Stop 3: The German Fountain

A total of 122 submissions from mainly artists based in Germany were made for the design of this monument. After the first selection was made in Berlin, the committee in Buenos Aires selected the proposal of Gustav Bredow. ​

The German Fountain takes yet another tack but speaks to the common trend of carving out a place for cultural pluralism in the city’s urban landscape. Four naked men in decidedly Greek tradition abut the fountain. They represent livestock breeding (left) and agriculture (right). The agricultural motif is the German claim to their contribution to Argentine development. Germans were among a select group that appeared in Argentine nationalist thought as ideal settlers of the pampas and the expanding frontier.  

The German Fountain
Source: Wilhelm Keiper, Der Deutsche Brunnen in Buenos Aires: Das Werk und der Künstler (Buenos Aires, 1928).

Wilhelm Keiper, an educator who came to Argentina to participate in the modernization of the country’s educational system and for a time directed the Instituto Nacional del Profesorado, wrote two books about the making of the fountain. He stated that the intention of the monument was to show off German art and added that Germans in Buenos Aires wanted to give the Argentine nation a memorial that would “serve as an ornament and express the friendly relations between Germany and Argentina over the course of the first century of Argentine history.”  

At a glance, the Greek figures might seem like an odd choice for a German monument and especially compared to the obvious national origins of Garibaldi, Columbus, or the French Revolution. Nevertheless, Greek statues and an obsession with idealized muscular bodies that harkened back to ancient civilizations were particularly common in fin-de-siècle Germany. If France gave Argentina republicanism, Spain its Hispanic heritage, and Britain industry, Germany was exporting Kultur. The fountain was, as the committee wished, German art depicting Argentina.  

The committee composed of affluent German-Argentines received 122 submissions from artists mainly in Germany, and the first selection was made in Berlin. The top four were sent on to the committee in Buenos Aires just two weeks before the cornerstone was laid in May 1910. The committee in Buenos Aires selected the proposal of Gustav Bredow, who only came to Argentina for its inauguration in July 1914.  

Stop 3: The German Fountain