Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart concludes research project on Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Date 2016.08.08

The Staats­ga­lerie Stuttgart has con­clud­ed its project to in­ves­ti­gate the prove­nance of 143 graph­ic art­works by the artist Ernst Lud­wig Kirch­n­er (1880-1938). The Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion sup­port­ed the project with a one-year fund­ing grant.

Re­searchers be­gan the in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the as­sump­tion that these works by Kirch­n­er had orig­i­nal­ly be­longed to Dr. and Mrs. Ger­vais (Zurich). Ac­cord­ing to the in­ven­to­ry en­try, the works were ac­quired by the Staats­ga­lerie Stuttgart from the un­known Académie In­ter­na­tionale Davos in 1957.
The aim of the re­search project was to iden­ti­fy the yet un­known col­lec­tor Dr. Ger­vais, as­cer­tain whether any of the pieces had been pre­vi­ous­ly owned by Jew­ish cit­i­zens, and gath­er fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about their prove­nance. The on­ly thing re­searchers knew about the Ger­vais col­lec­tion was that Maria Lem­mé (1880-1943) – a Stuttgart artist of Jew­ish back­ground – start­ed de­liv­er­ing Kirch­n­er’s works from Ger­man-Jew­ish col­lec­tions to the Ger­vais’s in Switzer­land in 1935. Maria Lem­mé was mur­dered in the con­cen­tra­tion camp There­sien­stadt. De­ter­min­ing the prove­nance of the en­tire col­lec­tion is re­gard­ed as high­ly prob­lem­at­ic.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Staats­ga­lerie con­clud­ed that there is no proof what­so­ev­er of the ex­is­tence of a col­lec­tor named Dr. Ger­vais. In light of the his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances – Kirch­n­er’s artis­tic es­tate was con­sid­ered Ger­man “en­e­my as­sets” af­ter World War II and was to be liq­ui­dat­ed in Switzer­land – the ex­perts at the Staats­ga­lerie be­lieve that the Ger­vais’s were in­vent­ed by the deal­er in or­der to sell Kirch­n­er’s works back to Ger­many. Even though the ex­act con­di­tions of sale re­main a mys­tery, the Staats­ga­lerie has ruled out the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the sheets were Nazi-con­fis­cat­ed prop­er­ty. It is far more like­ly that the col­lec­tion orig­i­nat­ed from the artist’s es­tate it­self.

The Staats­ga­lerie has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the prove­nance of its col­lec­tions since Oc­to­ber 2009. The Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion has sup­port­ed these ef­forts by fi­nanc­ing a short-term and two long-term projects.