Fólkvangr (people’s meadow): a term used in the Old Norse epic verses, Edda, to describe the abode of the goddess Freya. Museum Folkwang was founded by Karl Ernst Osthaus (1874–1921) in the Westphalian industrial town of Hagen in 1902. The then art history, literature and philosophy student acquired the necessary funds by inheritance. From its beginnings as an art collection supplemented by natural history and arts-and-craft pieces, it soon developed into a pioneering modern art museum in Germany. As the first public collection in Germany, Museum Folkwang purchased and exhibited works by trailblazers in Modernism such as Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh and Matisse. Following the death of the museum’s founder in 1921, the newly-founded Folkwang-Museumverein e.V., a progressive initiative formed by art aficionados from Essen, purchased the Osthaus collection for the city of Essen and consolidated the collection with the Municipal Art Museum, established in 1906, to create Museum Folkwang.
Today Museum Folkwang is one of the most prominent art museums in Germany with outstanding collections of painting and sculpture from the 19th century, Classical Modernism and the post-1945 period, as well as photography, to which Museum Folkwang has dedicated its own department since 1979.