Friedrich Hölderlin, présences du poète

Salle d'exposition
Entrée libre
Lundi : 14 - 18 h
Mardi - samedi : 12 - 18 h
Fermé dimanches et jours fériés

Scénographie : Mireille Kintz
Graphisme : Sarah Lang

Renseignements et réservations : /

Catalogue de l'exposition : Prix : 28.00 € TTC

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Friedrich Hölderlin, présences du poète

28/1/2010 - 1/4/2010

Friedrich Hölderlin is one of the most widely translated German poets, but like so many others he was not understood during his lifetime. The exhibition takes up, traces and analyses this founding paradox. For the first time ever, the French public will be able to see the original manuscripts of Hölderlin's greatest poems. The exhibition also aims to trace the way the poet's work was received and to show the enthusiasm it generated among musicians, philosophers, writers and artists.

These days, Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) is one of Germany's best-known poets - and one of the most popular outside Germany. His eccentric fate (he spent 36 years of "madness" in a tower in the city of Tübingen) makes him one of the modern figures of the absolute poet, like Arthur Rimbaud, who also "withdrew" from the western world, to the Abyssinian desert. His work has a universal appeal, and finds a particular resonance with our era, whereas it remained largely misunderstood and neglected by his contemporaries.

In France, Hölderlin is immensely popular not only among poets but also among philosophers who have sought ways of thinking in his works, in the steps of Heidegger, whose commentaries on his poetry are almost as well-known as the poems themselves.

This was not always the case, however. In 1806, when Hölderlin agreed to lock himself away in the tower owned by Zimmer, a cabinet-maker, in Tübingen, he was little known by the general public in Germany, and totally unknown elsewhere. It was not until the next generation - the Romantics - that interest in the stricken poet became manifest and his work began to be published once more. Clemens Brentano, Achim and Bettina von Arnim saw in him the genius transporting the enthusiasms of a visionary. About ten years later, the Swabian Romantic writers Ludwig Uhland, Justinus Kerner, Gustav Schwab and Eduard Mörike united their efforts and managed to bring out a new edition of the novel Hyperion, an anthology of poems in 1826, and his complete works in 1843, published by Cotta.

Hölderlin was invoked again later, in Munich, by the entourage of the poet Stefan George. In the fin-de-siècle ethic, he appears as a precursor of modernity, alongside Paul Verlaine and Emile Verhaeren. And indeed the twentieth century has truly appropriated Hölderlin, who has become the poet par excellence, whose life and work are inseparably entwined, and in whom modern poets see their master.

Le jeune Hölderlin, dessin coloré au crayon, 1786Le jeune Hölderlin, dessin coloré au crayon, 1786

The exhibition opens with a broad illustrated chronology and goes on to trace Hölderlin's literary life, presenting his reincarnations in poetry, music, philosophy, the theatre, the arts and the cinema, the history of the passionate and sometimes conflicting relations between his masterly work and a reading of it that is immersed in the spirit of the age. Projections in politics, culture, philosophy...

Manuscripts and first editions

Hölderlin's poems, first published in 1791, were only published piecemeal thereafter, in almanacs, literary magazines and anthologies. This first section of the exhibition brings together the manuscripts of the greatest poems, together with the almanacs that were the essential vectors of literary life at that time. Only the two volumes of Hyperion and the translations of Sophocles, which are also on display, were published separately. This scattering partly explains why Hölderlin remained in relative obscurity for so long.

Manuscrit du poème l’Archipel de Hölderlin, 1800Manuscrit du poème l’Archipel de Hölderlin, 1800

Birth of a legend - from the Romantics to the twentieth century's rediscovery of the poet

Following the publication of the poem Brot und Wein (Bread and Wine) under the title Nuit (Night) in the Almanach des Muses for the year 11807, Clemens Brentano wrote, "This is one of the very few poems in which I have clearly perceived the essence of a masterpiece." For the first time, the critics were enthusiastic and full of praise. Thanks to the efforts of the Swabian writers Friedrich Uhland, Kerner, Schwab and Mörike, and to the work of the Germanist and philologist Norbert von Hellingrath, Hölderlin's work was finally published and emerged from the shadows. However, it was in the twentieth century that enthusiasm for Hölderlin was to take on a truly planetary dimension. Stefan George, Rilke, Georg Trakl and Jakob von Hoddis among many others, and then in the second half of the twentieth century Paul Celan, took a particular interest in Hölderlin's later poetry and developed a new approach to the poet that still continues to nourish the theories of structuralism, deconstruction, the influence of psychoanalysis, and its reception by French philosophers even today.

Lettre datée du 09.09.1812 de Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué à Ludwig Uhland « Que devient Hölderlin? Les sombres nuées planent-elLettre datée du 09.09.1812 de Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué à Ludwig Uhland « Que devient Hölderlin? Les sombres nuées planent-el

Hölderlin and philosophy

Derrida called Hölderlin "the poet's poet", but he is also very definitely the philosopher's poet. From Nietzsche who in 1861, while still a schoolboy, called him his favourite poet, to Heidegger, Walter Benjamin and Adorno, not to mention Foucault, Bataille, Blanchot, Derrida, Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, Hölderlin has been more inspirational for philosophers and thinkers than any other poet.

Lettre datée du 03.03.1975 de Martin Heidegger à Wilhem Hoffmann, directeur de la Bibliothèque du Land de Wurtemberg, et le remeLettre datée du 03.03.1975 de Martin Heidegger à Wilhem Hoffmann, directeur de la Bibliothèque du Land de Wurtemberg, et le reme

Hölderlin and France - elective affinities

Although Hölderlin occupies a substantial position on the intellectual scene in France via the philosophers, he has also been lucky in having as his translators into French a number of great writers such as Pierre-Jean Jouve, Jean Tardieu, Gustave Roud, Philippe Jaccottet and Jean-Pierre Lefèbvre, and in having inspires a great many poets such as René Char, Louis Aragon, Michel Deguy and André du Bouchet. In the introduction to a Franco-German colloquy held in Saarbrücken in 1996, Nicole Parfait said that "faced with the necessity for a story in which the absent subject looks out at us, Hölderlin's thinking is evident (…). Hölderlin manages to grasp and unite in non(dialectic thinking the essence of both Greece and modernity, and elaborates a non-messianic way of considering history. It is by this tour de force that he represents for us, as the late-born children of the modern age, who have turned back from all messianic thinking and are quite often convinced of having come to the end of history, the star whose distant light is perhaps the only light capable of showing us the way to a possible future". And Dominique Janicaud adds, "In France, Hölderlin shares with Rimbaud the dazzling privilege of symbolising most decisively the poetic being in its vital radical nature". Bringing together eye-witness accounts, letters and iconographic documents, the exhibition analyses the unique position Hölderlin occupies within the literary, philosophical and political debate in France.

Hölderlin, Poèmes, ouvrage illustré par Max ErnstHölderlin, Poèmes, ouvrage illustré par Max Ernst

Hölderlin and the arts

If there is one art form that Hölderlin's poems have inspired more than any other, it is music, and more particularly twentieth-century music. Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann and Theodor Fröhlich represent no more than isolate attempts, but avant-garde musicians in the twentieth century felt at home in the universe and language of the Swabian poet. Examples include Theodor W. Adorno, Paul Hindemith, Luigi Nono, Heinz Holliger, Hans Werner Henze, Benjamin Britten, Bruno Maderna, Carl Orff and György Kurtag. The exhibition will include scores and musical extracts to see and hear.

Johannes Brahms, Schicksalslied, Londres, 1892, édition trilingueJohannes Brahms, Schicksalslied, Londres, 1892, édition trilingue


Hölderlin's relationship with the theatre only really started in the twentieth century with the discovery of his play Empedocles in 1916 and subsequently the two translations of works by Sophocles - Antigone and Oedipus Tyrannos - a few years later. The fragmentary nature of Empedocles, a number of different versions of which are known, remains a challenge for producers, as the play places very little emphasis on action but makes great use of the power of language. Producers have created religious, mystical and avant-garde readings of Empedocles and adapted it, achieving an effect of strangeness and being out of step. Hölderlin's translations of Sophocles have great expressive force, and have now pushed the earlier translations into the background. Antigone is the most frequently performed of Hölderlin's works in Germany, and some of the productions have gone down in the history of contemporary theatre.

Affiche du spectacle créé par le TNS en 1979 dans l’ancien arsenal de l’Esplanade. Mise en scène de Michel Deutsch et Philippe LAffiche du spectacle créé par le TNS en 1979 dans l’ancien arsenal de l’Esplanade. Mise en scène de Michel Deutsch et Philippe L


The exhibition has chosen to present just two of the very many films inspired by Hölderlin's tragic existence. The first is Harald Bergman's Scardanelli (2000), part of a trilogy influenced by the Frankfurt edition of Hölderlin's works by E.D. Sattler. In 2007 it received the Hölderlin Prize awarded by the City and University of Tübingen. The exhibition shows the uncut version of the film Scardanelli, subtitled (in French) for broadcasting on Arte, as well as the soundtrack of the film. The excellent film by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub entitled La Mort d’Empédocle (The Death of Empedocles) will also be presented to the public.

Plastic arts

Since the 1970s, a very great number of works have been inspired by Hölderlin's texts, particularly by the poet's handwriting, rendered visible in the facsimiles of E.D. Sattler's Frankfurt edition. The work is revealed through the different versions of the manuscripts and the deletions that are called "pentimenti" (regrets) in painting terminology. This brings us to the very heart of the creative process and it is precisely this movement, this over-welling of thought, that has fascinated the artists. Indeed many of the works presented at the exhibition superpose lines of handwriting in so many layers, recreating a palimpsest-type work in a paradoxical movement. The artists presented - Max Ernst, Josua Reichert, Max Kaminski, Robert Schwarz, Linda Schwarz and Ralf Ehmann - have responded very personally to a central question contained in Hölderlin's works, that of incompletion.

Robert Schwarz, lithographie inspirée du poème Diotima, n° 21/30, signée par l’artiste, Mayence, 1993. Texte tiré de l’édition cRobert Schwarz, lithographie inspirée du poème Diotima, n° 21/30, signée par l’artiste, Mayence, 1993. Texte tiré de l’édition c

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