Honour for Arist Dethleffs and Fridel Dethleffs-Edelmann

Some entrepreneurs build up new businesses – like Arist Dethleffs did with the caravan industry in Germany in 1931.
Some entrepreneurs also cared about the promotion of economics and politics – like Arist Dethlefss during the time after the Second World War.
Yet, are there any other families of entrepreneurs who achieved so much by being an independent artist – like Fridel Dethleffs-Edelmann and Ursula Dethleffs, who originally come from Baden and found their home in Württemberg?

Fridel Dethleffs-Edelmann first was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit.  Arist Dethleffs, the younger, became the second bearer of the medal in the family.  With the official honours, the justifications were the following:

Development of the first caravan in Germany

Support of the artist groups "Sezession Oberschwaben-Bodensee" ("Secession Upper Swabia and Lake of Constance") and "Arkade Isny"

Political responsibility in honorary posts after 1945 in the CDU Württemberg-Hohenzollern and Isny - Allgäu

Fridel Dethleffs-Edelmann is known as a significant artist far beyond the borders of the region.

Ursula Dethleffs unexpectedly died early, this is the reason, why nobody knows if she also would have been officially honoured.

Fridel Dethleffs-Edelmann

(1899 Hagsfeld near Karlsruhe -1982 Isny)

Fridel Edelmann wanted to become an artist. Therefore, she accepted all deprivations. Female artists were not very respected around 1915. Nevertheless Fridel dominated at the end. She became one of the first female students at the Badischen Landeskunstschule (Baden Regional School of Arts) in Karlsruhe. Soon, she was able to work in the style of the Karlsruher Akademie (Academy of Karlsruhe). She became a master student. Her works became popular as the most important milestones of the New Objectivity. Portraits, landscapes, still lifes, watercolours and much more were created in a short period.

Her fight for the woman as an artist beared fruit. If not the Nazis had come to power in 1933 – on the height of Fridel's career. Her own style of painting seemed to be identical to the imagination the Nazis had of "German Art". Fridel enjoyed the recognition, she had to fight for so hard. Yet the Nazis were wrong friends.

But it was too late to recognise this mistake. After 1945 this was not enough. She was treated with hostility. Just like earlier, when she wanted to study arts in Karlsruhe. Nevertheless she went on painting. She founded the circle of artists of the Sezession Oberschwaben-Bodensee (SOB) (Secession Upper Swabia-Lake of Constance). After the courageous trip with her family in a caravan through the communist UDSSR under Breschnew to Georgia, she found the new bridge in her paintings between the style of Karlsruhe and the modernity. Only a few years later she suffered from a brain tumor. After recovery and until her death, she focused on the work with collagen – in doing so the absolutely safe hand of a painter was not necessary. Her love of art was unbroken until the end of her life.

[Translate to englisch:] Arist Dethleffs

(1908 Isny - 1996 Isny)

Arist Dethleffs married Fridel Edelmann in 1931 against the criticism of his father. The manufacturer Albert Dethleffs did not wish an artist from Baden to be the mother of his grandchildren. Arist married her anyway – in Karlsruhe. The fear of Albert Dethleffs became reality – no grandson was born, therefore his granddaughter Ursula.

A short time later, Arist fulfilled the wish of his wife: It was the first German Caravan – called a camper at that time. Fridel wanted a camper, in which she could paint. He on his side wanted to take his wife with him to the many travels as Dethleffs seller of riding whips, ski sticks etc. Being a Swabian manufactuerer's son he did not receive money for staying in guesthouses – that was his private matter.  The camper was the most economic solution for both of them. They did not care, that they were mocked as gypsies: They got along with other gypsies very well.

After 1945, the Dethleffs caravan factory grew thanks to the increase in leisure time of the Germans. Arist became economically independent from his father. Though he was a Protestant, he joined the mainly Catholic CDU and became their first protestant chairman of Württemberg-Hohenzollern. He additionally took over the position of the wealthy treasurer of the Sezession Oberschwaben (Secession Upper Swabia). With his wooden carburetor, the artworks of many artists were transported to the first exhibitions after the war. Besides, he had also taken over for a few years the presidency of the German Caravan Manufacturers. 

In order to secure the future of Ursula, the seriously ill entrepreneur sold his caravan factory to the entrepreneurs W.Thrun and J.Eicker in 1970. The proceeds were used to build the art gallery next to the family's home.

Ursula Dethleffs

(1933 Ottersweier - 1994 Isny)

Besides her own art, the aristic education of her daughter was the most important task for the mother of Ursula. The mother's high demands and the many travels abroad, had the effect that Ursula could attend school only sporadically. Therefore she had a private tutor. She did not finish school with a graduation. Yet this was no problem in younger years, as the young, talented artist had been invited to exhibitions in South Germany already early. At the exhibition openings she surprised with adorable modesty: The fuss that was made about prodigies was far from what she wanted to be.

Her parents took Ursula to art exhibitions in all countries, that could be reached with a caravan. She was introduced into the world of Max Ackermann, otto Dix, HAP Grieshaber, Sepp Mahler, Melchior Setz and many more by the artist friends of her mother. She learned fast and was often invited to the studios of the friends. She soon knew more artistic techniques than her mother and she had the luck to grow up with modern art – in contrast to her mother.  Magnificent reverse paintings on glass, drawings, etchings, lithographies, textile works, collages, reliefs on ceramics and much more until the late wooden reliefs of the object art were created.

During her whole life, she has transformed old, used stuff into new art. Ursula could breathe new life into used objects. In young years, this was the self-evident Swabian thriftiness. Only later the protection of nature and recyclable material became part of conscious art. For Ursula this was also the symbolic ressurection of matter – a motive of her religious youth. Her early artworks document this development.

Even friends of the artists of Isny did neither understand the object art nor Ursula herself. They sneered at the "scrap Ursel" ("Schrottursel"). This was a bitter experience for her, as she had established and supported the artist group "Arkade" with a lot of engagement and in every respect. Despite the mockery of some colleagues, she made her own way until the end of her life.

Once her home appeared to her too restriced, she went on study trips to Japan or Chile. Unfortunately without her parents – her mother died and her father went blind.

Arist Dethleffs and Fridel Edelmann after their wedding in front of the Registry of Karlsruhe

The three Dethleffs with their first camper

The three Dethleffs with their white BMW and their globetrotter