Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Provenance Research: Max Pechstein’s "Circus Rider"

funding area Nazi confiscated art Grant recipient Märkisches Museum Witten State North Rhine-Westphalia Website Contact person
  • Christoph Kohl
    Telephone: +49 (0)2302 581 25 53
Project type Short-term project to investigate matter of current interest Funding duration
  1. October 2015 to January 2016


In 1956, the Märkisches Museum Witten purchased the painting “Circus Rider” (1917/19, oil on canvas/hardboard, 190 x 97 cm) by Hermann Max Pechstein (1881-1955) from a private art collector in Hagen. It was one of the acquisitions for the Expressionism collection which underwent considerable expansion after 1945.

In January 2015, the museum was presented with a restitution claim by the attorney Markus H. Stötzel on behalf of the heirs of Alfred Flechtheim. They believe that the trustee of Alfred Flechtheim’s domestic assets, Alfred E. Schulte, who was appointed in 1933, sold the painting sometime around 1935/36 to the Galerie Nierendorf. Therefore, they argue that the painting should be classified as “looted property” or “assets confiscated through Nazi persecution”.

The documents at the Märkisches Museum Witten provide no information about the historical background of the painting in those decisive years when the National Socialists ascended to power. There are only two stickers on the reverse side which indicate that the painting had indeed belonged to the Galerie Flechtheim and then later the Galerie Nierendorf in Berlin. It has not yet been determined at what point and under what circumstances the painting changed owners.

In October 2015, the Kulturforum Witten commissioned Dr. Katja Terlau to conduct provenance research on the painting by Hermann Max Pechstein with funding from the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg.

© Märkisches Museum Witten