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The Museum Junkerhaus: Monument to an Unhappy Love

Anne-Kathrin Wielgosz


From the 1950s to the 1970s, the sign “Monument to an Unhappy Love” stood in front of the Junkerhaus, referencing the inhabitant’s unrequited love for his master’s daughter while a carpentry journeyman in Hamburg. Built in 1890 by architect, woodcarver, and painter, Karl Junker (1850-1912), the Junkerhaus is a “museum-house” that integrates living and creative spaces and is situated just outside the historic centre of the small northern German town of Lemgo. Orphaned as a boy, and rejected as architect and artist and as a man, Junker earned himself the reputation of a tight-lipped recluse who, at age 40, set out on his last, most singular and single-minded project: to design, build, furnish, and decorate his house without concession to style or artistic tradition. With an enormous marriage bed and a beautifully carved cradle (both of which, like the rest of the furniture, are solid and grounded in stasis for a settled existence), Junker appeared to ready himself for a life that never arrived with a house that he, a bachelor, never needed. Thus, the space became a repository for a longing infused with such interiority and confinement that, at its centre, could be nothing but Junker’s most intimate and hidden “window-view” painting of a domestic scene. Arrested in a past that never was, the Junkerhaus contains the memory of lost time and inevitably intertwines it with the very materiality of the house. Perhaps this memory was only a potential one—an “it could have happened this way”—and the house, as it were, was built on the subjunctive.