Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Gervais Collection

funding area Nazi confiscated art Grant recipient Staatsgalerie Stuttgart State Baden-Wuerttemberg Website https://www.staatsgalerie.de/sammlung/forschung/provenienzforschung.html Lost Art-Report to the Found-Object Reports of the institution Contact person
  • Dr. Anja Heuß
    Projektbericht_Ansprechpartner_FunktionProvenienzforschung
    Projektbericht_Ansprechpartner_EMAila.heuss@staatsgalerie.de
  • Dr. Ina Conzen
    Projektbericht_Ansprechpartner_FunktionStellvertretende wissenschaftliche Direktorin
    Projektbericht_Ansprechpartner_EMAili.conzen@staatsgalerie.de
Project type Long-term project to systematically investigate collection holdings Funding duration
  1. August 2015 to July 2016

Description

The Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart owns a collection of 143 works of art by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The sheets had originally been owned by Dr. and Mrs. Gervais (Zurich) and – according to an inventory entry from 1957 – were acquired by the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart from the unknown Académie Internationale Davos.

Roman Norbert Ketterer repeatedly published the story of the Gervais collection (including Dialogs, vol. 1, Stuttgart 1988, p. 251f.), according to which Maria Lemmé (1880–1943), a Stuttgart painter, was said to have begun selling Kirchner’s works from German-Jewish collections to a Dr. and Mrs. Gervais in Zurich in 1935. Maria Lemmé herself was murdered in Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943.

Despite extensive research efforts in Germany, France and Switzerland, the Gervais couple could not be identified. It was concluded that Dr. and Mrs. Gervais could not have amassed a large collection of Kirchner’s works during the artist’s lifetime because there was no proof of the existence of the two collectors in any of the numerous documents available. The numbering on the back of the artworks enabled the size of the 924-sheet collection to be established, but a great many of the prints are still missing and only a fraction of them has been traced. The Académie Internationale Davos began trying to sell the collection in 1947. A letter from the City of Aschaffenburg to the Académie Internationale refers to Kirchner’s artistic estate. Kirchner’s estate was declared German enemy assets after World War Two and was to be liquidated by the Swiss clearing house. On the basis that no evidence could be found relating to Dr. and Mrs. Gervais, it is probable that the couple was invented by the no less mysterious Académie Internationale to enable the works to be transferred to Germany.

After thorough examination of the sheets, the suspicion that they had been acquired unlawfully was not confirmed: none of the prints from the collection is registered in the Lost Art Database and there are no collector’s stamps or similar markings. For these reasons the Staatsgalerie has ruled out the possibility that the prints were Nazi-confiscated property.

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© Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, August 2016