Alfred Flechtheim.com
Art Dealer of the Avant-Garde.

Joint exhibition project at 15 museums
together with a dedicated website

October 9th, 2013 – January 1st, 2014

 

 

The gallery owner Alfred Flechtheim (1878–1937) was a major protagonist in the art scene during the first third of the 20th century. His commitment to the Rhineland Expressionists, the French avant-garde and German Modernism and his support of important artists such as Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Paul Klee made him internationally famous even during his lifetime. The National Socialist regime, however, changed his life and that of his family drastically. Flechtheim had to leave Germany in October 1933. As an art dealer of Jewish extraction he suffered public defamation and, by 1935, had closed his galleries in Düsseldorf and Berlin and transferred the artworks he still possessed abroad, mostly to London, where he died in 1937 at the age of just 59 as the result of an accident. His wife, Betty, committed suicide in 1941 in the face of her imminent deportation. The remaining works of art in their flat in Berlin were confiscated and their whereabouts remains unknown to this day.

100 years ago Alfred Flechtheim opened his first gallery in Düsseldorf on 9 October 1913. His activities as an art dealer have left their mark in numerous museums to this day in the form of major works of art. These works, acquired through his galleries, have made and still continue to make a decisive contribution towards defining the profile of each respective museum. Almost all leading museums of modern art in Germany and abroad have works by Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann, Heinrich Campendonk, Lovis Corinth, Paul Klee, George Grosz, Oskar Kokoschka, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Wilhelm Morgner, Heinrich Nauen, Max Pechstein, René Sintenis, Edgar Degas, André Derain, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso or Paul Signac with a Flechtheim provenance in their holdings.

The aim of this project is to trace the path these works of art took before arriving in the museums, their provenance and their sales history from the artist to the dealer and collector. Particular attention is placed on the time Alfred Flechtheim dealt with the works as well as the circumstances under which these were ultimately acquired by the respective institutions.

Participating museums are displaying works of art to the public that have an ‘Alfred Flechtheim’ provenance in the form of exhibitions and presentations of works in their own rooms.

The database generated website www.alfredflechtheim.com provides an overview of the complete exhibition with all works that have a connection to the Galerie Flechtheim and are now in the 15 museums participating in the project.

The exceptional influence Flechtheim had as an art dealer, the abrupt break in his personal

biography and the feeling of loss this brought about, as well as the tragic fate of his family, are all

reasons for dedicating a project to his life and work.

On the history of Hofer's ‚Martha‘


Karl Hofer’s (1878–1955) work ‘Martha’ was painted in 1925 after the artist had moved from Karlsruhe to Berlin where he was represented by the Flechtheim gallery. Alfred Flechtheim offered the picture to the Palatine enamelware producer and art collector Max Glaeser (1871–1932) of Eselsfürth. The exact date of the sale is not known but, in 1928, the catalogues for the Hofer retrospectives at the Berlin Secession and in the Kunsthalle Mannheim list ‘Martha’ as being loaned by Glaeser. Glaeser started collecting in 1907. To begin with he concentrated on representatives of the Munich School but, by the mid 1920s, works by Max Liebermann, Max Slevogt and Lovis Corinth were included. From 1928 onwards he acquired works by Edvard Munch, Max Pechstein, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Hofer. To accommodate his outstanding collection Glaeser had a distinctive house and gallery built in the Bauhaus style by the architect Hans Herkommer (1887–1956).
Hoping to bequeath his collection in its entirety, Max Glaeser sought talks with the director of the Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern, Hermann Graf (1887–1970), at an early stage. He was willing to hand over his paintings, valued at a quarter of a million Marks in 1931, for one hundred thousand Marks instead. Graf asked for the loan of this sum from the city. However, as the National Socialists had already become the most powerful party in Kaiserslautern in 1930, his request was not met. Expressionist artworks were considered ‘degenerate’ and Graf had to look on as his museum missed such an opportunity. Glaeser subsequently sold individual works to other museums. The Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe acquired ‘Korbflechter’ (Basket Makers) by Max Liebermann.

Max Glaeser died on 6 May 1932. His wife, Anna Glaeser, née Opp (1864–1944), inherited the art collection. After her death, ‘Martha’ came into the possession of her granddaughter Gisela Böhner, born Romanic, who had to sell it in 1952. In the knowledge of the previous sale of ‘Korbflechter’, her husband offered the painting to Kurt Martin (1899–1975), the director of the Kunsthalle, who bought it for 1800 Marks.
In Karlsruhe, modern art was not systematically collected until after World War II. Hans Thoma (1839–1924) had predominantly purchased academic works by regional 19th-century artists up until 1920; this was followed by a lean towards international Modernism under Willy Storck (1890–1927) and Lilli Fischel (1891–1978) between 1920 and 1933. There is, however, no documentation of any direct purchases for the Kunsthalle from Flechtheim’s galleries. Through the painting ‘Martha’ by Karl Hofer a late, if indirect contact to the famous art dealer and his work came into being.