Bettina von Arnim

Feminale of Music

Bettina von Arnim, Etching by Emil Ludwig Grimm, c. 1809

Bettina von Arnim is considered an icon of German Romanticism. The multi-talented and broadly interested composer is at the centre of a large circle of artists and scholars with whom she is often in intensive correspondence. 

Bettina von Arnim is born on April 4, 1785 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. In her youth she received extensive drawing and composition lessons, later she made a name for herself as a writer. Her musical works are mainly song compositions. Here, her interest meets that of her brother Clemens Brentano and her husband Achim von Arnim, who for many years actively supported her in her research and publications on German folksongs. Only after the death of her husband did Bettina von Arnim begin to publish her own works. A main focus is her extensive correspondence. The first to be published is »Goethe's Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde« (Goethe's Correspondence with a Child), through which she quickly becomes famous. In this correspondence, a great enthusiasm for Goethe as well as for Beethoven becomes apparent, through which Bettina von Arnim decisively shapes the image that Romanticism creates of both personalities.

Von Arnim uses her own fame to take a critical stand on social issues in a time of political change. With great commitment and courage she stands up for the poor and disadvantaged, she fights against anti-Semitism, for the abolition of the death penalty and for the political equality of women. Her socially critical work »Dies Buch gehört dem König« (This Book Belongs to the King) is banned in Bavaria, her already far advanced plan for a »Armenbuch« (Book for the Poor) falls victim to Prussian censorship. She is accused of inciting rebellion and, after a trial, escapes a prison sentence only with the help of influential friends.


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Mon, 06.04.2020 – Fri, 01.05.2020