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.