Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Provenance Research on Franz Marc’s “Foxes” of 1913

funding area Nazi confiscated art Grant recipient Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf State North Rhine-Westphalia Website Lost Art-Report to the Found-Object Reports of the institution Contact person Project type Short-term project to investigate matter of current interest Funding duration
  1. September 2015 to April 2016


The aim of the project was to clarify the painting’s provenance and uncover any link to a forced or compulsory sale/loss of the painting “Die Füchse” (Foxes) by Grawi or any other person as a direct result of Nazi persecution. The investigation focused on the role of Kurt Grawi, the Galerie Karl Nierendorf (Berlin, New York and/or Los Angeles) Alois Schardt, Berlin (author of the catalog of works by Franz Marc, 1936), the collection of William and Charlotte Dieterle (Beverly Hills, California) and other persons associated with the change in ownership of the painting in the 1930s and 1940s.
At the start of the investigation, very little documentation was available to clarify changes in ownership up to 1939, when it was owned by William and Charlotte Dieterle of Los Angeles according to the catalog of works by Annegret Hoberg and Isabelle Jansen (C. H. Beck Verlag, Munich 2004). Because the museum had already undertaken various research activities at German archives that had yielded no further results, this project focused in particular on conducting research at American archives. Accordingly, the Museum Kunstpalast engaged American provenance researcher Laurie Stein to undertake the research project.

Overview of results:
Kurt Grawi’s arrest and imprisonment in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1938 meant that he subsequently had to flee Germany with his wife and stepchildren. In 1939, Grawi’s wife, who was not Jewish, sold the Berlin properties that had been signed over to her and organized the family’s emigration to Chile that same year.
Kurt Grawi died from cancer in Chile in 1944. After the war, Else Grawi claimed for restitution and compensation through the relevant programs. The losses she specified covered a wide range of damages including transfer losses, sale of property at below market value, emigration costs and change of professional career. An artwork was also listed under loss of household contents – a sculpture by Georg Kolbe. No artwork by Franz Marc was listed and no mention was made of the sale of “Foxes” or any other paintings.
There is evidence that Kurt Grawi last had the painting in his possession in 1936. The work then reappeared in the USA in 1940 owned by a certain Ernest Simon, New York, and was subsequently sold to a new and unknown buyer via Galerie Nierendorf, New York. The painting was mentioned in “The Story of Modern Art” by Sheldon Cheney in 1941 with a reference to Nierendorf. Prof. Klaus Lankheit, author of two publications of 1950 in which “Foxes” is mentioned and later the author of “Franz Marc: Katalog der Werke” (1970), notes that the Dieterles owned the painting in 1939. However, documents relating to the Dieterles suggest that they first acquired it in 1940 from Nierendorf. The connection between the Dieterles, Nierendorf and Schardt is confirmed by the research; the latter two knew of Grawi’s former ownership of the artwork. There is no indication that Else Grawi or her legal representative sought to make contact with Schardt or Nierendorf after the war – neither to inquire about the whereabouts of “Foxes”, nor to demand compensation for a sale at less than fair value during the Nazi period.

One of the research project’s most significant findings was essential documentation relating to the painting “Foxes” in correspondence in the Curt Valentin Papers (MoMA archives, N.Y.C.). The documents contain lender correspondence and photographs of Marc’s works for an exhibition in New York in 1940. These show that, at the time, Valentin was in contact with a person named Ernest Simon of 560–562 Fifth Avenue, N.Y. Simon was a German-Jewish businessman who had held American citizenship since 1933. The correspondence clearly shows that Valentin knew “Foxes” was owned by Simon and he hoped to borrow it for his upcoming Franz Marc exhibition. The Simon/Valentin documents conclusively prove that the Marc painting was no longer in Germany in September–October 1940. The documents also confirm that the painting had already been sold by this time, or had at least been supplied to Nierendorf in New York.
As for the link between Grawi and Simon, it has not yet been possible to piece together whether they were connected to each other in Berlin through work (they worked in a very similar field), through family or through Jewish circles.
Based on the information gathered to date, provenance research on Franz Marc’s “Foxes” shows the painting had been acquired outside Nazi Germany by 1940 via or by Ernest Simon, N.Y., via Karl Nierendorf, N.Y., and in 1940–42 by William and Charlotte Dieterle, Los Angeles, California.

For example, searches took place at:
Art Institute of Chicago Library/University of Chicago Library: Bibliographische Nachforschungen. Surrogate’s Court, New York City: Einblick in Besitzakte Unterlagen aus Karl Nierendorfs Nachlass in New York. Guggenheim Archive, New York City: Einblick in Unterlagen und Erkenntnisse aus Jahren der Nierendorf-Forschung. MoMA Archives, New York City: Einblick in das Archiv mit Unterlagen zu Nierendorf. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland: Einblick in Unterlagen zu Karl Nierendorf, Alois und Mary Schardt, zu Auslandsvermögen (TFR-300er) sowie zu Alliierten-Berichten über Kunsthändler in Deutschland und den USA mit Verbindungen nach Deutschland und ausländischem Eigentum, außerdem zu Dokumenten zu Dieterle und seiner Ehefrau, FOIA-Anfragen (Freedom of Information Act), darunter beim FBI und beim State Department; Archives of American Art, Washington D.C.; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; USC Archive, L.A.; Norman’s Frame Shop, L.A.; Stendahl Art Galleries, L.A.; Max Kade Institute, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

© Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, August 2016