In 1902, ownership of the dwelling house and part of the garden passed to the doctor Hans van Ackeren and his family. The new owners laid out the path that runs along the old city wall, above the level of the terrace. It leads to a fountain in the Art Nouveau style, built between 1906 and 1910.
It’s the work of the Cleves sculptor Gerd Brüx. Brüx was also inspired by Italian models: the water spout is shaped like the head of the wine god Bacchus. The figures to the left and right show Silenus, one of Bacchus’s companions, and Diana, goddess of hunting. The originals stood in Koekkoek’s garden.
Take a look at your screen to see a photograph of the fountain in the early years.
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the city of Cleves decided to refurbish its historic gardens. It commissioned garden designers Rose and Gustav Wörner from Wuppertal, who had previously planned the restoration of the baroque gardens in Cleves. They were now instructed to redesign the Koekkoek garden.
They created oval lawns and elliptical paths that echo the axes of the house and the rear façade, and have transformed what was once a private garden into a green park-like landscape with architectural elements. Today, this is the last historic private garden to survive in the heart of Cleves, though all the magnificent villas in this spa town used to have them.
Finally, the bronze bust of the Flemish dialect poet Felix Timmermans was added in 2015. It dates to 1936/37 and was designed by the Flemish sculptor Achilles Moortgat, who was active in Cleves from 1911 to 1945. In his day, he was regarded as the Lower Rhine region’s most important sculptor.
The current redesign involves building a footpath, to be known as the “Koekkoek Path”. This recreates a historical route to the upper town that would have been used by Koekkoek and other residents of the mansion. Today, it leads past the poplar newly planted in 2020. During the Romantic period, fans of Italy called the poplar the “cypress of the North”.