THE PATH OF ART FROM SWITZERLAND TO AMERICA FROM THE LATE

1930's TO THE EARLY 1950's: A Report of Research Results
Laurie A. Stein
In a review of the Contemporary German Art exhibition held at the Institute of
Modern Art in Boston in the winter of 1939, Mary C.' Udall of Art News discussed a large
number of the works in the show which had been confiscated from German museum
collections in the 1930s and were now owned by American institutions and private
collectors.
1
Organized by the Institute's director James Plaut with Curt Valentin, a German
emigre dealer who was director of the Buchholz Gallery in New York, the exhibition included
works by Ernst Barlach, E.L.Kirchner, Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger that had been purged
from the holdings of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, as well as pieces by Max Beckmann, Paul
Klee, Gerhard Marcks and Oskar Kokoschka formerly in the collection of the
Gemaeldegalerie in Dresden and a broad range of major works taken from museums in cities
such as Weimar, Mannheim, Hamburg, Essen, Hannover, Breslau, Keil, Stettin, Halle and
Frankfurt. Regarding the emigration of all these newly-arrived refugee artworks from Europe
to America at the outbreak of the Second World War, Udall stated,
"The Nineteen-Thirties stand as a milestone in German Art ... A
startling change has taken place since 1931. In the catalogue of
the German exhibition held at the New York Museum of Modern
Art in that year, one read, 'However much modern German art is
admired or misunderstood abroad, it is certainly supported
publicly and privately in Germany with extraordinary generosity.
Museum directors have the courage, foresight and knowledge to
buy works by the most advanced artists long before public
opinion forces them to do so. Some fifty German Museums are a
most positive factor in supporting artists and in educating the
public to an understanding of their work. German scholars,
curators, critics and publishers are as active as the Museums.
German art schools, academies, schools of applied arts, are
remarkable in that they employ as teachers many of the most
advanced German sculptors and painters.' That was in 1931 and
these were the same artists whose work now appears in the
Boston exhibition. ,,2
The Boston showing of over 70 artworks in Boston, and a group of other exhibitions
of' exiled artworks held during 1939-1945 at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art in
I See InstlUlte of l\lodem Art. Boston. Conlemporan German Art. November 2-December ~ . 1 9 3 9 , and. Mary
C Udall. "Genmm Museum NaZl-Verbolen Art Exhibited in BOSIOIl".;A.rt News (No\em\:lcr II. 1939): 13.
,
- Udall. ibid. pi:;

, ..?.•..
. .
New York, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The City Museum in Saint Louis, and at the
Buchholz Gallery and the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, underline the extraordinary
breadth of traffic in art to the United States that was occuring in the Nazi era.
3
While some of
the art arrived as property of collectors, dealers and artists (usually either Jewish emigrants or
persecuted avant-garde figures), a larger proportion of the work entered the country through'
private gallery transactions between European and American-based dealers, and thrO!lgh the
auction of degenerate art held in Lucerne, Switzerland earlier that summer. The introduction
to the catalogue ofthe Boston exhibition highlighted the transfer of art to Switzerland for the
Lucerne auction, explaining: "In the spring of 1939, over one hundred publicly owned objects
of art, of both German and foreign origin, were taken to Switzerland, where they were sold at
public auction. Many of them were bought by a syndicate for the Belgian museums, and a
large number came to the United States. It is largely from among these that the present
exhibition has been chosen."4
The research undertaken for this study aims to trace in depth the pathof confiscated or
looted artworks from Swiss sources to American museum collections from the late 1930's
until the early 1950' S5 The methods in which Switzerland played a role in the process of
transfer of art to the United States were highly varied; beyond the degenerate art auction,
works were sold through Swiss-based galleries or middle-men, were paid for through Swiss
banks, and or transported to Swiss museums or collections for safekeeping before the works
were sent on to America. .
In order to gain more precise understanding of the "Swiss connection," I reviewed
object and document files from six American museum collections (Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fogg Art Museum and Busch-
Reisinger Museum of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Art Institute of
Chicago, David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago), as well as
researching archives of an American-based dealer (Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York) and
several private collectors (Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Saint Louis, MissourL and Beatrice Cummings
3 TIlCse shows included tlIe Arl in Our Time Exhibition al MOMA. 1939..in 0/ Tomomlll" at Ule Guggenheim
Foundation in 1939. shows of refugee or exiled art at IDe Minneapolis Institute of Arts and TIle City Art Museum
of St.Louis in and shows such as the Landmarks in .llodemArl at Ihe Pierre Matisse Gallery. I.
See Vi\ian Endicott Barnett. "Banned Gennan Art: Reception and Institutional Support of Modem Gennan Art
in the United States. I<)33..... 5. in Barron. Exiles and EmiWes. Los Angeles: LAC'MA. 1998. pp. 273-284: and
Reinhold Heller. "The ..pressionist Challenge. James Plaut and me Institute of Contemporary Art." Dissent:
The Issue of Contemporan Art in Boston. Boston and Malibu: The Institute of Contemporary Art and the 1. Paul
Getty Trust. Northeastern University Press. December 5. 1985-February 9. 1986. pp. 17-53.
I Institute of Modem An. Boston. Contempol"'df\ GennanAn. November 2-Deccmber 3.193'.>. p. 6.
, Originally. the study was only to encompass the years leading up to and during the Second World War.
However. it was soon clear from revic\ of the material that due to much buy 109 and glftmg m the early 1950s of
works \ hlCh had been affected by the subject in question. the Ume frame should be expanded
2
Mayer, Chicago).6 I followed leads from lender lists in numerous contemporary exhibition
catalogues and pamphlets, and undertook extensive bibliographic and library research in
primary and secondary sources. Finally, in the case of objects in America that had been
confiscated from the Folkwang Museum in Essen, the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld,
and the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, I searched through archival records and correspondence
between directors, collectors, colleagues and dealers during and after the period for
information on the German institutions tracking the traces of their fom1er holdings on the
international art market. 7
As I began the study, in some cases it was already known that works had come
through Switzerland via the degenerate art auction but the details of the acquisitions had not
been studied. In other cases, provenance records hinted that works may have been sold or
transferred through Switzerland and the research entailed pursuing these clues to verify or
deny the possibility. €In one example, the current study showed that the myths of American
museum directors and collectors purchasing art in the 1930' s through. Swiss sources, in order
to rescue it from the National Socialists, need to be reconsidered.8. It must be remembered
that while Europe went to war, America was still conducting business as usual, even in the
cultural arena--defining new museum collecting policies, mounting exhibitions, and building
private collections from the best possible art available on the market. In contrast to the rather
surprising (and dubious) assertion by Cesar Mange de Hauke, a dealer in New York and Paris
who was known to work actively with the Nazis, in a 1944 letter to Fogg Art Museum
. .'"
director Paul Sachs that, "Art life in Paris has been very dull during the war--very very few
worthwhile things, in any field, came on the market. ,,9 the records consulted here show that
Switzerland, as a neutral country with advantageous export regulations and financial
structures. was an optimal site for multitudinous art transactions. The range and constancy of
recently-arrived works being offered and acquired by Americans evidences that the United
States became a welcoming homeland for confiscated and looted art, and Switzerland became
probably the most important conduit country for the rush of American art collecting during
the era.
i· Unfortunately. the Los Angeles COlUlty Museum of Art. which "as supposed to be included in the study. was
not able at tItis time to make material available.
- Papers in tIle holdings of the Folkwang Museum in Essen has shown that German museum directors and
patrons followed the e

ents of the intcmational art market dUring the war years as closely as possible. I have
found numerous references to buyers. prices. etc.. in such material in the past,
This is the case of the Beckmarm In Tuxedo. see text belo\ and Busch-Reisinger case study for
more detail and discussion about Otis.
, De Hauke. Paris. to Sachs. Cambridge. A. October·t 19..-1. Han'ard An .\luseulIls Archives.
Sachs Correspondence.
3
The results of my research are organized in two sections. The first is a summary ofthe
differing means of transfer of art through Switzerland to the United States, including offerings
of degenerate art for sale through public auction or private transaction to both American
museums and individual collectors, the sale of works with unclarified provenance known to
have been kept in Switzerland during or immediately after the war, and the acquisition of
objects from private hands (not confirmed to have been confiscated officially but possibly
given up through forced sale) through Swiss collectors or dealers. This is followed by a more
specialized section detailing relevant works in each of the museum collections under
consideration, presented as case studies by institution and including an additional report on
dealer archival materials and exhibition materials consulted for this project.
The primary contributions ofthe research, above and beyond the pure acquisition of
more detai led understanding of the breadth and methods of exchange between American and
Swiss art sources, are 1) new insight into the intricate relationship between Karl Buchholz in
Germany, Bernoulli in Switzerland, Curt Valentin in New York, and Pierre Matisse
in New York through dealing activities to bring confiscated art from Europe to the American
market, 2) heightened evidence of Valentin's capability to bring art to America for sale, and
of the profound level of this dealer's influence on American collections at this time, 3)
confirmation of instances of American hesitation to purchase art of uncertain origin or
ownership title during and after war by New York collector Maurice Wertheim (who bought
despite these hesitations) and by the Art Institute of Chicago, 4) revelation of the complete
circumstances and details of the 1939 acquisition by Hilla von Rebay and Solomon R.
Guggenheim ofa group of important artworks through a trail stemming directly from the
German government, to dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt in Germany, to artist Otto Nebel and dealer
Dr. August Klipstein in Switzerland, to the Guggenheim Foundation in New York, 10 and 5)
the discovery of a variety of names of collectors, art world figures, and even shippers, that
may help to answer or raise questions in other research on the subjects.
For the purposes of providing the most comprehensive analysis possible in the period
oftime available for the research, and in part also due to the nature of the collections chosen
for the study, I have limited my review to late 19
th
and 20
th
century artworks. This focus
provides the opportunity to look at the material in a deeper contextual framework and allows
'. In the case or the Guggenheim collection. the also sho\ s that due to the diltgcnI drons of Vivian
Barnett and Angelica Rudinstine in the 1970 s-gOs. have sel a model for responsIble provenance checking
U1 Amencan institutions. long before such research was cOInlllonplace
4
for interrelationships between the collecting activities of collectors, dealers and museums to
be more closely considered. II
SECTION 1: SUMMARY
In 1938, when the German Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda decided
to auction 125 paintings and sculptures from the thousands of works that had been purged in
1937 from thirty-two public institutions as degenerate art (defined as those pieces which
"insult German feeling, or destroy or confuse natural form, or simply reveal an absence of
adequate manual and artistic skill"), 12 Galerie Fischer in Lucerne, Switzerland was chosen as
the site for the sale. 13 Most of the pieces selected for auction had been held at Schloss
Niederschonhausen in Berlin along with other German and international works deemed of
significant value on the foreign art market; eighteen paintings and one sculpture had been
included in the Degenerate Art exhibition that had opened in Munich in 1937 and toured
throughout Germany thereafter.l.J Hoping to dispose of the art for the maximum possible
foreign currency to be deposited in Reich accounts through the Bank of Sv,:itzerland, press
announcements of the upcoming auction were distributed to--or perhaps more to the point,
were restricted to--major international art organs such as New York-based Art News. It
appears that the texts of pre-sale pro'paganda were carefully orchestrated by the National
Socialists. For example, employing an artificially-upbeat tone, Art News reported,
"The sale of a unique collection of paintings from German museums, all of
which rank as masterworks of outstanding twentieth century artists, is an
event which should attract many visitors to Lucerne on June 30.... The
disposal of these canvases, which up till now have occupied places of
honor in the leading museums of Germany, is a result of the Kulturpolitik
of the Third Reich and brings to the market works ofa quality and
importance such as have not been available since the early part of the
century... further foreign works which have fallen under the ban of official
disapproval, that should add luster to any collection. ,,15
11 There are undoubtedly hWldreds of e:-.:amplcs of decorati

Related Interests

e arts and Old Master pieces which also would have
been relennt to the topic. but to include these further research and tra

Related Interests

el would be necessary.
in: Stephanie Barron. "Degenerate Art" The Fate of the A\ant-Garde in Nazi Gennan

Related Interests

. Los Angeles:
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. IlJ91. p. 19.
[' Haberstock suggested Theodor Fischer. see Barron. p. 137. TIlfough the research by Anja Heuss and the
Swiss COIrunission in Lucerne. the circumstances are currently being stUdied.
1 I The question of inaccuracies in the up-to-now infonnation 011 exactl) how much art was auctioned is diseussed
in the te:'>:t belo\. and is also under consideration b\ Heuss and the Colllluission.
15 "European Auctions--XX CentuI;- Paintings [ro;n German Museums" Art Nc\s 2ll. 1(39): 11-18.
5
No American museums purchased works directly from the auction. Alfred Barr, Jr.,
director of the Museum of Modern Art, for example, even made a point of not making any
acquisitions there in order to avoid the appearance of paying art ransom that would go straight
to German military and political coffers.
16
Private collectors and dealers from America,
though, made numerous purchases at the sale, mostly buying anonymously through agents.
For example, Maurice Wertheim, a New York banker and philanthropist who had begun
collecting late 19
th
and early 20
th
century art only three years before, purchased Van Gogh's
Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin, 1888, oil on canvas, for 175,000 SF (approximately
$20,000).17 This was the most expensive price paid for a single work in the auction,
representing a large proportion of the revenue generated by the entire sale. Wertheim did not
attend the Luc'erne auction himself. Instead, the work was purchased for him by Alfred
Frankfurter, editor of Art News, who was a key advisor to Wertheim as he built his collection.
The van Gogh had been purchased by Hugo von Tschudi in 1906 and donated as part
of the Tschudi-Spende to the Neue Staatsgalerie in Munich in 1919 before being confiscated
by the Nazis in 1937. In 1951, when Wertheim passed away, he left the van Gogh in his
bequest of over 43 paintings, sculptures and drawings to the Fogg Art Museum. Today it is
one of the masterpieces of this Harvard University collection. Unfortunately, the Wertheim's
papers left to Harvard contain no references to the purchase of the van Gogh at the auction
and my efforts to locate Alfred Frankfurter's papers have been unsuccessful (as of yet), so
there is no surviving material documentation to indicate how Wertheim decided to buy this
particular work and if he had the publisher submit any bids on other pieces at the
There is also no extant information about the circumstances of acquisitions at the
Degenerate Art sale for some ofthe other private collectors who bought there and later gifted
the pieces to American museum collections: namely, Paul Geier, a collector in Cincinnati,
Ray LeBerdeau, of New York, and Hans Swarzenski, originally from Germany. I') Geier
bought, among other works, Franz Marc's Grazing Horses IV, 1911, oil on canvas, which is
Ih See. for example: Lynn H. Nicholas. TIle Rape of Europa. New York Vintage Books. ll)l)-l. p. -l.
1" For a good discussion of WCI1heim cmd his buying. sec: John O'Brian. Degas to Matisse. TIle Maurice
WeI1heim Collection. Cambridge. MA: Harry N. Abrams. Inc.. and the Fogg AI1 Museum/Haf\ard University.
1988: Barron. p.135-1-l6.
18 AI1news repoI1s that their meager archival material from FrankfuI1er's time docs not include relevant
to the publisher's art advising adi\ities and has offered to help find Frankfurter's heirs This might take some
time. The papers also do not seem [0 be among the holdings of the Arclll\es of American An. Wertheim's
correspondence at the Fogg. includes nothing of significant content between Frankfurter and Wertheim..
and the same is true of the Sachs papers in the Harvard University Art Museums Arclmes .
. I' See Barron for infonnation on the purchases of these mdividuals Bcrdcau corresponded willl Barr in the
1950's and there were sc\eral sales at Parkc-Bernet and Chrisllcs or Berdeau artworks i n the I960s. With more
time. these could be checked
6
on long-term joint loan to the Busch-Reisinger Museum (formerly the Germanic Museum) at
Harvard and the Cincinnati Art Museum.
More concrete information can be gleaned from material about Joseph Pulitzer, Jr.,
one of the few American coIlectors known to have personaIly attended the Lucerne auction. A
young collector from Saint Louis, Pulitzer was on his honeymoon trip in Europe during the
summer of 1939. With New York dealer Pierre Matisse acting as his representative, he
traveled to Lucerne for the June 30
th
sale and there made three important purchases of Nazi-
confiscated art at the Swiss auction--Henri Matisse's Bathers with a TlIrrle, 1908, oil on
canvas, originally in the collection of the Folkwang Museum, Essen, Otto Mueller's Nudes in
a La/ld'icape, c. 1922, oil on canvas, from the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld, and
Wilhelm Lehmbruck' s Seated Girl, 1913-14, terracotta, from the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart.
20
Pulitzer did not purchase the works without hesitation. He stated, "We were faced with a
terrible conflict--a moral dilemma. If the work was bought, we knew the money was going to
a regime we loathed. If the work was not bought, it would be destroyed. To safeguard the art
for posterity, I bought--defiantly!. ... But the real motive in buying was to preserve the art. ,,21
Information provided by Emily Rauh Pulitzer of St. Louis and new material consulted
for this research in the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives provide, pertinent documentation
about Pulitzer's purchases through Matisse at the Lucerne auction. Both atisse and Valentin
were instrumental in Pulitzer's decision to buy at the auction. The collector explained, "I do
not recall which collectors were present but there were two dealers, Curt Valentin and Pierre
Matisse, who were my friends who were present. The former recommended that my then
wife, the late Louise Vauclain Pulitzer, and I attend the auction. and the latter bid for me. ,,22
Pulitzer began buying art from the Matisse Gallery in 1936 when he was stiJl a student
at Harvard. The correspondence between client and dealer demonstrates that there was an
ambitious exchange of opinions and ideas between them.
23
From the beginning of Pulitzer's
collecting life. the young Saint Louisian exercised a determined consciousness about quality
and highly preferences. During the summer of 1938. he traveled to Europe,
visiting France, Austria and Germany. With his journalistic experience, he was keenly aware
of the evolving political situation there. With a collector's eye, spending time in the art
galleries and making a number of purchases in Paris, he was conscious of the art world
:" For more detailed discussion. scc: Lauric A SIt:in. "TI1C HistOry and Rcccpiion of Bathers with a
Furlle in 1908-1939." y"es-Alain Bois. Jolm Elderlield. and Laurie A. Slcill Henri Matisse's Bathers
with a Tunic Saint Louis: The Saint Louis Art Museum. IlJ9K pp 50-72
:1 Paul Gardner. "A Bit of Heidelberg 1'car Hanard Square." An 1'C\S xo ( IlIX I) It
:: Letter from Joseph Pulilzer to Lynn Nicholas. November 20. IlJX3
:.1 See Pierre Matisse GallelY Archive material noted in Section II
7
situation on the eve of the war. In an undated letter, apparently from May 1939, Pulitzer wrote
to Matisse about his plans to travel to Europe again in the summer of the degenerate art
auction, explaining "I am most interested in the Rouault painting which look splendid on my
walls. However, I do not wish to buy it now and therefore must take my chances that it will
not be sold until the fall. The main reason for this is that I expect to attend the auction of
paintings from German museums in Lucerne on June 30 and wish to be in a position to bid on
certain pictures that interest me. I hope I shall see you before then as no doubt you can gi ve
me helpful advice on the politics of an auction... ,,24
Since Matisse bid for Pulitzer at the auction, and was the recipient of the shipment of
the works on the ship President Harding, it is clear that the dealer did provide the requested
"helpful advice on the politics of an auction.". The Galerie Fischer receipt for the works,
dated July 1939 and made out to Matisse, was rediscovered in the papers consulted for this
study. Seen as a whole, the dqcumentation from Pulitzer and Matisse pulls together some of
the only material evidence in American holdings that summarizes the entire process of
transfer for artworks-- from the sale at Galerie Fischer in Switzerland, from planning to attend
the auction, through purchase and payment there, through transport to the United States,
subsequent exhibition history and ownership, first privately and then finally as a gift to The
Saint Louis Art Museum in 1964.
When asked by Lynn Nicholas in ]983 about his purchases at the Lucerne auction,
Pulitzer stated that he considered he had bought not three, but four works at the sale, because
"A few months after the auction I bought from the Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin) in New
York a Max Beckmann Portrait (?fZerete/li, 1927, which my friend, the dealer, had acquired
at this auction," and that all the works were "packed and shipped from Switzerland by
freight. ,,25 This statement brings forth an issue that recurred more than once in this study--that
is, of an artwork reportedly bought by an American dealer or collector in Lucerne but not
confirmed to have been in the sale. Object records for the Zeretelli in Pulitzer's papers and at
the Fogg Art Museum, where the collector gifted it in ]951, contain no reference to the
Beckmann (which had been confiscated from the Staatliche Gemaldegalerie in Dresden) as
having being sold at the auction, but since Pulitzer was on-site in Lucerne and had an
excellent memory for detail, his statement must be true
26
Perhaps Valentin bought the work
ibid.
> Letter. PuJitler to Nicholas. No\cmbcr 2(1 1')1'1\
I can \ this 0\ n expenences \ ith Joe PulitL.er and in dealings with Ius dUring research on
Ius colleCtIon. I ha\e found there arc rdIcly lllconslstencics or maCCUrdCICS in thc documcntation on the art
purchases--sometimes gaps or lack of infonnation--but almost ne\er incorrect.
8
at Fischer prior to or after the sale? When the painting was lent to the Boston show in the fall
of 1939, it was already in America and in Valentin's possession.
Similarly, according to the object files at the Busch-Reisinger, E.L. Kirchner's Berlin
Street Scene, Potsdamer Platz, c. 1914, pastel with black chalk, was acquired by this Harvard
University museum in 1950 from emigre art historian Hans Swarzenski, who had reportedly
bought the work at the Fischer Gallery Auction of Degenerate Art in Lucerne in 1939.
27
Yet,
this work on paper would not have been among the works in the sale of Paintings and
Sculptures: Modern Masters from German Museums, so the circumstances of the inclusion of
the work in a Fischer auction must be reviewed. It is clear that there was much more dealing
between American-based buyers with Fischer and in Lucerne, Switzerland, either in front of
the auction block or behind the scenes, than has been recognized up until now.
IJ Curt Valentin, director of the Buchholz Gallery in New York, had emigrated from
Germany to America in 1936-37, and having worked with Alfred Flechtheim and Karl
Buchholz in Berlin, he arrived with solid pre-existing connections to American art world
figures such as Charles Kuhn, director of the Germanic Museum, and Alfred H. Barr, Jr.,
director of The Museum of Modern Art
28
After establishing his gallery in Manhattan in 1937,
Valentin quickly became, in the words of collector Morton May, "this country's most
influential figure in the development of modern art. More than any other single person, he was
responsible for the introduction of modern sculpture, German Expressionist painting and
modern English painting and sculpture. ,,29 In the introduction to the exhibition A Tribute to
Curt J'alelltin in 1955, Perry Rathbone, director of the City Art Museum of Saint Louis, was
even more precise about the dealer's contribution, claiming, "When he [Valentin] died in
C) August, 1954, there was not a community in America where art is cultivated that had not felt
his influence... He educated a generation of museum men, and he stimulated a host of
collectors who are to be found in every part of America ,,30 Pulitzer had begun buying from
Valentin in 1939-40, including a Klee J.and<;c:ape, and in 1940, the Zeretelli and a Juan Gris
Still L{fe. Chicago collectors Mary and Earle Ludgin purchased a remarkable Emil Nolde
watercolor, Two Girls, 1929, formerly in the Kunsthaus Bielefeld collection, trom him; this
See Section II for more infonnation.
Gardner. p. 11-1-. Kuhn. for e:xamplc. stated "When Ill) wiCe and I went to Europe In 1930. we naturally
went to Berlin and got to kIlOW Curt Valentin. who was thcn working for Alfred Flcchthcinl. Berlin's leading
dealer. Curt introduced us to the entire Berlin art world."
>- Tcstimonial from Monon September Y. 1963. primed III Musts and Maecenas ATribute to Cun
Valentin. York: Marlborough-Gerson Gallc,!. No\embcr-Deccmber IlJC>-;. o. 15
;< Pcn: Rathbone. ATribute to Cun Valentin. 51 Louis The CIt\ Art MuseuIl1 of 5t LOUIS. January
1-1-. 11)55. P 5.
9
work is today in the collection of the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art Collection at
the University ofChicago.
3
!
The papers I consulted for this study also expose that there was a direct business
relationship between Valentin and Pierre Matisse. Not only did Matisse purchase works, such
as Braque' s Le Radical, from Valentin in 1939, but by 1940, the two gallerists were
sometimes involved in intricate and costly deals to get art sent from Europe to America
through contacts such as Karl Buchholz in Germany and Christoph Bernoulli in Switzerland.
It appears, in fact, that there was a direct line of art movement--from Buchholz to Bernoulli to
Valentin, and sometimes also to Matisse, with the most important link in the chain being
Valentin's ability to transfer objects through Switzerland. At times, the relationship among
the partners was strained by the escalating costs of bringing art to America with war risk
{) insurance and unexpected commissions to complete the d.eals.
This can be most clearly seen in the correspondence in spring 1940 between Valentin
and Matisse concerning a work by Henri Matisse
n
Pierre Matisse wrote to Valentin on April
11
th
about the work (which remained unnamed in the papers), that,
"In accordance with our agreement concerning the Matisse painting, I am sending you
my check for $250 representing your commission on my purchase of the painting
which finally arrived safely in this country a short while ago... ln appreciation of your
help on this occasion 1would have liked to make my commission more substantial but
I found that the expenses connected with the purchase of this painting and its
transportation to this country have run up much higher than I expected."
Valentin responded the next day that,
"I have your check for $250 representing my commission on the painting you bought.
~ ) To be frank, I am a little disappointed. I don't remember whether'we really fixed the
amount of the percentage when I saw you in Paris at the Rue de Seine... .l understand
quite well by my own experiences how high the expenses for shipping and insurance
are these days. However, I think I did everything possible to help you in buying this
painting. "
Matisse countered,
"At the time we talked about your commission I mentioned five or seven percent of
the purchasing price which is what Mr. Bernoulli said you would take and you seemed
satisfied at that time.. .1 had the greatest difficulties in getting this picture over here.
Not only did I have to pay for war risk, regular insurance, packing and shipping, but
also commissions to people I never heard of and the total expense for packing and
shipping alone would have brought over here at least four boxes of paintings at the
rate of which I am used to import them. Besides, Mr. Bernoulli complains that he has
also personal expenses and asks me to increase his own commission. I appreciate very
much your help and I have no doubt that you did all you could in this matter but you
.: Sec Section IL
1: For the following corresPondcnce. sec Plcrre Matisse G a l l ~ r : Arelli \ c nOlcs iii Sewoll II
10
must also consider that beside what I had to go through and the risks I was personally
taking, your position was one totally free of responsibility."
The role of Switzerland as a key venue in Valentin's sales not only to private
collectors but also to American museum collections is evident through a wealth of objects
reviewed for this study. For example, Valentin organized a show of Max Beckmann's work
at the Germanic Museum in 1941. Charles Kuhn, director of the museum, had been
purchasing sculptures and works on paper by German artists such as Barlach, Sintenis, Kolbe,
Dix, Grosz, Feininger, and Hofer since the early 1930s.
33
He refrained from dealing directly
with the Nazi government and bought no works in Lucerne, but he had purchased two works
from Curt Valentin in Germany in 1934, and he was so impressed by Beckmann's works in
the 1941 show organized by the dealer that he decided to purchase from the masterpiece Self-
Portrait in Tuxedo, 1927, from him after the show closed.
This acquisition, although not a deliberate eftort on the pan of Kuhn to "rescue" an
artwork confiscated by the Nazis from Berlin's Nationalgalerie, as has been sometimes
reponed, was significant for defining a new direction for collecting policy by the institution.
34
Accorqing to Peter Nisbet, curator of the museum today, "This was the first modern painting
in the collection. The acquisition was a turning point, and Kuhn recognized the moral
benefit. ,,35 The object records include a handwritten note, probably contemporaneous to the
time of acquisition, that relates that the work was "Acquired by the Buchholz Gallery, through
an agent in Switzerland from the Berlin National-galerie." Ina respected study of Beckmann
by art historian Barbara Buenger, the instrumental role played by Swiss sources in bringing he
painting to America is also cited:
16
The relationship of Valentin and Kuhn continued after the
war, when the museum began building their modern German paintings collection in earnest.
Kuhn bought, for example, Ernst Heckel's important triptych, 7'0 the Conm!escellt Woman,
1912-13, formerly of the Folkwang Museum in Essen, from Valentin in 1950.
The highest concentration of works of degenerate art from Germany to come an
American museum through Valentin's influence and connections with Buchholz in Germany
and Bernoulli in Switzerland, can be found today at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
.13 Peter Nisbet and Emilie Norris. Thc Busch-Reisinger Museum. Hist0ll....und Holdings Cambridge. MA:
HUf\ard Uni"ersit, Art Museum. 1991 .
.'4 This idea has been oftcn playcd up. scc. for eXample. Gardner. p. 115.
\;' Intef\iew. Laurie A. Stein and Peter Nisbet. Cambridge. MA. March 2000.
.lr, Barnard Copeland Buenger. Max Beckmann. Self-Portmit in Words. Collected Wri!l.!lgs & Statements, 1903-
50. Chicago and London Uni,ersity of Chicago Press. p 15. No further details h;1\c been detennined.
but it might be possible to leam more In records of the shipplflg finns used by Valenun 111 the linited States.
Hudson Shipping ,md S W Budworth & Sons. both in New York. or the Gcnnanic r"lUSCUIll IIIsumnce agent.
SF Frankenstein. should of these records still be available
] 1
lIli)·
~ ' ..
Although MaMA's director, Alfred Barr, declined to purchase works at the Lucerne auction,
he did not shy away from buying confiscated art through American-based commercial dealers
such as Valentin.
37
Near the close of the exhibition celebrating the museum's 10
th
anniversary, Art in Our
TIme, held during May-September 1939, it was announced that MaMA had bought five
works from German museums through Valentin's Buchholz Gallery. These included E.L.
Kirchner's Street Scene, 1913-14, purged from the Nationalgalerie in Berlin. and Paul Klee's
Around the Fish, 1926, from the Staatliche Gemaldegalerie, Dresden, as well as major works
by Lehmbruck, Derain and Matisse. Concerning the decision to add these pieces to the
collection, articles in Art News and Art Digest praised MaMA for purchasing confiscated
artworks, as "the Museum, like other European and American collections, by acquiring them,
gives the strongest condemnation to the policies which barred these and similar artistic
expressions. ,,38 Barr was quoted as proclaiming, "The museum is very fortunate in having
acquired these works of art .. .The only good thing about the exile of such fine works of art
from one country is the consequent enrichment of other lands where cultural freedom still
exists. ,,39 In essence, Barr did not avoid the press' reading of the acquisition as a patriotic
public relations opportunity.
Over the next fifteen years, the close relationship between MaMA and Valentin can
be traced in a wide array of acquisitions of confiscated art and works of undetermined
provenance that reached the museum through the dealer's hands
40
A selection of pieces sold
directly from the gallery to the museum include, in 1939: Max Beckmann' s Jhe Prodigal Son,
1918, four works, gouache on parchment, from the Folkwang Museum, Essen; Paul Klee's
HI'itterillg lit/achille, 1922, watercolor and pen and ink on oil transfer paper mounted on
cardboard, from the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and taken for foreign sale from the Degenerate
Art show; Emil Nolde, A-Iagicians, 1931-35, watercolor; in 1941: Wassily Kandinsky,
Untitled (Abstrakte Komposilion), 1915, india ink on paper, from the Kunsthalle Mannheim;
in 1945: and Otto Dix, Cq(e Couple, 1921, watercolor and pencil. Valentin himself also
donated art to the museum, such as Kirchner's Street Scene, pen and ink. and El Lissitsky's
r For purposes of this study. I "ould likc to thank the Department of Prints and Dra"mgs at MOMA for thcir
c:'\tradordinary 0pclmess for m ~ undertaking this study. Kathlecn Cuny. especially. \HiS enonnollsly helpful. as
was Feri Dcftari. I also would like to thank John Eldcrficld and the paintings department ..
1" See "New ,"'ork: Exiled Europeans." Art News H (Septcmber 16. IlJ39l: 16. and. An Digcst (September I.
IlJ3lJ) X
" Dlscusscd in Vivian E Bamen. p 27'). "Ncw York Exiled Europcans." Art Ne\s'- (Septcmbcr 16.1939):
16
•. For more Ulformation on the mdl\idual works. sec Scction II
12
PrOlIl1 Composition, gouache and ink, both gifted by the dealer in 1941, and Max Beckmann's
major oil, Deposition, 1917, which was part of the Curt Valentin Bequest after his death.
The only direct reference to Switzerland found in connection with Valentin's dealings
with MOMA is noted in the object file of the latter piece. On a questionnaire about this
painting filled out for the museum, probably on its accession, the history of the work as
confiscated from the SUidelsche Galerie in Frankfurt is detailed. In answer to the question,
"Were there any exceptional circumstances or incidents in the making of this work or in its
subsequent history?" it is written, "Was defamed and taken by the Nazi's and exhibited by
them in the 'Entartete Kunst' (degenerate art) exhibition. Later brought to Switzerland with
other paintings to be sold in an auction for the purpose of the Nazi's to receive foreign money.
Otherwise it would have been destroyed like many other paintings. The painting was not
included in the Lucerne sale, according to MOMA records. Perhaps it was brought to
Switzerland for one of the other planned auctions. In any event, the notation in the object file
underscores that at least a percentage, if not a substantial quantity, of the art that came
through Valentin to MOMA came through Swiss sources.
This is probably also be true for many of the pieces which went through Valentin's
hands to private collectors who later donated or sold the works to MOMA. For example, Paul
Klee's The Fisherman, 1921, watercolor and ink, and originally fromthe collection of the
Nationalgalerie in Berlin, was bought at Valentin in 1940 by collector John S. Newberry of
Michigan and given to MOMA in 1961, and Emil Nolde's Christ Amon!? the Children, 1910,
oil on canvas, which went from the Hamburg Kunsthalle collection to Karl Buchholz in Berlin
to Buchholz Gallery in New York and to W.R. Valentiner, himselfa German emigre art
historian, who donated it the museum in 1955.
In retrospect, there is an element of irony in the fact that between Art in (Jur Time in
1939 and MOMA's exhibition during the summer of 1942, New Acquisitio!ls: Free German
Art, a purchase from Valentin such as Lehmbruck's Kneelin!? Woman became "a veritable
icon of the effort against the Axis powers, appearing in numerous newspaper and magazine
photographs as well as on postcards, ,,42 and that Dix' s Cafe Couple was purchased through
Valentin in 1945, after he helped Karl Buchholz. living in Bogota, Columbia after the war, to
regain his possessions which had been vested by the post-war Alien Property Custodian.
Curt Valentin also pursued business opportunities with a broad range of other
American museums. including the Solomon R. Guggenhim Foundation in York. On
September 19. 1939, he wrote to Hilla von Rebay, Guggenheim' s curator. that he had tried to
. 0.'l.lA Object File. Beckmawt
13
reach her in Paris because the German government wanted to sell degenerate artworks and he
explained, "I could buy all these pictures. ,,43 Rebay, who was involved in a drive for
acquisitions from French, Swiss, German and other European sources for the new Museum of
Non-Objective Art she and Guggenheim were planning (in relative secrecy) to open in New
York, visited Munich herself around that time and saw the Degenerate Art show. She
reported with excitement that she had seen some "real treasures" in the sho\v and "Then 1 read
that foreigners can buy them. ,,44 Soon, working with artist-dealer Rudolf Bauer in Berlin and
artist Otto Nebel in Switzerland, both of whom Rebay had known in Berlin in the Weimar
years and with whom she had founded the avant-garde artist's group The Krater in 1920, and
with dealers such as Karl Nierendorf in New York and August Klipstein in Bern, the curator
and her patron collected an astonishing and important group of works for their museum of
,) pieces that had been confiscated from German collections.
Some of the artworks, including Wassily Kandinsky's Silence (Komposition Ruhe),
1928, a work which came from the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, was acquired by the
Guggenheim in 1939, sold in 1964, and now is in a private collection in Chicago, and
Kandinsky's Yellow'-Green Crescent (G(ftf(riine Sickel), 1927, from the SUidtisches Museum
fOr Kunst und Kunstgewerbe in Halle, bought also by the Guggenheim in 1939, sold in 1971,
with present location unknown, came not through Switzerland but through Berlin dealer
Ferdinand Moller to Rudolf Bauer and then directly to the Guggenheim collection upon
Bauer's emigration to the United States in 1939.
45
Another group of acquisitions, though, including six paintings by Kandinsky and one
by Robert Delaunay all still in the Guggenheim Museum collection in l\ew York, were
C'D organized for purchase through Otto Nebel working in concert with the Bern dealer August
Klipstein, and illuminate explicitly the role of Switzerland in art transfer activities between
Germany, Switzerland and an American museum in the Nazi era. Rebay already knew about
the German government's intention to sell art internationally by the time that Valentin
contacted her in September 1938; a month earlier, on August 19, 1938, Otto Nebel had
written a long and, in retrospect, key letter to her about the confidential and politically
~ : Heller. p ~ 6 .
tJ Letter. Curt Valentin to Hilla Rebay. Septembcr 19. 1938. Hilla ###BOT_TEXT###quot;on Rcbay Archi###BOT_TEXT###quot;C. Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum. quoted in: Bamctt. pp 276-77.
~ ~ Letter. Otto Nebel to Hilla Rebay. August I ~ . I~ J 8 . Hilla "on Rcbay Archiyc. Solomon R Guggenheim
Museum. quoted in: Joan Lukach. Hilla Reba'. In Search of the Spirit in An. New York Georges Bmzillicr.
19!D. p 120
~ . ; I pursued research on these pieces. in Chicago and elsewhere during this study. tlunkillg. they may have comc
through SWH/erland. Although this pro\ed not to be the casco it was interesting to \enl\ infonlmtion on the
purchases through Bauer and Moller. and 10 find a numbcr of excellcnt installation phOlogmphs of the works in
Berlin
J4
sensitive plan. He included a list of works he considered important for the Guggenheim,
explaining,
"...I have been asked to inquire whether you have any interest in certain pictures... Now
then: via a go-between from the German ministry of propaganda. Dr. Kli--n of this city
was recently offered more than 500 pictures from German museums (so-called
'degenerate art '). They intend to sell this material in order to acquire foreign currency.
I had that list in my hand. At the top it reads: 'Confiscated works, internationally
salable.... The German officials want to sell these pictures (more than 500) en bloc for
1 million Reichsmark.. .It is unbelievable that anyone in Switzerland, or anywhere else,
would get involved in such a deal, ... Consequently it would be only reasonable to
divide the' mass' into interest areas, and it is this avenue which Kl. wants to
explore....To make it brief and clear: I have culled from the list those names, or works,
which might be of interest to you.... Now I have the wholly neutral task of informing
you of these matters and asking you to give me your reaction in writing as soon as
possible, so that I can take your letter to Dr. KI. Personally, I believe that one
shouldn't help transform works of art into armaments--and that, after all, would be the
end result. But that .is my own opinion, and it needn't bother anyone. I have said as
much to Dr. Kl. ... Neither your name nor mini! ought to be mentioned in this matter,
should the Foundation have any interest in these pictures... The matter is further
complicated by the fact that the pictures in question are located in certain German
museum cities, and would have to be inspected there, except for those known by sight,
like the Mares. That demands a wholly nonpartisan and neutral go-between. ,,46
Rebay and Guggenheim acted quickly on Nebel's proposal, purchasing six paintings
by Kandinsky (lhree SOIlJld'i, 1926, f-ctlltAcape lI'i/11 a FeIC/OJ)' ('himJley, 1910, Hlue
MOlln/ain, 1908-9, Several Circles. 1926, l-andKapl! with Rolling Hills, 1910, Calm No. 357,
1926) and one Delaunay (Sainl-Se\Ier;n No.3, 1909-10) in February 1939 Guggenheim had
already purchased one Kandinsky painting, S'/Ildyfor Landscape wi/h {ower, 1908, from
Gutekunst & Klipstein in 1938,47 but it was probably due to the close relationship between
I;) Rebay and Nebel (who Guggenheim and the curator were reportedly helping to support with
financial assistance in Switzerland), that Dr. August Klipstein approached the New York
buyers through the exiled artist rather than on his own.
A significant group ofarchival records, including correspondence between Rebay, a
variety of representatives for Guggenheim, and Klipstein, which I found scattered throughout
the object files at the Guggenheim during my research, allows us to follow the process of
purchase, Swiss bank payments, shipping, and insurance values of the works from
Switzerland (see the Guggenheim entries below for more detailed discl/ssion)·tX Intriguingly,
Letter from Otto Nebel to Hilla yon August IlJ. I Hilla \on Arclm c. Solomon R.
Guggcnheim Museum. reprinted in Lukach. IlJ8, pp 121-21. It IS quotcd 111 to the genesis of
this sale
1-
. Barnctt. p r'"
Vinan Endlcolt Bamclt. a fonncr curator at thc museulll and a renowned K,UldinsK\ speCialist. was
helpful mexplaining the matenals !Iocated
15
through some confusion caused by Rebay not naming the artists whose works were being
purchased, details of a shipment of other paintings by Otto Nebel in January 1939 are also
outlined in the documents. And instead of being bought by the Guggenheim Foundation, for
some reason the works were were purchased from Solomon R. Guggenheim's personal
accounts and only gifted to the museum in 1941. ft is also not quite clear if the 1000 SF
commission for the 20,000 SF sale went to Nebel or to Klipstein.
49
The story ofthe acquisition ofthese seven works is significant in bringing to light
key aspects of the transfer and sale of degenerate artworks from Germany through
Switzerland to the United States in the late 1930's, such as: 1) since both Klipstein and
Valentin approached Rebay with a sales proposal, it is clear that this plan was not just
organized with the Swiss dealer, but that the German government cast a wide net through
f9 dealers, including probably Buchholz, Gurlitt and the other German dealers authorized to
make foreign sales, 2) contrary to what is noted in Nebel's August 1938 letter, at least one of
the works sold by Klipstein in this group was not brought to Switzerland from Germany just
for this sale, but was already recorded as in the dealer's possession in February 1938, 3) the
role of Nebel working with Klipstein is confirmed through the papers but it would be
interesting to discover if they worked together to sell art to other American museums or
collectors, 4) the records determine the ships on which the paintings were brought to America
and the date of their arri val, 5) records of payment to Klipstein' s Kantonal Bank account
verify routes of payment for looted art, and finally, 6) is it possible that the idea of selling a
relatively small group. of only 125, modem works in June 1939 at Galerie Fischer in Lucerne
was born ofKlipstein's proposal to "divide the 'mass' into interest areas" as Nebel noted,
G...l rather than following the government's idea of selling the "leftovers" en bloc for foreign
currency?
It would seem that the key to answering many of these questions is Hildebrand Gurlitt,
whose name does not appear in the Guggenheim Museum tiles but who Anja Heuss and
Andreas Huneke have noted was the conduit from Germany to Klipstein for the works in this
sale. Hopefully, the research done by them can close the circle of information about this
undertaking. Also, Gustav Knauer's name appears on many of the labels on the works. Was
he also involved in this transfer'>
After the war, Berlin emigre dealer Karl Nierendorf, moved from '\ew York to Zurich,
and according to Joan Lukach, in her study of Hilla Rebay, "Apparently. Rebay and
Nierendorf had come to an agreement whereby she placed funds in a S\ i 55 bank which he
II TIus IS ,m Interesting Issue--L( appears thaI even Guggenhell1l s finam:lul <Uld ad.lllilUstrame people were quite
16
was to use partly to acquire paintings and partly to give assistance to her family. ,,50 Through
this, the role of Switzerland as a transit site for Guggenheim acquisitions continued in the
postwar era. Unfortunately, the Nierendorf sales to the museum were beyond the framework
of this research, although they should be pursued later as a likely source for information. 5I
In 1979, the Guggenheim acquired Emil Nolde's Young Horses, 1916, oil on canvas,
as a gift from collector Donald Karshan. The painting, which had been confiscated from the
Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 1937 and was shown in the Degenerate Art Exhibition in 1937,
did not resurface again until 1959, when it was includedin a show in Caracas, Venezuela. 52
The path that took the work from the Berlin museum to the New York museum is unusual,
and the story provides a fascinating tale about the role of Switzerland as a repository for
artworks during the war, whether pieces from Jewish collections or of undetermined
@l provenance.
Karl Buchholz, listed in the files for this painting as "Karl Buchholz Gallery, Berlin
and Bogota, 1937" was apparently authorized to sell the work for foreign currency.
According to research done by Vivian Barnett at the time of the acquisition of the painting by
the Guggenheim, "The picture has remained in the same family since the late 1930s. It was
purchased from Karl Buchholz for $2,000 by Francisca Tugendhat de Igler (Mrs. Boersner's
mother). According to Rachel Adler the Tugendhats were a wealthy Jewish family in the
textile business in Prague." .For many years the painting was kept in Switzerland.... The
Boersner's... have more documentation on the picture in a vault in Boston 1,5.l It is unclear
where the collector, about whom one wonders if she was a relative of the progressive
Tugendhat family who built the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe masterpiece in Brno, was living
cr,) when she purchased this painting, and the details of where it \vas kept in Switzerland and how
long it remained there before being brought to South America are unknown.
Research for this study uncovered additional examples in American museums of
artworks with unclarified provenance which were known to have been kept in Switzerland or
sold there by dealers during or immediately after the war. Some of these works, from private
collections rather than stemming from European museum holdings, may have been
confiscated or relinquished through forced sales. This has not yet, however, been
conclusively determined and it may be that some are examples of objects quite simply owned
by Swiss collectors who decided to sell them during or after the war.
sure. It says K.lipstein on some papers. but the indications are that tht: COl1unissiOI1 i\Clli to \cbd.
;" Lukach. p. 2·m
;; Niercndorf s influence is also to be found in l l I a n ~ of the other museum collections [ fCnewed for this study.
;2 See Section II for more inform.lllon
q Memo from Vinan Barnett. September II. 1979. 111 object file
17
Lyonel Feininger's Bathers and Sailing BOOIS, 1912, oil on canvas, acquired in 1954
by the Busch-Reisinger from the Herbert Tannenbaum Galleries in New York, came from an
unnamed private collection in Switzerland and resurfaced along with two other Feiningers,
two GericauIts, and a work by Gleizes in an exhibition of the colIection of F.R. Schon in
Toronto in 1949.
54
The identity of Schon, and a determination of whether or not he was the
,
same person as the unnamed Swiss collector, have not been confirmed. The collection of the
Art Institute of Chicago includes a 19
th
century oil on panel by Adolphe-Joseph Thomas
Monticelli, Persons in Louis XVCostumes, which came from the collection of Julius Schmits
in Elberfeld, and was place'd on long-term loan to the Basel Kunstmuseum during 1939-1953.
In 1975, Wildenstein Gallery in London sold it to collector John W. Clarke of Chicago, from
which it was gifted to the Art Institute in 1987. It is not known if Julius Schmits and his wife
were Jewish and escaped from Elberfeld to Switzerland in 1939 with their painting, or if they
were Germans who simply had the foresight to send art to Basel for safekeeping during the
war. Curiously, the Basel museum has not confirmed this 14 year loan. Between 1956, when
the work was exhibited in Caracas, and 1975, when Wildenstein sold it to Clarke, there is a
gap in any location for the piece.
Maurice Wertheim, who had purchased the famous van Gogh Self-Portrait at the
Lucerne auction, also purchased a number of works from Wildenstein before, during and after
the Second World War. These included another van Gogh, as well as works by Constantin
Guys, Renoir, and a well-known Impressionist work by Claude Monet, 17u: Clare Sainl-
Lazare: Arrival ofa Train, 1877. In exhibitions such as I,e peinlllrefrancaise dll XlXe siecle
en Suisse, held in Paris in 1938, a collector named Emile Staub-Terlinden, ofMannedorf,
Switzerland, was cited as the owner of the work.
55
How it came to the hands of Wildenstein
in June 1945, where Wertheim purchased it, remains a mystery.
Four years later in 1949, when Wertheim decided to purchase another French 19
th
century work from Cesar Mange de Hauke, he had his lawyer inquire of de Hauke's associate
Justin Thannhauser if de Hauke really had title to the piece. When de Hauke and
Thannhauser gave contradictory answers, Wertheim decided to purchase the work anyway.
His lawyer noted, "Mr. Wertheim made the remark that he is aware of the fact that the took a
chance with regard to the title of this picture, but that in view of the information obtained
-I See a list in the obJect file that \ as sent by the Art Gallei) or Ontario in response to J rlXiuest for infonnation
the Busch-Reismger--tlThe schon and Landmann Exhibition" Unfortunately. nothmg more about the lenders
to this sho\ which took place in February-March Ill,.!). is known.
" Sarah of the Fogg Art Museum provided imaluable assistance In the srud) of thIS museum's
holdings She hopes to find out more about Staub-Terlinden and clarify the line of proycnancc
18
from Thannhauser, the risk involved is rather remote. ,,56 Having asked for ownership
clarification in the one purchase, it is likely that Wertheim would also have asked for clear
title in the case of the Monet as well. Without documentation in the Wertheim papers and
without forthcoming information from Wildenstein, however, this cannot be proved.
The path of one artwork, an Edgar Degas pastel monotype, Land"cape with
Smokestacks, ca. 1890-93, from an important Dutch Jewish collection, through Paris in 1939,
through Switzerland between 1941-47, to New York in 1951 to a private collection in
Chicago and finally the Art Institute of Chicago collection in 1998, reveals in eloquent and
tragic fashion the vagaries of fate for artworks from Jewish private collections during the
National Socialist era. The subject of a complicated claims process during the ]ast decade
between the family of the 1930' s Jewish owners of the work and the private collector who
(w bought the work it in 1987, this pastel has become well-known not only for its superb artistic
merit, but also for being one of the first of the recent precedent-setting restitution cases in
which an American museum was involved. 57 In 1932, the Degas was sold by Max Silberberg,
the Breslau Jewish collector, to a Dutch dealer from whom another Jewish family, the
Friedrich Gutmanns of the Netherlands, purchased it soon thereafter. In 1939, the Gutmanns
sent the work to dealer Paul Graupe in Paris, and during the war it was held in the Wacker-
Bondy warehouse and in Graupe's premises on Place Vendome. Friedrich and Louise
Gutmann lost their lives in the concentration camps, and despite intensive efforts by
numerous experts during the 1990's to clarify the claim and definitively determine how the
Degas got from Graupe in Paris to Hans Wendland and Hans Fritz Fankfauser in Basel by
1947, the exact details have never been satisfactorily reconstructed.
fD It is not known if Wendland, an influential German art dealer known for working
closely with the Nazis, purchased the work from Graupe, and if so, whether the purchase took
place in Paris or in Switzerland (where Graupe traveled on the way towards his emigration
from Europe). The work may have been confiscated along with other Gutmann pieces by the
ERR, or perhaps Wendland, who involved in many wartime transfers of looted and
confiscated art, received the piece in an unofficial deal. Wendland, working from Switzerland
and Paris, and Hans Fritz Fankhauser, a Basel silk merchant
58
related by marriage to
Wendland, were involved in extensive dubious dealings. Fankhauser apparently helped to
," Maureen Goggin and \-Valter V. Robinson. "Murk) histories cloud some local art." 80ston Sunday Globe
(No

Related Interests

ember 9. 1997): B12.
,- TItis slOry has been published in lIumerous articles and in slllTUnary in Hector Feliciano. The Lost Museum.
Ne\ York Basic Books. 19<)7 For the purposes of this s t u d ~ . the museulll's lawyers alIo\cd me to read
expertlscs and confidential infonnation about the case 'The Circumstances were not at all as clear as the imagel
had of tJus from published accounts
19
finance Wendland, loaning him money and taking art as repayment, and after the war,
Wendland sent a part of his property to Fankhauser. The Degas remained in Switzerland,
where it appeared in WendlandlFankhauser's hands in 1947, until New York collector Emile
Wolf purchased it in 1951 and brought it to the United States.
Another masterpiece in the Art Institute Collection, Francisco de Zurbanin' s
Crucifixion, oil on canvas, also traveled from Switzerland to the United States through the
hands of Wendland and Fankhauser. This work was not necessarily looted or confiscated in
the 20
th
century (it had bt:(en looted by Napolean' s French troops in 1807), and was housed in
several theological seminaries until approximately 1950 and thereafter lent by a new owner to
the Basel Kunsthmuseum in the early 1950' s, yet the correspondence regarding its sale
exposes the complications of Fankhauser and Wendland' s dealings. Despite a curious opacity
in providing clear information about if Wendland, Fankhauser, or a third party owned the
work (and which files show the museum repeatedly trying to clarify), payment went to
Fankhauser's account at the Schweizerischer Bankverein in Basel. 59
According to information provided by Anja Heuss, 1 also searched the current and de-
accessioned works in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago for Aristide Maillol's 1he
]\vo Sisters, 1899, a bronze sculpture which had been in Alfred Flechtheim' s collection
earlier in the 1930' s, was in Switzerland before 1939 and came to the Cnited States in
dramatic circumstances along with a group of other al1works for saleM! After being sold to
Curt Valentin for $150, it supposedly was acquired by the Chicago museum. However, there
is no record that it was sold to the Art Institute. Although it may have gone through the hands
of a Chicago collector (occasionally the museum accepted shipments for collectors) at one
time, I located the work no longer in the United States but rather in Paris at the Fondation
Dina Vierny, Musee Maillol.
61
Efforts to locate works pertinent to this study at the Mary and Leigh Block Musuem of
Art at Northwestern University also yielded no definitive results. The works that had been
targeted for research proved to have been loans that were no longer at the institution, and
although the museum has great strength in German Impressionist and Expressionist art in the
permanent collection, due to the fact that the holdings in these fields are limited to woodcuts,
; ~ See. "Hans Fritz Fankhauser Obituary" Basel National·ZeituDg (December 12. !966).
;) Tlus matcrial is rele"ant for understanding Fankhauser and Wendland. howc\·cr. the museum is in the process
of researching tltis matter themsel\es and has requested tlmt the S\iss ConU11ission 1IOt publish a n ~ 1 h i n g about
the Zurbaran just ~ ct without consulting Martha WoltT. Curator of European Paintings at the Art Institute.
", See An.la Heuss notes for furthcr infomlation
"! Ursel Berber and Jorg Zutter. Aristidc Maillot Lausanne Flammanon and \lusee des Bcau:\-Arts de
LausaImc. (need date). no. 31. pigS. ilL
20
etchings and lithographs, it was difficult, as it always is in the media of prints, to determine
provenance conclusively.
Overall, as this study has tried to make more visible, the role of Switzerland in the
history of American art collecting from the late 1930' s to the early 1950' s was profound and
multi-faceted. In a letter from Curt Valentin to collector-dealer Galka Scheyer in California
on December 20, 1939, the German emigre dealer in New York noted, "By the way, it is not
too difficult to get pictures from Europe. I received shipments from Switzerland. from France,
from England and even from Klee himself ,,62 The order in which Valentin named the
countries from which he received shipments is revealing, with Switzerland heading the list.
This was probably an accurate reflection ofthe importance ofthis neutral country as a site for
transfer of modem, or degenerate, art from Europe to America during the National Socialist
and Second World War eras. Yet, for the purposes of this study, it was Otto Nebel, writing
from Switzerland to Hilla Rebay on August 19, 1938, and proposing purchase of confiscated
artworks from German museums for the Guggenheim Foundation, who asked the question
most relevant over sixty years later. He mused, "In any case, it is important to know where
history is tending in questions of art, and to know what historic mission we shall have to
fulfill abroad in preserving and promoting the new art." 63
Letter. Curt Valentin to Galka Scheyer. December 20. llJ39. Norton Simon Museu1l1 of ..... rt. Blue Four Galka
er Archi\c. quotcd in: Barnctt. p. 281.
(,3 Lettcr. Rebay. August IlJ. 1938. Hilla \on Rebay Archi\c. Solomon R Gug.g.enhcim Museum.
21

Related Interests

ents of the intcmational art market dUring the war years as closely as possible. I have
found numerous references to buyers. prices. etc.. in such material in the past,
This is the case of the Beckmarm In Tuxedo. see text belo\ and Busch-Reisinger case study for
more detail and discussion about Otis.
, De Hauke. Paris. to Sachs. Cambridge. A. October·t 19..-1. Han'ard An .\luseulIls Archives.
Sachs Correspondence.
3
The results of my research are organized in two sections. The first is a summary ofthe
differing means of transfer of art through Switzerland to the United States, including offerings
of degenerate art for sale through public auction or private transaction to both American
museums and individual collectors, the sale of works with unclarified provenance known to
have been kept in Switzerland during or immediately after the war, and the acquisition of
objects from private hands (not confirmed to have been confiscated officially but possibly
given up through forced sale) through Swiss collectors or dealers. This is followed by a more
specialized section detailing relevant works in each of the museum collections under
consideration, presented as case studies by institution and including an additional report on
dealer archival materials and exhibition materials consulted for this project.
The primary contributions ofthe research, above and beyond the pure acquisition of
more detai led understanding of the breadth and methods of exchange between American and
Swiss art sources, are 1) new insight into the intricate relationship between Karl Buchholz in
Germany, Bernoulli in Switzerland, Curt Valentin in New York, and Pierre Matisse
in New York through dealing activities to bring confiscated art from Europe to the American
market, 2) heightened evidence of Valentin's capability to bring art to America for sale, and
of the profound level of this dealer's influence on American collections at this time, 3)
confirmation of instances of American hesitation to purchase art of uncertain origin or
ownership title during and after war by New York collector Maurice Wertheim (who bought
despite these hesitations) and by the Art Institute of Chicago, 4) revelation of the complete
circumstances and details of the 1939 acquisition by Hilla von Rebay and Solomon R.
Guggenheim ofa group of important artworks through a trail stemming directly from the
German government, to dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt in Germany, to artist Otto Nebel and dealer
Dr. August Klipstein in Switzerland, to the Guggenheim Foundation in New York, 10 and 5)
the discovery of a variety of names of collectors, art world figures, and even shippers, that
may help to answer or raise questions in other research on the subjects.
For the purposes of providing the most comprehensive analysis possible in the period
oftime available for the research, and in part also due to the nature of the collections chosen
for the study, I have limited my review to late 19
th
and 20
th
century artworks. This focus
provides the opportunity to look at the material in a deeper contextual framework and allows
'. In the case or the Guggenheim collection. the also sho\ s that due to the diltgcnI drons of Vivian
Barnett and Angelica Rudinstine in the 1970 s-gOs. have sel a model for responsIble provenance checking
U1 Amencan institutions. long before such research was cOInlllonplace
4
for interrelationships between the collecting activities of collectors, dealers and museums to
be more closely considered. II
SECTION 1: SUMMARY
In 1938, when the German Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda decided
to auction 125 paintings and sculptures from the thousands of works that had been purged in
1937 from thirty-two public institutions as degenerate art (defined as those pieces which
"insult German feeling, or destroy or confuse natural form, or simply reveal an absence of
adequate manual and artistic skill"), 12 Galerie Fischer in Lucerne, Switzerland was chosen as
the site for the sale. 13 Most of the pieces selected for auction had been held at Schloss
Niederschonhausen in Berlin along with other German and international works deemed of
significant value on the foreign art market; eighteen paintings and one sculpture had been
included in the Degenerate Art exhibition that had opened in Munich in 1937 and toured
throughout Germany thereafter.l.J Hoping to dispose of the art for the maximum possible
foreign currency to be deposited in Reich accounts through the Bank of Sv,:itzerland, press
announcements of the upcoming auction were distributed to--or perhaps more to the point,
were restricted to--major international art organs such as New York-based Art News. It
appears that the texts of pre-sale pro'paganda were carefully orchestrated by the National
Socialists. For example, employing an artificially-upbeat tone, Art News reported,
"The sale of a unique collection of paintings from German museums, all of
which rank as masterworks of outstanding twentieth century artists, is an
event which should attract many visitors to Lucerne on June 30.... The
disposal of these canvases, which up till now have occupied places of
honor in the leading museums of Germany, is a result of the Kulturpolitik
of the Third Reich and brings to the market works ofa quality and
importance such as have not been available since the early part of the
century... further foreign works which have fallen under the ban of official
disapproval, that should add luster to any collection. ,,15
11 There are undoubtedly hWldreds of e:-.:amplcs of 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