Provenance Research of the Collections of Prints and Drawings
- Christiane Grathwohl-Scheffel M.A.
Projektbericht_Ansprechpartner_FunktionWissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin/Provenienzforschung, Museum für Neue Kunst/Städtische Museen Freiburg
Telephone: +49 (0) 761 201 2586
- January 2016 to February 2019
The city of Freiburg is currently building a new museum for its collection of prints and drawings, the “Haus der Graphischen Sammlung”. The museum is scheduled to open at the end of 2016 and will be used as a depot and exhibition venue for paper works. The collection of prints and drawings of the Augustinermuseum and the Museum für Neue Kunst had been kept and displayed in two different buildings since the 1990s and will now be united at one location. The move presents an opportunity to investigate the provenance of all the pieces in the collection which were either created before 1945 or acquired after 1933 until the present. Out of 10,000 object files, researchers have assessed and filtered those which require more detailed examination. The selected works comprise about 280 pieces of graphic art, 120 of which are single sheets and the remaining pieces in portfolios.
Most of the prints and drawings were purchased in the 1930s from the artists themselves or from exhibitions organised by the Kunstverein. Single pieces were occasionally purchased from art dealers, galleries and private collectors. One name aroused particular interest: Paul Wescher, an art historian who was forced into exile for political reasons in 1933 and had owned twelve prints dating to the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century which later entered the Augustinermuseum collection. Dr. Paul Wescher had studied in Freiburg and worked at the Augustinermuseum for two years before taking a position in the copperplate engraving collection at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. In 1933, he emigrated to Paris and later moved to Switzerland. After the war he settled in the United States. According to the museum’s inventory book, the twelve works were acquired from Wescher in 1937. The researchers wish to investigate this acquisition along with other purchases made by the museum director Dr. Werner Noack, who held the position from 1923 to 1953.
As of the 1950s, the museum began to purchase more artworks through galleries and auction houses. These include the Auktionshaus Ketterer, the Galerie Vömel, Galerie Valentin, Galerie Elfriede Wirnitzer and the Galerie Klihm in Munich. Dr. Hans Hellmut Klihm had produced the catalogue of prints and drawings for the Sonderauftrag Linz and has been explicitly identified as a figure involved in the Nazi confiscation of cultural assets. It was through his gallery in 1965 that the Freiburg museum purchased a number of important graphic art works by Otto Dix, Erich Heckel and Karl Hofer. No inquiries were made with regard to their previous owners. Only bits of information are known and it seems that nothing has ever been undertaken to shed light on their respective provenance. Researchers wish to particularly focus on the works that were purchased at Auction No. 53 at the Auktionshaus Ketterer in 1959. It turns out that the “Portrait of Max John” by Otto Dix was sold at that auction, a painting which had originally belonged to the collection of the Jewish attorney Fritz Salo Glaser and has meanwhile been returned to the rightful owners (see the provenance research project on Otto Dix’s “Portrait of Max John”.
This research project has received funding from the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg since the beginning of 2016. The project coordinator plans to publish the research findings on a regular basis and offer visitors an insight into this important area of museum responsibility.