Station: [4] Heinrich Carl Ludwig Gätke | Storm at Sea off Helgoland, 1844

Our gaze is directed towards a sailing ship attempting to hold its course towards Helgoland on a stormy sea.The island appears on the horizon with its distinctive northern tip, the “Long Anna”.The sea is so turbulent that the waves crash together above the severely listing ship.The dramatic events are recorded in fine brushstrokes; clear white has been reserved for the wave’s dramatic crests, which the artist has distributed across the surface of the water in finely chiselled textures.The lofty sky is no less dynamic, and it is dominated by a thick, whitish-grey cloud formation that nonetheless bursts open in the middle, immersing the foundering ship in light.

The artist was born in the town of Pritzwalk in Brandenburg in 1814 and went to Berlin in 1832 to begin an apprenticeship as an assistant in a painting-supply shop.His interactions with the artists who shopped there were so fascinating to him that he decided to become a painter himself – and so, the talented young man attended the Berlin Academy of Art.

In 1844 he created the painting “Storm at Sea off Helgoland” on Helgoland, where Gätke had been living since 1837, concentrating primarily on seascapes.The artist’s works were regularly presented at the exhibitions of Berlin’s academy as well as exhibitions in Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden and Vienna.As a state secretary working for the island’s English administration, he found a way to earn a solid living – after all, he had ten children to support from his marriage with Anna Maria Tapp.

It was not just through his fine painting that Gätke achieved fame:in 1843 he turned his attention to the ornithology of Helgoland and is considered its founder.He watched the flight of birds and rare species of birds that brooded only Helgoland.His lengthy book on the Helgoland bird observatory was republished in multiple editions.Incidentally, Gätke was also a cousin of the writer Theodor Fontane, who had wished to visit him during his three-week holiday on Föhr in August of 1891 – however, bad weather and a cold prevented his crossing.