Hamburg on December 2-4, 2021 – jointly conceived by Nora Sternfeld and Michaela Melián –, is dedicated to the history of artistic counter-monuments and forms of protest, discusses aesthetics of memory and historical manifestations in public space, and asks about para-monuments for the present.

23 Fragen des Institutional Questionaire, grafisch umgesetzt von Ran Altamirano auf den Türgläsern der HFBK Hamburg zur Jahresausstellung 2021; photo: Charlotte Spiegelfeld


Who speaks? Who paints which motif? Who is shown, who is not? Questions of identity politics play an important role in art and thus also at the HFBK Hamburg. In the current issue, the university's own Lerchenfeld magazine highlights university structures as well as student initiatives that deal with diversity and identity.

Grafik: Tim Ballaschke

Start of semester

After three semesters of hybrid teaching under pandemic conditions, we are finally about to start another semester of presence. We welcome all new students and teachers at the HFBK Hamburg and cordially invite you to the opening of the academic year 2020/21, which this year will be accompanied by a guest lecture by ruangrupa.

Graphic design: Sam Kim, picture in the background: Sofia Mascate, photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

Graduate Show 2021: All Good Things Come to an End

From September 24 to 26, the more than 150 Bachelor's and Master's graduates of the class of 2020/21 will present their final projects as part of the Graduate Show at the HFBK Hamburg. We would like to thank all visitors and participants.

photo: Klaus Frahm

Summer Break

The HFBK Hamburg is in the lecture-free period, many students and teachers are on summer vacation, art institutions have summer break. This is a good opportunity to read and see a variety of things:

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

Live und in Farbe: die ASA Open Studios im Juni 2021

Since 2010, the HFBK has organised the international exchange programme Art School Alliance. It enables HFBK students to spend a semester abroad at renowned partner universities and, vice versa, invites international art students to the HFBK. At the end of their stay in Hamburg, the students exhibit their work in the Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, which are now open again to the art-interested public.

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Unlearning: Wartenau Assemblies

The art education professors Nora Sternfeld and Anja Steidinger initiated the format "Wartenau Assemblies". It oscillates between art, education, research and activism. Complementing this open space for action, there is now a dedicated website that accompanies the discourses, conversations and events.

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

School of No Consequences

Everyone is talking about consequences: The consequences of climate change, the Corona pandemic or digitalization. Friedrich von Borries (professor of design theory), on the other hand, is dedicated to consequence-free design. In “School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, he links collection objects with a "self-learning room" set up especially for the exhibition in such a way that a new perspective on "sustainability" emerges and supposedly universally valid ideas of a "proper life" are questioned.

Annual Exhibition 2021 at the HFBK

Annual exhibition a bit different: From February 12- 14, 2021 students at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, together with their professors, had developed a variety of presentations on different communication channels. The formats ranged from streamed live performances to video programs, radio broadcasts, a telephone hotline, online conferences, and a web store for editions. In addition, isolated interventions could be discovered in the outdoor space of the HFBK and in the city.

Public Information Day 2021

How do I become an art student? How does the application process work? Can I also study to become a teacher at the HFBK? These and other questions about studying art were answered by professors, students and staff at the HFBK during the Public Information Day on February 13, 2021. In addition, there will be an appointment specifically for English-speaking prospective students on February 23 at 2 pm.

Katja Pilipenko

Semestereröffnung und Hiscox-Preisverleihung 2020

On the evening of November 4, the HFBK celebrated the opening of the academic year 2020/21 as well as the awarding of the Hiscox Art Prize in a livestream - offline with enough distance and yet together online.

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

How the university brings together its artistic interdisciplinary study structure with digital formats and their possibilities.

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

HFBK Graduate Survey

Studying art - and what comes next? The clichéd images stand their ground: Those who have studied art either become taxi drivers, work in a bar or marry rich. But only very few people could really live from art – especially in times of global crises. The HFBK Hamburg wanted to know more about this and commissioned the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg to conduct a broad-based survey of its graduates from the last 15 years.

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

How political is Social Design?

Social Design, as its own claim is often formulated, wants to address social grievances and ideally change them. Therefore, it sees itself as critical of society – and at the same time optimizes the existing. So what is the political dimension of Social Design – is it a motor for change or does it contribute to stabilizing and normalizing existing injustices?