The Gerda Henkel Foundation was established in June 1976 by Lisa Maskell (1914—1998) in memory of her mother Gerda Henkel (1888–1966). Lisa Maskell was a granddaughter of factory owner Fritz Henkel, who had set up the company Henkel & Cie in Aachen in 1876. In 1878 the corporation relocated to Düsseldorf, where Henkel AG & Co. KGaA is now headquartered. The Foundation’s office is domiciled to this day in the home of the founder’s parents on Malkastenstrasse 15 in Düsseldorf. Gerda Henkel was a descendant of the Janssens, a well-known family of artists in Düsseldorf. Her daughter Lisa Maskell studied under sculptor Ewald Mataré and had a strong affinity for the arts and for cultural studies. She dedicated her Foundation to promoting the humanities, in particular the historical humanities, namely history, archaeology, the history of art, historical Islamic studies and the history of law.
Lisa Maskell chaired the Foundation’s Board of Trustees for more than 20 years and closely followed the projects it patronised and how the research activities progressed. This era came to an end with her death on 29 August 1998, which spelled a great loss for the Foundation. Her daughter Mrs Anette Petersen-Brandhorst, who had been a member of the Board of Trustees since 1987, succeeded her as its chairperson. Moreover, the founder’s brother, Dr Konrad Henkel (1915–1999), the long-standing Managing Director of the corporation and thereafter Chairman of the Henkel Group’s Supervisory Board and the Shareholders’ Committee, was a member of the Board of Trustees from the very outset and until 1997 acted as its Deputy Chairman. After the untimely death of Anette Petersen-Brandhorst on 1 May 1999, in July of the same year, the founder’s granddaughter, Mrs Julia Schulz-Dornburg, assumed the position of the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees.