Sibylle von Olfers 1881–1916: Biography
Sibylle von Olfers' Childhood
Sibylle von Olfers was born on the 8 May 1881 in the Castle of Metgethen in East Prussia. Her parents were Ernts Friedrich Franz Gustav Werner Marie von Olfers and his second wife Olga Maria Bertha Freiin Behr. His first marriage was to the older sister of Sybille von Olfers' mother. Sibylle von Olfers was the third of five children and her full name was Maria Regina Angela Hedwig Sibylla von Olfers.
Sibylle von Olfers led a sheltered childhood and she and her siblings were educated by governesses and private tutors. However, her grandmother wrote that in the early stages of her education, Sibylle von Olfers did not pay much attention to her lessons, as she preferred to amuse herself with fantasies and games.
Sibylle von Olfers and her love of art
Sibylle von Olfers revealed her passion for art early on and began writing and illustrating picture books for her little sister with whom she was very close. These picture books entertained and delighted the whole family.
Sibylle von Olfers' aunt, the writer and painter Marie von Olfers, supported her interest in art. She taught Sibylle von Olfers how to draw and paint plants and animals and Sibylle von Olfers would spend hours at a time drawing in a corner of the palace gardens. At the age of seventeen Sibylle von Olfers went to stay with her aunt Marie von Olfers in Berlin where she trained at art college.
Sibylle von Olfers' life as a nun
As a child, Sibylle von Olfers displayed a quiet, childlike piety and would pray in front of self-erected altars surrounded by candles and drew images of Madonnas and saints for her little sister.
Sibylle von Olfers grew up to be a beautiful woman, attracting many admirers and suitors, but she remained aloof and distant from the 'useless world of the aristocrats'. In 1906, at the age of twenty-five Sibylle von Olfers joined the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth, an order of nuns, much to the dismay of her parents. She took the name Sister Maria Aloysia.
After two years Sibylle von Olfers was sent to work as an art teacher at a Catholic primary school in Lübeck. In addition to her work she continued her artistic training at art school, mainly copying the works of Italian masters. Sibylle von Olfers painted her first altar pieces for the Sacred Heart Parish in Lübeck, some of which are still well preserved.
Sibylle von Olfers became ill with a lung infection and a stay at a spa in Gardone temporarily alleviated her disease. The outbreak of the First World War forced Sibylle von Olfers to return to Lübeck where she was able to continue her work until Christmas Day 1915. Her lung disease returned and Sibylle von Olfers died four weeks later, on the 29 January 1916, at the age of 35.