Nazi-Era Provenance Research Project

What is provenance? Why is it important?

Provenance is the history of ownership of an artwork. An important component of art historical scholarship, provenance research provides insights into the cultural, political, religious, and economic roles of an art object at the time of its production and throughout its history. A complete provenance record, stretching back to the work’s creation, is useful for establishing the work’s value and authenticity, and for clarifying questions concerning its lawful ownership. However, it is very rare for works to have fully documented provenance histories.

Nazi-Era provenance

In 2004, the Eskenazi Museum of Art began to systematically research the provenance of artworks that could have been in Europe during the Nazi era (1933–1945). During that time, Germany’s National Socialist government looted works of art from numerous Jewish collectors and art dealers in Germany and other countries under Nazi occupation. Synagogues, churches, and museums also lost many art objects during World War II. Despite major restitution efforts undertaken after the war, many looted works entered the art market and were subsequently acquired by collectors and museums. Since 1998, many museums have undertaken renewed efforts to research the Nazi-era provenance of their collections.

The Eskenazi Museum of Art is committed to researching the provenance histories of the European paintings, sculptures, drawings, and Judaica (Jewish ritual objects) in our collection that were created before 1946. Our goal is to ensure that we have not unwittingly acquired looted art, and to act in an ethical and responsible manner if we discover any problems with a work’s ownership history. Although a gap in provenance between 1933 and 1945 does not necessarily indicate that a work was looted, our research focuses on works with provenance gaps during that period. In the future, we hope to expand our provenance research efforts to other areas of our collections.

Learn more about the provenance of works we're researching

Explore the Nazi-Era Research Project

How is provenance research conducted?

Provenance research is a long-term, ongoing project. After closely examining a work of art and recording all inscriptions and marks found on it, researchers consult a variety of sources, including museum files, exhibition and auction catalogues, collectors’ inventories, art gallery records, and other archival materials. Provenance researchers generally must be able to read one or more foreign languages, such as French, German, Italian, Dutch, Yiddish, and/or Hebrew. Historical documentation is often missing (for example, it may have been destroyed), preventing us from reconstructing the full provenance for a work of art.

Part 1: Jewish Art Collectors and the Subversion of Nazi Art Looting

Description of the video:

Hello and welcome everyone. We’re going to give just a few minutes for people to log in before we get started. Yeah. Okay. And so as they continue to trickle in we will get started. So I want to thank you all for joining us today. This is the first of three virtual tours that we’re doing on collecting and provenance era art. And we have just a couple of housekeeping items we are going to be recording this session, so we’ll have it available afterwards. Each session will be recorded individually and then shared out to all of you who are already registered for this event and also be shared publicly so you can spread it around to your friends. We are asking that you use the chat box to communicate with us. For those of you who’ve not use the chat box before at the bottom of your screen, there’s an option to open a chat. And you can chat to the panelists and ask us your questions there.

So Jennifer McComas is going to be leading our session today, and she will gladly answer questions at the end. And throughout, myself and my colleague Laura will be answering questions as we can. I’m going to give Jenny a quick introduction here. First an introduction to the talk series, and then a little bit more about Jenny. So thank you for coming to the first of three talks on the subject of Exile and Displacement: World War Two and the Transformation of the Western Art World. Tonight’s talk is on Jewish collectors and the subversion of [few moments of silence due to screen freeze]. We are committed to determining the whereabouts of our European art objects between the years of 1933 and 1945 and taking the steps to restitute these works if necessary, while guided by an ethical mandate to conduct research. We have also found that provenance research greatly enhanced our knowledge of many works in our collection and the lives of the people who, who owned them. This series of talks focuses on the profound meaning of art for those who were persecuted and displaced during World War II. About Jenny, As I mentioned, Jenny is the Curator of European and American Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art. She holds a PhD in art history from Indiana University and has been with the museum since 2004. Jenny has spent many years researching the World War Two era provenance of European art in the museum’s collections and helped facilitate the 2011 restitution of a painting to a museum in Berlin. In 2018, she was selected as a participant in the German-American Provenance Research Exchange Program held at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the Central Institute for Art History in Munich. She has published and lectured nationally and internationally on provenance as well as topics in the history of collecting and the politics of modern art in the mid-twentieth century, Germany and the United States. She’s the author of Swing Landscape: Stuart Davis and the Modernist Mural, a forthcoming book with Yale University Press. Jenny is also currently conducting preliminary research for an exhibition and publication tentatively titled Modernism in Exile: American Artists and the Holocaust, 1935 to 1965. We’re very happy to welcome Jenny today as she begins her series.

Hi everyone. So I’m Jenny and I’m really pleased to welcome you tonight to this talk on ”Jewish Art Collectors and the Subversion of Nazi Looting.” As Erin mentioned, this is the first of three talks. The subsequent talks will also take place the next two Wednesdays at seven p.m. Before we get started, I do want to thank my colleagues in the museum’s education department, Erin Ryan, who just gave that lovely introduction, as well as Laura Scheper, as both of them have really been instrumental in helping out with the logistical and technical issues surrounding a virtual presentation on Zoom. This is still somewhat new territory for us. Likewise, it’s a little too bad we can’t see each other tonight in this format. But I would like to extend a special welcome to some of my colleagues in the world of provenance research who I think are out there. I know you’re tuning in from around the country. I also know we have many participants tonight from the local Bloomington community. So welcome to you as well, and I hope you all enjoy this evening’s presentation. So in my talk tonight, I’ll be looking at Nazi looting from a somewhat different angle than it’s usually considered from, but one which I think and hope will broaden our understanding of the topic. And I’ll be doing this using specific examples from the permanent collection of the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Before I turn to the topic of the evening, I thought I would say just a few words about the Eskenazi Museum of Art for those of you who are joining from a distance and may not have had a chance to visit us in person. As you probably know, we are located on the campus of Indiana University, or IU, in Bloomington. And this is about one hour south of Indianapolis for some geographic context. The museum traces its official history to 1941, when exhibition and collecting activities were formally established at Indiana University. That was under the leadership of a newly appointed fine arts department chair named Henry Radford Hope. He had studied museology with the renowned professor Paul Sachs at Harvard. Today we have a more or less encyclopedic collection of about 46,000 objects, and we’re housed in the building you see on your screen, a modernist building designed by the firm of I. M. Pei, which opened in the early 1980s. And we’re often ranked among the top five university art museums in the country.

It was in 2004 that the museum began to address the question of Holocaust era art looting. Like most other museums, our actions were spurred by the creation in 1998 of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. Erin, do you happen to have that link? If so, you could perhaps put that in the chat for anyone who would like to read those in their entirety. Basically, the Washington Principles recommend that museums conduct in-depth research on the wartime histories of European art in their collections and publicize those histories to facilitate potential restitution claims. Or, rather than European art, I should say art that was in Europe or believed to have been in Europe during the era of the Third Reich, and therefore, potentially subject to looting. Now my own research on the provenance of European artworks in the Eskenazi Museum’s collection has taken me to archives, workshops, and conferences throughout the United States as well as to Germany, the United Kingdom, and Israel. We’ve been posting provenance online since 2005, and we highlight it in our exhibitions and publications as well when possible. And again, Erin, if you could put the link to our provenance research page in the chat, people could check that out and see more detailed histories of 8 or 900 objects in our collection.

The image I’m showing you here is a photograph that illustrates very well one of the motivations behind Nazi art looting. In this photograph we see an enormous quantity of art that was looted from Jewish collectors and dealers in Paris and stored in the Jeu de Paume, near the Louvre. Hitler and Goering, the Reichsmarshall of the Third Reich, often made visits to this location to select art for their own personal collections, as well as for a museum that Hitler hoped to establish in his hometown of Linz, Austria. It was very important, somewhat ironically, for the Nazi officials to cultivate a cultured and sophisticated appearance, and this did so by using looted art. Although some of this art was returned to its rightful owners after the war, much of it, as we’ve learned over the past 25 years, was not.

So it has now been 22 years since the Washington Conference ushered in a new era of provenance research and restitution to the heirs of Holocaust victims. During this time, the basics of Nazi looting have become fairly well known to the general public. In addition to the restitution cases reported by the press in detail, books such as Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with the Amber Eyes and films such as The Monuments Men and Woman in Gold have embedded Nazi art looting in the popular consciousness. So therefore, in this series, my goal is to go beyond the basics, examining several lesser-known facets of World War Two provenance in greater detail.

That said, I will start with a very brief overview of some of the main procedures used by the Third Reich to confiscate art and other property from Jews. If this is information that you’re familiar with, let it be a refresher. If it’s new to you though, I think this will provide important context for the rest of my talk. I want to point out as well that as the war progressed, non-Jewish collections and libraries and museums were also subject to looting, but the initial and sustained focus of looting was Jewish collections. And the expropriation of property, of Jewish property, began immediately after Hitler came to power in 1933. Initially, this was through the so-called “Aryanization” of Jewish businesses. Meaning that such businesses would often be forcibly transferred to a non-Jewish owner. And there was often great financial loss entailed in this process. There was also the use of something called the Reich Flight Tax, which was actually established in the twenties initially to prevent wealthy Germans from removing all of their assets from the economically struggling country if they chose to emigrate. Under the Nazis, this tax became a tool to seize up to 99 percent of the assets of emigrating Jews. So that would include artworks, of course. I won’t read everything on the slide. I’ll let you do that. But basically, but the confiscation of Jewish property continued unabated throughout the war, and it was often managed by organizations set up for that very purpose. One of the best known is the ERR, which is the acronym for the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, mentioned on the slide. This was an organization that managed the looting of art throughout Europe, but is particularly associated with France and the Netherlands. Ultimately, approximately 650,000 works of art were looted or otherwise displaced between 1933 and 1945.

It’s imperative to recognize the role that the confiscation of property played within the Holocaust. And we have an ethical imperative today to research and restitute that property to the best of our ability. But I think it’s equally important to recall that Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis were not simply passive victims. And that fighting back against persecution did not always entail joining the resistance or staging an uprising as occurred in Warsaw in the spring of 1943. There were many less dramatic, even subtle ways, for people to resist persecution and dispossession. I would argue that actively working to prevent one’s art from falling into Nazi hands constituted an act of resistance, especially as these actions could endanger one’s safety.

Through my research, I’ve uncovered the stories of several works of art that found their way to new geographic locations during the war years at the behest of their rightful owners. And these are among the most unexpected and moving stories that, that I’ve uncovered during my years of conducting research.

With this in mind, I designed my talks around the theme of survival: the survival of artworks, and the survival of people. In these three talks, I’m going to look at how a variety of artists, art collectors, and dealers, all of whom are connected in some way to our collections at the Eskenazi, worked to subvert Nazi art looting and push back against Nazi propaganda. And they did so while facing persecution and cultural displacement, and while having to reinvent their lives outside of Nazi-occupied Europe. We’ll learn about these individuals’ life stories alongside the artworks they managed to save. And on a broader scale, we’ll look at how the relocation of so many people and works of arts ultimately transformed art markets, art museums, and art history itself.

Tonight I’ll focus on works once owned by three Jewish collectors and their families. In two cases, these families were able to flee Nazi-occupied Europe. And so we will also take a look at the logistics and the politics of immigration. We start with Bernhard and Cola Heiden, who bequeathed a modest but significant collection of German expressionist prints and watercolors to the Eskenazi Museum 20 years ago in 2000. I’m showing you here a painting of the couple by an unidentified artist, which probably dates from the ‘30s or ‘40s. And pardon the crease in the photograph, this was found in one of our collectors’ files on the Heidens. And I thought it was more interesting than just showing you a photograph.

Bernhard Heiden was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1910. A child prodigy, he began writing music at age 6 and learned to play the piano, clarinet, and violin. He went on to a successful career as a composer, writing an opera, as well as symphonies and concertos. His mother was also a musician—a violinist. And his father, who was a judge and a city councilman, had a strong interest in contemporary art. And he was the one responsible for building the family’s collection. And here’s a painting, a portrait of Bernhard Heiden’s father. Before I continue, a word about the family’s surnames is in order, as you may notice in the painting’s caption that Bernhard Heiden’s father was named Ernst Levi. And that was Bernhard’s surname by birth as well. So in the 1920s, Bernhard’s sister Margaret encouraged members of the family to change their surname from Levi to something less obviously Jewish. She chose their mother’s maiden name and Bernhard followed her example at a later date. Margaret’s name change is in line with steps German Jews had been taking during the previous century to downplay their Jewish identity, because Jews found they continued to occupy a liminal and marginal position in German society, even as they fully participated in that society—even if they served on city councils and patronized German artists. I will say that Ernst did not appear to change his last name. However, returning to the family’s art collection, Ernst did not have the resources to build a major art collection, but he was able to take advantage of personal friendships he had developed with artists in Frankfurt. So how did he get to know these artists? As a city councilman, he took on a role supervising social welfare programs for Frankfurt-based artists during the 1920s. As Bernhard later recalled, ”that interested him much more than being a judge.” And he noted that his father had a “fantastic eye” for modern art. Among the artists whose works he collected were Erich Heckel, Karl Hofer, Alfred Kubin, Lovis Corinth, and Lyonel Feininger—all pioneers of German modernism, especially expressionism.

One of the family’s first contemporary acquisitions was this watercolor by Paul Klee, titled With Two Dromedaries and 1 Donkey. This is one of a group of watercolors inspired by Klee’s 1914 trip to Tunisia. And they now rank among his most significant bodies of work. Klee originally painted this watercolor in 1914, but made some changes to it in 1919, the same year he showed it in his first solo exhibition in Frankfurt at a gallery called Zinglers Kabinett für Kunst und Bücherfreunde. According to Bernhard Heiden’s recollections, his father brought home five of Klee’s Tunisian watercolors from this show, but had to ask the family to select just one that they wanted to purchase. Apparently, they could only afford to buy one, as this was an era of severe economic depression and inflation in Germany, just at the end of World War One. The family spent 75 Deutsche marks on the watercolor, which according to one source I consulted was the equivalent of less than $2 in the postwar hyperinflation. The family also got to know the artist Max Beckmann very well during the 1920s. Beckmann had established a reputation as one of Germany’s most important artists in the wake of World War One, and he lived in Frankfurt for most of the 1920s. I’m showing you two of his paintings of the Frankfurt cityscape from that decade, including one depicting the synagogue on the Borneplatz, which was destroyed in 1938 on Kristallnacht. According to Heiden, to Bernhard, his father helped Beckmann also procure his teaching position at the city’s Staedel Academy of Fine Arts. Beckmann is definitely the best represented artist in the Heiden collection. And among the works the family acquired from the artist are this self-portrait in drypoint, now in the Eskenazi Museum’s collection, and an oil painting titled Orchestra, now in a private collection. This is a work that Ernst commissioned and subsequently lent to an exhibition at the National Gallery in Berlin. The collector Stefan Lackner, who provided Beckmann with a stipend during the war years when the artist lived in exile in Amsterdam, and Lackner also wrote several books about Beckmann. He first met the artist at the Levi, the Heiden home in Frankfurt. So it’s a very interesting network and chain of connections that we have with Beckmann and this family in Frankfurt and, and other associates of Beckmann. The close friendship that Beckmann developed with the Levi-Heiden family is illustrated by one of the anecdotes later recounted by Bernhard. Beckmann had returned to Berlin by the early 1930s, and Bernhard moved there as well to study music at the Hochschule für Musik with the composer Paul Hindemith. Bernhard and his future wife, Cola de Joncheere, a fellow music student, often went out with Beckmann to Berlin nightclubs, which were the artist’s favorite venues for observing human interactions. After Bernhard and Cola married in 1934, Beckmann presented them with this watercolor, The Snake King and the Stagbeetle Queen, which is now in our collection as well. The Heidens maintained their friendship with Beckmann, and after the war, engineered the offer of a teaching position for him from Indiana University. Sadly for us, he did not ultimately accept it, probably because there weren’t enough nightclubs in Bloomington at the time. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Returning to the 1930s and the Heidens. Bernhard was unable to complete his music degree in Berlin because, as he stated, simply, “Hitler happened.” In an interview conducted in 1999 he recalled, “I was up for my final, I had to conduct a concert.” At the final rehearsal, the oboe player stood up and said he refused to play with a Jewish conductor, so that was the end of my academic career.” Unsurprisingly, in 1935, Bernhard and Cola decided to emigrate from Germany to the US. But this was not necessarily a simple process. For in 1924, the United States had sharply curtailed immigration and instituted quotas, which varied by country. The quotas were transparently racist and antisemitic, intending to limit or ban immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe as well as Asia. Immigration restrictions were further tightened in 1930 due to the Great Depression. Nevertheless, between 1933 and 1939, visa applications from would-be immigrants from Nazi Germany as well as Nazi-occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia rose sharply, especially after the 1935 passage of the Nuremberg Laws, which revoked all basic civil rights from German Jews, and in 1938, after the Kristallnacht pogroms and the Anschluss with Austria. These events were widely reported in the American press, which was not shy about painting the Nazis as barbarians. But not only were immigration quotas not increased, they were never even filled. A 1942 article in The Nation noted that the quotas would have allowed for a total of 302,440 immigrants from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia over the past decade. However, during that time, only 165,000 Jews and about 48,000 non-Jews received visas. In other words, only the quota was only filled by two-thirds. Cultural and intellectual figures who were recognized for their achievements had the best chance of securing visas. For one thing, there were several organizations set up to assist them. These included the American Guild for German Cultural Freedom, the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, and the Emergency Rescue Committee, which primarily aided well-known artists living in France.

Unfortunately, the celebrity status of certain non-Jewish artists could draw attention away from the less prominent Jewish artists who often faced much greater danger. For example, the Emergency Rescue Committee spent precious resources on Henri Matisse, who had no intention of leaving France, while the Jewish artist Otto Freundlich, whose sculpture you see here was reproduced on the cover of the Nazis’ ”Degenerate Art” catalog, was deported to the Majdanek extermination camp after years of waiting for an American visa. So clearly immigrating to the United States was fraught with difficulties.

Bernhard and Cola Heiden were lucky to have a relative, Bernhard’s sister Margaret, already living in the US. Margaret and her husband had moved to Detroit in 1925 and were able to sponsor the immigration of family members. Having a sponsor was critical because that person agreed to provide financially for the immigrant, if necessary. Once safely in Detroit, Bernhard joined the faculty at the Art Center Music School, conducted the Detroit Chamber Orchestra, and worked for a radio station. He entered the US Army in 1943, and in 1945, enrolled at Cornell University where he received a master’s degree in musicology. He was hired by IU in 1946 and remained on the faculty of the music school until 1981 when he retired. Margaret, his sister, also sponsored the immigration of their parents, Ernst and Martha. They came to the US quite late in July 1939 after being temporarily detained by the Nazis. This is an image of the ship manifest listing their names there, circled in red, among the passengers of the SS Bremen, which sailed from Bremen on July 14, 1939.

It is remarkable that during all the upheavals caused by Nazi persecution and emigration, that the family’s art collection appears to have remained intact. In interviews conducted with Bernhard later in his life, he makes no mention of any works being confiscated by the Nazis and implies that the family brought everything with them to the US. Although Bernhard and Cola likely brought their wedding gift, the Beckmann watercolor, with them, most of the family’s collection was brought to the US by his parents. How they managed to bring this art with them circumventing the highly restrictive Reich Flight Tax is not known. It is also not known whether they actually had the works in their possession when they sailed from Bremen or if they exported the works through some other means. Without conducting further archival research, I can only speculate, but I wonder if Margaret helped facilitate the importation of the works of art through her connection with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

In 1924, the DIA’s director had been Wilhelm Valentiner, shown here. Himself a German émigré and one of the earliest proponents of modernist German art in the US, in 1930, Valentiner asked Margaret, who would later author his biography, to write an article on German art in Detroit collections for publication in the German journal Museum der Gegenwart. It seems feasible that Valentiner could have played a role in getting the Levi’s collection through German and or US Customs.

It’s also possible that these works by modernist German artists were simply not of great interest to the Third Reich’s customs officials. They would’ve been classified as “degenerate,” something we’ll look at in more detail in the session next week. Although many examples of so-called degenerate, i.e., modern art, were looted by the Nazis, works on paper, such as the prints and drawings that comprised the bulk of the Heiden collection, would have been considered to have little monetary value or even have any artistic consequence, perhaps making it easier even for Jewish refugees to maintain them in their possession. Of course, for the family, these works, whatever their monetary value, had great artistic personal value. I find it significant that refugees, preparing to flee a country that has stripped them of their civil and human rights and able to take very little with them, packed works of arts along with clothing and other necessities. Although Ernst sadly died in 1941, not long after emigrating, the works of art remained with his widow, Martha, until her death in 1963, when their children inherited the collection. While living in exile, displaced from a home to which they could never return, these German expressionist artworks helped them maintain a connection with their former life in a somewhat more enlightened Germany and contained memories of the artists with whom they had been friends.

We’ll now turn to the story of Gina and Felix Haurowitz who donated this portrait on the screen, a portrait by German painter Franz Seraph von Lenbach to the Eskenazi Museum in 1981. I unfortunately don’t have as many visuals for this segments of my talk, but we can certainly enjoy looking at this portrait for a few minutes. So, Felix Haurowitz was an internationally renowned biochemist and immunologist who taught at Indiana University from 1948 to 1966. He was not an art collector per se, but his wife, Gina, had inherited this Lenbach portrait, which she greatly treasured. The story of the family’s and this painting’s journey to Bloomington is a remarkable story of survival against the backdrop of tragedy. The Lenbach painting, portrait, was painted in 1895. The identity of the woman it portrays is unknown. But because Lenbach was a prestigious Munich portraitist, she likely came from the city’s upper social echelons. Only five years later, it was put up for sale at the Bernheimer Gallery in Munich, and it was purchased the following year by Gina Haurowitz’s father, Robert Perutz, who was a partner in a textile manufacturing and wholesale business in Prague.

Everything I know about the painting’s remarkable story from that point on was conveyed to me by Gina and Felix’s daughter, Alice Haurowitz Sievert, with whom I corresponded several years ago. So fast forward from 1901, when Robert Perutz purchased the Lenbach portrait, to 1926, when he died. For a time, the painting remained in the apartment of his widow, Marie, though at some point, Gina inherited it. In her correspondence with me, Alice described her mother, Gina, in this way: “My mother, Gina Perutz Haurowitz, was a woman of many interests. She enjoyed athletics, art, and music, and spoke multiple languages. At a time when few women attended university, she studied the history of art.” Felix, whom she married in 1925, also came from a cultured family with strong interests in languages, music, and the sciences. The year they married, Felix was appointed to the faculty at the German University in Prague, where he pursued pioneering research on the chemistry of hemoglobin. The couple had two children, Alice and Martin. The Perutz and Haurowitz families were both of Jewish origin, though by the 1920s, they were non-observant, and some family members had been baptized. They were highly assimilated within the German culture that dominated in Prague before World War One, when the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. German was Felix Haurowitz’s native language, and probably Gina’s as well, though both also spoke Czech. While the Perutz family had risen to some prominence in the 19th century thanks to their innovations in textile manufacturing, many members of both families entered academia, especially the sciences, in the decades before World War Two. Yet neither their assimilation nor the family’s contributions to textile manufacturing and scientific research mattered once the Nazis came to power and annexed the Sudetenland, the western part of Czechoslovakia, in 1938. At the time this occurred, Felix was conducting research in a lab in Copenhagen. Worried about his family, he decided to return to Prague, taking a circuitous route across the Baltic Sea to Poland in order to avoid traveling through German territory. Soon after he arrived, the administration of his university was transferred to the Third Reich and he was deprived of his right to teach. Fortunately, his reputation as a leading scientist garnered him the offer of a position with the University of Istanbul. It is not well known that many European Jewish academics found refuge in Turkey during World War Two. While Western countries, such as the US, were refusing entry to vast numbers of Jewish refugees, Turkey saw an opportunity to enhance the caliber of its universities by inviting European Jewish scholars to join their faculties. Felix, Gina, and their children left Prague for Istanbul two weeks after Hitler’s troops invaded the city. They brought only about $70 with them, and most of their property was seized by the Gestapo.

Other members of Gina’s family were not so lucky. Alice Sievert wrote to me the following about her grandmother, Gina’s mother, Marie Perutz: ”The Nazis forced her to move into a tiny room in the Prague ghetto where Jews were confined. From there, she was first deported to Terezin and then to a concentration camp in Poland where she died. Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims reveals that Marie was deported to the ghetto of Lodz, Poland, in October 1941. She may have died in the ghetto there or have been further deported to a death camp. We don’t know. The records I’ve located don’t all give consistent information, but it also appears that Gina’s brother, Leo Perutz, may have been murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.

Meanwhile, the Haurowitz family enjoyed their life in Istanbul, but concerns about educational opportunities for their children led Gina, Alice, and Martin to move to the US following the war. In 1948, Alice enrolled at Indiana University, whose chemistry department subsequently offered Felix a faculty position. Interestingly, he accepted this over a more prestigious offer from the University of Basel, perhaps wishing not to remain in Europe, I would guess. Both his children also established scientific careers. Alice ultimately received a PhD in biochemistry and worked as a laboratory researcher. Martin, a physicist, was Director of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian from 1987 to 1995.

Now let’s return to the Lenbach painting. It did not accompany the Haurowitzes on their flight from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. And recall that most of the family’s property was seized by the Gestapo. Yet, I’m showing you here a photo of Felix and Gina in their Bloomington home with the Lenbach portrait on the wall. And they donated this painting to the Eskenazi Museum in 1981. So what happened in the meantime? Again, Alice was able to provide the answer. She wrote, “The painting was saved because it had been stored by friends who did so despite their own difficulties under the Nazis and the Communists. These friends were probably (pardon my Czech) Antonin and Zdenka Kveton, whose daughter Olga had married Leo Perutz, my mother’s brother.” So that’s Alice’s uncle, who may have been murdered. And this is the family who saved, his wife’s family, who saved the painting. Gina continued in her letter, “My mother (that is Gina) retrieved the painting from the relatives when she and my father visited Prague in 1968 when he was an invited speaker at a scientific meeting there.” This was Gina and Felix’s first visit to Prague since fleeing in 1939 and it must have been an emotional experience not only to meet their relatives again after three decades, but to find that they had managed to hide their painting for all these years.

After bringing the Lenbach painting back with her to Bloomington, Gina wrote to a professor at Oberlin College seeking advice about having it conserved, for it had not exactly spent the previous three decades in the best conditions. She explains in her letter that “friends of ours prevented it (the painting) to fall first into the hands of the occupation forces, and then later from the communists. During this time, the picture was taken from one place to the other, and most of our friends had to reduce their living quarters to about one to two rooms per family. Thus it must have spent considerable time leaning against a wall behind a cupboard. When I visited my native Prague, I obtained permission to legally export the picture. To be able to get it to me, my friends, however, had to take it out of the frame, remove it from the stretcher and roll it up.” When I spoke with Alice by phone, she told me that it was a quote, ”friendly customs agent,” who allowed her parents to take the painting out of Czechoslovakia. And no doubt this is why the painting was unframed and rolled for transport.

So I find the story of the Lenbach painting and its owners especially valuable. For one thing, we have a firsthand account of its provenance, confirming its ownership by a single family for nearly 80 years. And this isn’t the sort of provenance that could’ve been reconstructed through archival research. The provenances that can be reconstructed in that way, and which are therefore the focus of much research, tend to be those associated with major collectors, whose collections were frequently published and who had connections with art museums and prominent galleries. And we’ll take a look at one of those collections in the next segments of my talk. But the Perutz and Haurowitz families were not major art collectors. As far as I know, Robert Perutz simply purchased the Lenbach painting because he was drawn to it—because he liked it. But one didn’t have to be a major art collector, or even a collector at all, for art to have great personal significance. Clearly, the Lenbach painting had significant meaning to Gina, and her family went to great lengths to prevent it from being confiscated. And through my research into the paintings provenance, the remarkable story of this family’s experience of the Holocaust emerged. It illustrates how by researching provenance, we can give voice to people whose stories we might not necessarily hear otherwise.

The third and final work we’ll look at tonight, excuse me, is this landscape painting attributed to the Dutch 17th-century artist Jan Hackaert. This has been in the collection of the Eskenazi Museum since 1960, when it was donated by the collector Frederick Stafford. Stafford purchased the picture at auction the previous year, and knew little about its provenance when he donated it. And of course, this was the era before the intensive provenance research that we would conduct today as a matter of due diligence. So our records, regardless, remained very thin until I examined the back of this painting’s frame and stretcher a number of years ago. There I found numerous unrecorded inscriptions and labels, which provided the basis for reconstructing the painting’s provenance all the way back to 1803. Whereas our knowledge of the Heiden and the Haurowitz collections comes almost entirely from interviews and correspondence with members of those families, this painting’s provenance could indeed be pieced back together with the aid of published inventories, auction catalogs, and archival documents. The painting shows up in the catalog of two Paris auctions in the first years of the 19th century. And sometime later it was acquired by the Stroganoffs, an aristocratic Russian family with a significant art collection. In the 1850s, they had the painting restored in St. Petersburg, providing us with our first documented evidence of their ownership. Following the Russian Revolution, the Stroganoffs moved to Paris, taking much of their collection with them. Many details of the painting’s 19th- and early 20th-century provenance were fleshed out through research I conducted in the collectors’ files and historic auction catalogs at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. But a gap remained from 1924 when, when this Hackaert painting was sold as part of the Stroganoff auction in Paris, to 1959, when here’s a, here’s a catalog for the Stroganoff sale. So we had a gap from 1924 to 1959, when Frederick Stafford acquired it. Having so much detail about the painting’s whereabouts in the 19th century, but a large gap covering the World War Two era, was frustrating indeed. But from this annotated auction catalog located at the Getty, I learned that the painting was purchased from the 1924 Stroganoff sale by Simeon del Monte, a collector from Brussels. Unfortunately, my research hasn’t yielded much biographical information about Simeon del Monte. But I can provide a bit of context about his family’s origin and cultural milieu.

Del Monte descended from a family of Portuguese Jews, who had resided in the Netherlands since at least the 17th century. After the expulsion of Jews from Portugal in 1496, many families settled in Amsterdam, which was relatively tolerant and encouraged Jewish settlement for economic reasons. That community’s prosperity and the relative acceptance it enjoyed, is reflected in the impressive scale of Amsterdam’s Portuguese synagogue, completed in 1675 and still in use today. Although Simeon del Monte lived in Brussels, records show that during World War Two, many Jews bearing the name Del Monte still lived in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam’s Sephardic community in general was highly educated and immersed in Western European high culture. From an early date, Jewish merchants, physicians, and scholars there were patronizing Dutch artists, notably Rembrandt, who actually lived in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter. It is clear that Simeon del Monte, too, was a serious and dedicated collector of Dutch and Italian old master paintings. And, in fact, his collection was the subject of several French and German publications in the late 1920s. Here are two other examples of paintings from his collection: a still life and a landscape that’s not too unlike our Hackaert composition. Tragically, Del Monte died in an automobile accident in 1929, and the collection passed to his daughter, who lived in The Hague. And she organized an exhibition of the collection there in 1932.

So when I first examined the verso, or the back of the, of our caging, several labels and inscriptions in particular stood out because they clearly referred to aspects of the work’s provenance that were not documented anywhere in our records. Two suggested that the painting had spent some time in the United Kingdom. The words, I hope you can read this, the words Art Gallery, Perth, are inscribed in white chalk on the lower rail of the frame, while the upper rail of the frame bears a label from an art exhibitions bureau located in London. During the course of my research, a label which had been removed in the 1980s and hidden away in one of our files undocumented also came to light, and I unfortunately, I don’t have an image of that one. But that label is from the Gemeentemuseum’in The Hague, and it bears the name of the lender, someone named Dr. J. C. Hooykaas.

Now with these tantalizing bits of new information at my fingertips, I contacted the Gemeentemuseum Museum and the Perth Museum & Art Gallery in Scotland to see what more I could learn. Fortunately, documents preserved in the archives of both museums enabled me to piece together a fascinating provenance for our painting during the World War Two and postwar years. With war imminent, it appears that Simeon del Monte’s daughter and her husband (that’s Dr. J. C. Hooykaas) decided to take action to prevent the possible looting or destruction of the collection. In the summer of 1939, they managed to get the entire collection, including the Hackaert painting, out of mainland Europe. It seems they were aided by a Dr. A. Martin de Wilde, a conservator in The Hague who had probably restored works in the del Monte collection Wilde conducted negotiations with the director of the National Gallery of Scotland, who arranged for the collection to go to the regional museum in Perth. The pictures arrived in Perth in June of that year and were put on display almost immediately, remaining on view until October of 1940. And they were again exhibited from February 1943 to September 1945.

At the end of the war, with the full knowledge of how much art had been displaced and destroyed, Dr. de Wilde wrote to the del Monte heirs: “It is a very great satisfaction that [the pictures] have turnedout of this war, which has destructed so many objects of art unhurt and that they are saved for later times.” And indeed, it is almost certain that the paintings would have been confiscated by the ERR had they remained in The Hague, who auction houses, by the way, became notorious collaborators with the Nazis, selling off s vast quantities of looted Jewish property. Wishing to publicly thank the entire British people for saving their family’s collection, the Del Monte heirs worked with a touring exhibition agency to organize a show that traveled to museums throughout northern England in 1950 and 1951. And this enabled a wider swath of the population to view the collection. And that’s also the origin of the London exhibition label, you see here. Ultimately, however, a collection of old master paintings of this scale and value, couldn’t be be maintained by the family. In 1952, the pictures returned to The Hague and were subsequently lent to the Stedlijk Museum in Gouda prior to the sale of the collection at Sotheby’s in London in June 1959. And with that, the gap I had in the World War Two period was closed.
Part 2: New Audiences for Modern German Art

Description of the video:

Oh, hello everyone. And we’re going to give just a couple more minutes for folks to join us before we get started. We’re glad you’re here today. As we’re waiting, I want to invite you all to use the chat feature to communicate with us. We will be answering questions at the end, but you’re welcome to connect with us as we go through. We’ll do our best to answer questions as we go along and we’ll ask our presenter anything at the end. And we also want you to know that there are different options to help you view the presentation better tonight: the view options button at the top of your screen, there’s a side-by-side mode, which I think is very handy so that the presenter’s camera’s not blocking any of the slides. You can then adjust the slide bar there. So I highly recommend using that feature as well.

And we’ll go ahead and get started. We are recording today’s talk and recorded last week’s, and we’ll be recording again for the third presentation. So we are happy to share those out after the third presentation has taken place. I’ll share just a little bit about today’s talk. Welcome to the second of three talks in the series on the subject of Exile and Displacement: World War Two and the Transformation of the Western Art World. The subject of tonight’s talk is new audiences for modern German art. And it’s presented by Jenny McComas, the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Curator of European and AmericanAart and the head of the museum’s World War Two era provenance research project. We hope that you’ll be able to join us next week for the third and final talk in the series. And in case you did miss any of the live programs, we are recording all three as I mentioned, and we’ll have those all available for you at the end of the month. If you have registered for this talk, you will receive those recordings in an email. We’ll also have them available on our website. So with that, again, I want to remind folks to use the chat feature to connect with us. And I will invite Jenny in to get us started today.

Hi everyone. Welcome to the second session of the Museum’s series of talks on the subject of Exile and Displacement: World War Two and the Transformation of the Western Art World. Before I get started, I would like to again extend my sincere gratitude to my colleagues, Erin Ryan and Laura Scheper, who have been so instrumental in helping with the technical aspects of these presentations. I also wanted to extend a thank you and welcome to those of you who are joining for the second time, who came to the talk last week. And also welcome to those who are joining for the first time tonight. As Erin said, you can always catch up later in the month with our recordings.

So in this series we are looking at several lesser known facets of World War Two era provenance issues. If you attended last week’s talk, you heard about the means by which several Jewish collectors managed to prevent the Nazis from confiscating their art collections. Tonight, we’ll turn our attention to the Third Reich’s campaign against modern art, the so-called “degenerate art” campaign.

So the role of modernism within Nazi ideology could fill an entire talk itself. And while I will outline its main characteristics, I will primarily be discussing the broader consequences of the Nazi defamation of modern art and artists. Namely, the resultant creation of new audiences and new interpretations of German modernism abroad. This is a huge and multifaceted topic, and in fact, it was a subject of my 300-page doctoral dissertation. So tonight I will not subject you to that level of detail, but we will examine some of the nuances and consequences of Nazi anti-modernism that are not often discussed either in the literature or in exhibitions or presentations intended for the more general public. We will be looking at the case study of one artist who went into exile. And we’ll also look at how different Allied countries responded to Germany’s disposal of numerous works of art from its own museums. In short, we’ll consider how politics can influence artistic taste. Whenever possible, I’ve brought in examples from the Eskenazi Museum’s own collection, but we’ll also be looking at a much wider range of visuals tonight.

And Erin, I am having trouble advancing my slide on the screen and wondered if you could offer any technical advice.. If you click on the screen side, it’s not working. Oh, yes. There we go. Thank you though.

So in the photograph here at the left of the screen from the Berlin National Gallery, taken circa 1930, we see a gallery filled with paintings by the German Expressionist artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Kirchner was one of the central figures in the German Expressionist group known as Die Brücke (or The Bridge). This group arose around 1905 in Dresden. In his portrayal of the Elbe River in Dresden in this painting from the Eskenazi Museum’s collection, we see the stylistic hallmarks of the expressionist style, including a non-naturalistic, even aggressive palette, heavily applied brushwork, and an extreme simplification of form. The expressionists’ two favorite subjects—the urban cityscape and idyllic scenes of nature—come together in this composition. By the end of the 1920s, Kirchner had become one of the most highly regarded German artists of his day, and his work was avidly collected by the country’s leading art museums—as evidenced by the photograph from Berlin. But less than a decade after this photograph was taken, Kirchner, living in Davos, Switzerland, took his own life, convinced that the Nazi regime was pursuing him. Though his action was extreme. Kirshner was right to be concerned. In 1937, the year before his suicide, over 600 of his paintings were removed by the regime from German museums, and many were displayed in a spectacular propaganda exhibition known as Degenerate Art (or in German, Entartete Kunst). So I mentioned this exhibition several times already in my talk last week, and I’ll discuss it in more detail later tonight.

First, I want to talk about Naziism and modernism. The National Socialist Party had a complicated relationship with modernist art and architecture. Certain stylistic elements common in modernist arts, including montage and streamlined form, were adopted by the designers of Nazi propaganda posters and by filmmakers such as Leni Riefenstahl who directed The Triumph of the Will and Olympia, two of Nazi Germany’s most notorious propaganda films. Even the installation of the Degenerate Art exhibition, which condemned modern art, took design cues from the First International Data Fair of 1920. And I’m showing you photographs of both exhibitions here so you can compare the rather chaotic installation design. So in 1920, the Data Fair exhibition was mounted by artists of the Berlin Dada movement, which was known for its pacifism and its leftist politics—about as far removed from Naziism as you can imagine. So, of course that makes it quite interesting that the Nazis turned to, to Dada for some of their own design choices. But in the realm of the fine arts—in painting and sculpture—modernism was barely tolerated. Although some Nazi officials personally liked German Expressionism, they had to be circumspect about their taste. Meanwhile, the paintings and sculptures produced by artists sanctioned by the Reich, such as the one on your screen, hearken back to German Romanticism, to 19th-century genre painting, and sculpture of classical antiquity. There were several reasons for the Nazi antipathy to modern art. Contrary to popular belief, it generally had little to do with Hitler’s failed application to art school. One more likely reason was articulated by the American art critic Clement Greenberg in his 1939 article, ”Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” in which he described the bad art of Nazi Germany, along with similar examples from Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia as “kitsch,” that is, as simple, sentimental, and certainly non-modernist art, understood and appreciated primarily by the unsophisticated masses. ”The encouragement of kitsch,” Greenberg wrote, ”is one of the inexpensive ways in which totalitarian regimes seek to ingratiate themselves with their subjects.” Promotion of kitsch didn’t necessarily have to go hand-in-hand with the spectacular and sustained defamation of modernism that defined Nazi cultural policy. Clearly, something else was going on. And that something, I argue, is antisemitism. And further, of all the difference modernist styles that emerged in the early 20th century, it was—somewhat surprisingly—German Expressionism that became most closely conflated with Jews in the eyes and the ideology of the Third Reich.

So as we saw in last week’s session, the organizers of the Degenerate Art exhibition specifically chose to reproduce the work of a German Jewish artist, Otto Freundlich, on the cover of their exhibition pamphlet. But few of the canonical Expressionists whose names we are most familiar with today and whose work bore the brunt of Nazi anti-modernist antipathy—artists such as Kirchner, Kandinsky, or Franz Mark—were Jewish. Yet quite a few of their promoters—those who collected, exhibited and sold their work—were. These ranged from relatively modest collectors, such as Ernst Levi, who we learned about last week, to major art dealers such as Herwarth Walden, whose Berlin gallery, Der Sturm, hosted some of the first major exhibitions devoted to Expressionism prior to World War One. Walden also published a periodical called Der Strum, and this further widened the audience for German modern art through its illustrations and reproductions. Obviously, many non-Jews also collected and promoted the work of the German Expressionists, but the Nazis latched onto a perceived Jewish affinity for the style and incorporated this into their propaganda, which of course drew heavily from existing antisemitic tropes about Jewish cultural and economic domination. Condemning German Expressionism as ”Jewish” or as controlled by Jews, allowed the Nazis also to further discredit the Weimar Republic, the German democratic government in place between 1918 and 1933. It was during the Weimar period, after all, that Expressionism had gained widespread acceptance among the country’s cultural elite, an elite described by the Nazis as “Jewish.” Now one might assume that explicitly political or anti-fascist arts—such as the photomontages of John Heartfield seen here—would be the primary target of the Nazis. And while they certainly disliked and denounced such work, it was Expressionism that figured most visibly into their propaganda and which consequently became an object of sustained attention abroad.

One of the first actions taken by the Nazis in the cultural realm was the dismissal of modernist artists from teaching positions at German art schools and of museum directors and curators known to be sympathetic to modernism. A requirement that artists become members of the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts in order to exhibit, or sell their work, or to secure a teaching position effectively marginalized Jewish artists, as well as artists perceived as politically opposed to National Socialism. These developments left many German modernist artists with no choice but to emigrate. Initially, many went to Paris or Prague, both of which were relatively nearby and already hosted German-speaking expatriate communities. But some—if they could obtain a visa—chose to go further afield, especially to the United States. This was particularly true of artists who had taught at the Bauhaus, which was Weimar Germany’s most experimental art school. Its founder, the architect Walter Gropius, established a new career at Harvard, while the photographer Laszlo Moholy-Nagy became director of a new design school—initially known as the New Bauhaus—in Chicago. These artists seem to have adapted well to their new lives in American academia. But for many other émigrés, the trauma of dislocation took a heavy toll. We’ll take a look now at one of those exiled artists, George Grosz, and consider how his career and his American reception were impacted by his experience of cultural displacement.

George Grosz rose to prominence in the 1920s thanks to his politically oriented work that caricatured the human weakness and governmental greed he saw around him. The painting shown here, Eclipse of the Sun, targets military and political corruption in Weimar Germany, as well as the indifference of the country’s ordinary citizens. As a staunch anti-fascist, it was probably lucky that he happened to be outside of Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933. At the time, he was in New York, where he had accepted a teaching position at the Art Students League in 1932. With Hitler in power, he could not have safely returned to Germany even if he wanted to, so his status shifted from that of visiting professor to exile. Although American culture had long fascinated Grosz, he struggled personally and artistically once he found himself a permanent resident here. Although the US in the 1930s was in the midst of the Depression and subject to political extremism at both ends of the spectrum, it offered a far more stable environment than Weimar Germany, which was ravaged by the aftermath of World War One, by political unrest, and by economic troubles. As a political satirist, however, Grosz had thrived artistically in that environment, and in the US he found he had less to protest against. Or perhaps he simply thought it unwise as an émigré to critique the distasteful aspects of American society, such as entrenched racial inequality. In the US, he painted inoffensive landscapes and city scenes for public consumption—such as this scene of New York—leading his American patrons to identify a decline in Grosz’s American oeuvre. One of them lamented that “Grosz’s hot, quick fighting spirit found no echo in the cool breath of America.” He might have felt differently if he had seen the anti-Nazi works that Grosz continued to produce during this time, one of which is pictured here. Yet, museums and galleries were reticent to show these anti-Nazi works, finding them far too disturbing and possibly controversial. For example, when discussing a possible exhibition of Grosz’s work in 1935, Charles Kuhn, the director of Harvard’s Germanic Museum, refused to show anything that could be interpreted as anti-Nazi because he didn’t want the museum to be seen taking sides. So in addition to explicitly anti-Nazi work, Grosz also produced paintings that reveal the psychological trauma he experienced as an exile. This body of work includes his watercolor Death Beckons, now in the Eskenazi’s collection. This composition may reference the worsening situation in Germany, as well as his own depressed mental state.

Grosz probably painted Death Beckons in 1937, the year that the Nazis’ actions towards modern art became particularly belligerent. The macabre portrayal of a skeleton, grinning and beckoning to us with a bony finger, alludes to the death of modernism and free artistic expression in Germany under the Third Reich. In this work, Grosz borrows from the medieval genre known as the “Dance of Death,” which was meant to remind viewers or the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. And such imagery was especially popular in Germany and Northern Europe in the late Middle Ages. And Grosz was not the only modern German artist to find this historical imagery useful for expressing his feelings of despair. The German Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum, who lived in hiding and Brussels from 1940 to 1944, and is best known for his Self-portrait with Jewish Identity Card, painted Dance of Death imagery with greater and greater frequency as his situation became more dire.

The anti-Nazi and exile-themed works that Grosz produced in the US are just as psychologically, politically, and artistically compelling as anything he had painted during the troubled Weimar years. However, when Grosz received a solo exhibition devoted to his recent work at MoMA in 1941, the show focused on beach landscapes, on scenes of New York City, and on portraits, a selection of work calculated to convince viewers that the artist was becoming a well-adjusted American. At a time when so many Americans opposed any expansion to the country’s immigration quotas, it wasn’t seen as wise to highlight the difficulties immigrants faced in this country. So MoMA’s Grosz exhibition supported a narrative that immigrants easily and productively assimilated into American culture.

Returning now to Germany: The mid-1930s saw an intensification of propaganda activity aimed at forms of modernism seen to be non-German and “degenerate.” ”Degenerate” was a term borrowed from biological discourse and popularized in the field of “racial science,” a pseudoscience which sought to establish the superiority of the quote “Aryan” race. The Nazis applied the term ”degenerate” to artistic forms they saw as corrupted by the influence of Jews and other non-Aryans. For example, they described jazz, a musical form associated with African Americans as “degenerate” as well.

In 1937, the Reich Ministry of Propaganda staged the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition. To exhibition served as a simultaneous attack on modernist artists, on Jews, and on the culture of the Weimar Republic. It opened on July 19, 1937, in the Archaeological Institute adjacent to the Hofgarten in central Munich. Across the street was the imposing facade of the Haus der deutschen Kunst (or House of German Art), a temple-like gallery constructed in 1934. The day prior to the opening of Degenerate Art, the Great German Art Exhibition opened in the Haus der deutschen Kunst, showcasing Nazi-approved art. And Great German Art exhibitions would be an annual feature of Nazi Germany’s cultural calendar all the way through 1944.

So I’m showing you here two installation shots of the two different exhibitions. As you can see from these photographs, the approach could not have been more different in the two opposing exhibitions. And, of course, this was the point. Before I move on, in the photograph of the Great German Art Exhibition, note the heroic portrait of Hitler and the placement of the sculptures, and they actually appear to be making a Heil Hitler salute towards him. So the painting through the photograph itself becomes a form of propaganda. Now the Degenerate Art exhibition was intended, as its title indicated, to convince viewers that modern art, especially its German varieties, was unhealthy and un-German and that its embrace by German museums in the 1920s was a travesty. The galleries of the Archaeological Institute were stocked with over 600 works of art recently removed from German museum collections under the orders of the Reich Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels. Not only were the works accompanied by racist and antisemitic slogans on the walls, but each was labeled with the price paid by the museum from which it had been removed. Because many of these works have been purchased by museums during the hyperinflation of the early 1920s, the prices looked much higher than they really were. After the show closed in Munich, a smaller version traveled to other cities throughout the Reich, including Berlin, Dusseldorf, Leipzig, and Salzberg. Over 2 million people attended, making it the most attended art exhibition of the 20th century.

And now let’s look at one of the works included in the show: Emil Nolde’s Nudes and Eunuch: Keeper of the Harem,which has been in the Eskenazi Museum’s collection since 1976. In the photograph we see the painting—I’ve circled it—in the opening ceremony for the Degenerate Art exhibition. And this was printed in the Nazi propaganda newspaper, Voelkischer Beobachter. A few words about Emil Nolde. He was briefly affiliated with the German Expressionist group Bruecke around 1906. Although he was a full generation older than most of the Expressionists, he developed an individualistic style characterized by loose, rough brushwork and vivid colors. We can see all of this in our painting. Nolde was intensely interested and non-Western cultures, even joining an ethnographic expedition to the South Pacific in 1913. But at the same time, he subscribed to the concept of racial purity that shaped so much of Nazi ideology that he joined the newly formed National Socialist party in the early 1920s, long before it would’ve been professionally expedien for him to do so. Yet, despite his party affiliation, and the fact that several high-ranking Nazi officials indeed found his work compelling, Nolde found himself targeted by the party’s anti-modern art campaign. No doubt, this was due to the fact that his work had been widely admired in Weimar Germany and was acquired at that time by all the major German art museums. The Eskenazi’s painting, for example, was acquired by the Staedtisches (Moritzburg) Museum in Halle, a city in eastern Germany, in 1925. I’m showing here a photo of the Museum—it’s housed in a former castle—on the occasion of a major Nolde show they mounted in 2013. And at this time we lent the painting to them for that exhibition. At the time of the “degenerate art” campaign, approximately 1,000 of Nolde’s works were removed from the German museums, including the one in Halle. It’s ironic, given Nolde’s adherence to notions of racial purity, that the Eskenazi painting (let’s go back to that), this painting ostensibly depicting non-Western figures in a harem, was displayed in the Degenerate Art exhibition alongside wall texts that decried the corrupting influence of Jews and non-Aryan races on German art.

So although 600 or so works were included in the Degenerate Art exhibition, about 21,000 works in total were removed from the state-administered museums in 1937 and continuing into 1938. Most of these works were placed in storage, and from there many were sold abroad. The works considered most saleable consisted of roughly 800 paintings and sculptures and 3,500 works on paper. These were transferred to Schloss Niedershoenhausen near Berlin, which served as a storage facility. And I’m showing you a photograph here. In the photo I’ve circled two sculptures by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, one of the pioneering Expressionist sculptors of the World War One era. Both of the circled works are casts of his 1913–14 sculpture Head of a Girl, Turning. One of these casts was removed from a museum in Dresden, and the other from the Landesmuseum Museum in Hannover. The cast from Hannover, we believe, is the one now in the Eskenazi Museum’s collection, and we’ll look at it again a little later in the presentation. Meanwhile, the works confiscated from museums, along with notes about their fates, were recorded in 1942 in this typed inventory. Just a few copies of this exist physically, but it has been digitized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which greatly facilitates research into this area. The inventory is organized by city, museum, and artist. I’m showing you here the page on which our Nolde painting appears. Again, that is circled in red. We see that it was sold for $200 to someone named Vilstrup. Now this was actually Nolde’s brother-in-law, who worked as an art dealer in Denmark and arranged with Reich authorities to buy back quite a few of Nolde’s paintings. But most of the so-called “degenerate” works were sold through four German art dealers who were authorized by the Reich to handle sales of “degenerate art” to clients abroad. And this served a dual purpose of removing this art from Germany, while also bringing in valuable foreign currency.

Before I move on, I want to point out that you can learn more about the works confiscated through the “degenerate art” campaign through a database created by the Freie Universitaet in Berlin. The database is searchable in both German and English. And I’ve asked Erin to put a link to the database in the chat.

So reactions to the Degenerate Art show abroad were largely expressions of outrage and condemnation at Nazi Germany’s extreme artistic censorship. And this ultimately led to a reappraisal of German art in some of the Allied countries. It’s important to note that while the Expressionists had been canonized by German museums during the 1920s, their work had been less well-regarded outside of Germany. In English-speaking countries, especially, a widespread preference for French art, and generally a more conservative artistic taste, not to mention, World War One, had precluded significant interest or acceptance of German modernism prior to the 1930s. But we’ll look now at how the Expressionists’ international reputations were impacted by their inclusion in the Degenerate Art exhibition. I’ll be focusing on Britain and the US as case studies. And we’ll start with Britain, where a major exhibition intended to counter Nazi artistic propaganda opened one year after the Degenerate Art exhibition. And this took place at the New Burlington Galleries in London in July of 1938. So consisting of 269 works by 64 artists, this show, simply titled 20th-Century German Art, was the largest exhibition a German modernism ever staged and England up to that point. The New Burlington Galleries was perhaps London’s most avant-garde exhibition space, and had recently mounted a major show devoted to Surrealism, for example. The venue itself was sure to bring the German art exhibition notoriety, as was its list of celebrity sponsors, including the art historian Kenneth Clark, the architect Le Corbusier, and the artist Pablo Picasso. At the time the show was mounted, Great Britain was still maintaining a policy of neutrality and appeasement vis-à-vis Nazi Germany. So this might explain the exhibition organizers’ strange insistence that the show was not political. Yes, as art critics in the British press pointed out, the exhibition, focusing on the artist’s targeted in the Degenerate Art show, was blatantly a political statement. And in fact, the exhibition sought specifically to counter the Nazis’ arguments that the Expressionists were un-German by advancing a nationalistic interpretation of its own. In the exhibition catalog, we read the following: ”It is to be observed that the most characteristic type of modern German art demands and has received a special name, Expressionism; and that this type of art is an essential conformity with the historical tradition of German art—the art of Cranach, Altdorfer, and Grünewald.” This tactic of comparing German Expressionism to historical German precedents would become a prevalent feature in wartime discussions of Nazi artistic propaganda, and was taken up in the United States as well. In addition to emphasizing the “German-ness” of German Expressionism, and thus turning Nazi propaganda on its head, such rhetoric primed English-speaking audiences to appreciate Expressionism for aesthetic merits by comparing it to the works of admired old masters.

Yet, cultivating a market for German Expressionism in Great Britain proved difficult. British critics were, by and large, skeptical of the quality of the works they encountered at the New Burlington Galleries. A review in the journal Connoisseur conveyed a real antipathy for German Expressionism, and perhaps for modernist visual vocabularies in general, equating such artistic license with moral license, as we read in this excerpt from the review: ”In the wild smears that ‘affright the air’ in the exhibition, there is little evidence of anything but unbridled license. The exhibition, we are told, follows the stages which correspond to those generally recognized as Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism, and that type of art claimed to be essentially German—Expressionism. […] But we would like to know under which flag served Franz Marc, the painter of Blue Horses and the Yellow Cow, which seems to us in the same category as the music-hall singer’s pink snakes and green mice. The shortcomings of the same artist’s Long Yellow Horse are apologized for in its very title. […] Beckmann’s huge allegorical triptych, Temptation, is inept, incoherent, and ineffectual.” Quite the review.

I’ve uncovered no other British exhibitions devoted to German modernism during the war years, with one exception. An exhibition titled Mid-European Art was held in 1944 in the city of Leicester, which was home to a community of German Jewish exiles, including the collector Thekla Hess, who sold several German Expressionist works to the city’s art museum that year. Mid-European Art was organized under the auspices of Leicester’s branch of the Free German League of Culture. And although, even though all 62 of the works on view were by artists who were either German by birth or affiliated with German Expressionism, the exhibition pamphlet avoided reference to Germanness whenever possible. And, of course, you can see this right away in the exhibition’s title. Given the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe and the internment of many German refugees in England as enemy aliens, it is unsurprising that the German émigrés who organized this show downplayed the artists’ German identities. So the path that the New Burlington Galleries had embarked upon—using German Expressionism to condemn Nazi propaganda—would instead be followed in the United States, to which we’ll now turn our attention.

American audiences proved much more receptive to modern German art in the late 1930s, despite their historical distaste for German art. In the United States, anything German, including art, had become suspect in 1917, when American entry into World War One was accompanied by a massive propaganda campaign against Germany. In the 1920s, a few art dealers and collectors attempted to encourage a market for modern German art in the US, but it wasn’t easy. The first American exhibition devoted to German modernism was held in 1923 at the Anderson Galleries in New York. The reviews ranged from lukewarm at best to hostile at worst. It didn’t help that, as in Britain, modernist, modernism in general was viewed with skepticism by many Americans, including art critics. It wasn’t until 1929 that a museum devoted to modern art opened in the United States. Germany itself was a full decade ahead of us in this regard, as a modern wing of Berlin’s National Gallery had opened in 1919. Nevertheless, when the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened in New York in 1929, its director, Alfred Barr, tried to make up for lost time by introducing a wide range of modernist art to the public. One of the earliest shows, in 1931, was devoted to German Expressionism. And if you look very carefully, you might see some paintings here that we saw in the first photograph from Berlin, from the National Gallery, which was one of the primary lenders to the MoMA show. So by 1931, American art critics were also becoming more open-minded. New York Times art critic Edward Alden Jewell conceded that some visitors might “find themselves a trifle appalled” by the artworks’ vibrancy and energy, but he urged exhibition-goers to give German art a chance. He even went so far as to question French preeminence in the artistic realm, writing that “this reviewer is ready to assert that Germany does not stand second even to the renowned School of Paris. It isn’t quite fashionable to make such extreme statements yet, but it is going to be some day.” And I would say that Jewell proved to be somewhat prophetic in that assessment.

And when German Expressionist paintings and sculptures from the collections of German museums began making their way across the Atlantic in 1937, American audiences were relatively willing to accept them as significant works of art, whether or not they liked them. As one visitor to MoMA’s 1938 exhibition devoted to the Bauhaus put it, “I don’t expect to enjoy it, exactly, but if Hitler has banned it I think we ought to look at it.” So what really transformed American attitudes towards German art was a reverse propaganda campaign of sorts, conceived as a reply to Nazi anti-modernism.

The American press reported widely on the Degenerate Art exhibition and on the removal of modern works from German museums at the behest of the Nazi authorities. Journalists expressed dismay and outrage at the cultural censorship in Germany and the treatment of artists there. And many commentators drew parallels between Germany’s disposal of its modern art and the refugee crisis provoked by its human rights violations. In fact, in the midst of contentious debates over immigration in the United States, so-called “degenerate art” was refashioned as “exiled art,” which called attention to the humanitarian, as well as the cultural, crisis in Nazi Germany. For example, when MoMA acquired five works of so-called “degenerate art” in 1939, two of which you see here, the press almost universally lauded the museum for ”saving” the “exiled” paintings and sculptures as if they were people.

Nevertheless, it seems that few American commentators in the 1930s grasped how closely tied Nazi anti-modernist actions were to the regime’s broader antisemitic program. MoMA’s own press release announcing its 1939 acquisitions stated, ”The Nazi opposition to modern art seems to be due to Hitler’s personal taste rather than to any racial or political factors.” And it went on to make an unsupported assertion that “more cultivated elements in the Nazi party are very much embarrassed by the “degenerate art” theories of Der Führer.” MoMA’s contention that the “degenerate art” campaign stemmed from nothing more than Hitler’s philistine taste appears to have been widely accepted. And certainly it made for good propaganda. One of the only media outlets to challenge the museum’s efforts to downplay this connection between Nazi anti-modernism and antisemitism was the communist newspaper The Daily Worker. This paper dismissed MoMA’s contention that the works of art “were not excluded from German museums on racial grounds,” and caustically suggested that “had they been thus expelled there might have been something the matter with them.”

Another blind spot in the American coverage of the “degenerate art” campaign concerned the type of art targeted by the Nazis for defamation. Most reporters failed to recognize that German modernism specifically, rather than modernism in general, was the Nazis’ prime target. That said, since German Expressionist works were, in actuality, the objects being removed from the museums, those works, consequently did receive the greatest amount of attention and the US. And we’ll turn now to the role played by émigré art dealers in the US in shaping the market for Expressionism.

German and Austrian art dealers, including Karl Nierendorf and Curt Valentin, began moving to the US around 1936 and opened galleries in New York. Beginning in 1939, they, along with partners at various art museums, began mounting expeditions devoted to German Expressionist painting and sculpture. And these shows helped to build the market for German modernism in the US, while also emphasizing the dealers’ opposition to the Third Reich. Curt Valentin emerged as the most prominent of the émigré dealers promoting Expressionism. You see here a portrait of the dealer by Max Beckmann. After his death in 1954, Valentin was lauded for the role he was perceived to have played in saving works of art that would otherwise have been destroyed by the Nazis. The truth is a bit more complicated. Before his emigration, Valentin had worked at the gallery of Karl Buchholz in Berlin, which specialized in modern German art. In 1936, Valentino arrived in New York, where he established a branch of the Buchholz Gallery. Its inaugural exhibition, in March of 1937, focused on modern German sculpture. Now Valentin had arrived in New York in possession of an export license from the Reich Ministry of Culture. So it is likely that the gallery was initially stocked with works he imported from the Berlin branch of the gallery. But by 1938, at the latest, Valentin also had direct access to works removed from the German museums through the “degenerate art” campaign. And this is because his colleague in Berlin, Karl Buchholz, was one of the four art dealers authorized to sell those works abroad. With the aid of Valentin’s export license, they could transfer many of the works to the US.

Now although benefiting on one level from the “degenerate art” campaign, Valentin used these works to mount several exhibitions that condemned Nazi anti-modernism. The Lehmbruck sculpture Head of a Girl, Turning, the one now in the Eskenazi’s collection, was one of these works and Valentin included it in his exhibition, Contemporary German Art. That show was developed in collaboration with the Institute of Modern Art in Boston, and the show opened in November of 1932, months after the outbreak of war in Europe. Possibly influenced by the institute’s director, James Plaut, who would go on to lead the Art Looting Investigation Unit of the Office of Strategic Services, the tone of the exhibition catalogue was stridently anti-Nazi. In particular, it condemned the Reich’s actions towards what it described as “the most significant works of 20th-century German artists.” So despite the exhibition’s title, few works on view were truly contemporary. Instead, most were examples of pre–World War One Expressionism, like this sculpture, because that was the target, again, of the “degenerate art” campaign. Twenty of the 74 works on view, including the Lehmbruck sculpture, were accompanied with a note about their former German museum provenances, providing viewers with a visceral connection to Nazi censorship.

The following year, in 1940, Valentin mounted a smaller German Expressionist exhibition called Landmarks in Modern German Art at the Buchholz Gallery in New York. Again, he highlighted the museum provenances of some of the 26 works on view, some of which had been featured also in the Degenerate Art exhibition. In a gallery setting, this tactic did more than just illuminate the cultural barbarity of the Nazis. Emphasizing that these works were formerly in museum collections also enhanced perceptions of their artistic quality, prestige, monetary value. Valentin also enlisted Perry Rathbone, a curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts, to write a foreword to the catalogue. Rathbone wrote: ”The exhibition represents the collective critical judgment of a museum personnel which was remarkable for its foresight and independence in the prompt recognition of the importance of contemporary German art, and was in a position to secure the best and most significant works of the movement.” Remember, these are the works on view in the gallery. Valentin and Rathbone presented the works as modernists “old masters,” emphasizing the Expressionists’ canonization in German museums during the 1920s, and calling attention to the works’ affinities with northern medieval art. That was the same strategy used in the New Burlington exhibition in London. And there was certainly some truth to this claim. For example, note the compositional and stylistic similarities between Beckmann’s 1917 painting Descent from the Cross, which Valentin exhibited in 1940, and the similarities between that and this late 15th-century painting by the German artist Michael Wolgemut. And that was actually reproduced in a book that Beckmann owned. So it is probably a very direct connection. The Beckmann painting later entered the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, reestablishing its canonical status, but this time in an American context.

At the end of the war, the German émigré art dealer Karl Nierendorf staged an exhibition titled Forbidden Art in the Third Reich. And this was at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts. The Worcester Daily Telegram’s art critic remained unconvinced of the works’ artistic merits. He wrote that the “gallery walls are dominated by creations that most of us would ban from our homes.” Yet, he went on to emphasize that censorship of art was not only unacceptable, but would be un-American. Artistic diversity and freedom of expression, he noted, were fundamental to American culture. And he was far from the only commentator making this kind of a point. Drawing on political discourse that juxtaposed American freedom with Nazi suppression, the rhetoric that developed around German Expressionism ultimately portrayed it as emblematic of democracy and freedom. And this notion remained a powerful idea well into the years of the Cold War. So American reception and an interpretation of German modernism was being shaped then against the backdrop of American hostilities with the Soviet Union, where a similar rhetoric was in place. Yet while a narrative equating Expressionism… While, while a narrative equating Expressionism and democracy prevailed, the sympathies of some Expressionist artists with the Nazi regime were conveniently ignored. This narrative no longer holds up today, but its legacy continues to shape our perceptions of Expressionism, and the popular view of the “degenerate art” campaign. An artist like Emil Nolde, for example, has been viewed as so integral to the modernist canon, and his work has been so equated with cultural freedom thanks to his defamation by the Nazis, that the art world is only today beginning to come to terms with the fact that he himself was a member of the Nazi party. But the study of “degenerate art” and the cultural policies of the Third Reich is not unlike the study of looted art. As researchers delve deeper into archives and as more resources become available online, our understanding of the role of art within World War Two history, both in the Third Reich and in the Allied nations, becomes ever more nuanced, complicated, and expensive.

Next week we’ll continue our exploration into the nuances and consequences of Nazi anti-modernism by examining the lives and careers of several major European art dealers who immigrated to the United States in the 1930s. Tonight I introduced you to Curt Valentin and Karl Nierendorf. Next week, we’ll look at how they and others aided exiled artists, promoted emerging American artists, and helped American art museums, including the Eskenazi, build their collections in the mid-20th century. I want to thank you all again for being here for this talk this evening. And at this point, I’d be happy to answer some of the questions that you may have been putting into the chat. And I believe Erin will help to moderate that. Thank you, Jenny. This was wonderful all. I hope you all have enjoyed learning more.
Part 3: Émigré Art Dealers and the American Art Market

Description of the video:

Hello everyone and welcome. We’re going to give just a couple more minutes to let any final people join us before we get started. In the meantime, if you want to optimize your viewing experience, there should be an option at the top of your screen to view options. And in that dropdown menu, the side-by-side option tends to work quite nicely so that you don’t have an overlapping image of the speaker with the image of the presentation. And then you can adjust that slide bar side to side as well to shrink the video and enlarge the slides. And as a reminder, we’ll use the chat box to communicate tonight, which can be found at the bottom of your screen. And it will open up in a separate window. All right, and it looks like our numbers are leveling out, so we’ll go ahead and get started.

Thank you again all for joining us today. I’ll start by reminding you all that we are recording this session. This is the last of three sessions on this topic. And all will be available. Each will be its own recording. And we’ll hope to have those ready by the end of the month. And if you’ve registered for this talk, for any of the three that you’ve attended, you will automatically receive those recordings via email. And we’ll also plan to put them on our website so you’ll be able to find them there as well. As I mentioned earlier, we are going to use the chat box tonight. Questions will be answered at the end, but feel free to comment throughout or ask questions throughout and we’ll address those once Jenny is done talking. We do have a Land Acknowledgment statement that we’d like to share before we get started. So I’ll go ahead and read that out. We wish to acknowledge and honor the indigenous communities native to this region and recognize that Indiana University Bloomington was built on indigenous homelands and resources. We recognize the Miami,
Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee people as past, present, and future caretakers of this land. And to get started tonight, we want to welcome you to the third in a series of three talks on the subject of Exile and Displacement: World War Two and the Transformation of the Western Art World. The subject of tonight’s talk is émigré art dealers and the American art market and it is presented by Jenny McComas, the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s curator of European and American art and head of the museum’s World War Two era provenance research project. And again, as I mentioned earlier, all of our recordings will be available at the end of the month and you’ll receive this automatically if you’ve registered. So with that, I will pass the baton to Jenny.

Thank you so much, Erin. And thanks also to my colleague, Laura Scheper. Erin and Laura have been so helpful in the logistics and the technical aspects of these three talks. So for those of you who are joining us, either for the third time or the first time, I’m really glad that you’re here. I’ve been hearing some great feedback from some of you over the past couple of weeks that you’ve been enjoying the series. So that’s wonderful to know. In tonight’s third installment of the talks that are related in a variety of ways to our World War Two provenance research project, we’re really going to look at the art market. Emigré Art Dealers and the American Art Market: This talk is going to draw somewhat on the themes that were raised in my previous two sessions on the looting of Jewish art collections in Europe, as well as the Nazi ”degenerate art” campaign against modern art. Before I get into the, the talk, I’m going to say a few words about art dealers and why it’s important to understand the role they play in the art world.

So art dealers aren’t just salespeople, or even just intermediaries between artists and collectors. Instead, the most successful and best-known art dealers of the past century have actively sought to nurture the careers of the artists they represent and to cultivate the taste of collectors and the broader public. By the late 18th century in Western Europe, art dealers were stepping into the role of patron, a role which had formerly been the preserve of the church and the upper classes. Dealers who operated as patrons could shape the careers of their artists and help develop an audience and a commercial market for their work. And again, I’m talking about dealers who dealt in the contemporary art of their day. Obviously many art dealers also have specialized in historical art forms. But the dealers who work with contemporary art, well, really with historical art too, have all played a critical role in shaping the canon. Artists who achieved great success in their lifetimes usually did so thanks to the efforts of the art dealers with whom they worked. And this doesn’t mean that those were the only artists of their day who were worthy of attention. And in my own research, I’ve often discovered the work of very interesting and talented artists who have remained little known simply because they never established a solid relationship with a dealer.

In our last session, we looked at the defamation of modern art in Nazi Germany, the so-called “degenerate art” campaign. I’m showing you again an image of the Degenerate Art exhibition on the slide. Although this campaign most visibly targeted artists, it was in many ways directed towards art dealers and art collectors—people who were responsible for promoting the artists deemed unacceptable by the Third Reich. Dealers of modern art, therefore, often chose to emigrate. They were joined by numerous artists, art historians, and museum directors and curators, all of whom were prompted by the rise of fascism in Europe to find new homes. This mass emigration of cultural figures also included scores of writers, filmmakers, and scholars. Many fled because they were Jewish and consequently worried about their safety and because they were denied the ability to practice their profession by the Nazi regime or its collaborators. Others left in protest of the treatment to their Jewish colleagues or because their anti-fascist political activities compromised their safety, or simply because they were opposed to living and a fascist society. In the first session, two weeks ago, I discussed the difficulties would-be immigrants faced in obtaining visas, especially for the United States. Although many artists and cultural figures were indeed unsuccessful in their attempts to emigrate, overall there was more assistance provided to cultural figures and to scholars than to the general public.

Tonight we’ll look at three of the most significant émigré art dealers who settled in New York between 1936 and 1941. Although I’ll focus on their associations with the Eskenazi Museum of Art, the role these dealers played in more broadly transforming the American art world cannot be underestimated. And if you’d like to learn more about them, or about several other émigré art dealers who won’t factor into my talk tonight, I recently wrote an essay on this topic and that’s available on the museum’s website. And Erin, if you wouldn’t mind, could you put the link to that into the chat? Thank you.

Now, before I delve into my discussion of the art dealers, I should provide a little more context about the prehistory of the Eskenazi Museum of Art in the 1940s and 1950s, at the time we worked with these dealers. In the brief overview of the museum that I provided a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that we officially trace our history to 1941. At that time, there was no museum per se at Indiana University, but a formalized and robust calendar of special exhibitions was established that year, and a small-scale acquisitions program began to develop. This was under the auspices of the newly appointed chair of the Fine Arts Department, Henry Radford. Hope, you see him here shortly after his arrival in Bloomington. Hope eventually did become the founding director of the museum, which acquired its first permanent space and official recognition on campus in the early 1960s. In my upcoming discussion of the émigré art dealers, Hope’s name will come up again and again. So let me provide a little background about who Henry Hope was. Born in 1905 in Massachusetts, Hope traveled to Europe in the mid-1930s to recover from tuberculosis. While there, he became profoundly interested in art and enrolled in art history courses at the Sorbonne in Paris. He returned to the US in 1938 and entered the graduate program in art history at Harvard. There, he studied with Professor Paul Sachs, who trained several generations of American museum professionals between the 1920s and the 1940s. It was thanks to Sachs’s recommendation that Hope was offered the position of department chair, art department chair, at IU in 1941. And in addition to working on improving and expanding the art department, Hope, as I mentioned, mounted numerous exhibitions on campus. He brought in circulating exhibitions from the Met and MoMA and borrowed individual works from major New York art dealers. And here’s an installation photo from an exhibition of contemporary American art that he organized in 1944. Hope was also an active participant outside the university in the arena of cultural diplomacy, especially in the 1950s during the Cold War. He served on the board of the American Federation of Arts, which advocated for international artistic exchange. And he was the US delegate on art activities and advisor on cultural affairs to UNESCO. In 1959, he was also part of the selection committee for the American National Exhibition, a controversial show which introduced contemporary American art, including Abstract Expressionism, to audiences in Moscow.

From the beginning of his time at IU, Hope envisioned establishing an art museum. But the American entry into World War Two put his plans on hold temporarily. In the meantime, he began developing his own art collection, starting in 1944. That year, Hope married Sarahanne Adams, a member of the wealthy Lilly family of Indianapolis. She, too, was passionate about art and, thanks to her resources, the couple began collecting together on their honeymoon in New York that summer. The Hopes’ collection would emphasize contemporary French and American art and would contain some particularly fine examples of modernist sculpture. As Hope was already working with New York dealers to borrow works for exhibitions at IU, these established relationships likely benefited him as a new collector. And as we’ll see, he worked very closely with several émigré art dealers.

Let’s start with Paul Rosenberg, the art dealer from whom Henry and Sally Hope initiated their collecting activities. On their 1944 honeymoon, they purchased major paintings by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Marsden Hartley, and Max Weber from Rosenberg. All of these paintings, seen here, are now in the Eskenazi’s collection.

Paul Rosenberg can rightly be considered one of the most influential art dealers of the 20th century. During his career, he worked with major museums and collectors throughout Europe and the Americas, and represented the most groundbreaking French artists of the early 20th century. Rosenberg was born into his profession, so to speak, as his father was a dealer of Impressionist painting and Paris. Both Paul and his brother Léonce became art dealers, both championing modern French artists. Paul is especially known for his promotion of Cubism, and he had exclusive contracts with Picasso and Braque in the 1920s and ‘30s. Other contemporary French artists he represented included Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, and Aristide Maillol. His gallery also stocked works by 19th-century French masters, such as Ingres, Delacroix, Courbet, Cézanne, Monet, and Renoir.

With the rise of fascism in Europe in the mid-1930s, Rosenberg began transferring works from his gallery and collection off of the European continent. To begin with, he joined his brother-in-law, Jacques Helft, to open a branch of the Rosenberg Gallery in London. Our Picasso painting, The Studio, was among the works transferred to the London gallery, and in 1936 it was featured in a major Surrealist exhibition held at the New Burlington Galleries. You can see it circled here in the photograph. Now this is the same London gallery that mounted the 20th Century German Art exhibition two years later in 1938, in response to the Degenerate Art exhibition. And we talked about that a bit last week.

Rosenberg also arranged to lend many works from his collection to exhibitions abroad, especially in the Americas. For example, in late summer of 1939, he lent 19 paintings by Georges Braque to a major Braque retrospective organized by the Arts Club of Chicago. This group of works included The Napkin Ring, which is, which was perhaps one of Rosenberg’s most cherished Braque paintings. The Napkin Ring is one of four horizontal still life compositions known as the “Rosenberg Quartet.” All were commissioned by the dealer in the late 1920s to hang in his Paris dining room. He also had mosaic copies made of each still life and these were installed in the floor of his apartment.

The Braque paintings arrived in Chicago shortly before the outbreak of war in Europe. Their travels from France to the US are very well documented in the papers of the Arts Club, which are held by the Newbury Library in Chicago. The Arts Club’s retrospective traveled to the Phillips Memorial Collection in Washington, DC, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Following the retrospective, Rosenberg’s paintings went on to the Golden Gate International Exposition, also in San Francisco, as they could not be returned to wartorn Europe. Meanwhile, at the same time, Rosenberg and his family were making their way from occupied France to the United States via a neutral Portugal. This was a typical route for émigrés to follow, especially after the outbreak of war, when it was difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a visa from within a Nazi-occupied country. The Rosenbergs arrived in New York in September of 1940. Conveniently, the San Francisco exposition closed the same month, so Rosenberg would’ve received a major shipment of his paintings not long after his arrival in the US. And these works would form the basis for the new gallery he opened in New York.

Back in Nazi-occupied Paris, the townhouse that housed the Paul Rosenberg Gallery and the family’s apartments were sequestered by the Germans, who established the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question. This institute generated antisemitic propaganda, sometimes in the form of exhibitions. And the Nazis’ appropriation of a renowned Jewish gallerist’s property for this purpose was not accidental. After the war, when Rosenberg was able to return to France and learned what had become of his Paris home, he decided he could never live in the building again. Though he did remove the Braque mosaics. Rosenberg’s collection was also subject to extensive looting by the Nazis. Even though he had successfully moved much of the collection outside of continental Europe, about 400 paintings remained in France. He tried to evade Nazi detection of the collection by storing many of the works in a bank vault in southwest France, under the name of an employee. The ploy didn’t work, and these paintings were seized by the ERR (the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg), which again was the organization set up to confiscate Jewish collections. Because Rosenberg handled valuable works by highly sought-after artists, the Nazis engineered the sale of many of them, and they ended up in various private collections. Rosenberg consequently spent most of his last decade in court, trying to retrieve his paintings. Before his death in 1959, he managed to have about 300 of them restituted. And more have since been returned to his heirs.

But now let’s return to his activities during the war years. Rosenberg’s arrival in New York generated great excitement in the art world, as described in the periodical, the Art Digest: ”When rumor first intimated that Paul Rosenberg, internationally known Paris dealer in modern art, would open a gallery in New York, 57th Street anticipated something akin to a clap of thunder.” (And for any of you who don’t know, 57th Street in midtown Manhattan has historically housed many prestigious art galleries and continues to do so today.)

Rosenberg initially mounted exhibitions focusing on French masters of the late 19th century, such as Monet and van Gogh, which he knew would appeal to American taste. But he also continued to promote the Cubist artists, and he was a major lender to MoMA’s 1940 Picasso retrospective. But Rosenberg’s patronage also turned in a new direction in New York, as he began promoting a select group of American artists. These included Max Weber, Marsden Hartley, and Abraham Rattner, all of whom had solo shows at the Rosenberg Gallery between 1942 and 1950. Drawing upon Cubism and German Expressionism, their visual language became particularly prominent in American art of the 1940s, pre-Abstract Expressionism. Sometimes dubbed “figurative expressionists,” these artists tended to explore social, political, and psychological issues in their work, sometimes indirectly or through metaphor. Critics and curators in the early 1940s considered them to be in the vanguard of American art, but today—with a few exceptions, such as Hartley—their work is hardly known. In light of Rosenberg’s attachment to the best-known figures of modern French painting, it is interesting that the American artists he supported ultimately did not generally make it into the canon of American modernism. And let’s take a look at one of these marginalized artists.

The Eskenazi has in its collection a major Abraham Rattner painting, Place of Darkness, which was featured in the artist’s solo exhibition at the Rosenberg Gallery in May of 1943. It’s possible that Rattner and Rosenberg actually got to know each other before the war, before the war and before Rosenberg’s immigration. Rattner, who was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, lived in Paris in the 1920s and ‘30s, and may well have visited exhibitions at Paul Rosenberg’s gallery there. Certainly, he was familiar with one of Rosenberg’s most prominent artists, Pablo Picasso. Place of Darkness contains clear echoes of Guernica, which Picasso painted in the aftermath of the 1937 bombing of a Basque village by the Germans. Rattner’s painting addresses the Holocaust, reports of which were beginning to filter into the US in 1942. But rather than literally portray the German atrocities, which Rattner would’ve had difficulty visualizing at such an early date due to a lack of photography, he instead sought to convey a general sense of human depravity in this composition. Henry Hope acquired the piece from Rosenberg around 1947 and donated it to IU in 1958. By that time, in the late 1950s, Rattner’s emotionally charged work was becoming fashionable, as Abstract Expressionism was entering the canon and as Pop Art and Minimalism were beginning to emerge. So after spending many years languishing and storage, the Rattner painting has only been put back on view in recent years. And in that time, many visitors have expressed that it’s one of their favorite works in our collection. So, perhaps Paul Rosenberg’s instincts about which artists to patronize were correct after all, for taste and fashion, as we know, can be cyclical.

Let’s return now to Curt Valentin, who I introduced last week in the session on German modernism and so-called “degenerate art.” In the postwar years, Henry Hope developed a strong relationship with Valentin, who helped him build up his personal collection, much of which is now at the Eskenazi Museum. Valentin worked closely with all of the major American art museums and collectors of his day, and his influences as a taste-maker in certain realms of modern art was immense. As a reminder, Valentin established himself as one of the most prominent dealers of German Expressionism in the US beginning in 1937, when he established a branch of the Berlin-based Buchholz Gallery in New York. Through his connection with the German dealer Karl Buchholz, who was authorized by the Third Reich to sell “degenerate art” from the German museums, Valentin had ready access to some of the best examples of Expressionism. And as discussed last week, Valentin’s strategy for creating an American market for German modernism included mounting exhibitions which utilized Expressionism to draw attention to Nazi modern, anti-modern art propaganda. Many of the Expressionist works Valentin handled were by artists who were no longer living. One exception was Max Beckmann, whose paintings you can see in the slide. Beginning in 1938, Valentin mounted ten exhibitions devoted to Beckmann’s work. And he played a major role in facilitating opportunities and commissions for the artists in the United States.

Yet although the Eskenazi Museum has a fairly large collection of German Expressionism, few of these works were acquired directly through Curt Valentin. Our Expressionists holdings mostly entered the museum in the 1970s and were acquired from other dealers of German art, such as Serge Sabarsky. Valentin died in 1954, before the Eskenazi Museum was truly operational. His connection to us, then, is through the works he sold Henry Hope privately. And Hope had a strong preference for French and American art over German Expressionism. But Max Beckmann was an exception.

In 1950, with Valentin’s assistance, Hope commissioned this family portrait from Max Beckmann, who has an interesting connection to Bloomington. In the talk two weeks ago, we looked at Bernhard and Cola Heiden, the musician couple who immigrated to the US in 1935. As you might recall, the Heidens were close friends of Max Beckmann. Upon their arrival in Bloomington just after World War Two. The Heidens quickly became friends of Henry Hope and other members of the art department. It was at Cola Heiden’s urging that Hope reached out to Max Beckmann in 1947, offering him a faculty position in the art department. Beckmann had fled Germany ten years earlier, immediately following the opening of the Degenerate Art exhibition, and he had settled in Amsterdam. He had long wanted to come to the US, but had been denied a visa. That situation changed after the war, when he found himself considering offers from several American universities. The Heiden papers at IU’s Lilly Library preserve correspondence with Beckmann, in which he asks about Bloomington’s cultural life and its proximity to Indianapolis, the nearest large city. Finding the answers unsatisfactory, he instead accepted a teaching offer from Washington University in St. Louis. Nevertheless, Beckmann traveled twice to Bloomington. The first trip was in 1948 to judge an art exhibition, which his diary tells us, he found “deadly boring.” And he came again in 1950 to make preliminary sketches, such as this, for the Hope family portrait. Hope’s recollections reveal Curt Valentin’s role in facilitating the commission: ”The choice of Beckmann was made for two reasons: 1) I admired the several portraits he did in St. Louis and, and the group portraits done in Amsterdam. The other reason was that we were close friends of Curt Valentin and he offered to make the arrangements for us.” The Hope family portrait was Beckmann’s largest group portrait. In his diary, he expressed some consternation about the endeavor, writing at the beginning of April 1950: ”Am going briefly to Bloomington, Indiana in order to paint a couple with 6 children. --Oh my God--. But I’m sure things will work out.” Despite later diary entries, which described his work on the Hope portrait as Hopeless, Beckmann was finally satisfied with the composition at the end of May 1950. And Valentin arranged for it to be displayed at the Whitney Museum’s biennial before sending it on to Bloomington.

Despite their interest in Beckmann, Henry and his wife, Sally, preferred French and American modern art, as I’ve already mentioned. And they had a particular affinity for sculpture. In this, too, they were aided by Curt Valentin, who developed a secondary specialty in New York as an expert in modernist sculpture. Among the sculptures the Hopes acquired from Valentin, which are now in the Eskenazi’s collection, are these works by Marino Marini, Henry Moore, and Jacques Lipchitz. We will focus in some depth now on Lipchitz, who like Curt Valentin, was a wartime exile. Henry Hope was a keen supporter of Lipchitz, an artist who formed a bridge between the French and American art worlds. Hope wrote an article on Lipchitz’s sculpture in conjunction with the Venice Biennale of 1952, and authored the catalogue for Lipchitz’s as retrospective at MoMA in 1954. And he owned two sculptures representing very different periods of the artist’s career.

Born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Lithuania, Lipchitz moved to Paris in 1909 to study art, arriving just as Picasso and Braque were painting their first Cubist canvases. In his writings, Henry Hope expressed his belief that Lipchitz was among the most successful sculptors to translate the Cubist aesthetic into three dimensions. I’m sorry, here’s a photo I meant to show you of Lipchitz. Now we’ll look at one of his Cubist sculptures, the 1919 Draped Woman. And this is a postwar cast, which is now in the Eskenazi’s collection. And it did not come from Henry Hope. So Lipchitz continued to thrive as a sculptor in interwar Paris, becoming ever more innovative, as in his group of sculptures known as the Transparents. One of the Lipchitz sculptures the Hopes acquired from Valentin is the 1926 Transparent, Harlequin with Guitar. In the Transparents Lipchitz experimented with new formal and technical innovations that surpassed those of the Cubist idiom he had previously mastered. The Transparents incorporate an unprecedented amounts of negative, or open ,space into their compositions. We see this clearly in Harlequin with Guitar, whose intertwining positive and negative spaces result in a very intricate and dynamic composition, almost like a collage constructed of disparate elements. When Valentin put this work on the market in 1953, Hope purchased it immediately, and it ranks as one of the most important works from the collection overall. Indeed, Lipchitz had kept the sculpture in his possession, even managing to bring it with him to America.

So after the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940, Lipchitz and his wife fled to Toulouse. And with the assistance of the Emergency Rescue Committee, which worked to obtain American visas for artists, they were able to settle in New York in 1941. The following year, Lipchitz began regularly exhibiting at Curt Valentin’s gallery, and along with many other prominent refugee artists from Europe, he changed the character of the American art world in the 1940s. Many believe that the energy and aesthetic ideas that exiled artists such as Lipchitz brought with them to the US paved the way for the development of Abstract Expressionism, and for the emergence of New York as the center of the Western art world in the postwar period. In 1946, the art critic Clement Greenberg compared the scale, energy, and ambition of Lipchitz’s current sculptures to the paintings of Jackson Pollock.

So maybe we should look at one of his postwar sculptures. Following the war, Lipchitz chose to remain in the United States, becoming a citizen in 1956. In the US, the character of his sculpture changed dramatically, as I’ve already suggested. He no longer adhered even remotely to a Cubist aesthetic, but now blended aspects of Expressionism and Surrealism, styles associated with human emotions and psychology. The rise of fascism in Europe, which forced him into exile and culminated in the Holocaust, led him to begin engaging with mythic and biblical themes during the 1930s. And these subjects continued to occupy him for the rest of his life. The bronze sculpture Song of Songs from 1945 refers to the biblical book of the same title and is representative of this later phase in his career. This piece was acquired by Henry Hope in 1946 and was the first of his Lipchitz acquisitions. Given his special interest in Lipchitz, Hope had informed Curt Valentin that “we want to get one of the artist’s most outstanding works.” In his reply, Valentin offered the opinion that Song of Songs, which he had recently featured in the artist’s solo exhibition in his gallery, ”is one of the best and most important things which Lipchitz has done in the last few years.”

The final dealer we’ll look at tonight is Leo Castelli, who dedicated himself to the advancement of postwar American art. The Eskenazi Museum has several works in its collection that went through Castelli’s gallery. Our Jackson Pollock painting is believed to be one of them. More research is needed, but it may have been included in exhibitions in 1957 or 1958 at the Castelli gallery. Other works in our collection that were handled by Castelli include these works by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Donald Judd. They were acquired by the museum in the 1960s and ‘70s under the leadership both of Henry Hope and of Thomas T. Solley, the museum’s second director.

Let’s take a look at Leo Castelli’s biography. He was born Leo Krausz in 1907 to a Jewish family in the northeast Italian city of Trieste. At the time, the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Castelli’s father, Ernst Krausz, a banker, was from Hungary. His mother Bianca Castelli came from a wealthy family of coffee importers in Trieste. At some point, the family changed its surname from Krausz to Castelli, possibly after World War One, when Trieste, no longer under Austrian rule, underwent a period of intense Italianization.

Leo Castelli initially worked for an insurance company in Bucharest, where he met and married his first wife, Ileana Schapira. In 1934, they moved to Paris, where he worked at the Banca d’Italia. It was in Paris that he opened his first gallery, which was named for its co-director Rene Drouin. The Drouin Gallery specialized in Surrealism and would become a very influential gallery during the 1940s. Leo Castelli, however, would not play a great role in its evolution. The gallery opened in July 1939, and less than two months later, World War Two began. Castelli and his wife, who was also Jewish, fled Paris for the south of France. And in March 1941, they were able to immigrate to the United States. Castelli’s parents died in Budapest, where they were subjected to persecution by Hungarian fascists.

In New York, Castelli was not able to take up art dealing right away. Instead, he worked for several years for his father-in-law’s garment business. He also served in the US Army during World War Two, working with the OSS, the intelligence service, thanks to his facility with languages. He spoke five. Nevertheless, he started to make inroads into New York’s avant-garde artistic circles. And by the late ’40s, had gotten to know many of the major figures of the Abstract Expressionist movement. In 1951, he organized a major Abstract Expressionist show in New York’s East Village.

In 1957, he finally opened his own gallery on the Upper East Side. His opening exhibition was, was devoted again to Abstract Expressionism, and, as I suggested, may have included our Pollock. But already in 1958, Castelli suddenly started to shift his focus to a new generation of American artists, those who would become the pioneers of Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. He was particularly attracted to artists who had absorbed the legacy of Marcel Duchamp, who had pioneered proto-conceptual ideas with his famous Readymades between 1913 and 1921. A limited edition of authorized replicas of Duchamp’s Readymades was issued in 1964 by the Italian art dealer Arturo Schwartz, and the Eskenazi Museum, by the way, is the only American museum with a complete set of the 1964 Readymades edition. And I’m showing you two of the most famous pieces right here. Castelli saw Duchamp as one of the most critical figures of 20th-century art. And he especially promoted artists like Robert Rauschenberg, who similarly incorporated assemblage, found objects and references to popular culture in their work. The Minimalist artists he promoted, like Donald Judd, also followed in Duchamp’s footsteps in emphasizing the conceptual basis of a work of art over its craftsmanship. Castelli once said, ”The key figure in my gallery is somebody that I never showed, and that was Marcel Duchamp. Painters who were not influenced by Duchamp just don’t belong here.”

It’s important to note that while the artists Castelli promoted—figures such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol—are seminal figures in the history of postwar American art, they were practically unknown when Castelli took notice of them. In fact, he preferred working with emerging artists whose careers he could shape and nurture over the long term. He even paid his artists stipends, whether or not their work sold, and this gave them the freedom to continue experimenting and developing their ideas. Castelli also helped advance the reputation of American art in Europe, which was no small feat. American art had never enjoyed much prestige in Europe, and European art likewise enjoyed a higher status in the US, especially prior to World War Two. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that even Abstract Expressionism gained widespread recognition in Europe, thanks to a touring show circulated by the Museum of Modern Art. Another watershed moment was when Robert Rauschenberg, one of Castelli’s artist, won the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1964. And he was just the second American artist to win this prestigious award.

As these examples from the Eskenazi Museum’s collection reveal, Castelli played a key role in promoting three of the most significant American art movements of the mid-20th century: Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimalism. And this constitutes a major difference between Castelli and the other two dealers we looked at tonight. Both Paul Rosenberg and Curt Valentin promoted selected American artists, but they remained largely devoted to European modernism, and in particular to styles that emerged before World War Two. Castelli, by contrast, devoted himself completely to American artists, especially those who were the most experimental and conceptually forward thinking. But although all three dealers had different approaches and interests, all immeasurably enriched and expanded the American art world.

So thank you for joining me tonight. I hope you’ve gained some insight into the workings of the art world in general, and the Eskenazi Museum’s collection in particular. I also hope you’ve enjoyed this series and if you missed any of the talks, as Erin mentioned, we will have recordings available, we hope around the end of the month. And you will receive an email with those links when they’re ready.