Collection History in Braunschweig: Provenance and Looted Art since 1933
- Dr. Kirsten Bernhardt
Telephone: +49 (0) 531 121 526 36
- April 2016 to March 2018
- April 2018 to March 2019
The Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum (BLM), the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum (HAUM) and the Städtisches Museum Braunschweig (SMBS) are planning an exhibition in 2019/20 on the theme “Collection History in Braunschweig”. In preparation for the exhibition, the museums began conducting long-term provenance research in April 2016 to systematically search for cultural assets seized through Nazi persecution in selected parts of their collections. This collaborative project will build on four prior short-term projects at the BLM, HAUM and SMBS, which were funded by the Office for Provenance Research/German Lost Art Foundation between 2010 and 2015 and from which two publications were produced.
The complex and ambitious provenance research project is titled “Collection History in Braunschweig: Provenance and Looted Art since 1933” and divided into three “search areas”. The first “search area” centres on the estate of the Braunschweig museum director Karl Steinacker (1872-1944) whose collection of over 500 objects and several thousand graphic works is now distributed among all three museums. With regard to Steinacker, the question is whether he added any pieces seized from Jews or freemasons into his collection. The second “search area” comprises acquisitions made at the SMBS before and after 1945. These include five paintings listed on the Lost Art Database which belonged to the Berlin art dealer Wolfgang Gurlitt (1888-1965) – Hildebrandt Gurlitt’s cousin – and Wilhelm August Luz (1892-1959), 19 items (including two paintings) with ties to suspicious items owned by the Hannover art dealer Erich Pfeiffer, a so-called “middleman dealer” († 1965), 62 coins from “Jewish property tax levies” exacted by the Reichsbank Berlin, and 260 items from Walter Dexel’s (1890-1973) private design collection, purchased in 1955 by the city of Braunschweig and whose acquisition had likely been regarded even at that time as problematic for Braunschweig’s municipal design collection. The third “search area” focuses on seven graphic works and a sculpture donated to the HAUM in 1933 by the Braunschweig Association of Friends of Young Art. The ownership structure of the association, which disbanded shortly after the Nazis seized power and had at least one Jewish member, is just as ambiguous as the provenance of the works.
The goal is to investigate the selected acquisitions which are suspected of having been seized through Nazi persecution, and establish a chronology of possession or ownership for each suspected items with as few gaps as possible. The project organisers intend to publish the results. The provenance research findings will also be presented and made available to the general public during the joint exhibition “Collection History in Braunschweig” at the BLM, HAUM and SMBS at three venues in 2019/20.
Karl Steinacker’s estate represents the main research focus of the project and serves as the link between the three participating museums. Brief biography:
Born on 2 September 1872 in Wolfenbüttel, died on 31 January 1944 in Braunschweig; museum director, art historian; son of the teacher Eduard Steinacker (1839-1893) who served on the board of the Vaterländisches Museum (later the BLM) from 1891 until his death in 1893; studied from 1895 to 1899, first Law in Munich and later Art History, Archaeology and History in Berlin (Heinrich von Treitschke, Ernst Curtius), Munich (Adolf Furtwängler), Strasbourg (Georg Dehio) and Heidelberg (Henry Thode); earned PhD in Heidelberg in 1899; one-year study trip through Italy; 1901/02 unsalaried position at the Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe; 1902 research associate at the Herzogliches Museum Braunschweig (later the HAUM); starting 1 April 1910 became the museum inspector at the Herzogliches Museum and was appointed scientific director (and first managing director) of the Vaterländisches Museum which still operated as a private foundation; repeatedly failed in his attempt to have the Vaterländisches Museum nationalised, which was finally accomplished after retiring in 1935; in 1939 appointed temporary commissioner of the HAUM for war-related reasons; designated the Vaterländisches Museum as legatee of his estate.
Pötzsch, Hansjörg: Freunde der Kunst und der Künstler. Galka Scheyer, Otto Ralfs und die Gesellschaft der Freunde Junger Kunst, in: Stamm, Rainer/Köpnick, Gloria (Hrsg.): Beiträge zur Kunst der Moderne. Niederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte, Neue Folge, Bd. 3/2018, S. 189-212.