100 capolavori dallo Städel Museum di Francoforte. Impressionismo, Espressionismo, Avanguardia

 

 

 

The Städel and its Collection of Nineteenth-Century and Classical Modern Art

 
 

"The appeal of the Städel Institute lies in the tremendous energy filling that confined space. Virtually all of the great emotions that have lived in the souls of the peoples of Europe are there, and all in superb works." It was with these words that Hamburg museum director Alfred Lichtwark expressed his enthusiasm for the collection of the Städel Museum after a visit in 1905. The special fascination of the Städel and its collection has remained unbroken to the very present. The museum has in its holdings masterworks dating from the early fourteenth century to the present. World-famous Old Master paintings such as Sandro Botticelli's Idealized Portrait of a Lady, Jan Vermeer's Geographer or Rembrandt's Blinding of Samson belong as much to its gems of art history as numerous paintings of the nineteenth century and the Classical Modern period. To this day, however, the work Goethe in the Roman Campagna painted in 1787 by the artist Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein-the composition forming the prelude to the masterworks exhibition-is a virtual Städel trademark. No other painting has contributed so much to shaping our image of Germany's most famous writer, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Embedded in an ideal Italian landscape and surrounded by antique ruins, the poet appears fully aware of his own importance. He presents himself to his audience in the proud and mighty pose of a sovereign. What is often overlooked in the process is the quiet irony of the life-size portrait depiction: apart from the distorted proportions it is above all the two left feet of the Frankfurt-born literary genius that surprise us. Goethe himself never saw the finished painting. Today there are countless reproductions and caricatures of it, including the silkscreen version of 1981 by Andy Warhol, who cast it in garish colours and turned it into an "international star" of Pop Art. Tischbein's Goethe in the Roman Campagna came to the Städel in 1887 as a donation from Baroness Salomon Rothschild, and soon became a crowd-puller. At the same time, this generous gift from a private patron also points to the Städel Museum's origins.

The Beginnings
Frankfurt looks back on a historical role as a crossroads of European trade routes and a venue for the coronation of the German emperors for many centuries. The development of this former free imperial city on the River Main into one of the most significant centres of European commerce and finance-a status for which it is still known today-already began in the Middle Ages. The town frequently figured large in German and European history, though without ever being an official capital. It differs from many German cities in that it was ruled by neither the nobility nor the Church, its fate being controlled instead by the citizens themselves. It owed its economic prosperity not only to its geographic location in the centre of Europe, but also to the resulting cosmopolitan, liberal attitude with which its citizens identified, and which also left its mark on Johann Friedrich Städel (1728-1816). Son of a mercantile family of Frankfurt, the bachelor Städel amassed a considerable fortune as a banker and spice trader. In Goethe's notes and letters there is repeated mention of the fact that Städel, despite his advanced age, insisted on greeting visitors to his home in person and accompanying them through his extensive art collection, which comprised primarily works of Dutch and German painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. When Goethe came to Frankfurt again in 1814 and 1815, he dubbed Städel the "dean of all true friends of the arts resident here", and recounted: "One should know that this ceaselessly reflective and exceptional man has dedicated his art treasures along with a spacious venue and his sizeable capital assets to the commonweal, allowing friends of the arts and artistry justified hopes of the most assured stimulation and most certain education for all time." One year later, in the second issue of the magazine, Goethe mentioned that Städel, "a friend of the arts like few others", had recently died.
Along with his art collection and his splendid house, Städel left his substantial fortune of some one million guilders to the general public. According to his will, drawn up in keeping with the idea of civic patronage of the arts in the spirit of the Enlightenment, Städel wanted to contribute "to the greatest benefit of the town and its citizens". The Städel Museum thus has its origins in the generosity of a single art-minded citizen of Frankfurt whose aim was to contribute to the patronage of art by making his collection and art library accessible to the public as well as by founding an art school-activities which until that time had been dominated chiefly by the aristocracy and the Church. The Städel Museum is thus based neither on an aristocratic or royal collection nor on a public gallery, but on the dedication of one citizen. At the time, a foundation of this kind was something completely new.
The founder's success is still evident today. In addition to the museum, both the art library and the Städel school continue to exist, the latter having meanwhile risen to become one of Germany's most influential art academies.
From the beginning, Städel wanted to guard his foundation from every form of influence by the authorities. "The entire organization of this art institute I have founded ... remains committed solely to the free discretion of the foundation administrators specified by myself below, without their being required to consult with any authorities or obtain any permissions." Financial independence was to correspond to freedom with regard to content. Five "worthy administrators" chosen by Städel from the "local citizenry" were appointed to see to the execution of his last will. At the same time, Städel was objective enough to recognize the gaps and weaknesses of a collection encompassing works of German, Dutch and Flemish art and reflecting the tastes of the time: he not only expressly allowed the sale of certain works, but literally demanded that "the mediocre [be sold] in favour of something better" as a means of enhancing the quality of the collection.
After Städel's death in 1816, the holdings were initially shown in his centrally located private residence. The art institute could not begin its work in earnest, however, until the artist Philipp Veit had been appointed "superintendent of the painting school and director of the gallery" in 1830, the tedious inheritance disputes with distant relatives of Städel's had finally been resolved, and the museum and school had moved into a building of their own in 1833. The choice of the arch-Catholic Veit, who was brought to the free, enlightened Protestant town of Frankfurt directly from Rome - a major international art centre at the time - testified both to the high standards of the institute's administration as well as to the tolerant attitude that prevailed within it.
Like many young German artists, Veit was a member of a circle known as the Nazarenes. The name was originally meant as a way of mocking the Jesus-like hairstyles and devout lifestyles of its members. Dissatisfied with the situation at the academies in their native country, young German artists such as Franz Pforr  had gone to the "holy city" full of high expectations. The Nazarenes conceived of their art as a contribution to the renewal of a Catholic-oriented Christianity. For their visions of renewal they looked not only to the Bible for inspiration, but also to the art of Raphael and Albrecht Dürer. Against this background it is hardly surprising that, in addition to religiously motivated Old Master paintings of German, Italian and Netherlandish origins, the Städel focussed primarily on the acquisition of works by contemporaries who shared Veit's artistic approach, i.e. by Nazarenes or artists associated with their circle. Of great programmatic significance was the commission granted Johann Friedrich Overbeck for his monumental painting The Triumph of Religion in the Arts. Overbeck was widely considered "by far the greatest artist who ever lived." Finally completed after eight years of work, the painting triggered heated discussions when it was placed on display at the Städel in 1840. In a composition indebted to Raphael, Overbeck had expressed his conviction that art was justified only in the service of religion. In addition to such large-scale works of Christian subject matter, Joseph Anton Koch's Rape of Hylas was purchased in 1832 directly in Rome. Already two years earlier, the museum had acquired Waterfalls of Tivoli by Koch's pupil Carl Philipp Fohr, a young artist who had died a tragically premature death. Even if Fohr and Koch did not actually belong to the Nazarenes, they were closely associated with that artists' group. Particularly Koch looked to many of its members for artistic orientation. His Classicist-style landscape painting was inspired by impressions of nature in the region around Rome, which he combined in the composition of complex ideal landscapes.
Veit was a Catholic whose religious convictions were extremely important to him, as seen in the circumstances surrounding his resignation from the office of Städel director in 1843: Following the purchase of Carl Friedrich Lessing's Johann Hus at Constance by the Städel administration, he stepped down-deeply disappointed-from his position as head of the institute in protest against the theme depicted. The Protestant Hus was condemned as a heretic by the Council of Constance (1414-1418) and sentenced to death. In the painting he appears as a hero surrounded by disgruntled and biased bishops and abbots. Lessing's heroization of the Protestant martyr exceeded the bounds of the staunch Catholic museum director's tolerance. Heinrich Hoffmann, author of Struwwelpeter (Shockheaded Peter) and member of the Städel administration, later sought to justify the controversial purchase decision in his memoirs: "We, the administration, including the Protestants among us, had made a concession to the Catholic-minded in our primarily Protestant city a few years earlier by acquiring Overbeck's painting 'Triumph of the Arts'. Now it was our duty to acknowledge the Protestant community in like manner with the work by Lessing."
The decision to purchase Lessing's painting was thus a move to counter the Nazarenes' religious dogmatism. The Städel's Lessing holdings did not remain restricted to this one historical depiction. A further acquisition-much less conflict-ridden-was his work The Thousand-Year Oak. Here the artist linked his interest in historical subject matter with a minutely detailed depiction of the landscape, an approach which made the Düsseldorf school of painting extraordinarily popular in the Germany of the time.
Veit's dogmatism and his interest in an art which looked to the past for orientation met with opposition from members of the younger generation. One year before his resignation, the Städel school established a professorship for genre painting, thus granting the everyday world entry into the venerable art academies of Germany for the first time. Still a very young institution itself, the Städel seemed to many young artists to be an attractive place for their works. Even if the director held rigorous convictions, the system of self-administration by members of the citizenry promised a liberal climate, and the prosperous city moreover had public commissions and private patrons of the arts to offer. The Städel was the hub of cultural life in a commercial town which, in contrast to the royal seats of Munich, Dresden, Berlin and Düsseldorf, was the first art centre in Germany to develop under the aegis of the citizens.

A New Home outside the City Gates
Johann David Passavant took office as "Inspektor" (i.e. director) of the Städel in 1840. A friend of Franz Pforr's from youth, Passavant had initially trained as a painter under the Classicist Jacques-Louis David in France, then joined the Nazarenes in Rome, but eventually given up painting to devote himself primarily to art scholarship. He was already publishing theoretical writings on art as early as 1820; numerous further contributions followed. His appointment at the Städel marked the beginning of the collection's scholarly cataloguing as well as its systematic further expansion in the manner essentially still practised by museums today: at the time, the method still represented an absolute novelty. Passavant acquired Old Master paintings by such artists as Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer or Jan van Eyck, but also contemporary art. Of quite some art-historical significance was the presence of Gustave Courbet of France - already a famous painter at the time - in Frankfurt, where he sojourned for half a year from September 1858 onward and was enthusiastically received in local artists' circles. Jakob Becker, a professor at the Städel school, placed a studio at Courbet's disposal. The artist executed twelve paintings during this period, including his View of Frankfurt with the Old Bridge from Sachsenhausen. Particularly for young artists of the region, the Frenchman provided important impulses.
The Städel collection grew steadily, making relocation to new facilities necessary. Under new directorship, the move was made in 1878 to a site "far" outside the gates of the city as they stood at the time: to the other side of the Main, where the dignified edifice still housing the collection today had meanwhile been built for that purpose. With large sky-lit halls, intimate cabinet galleries and a library, the building designed by Oscar Sommer fulfilled all of the requirements of a modern museum. An architect and teacher of architecture at the Städel Art Institute, this former pupil of master-builder Gottfried Semper could hardly have been better acquainted with the institution's spatial needs. Yet the "splendid palace",  as it was described by art scholar Jacob Burckhardt, did not meet with blanket approval. When French Symbolist Joris-Karl Huysmans visited in 1905, for example, he was not particularly impressed with the architecture, though he was quite taken by the quality of the collection: "And here on the river, in a building constructed in an official style whose ugliness is not mitigated by the paltry decoration provided by a new garden, marvels have been amassed."
Many of these "marvels" had made their way into the collection as donations: Anselm Feuerbach's Half-Length Figure of a Roman Woman in a White Tunic and a Red Cloak was given to the Städel in 1885 by the widow of Frankfurt juryman Franz Edouard Souchay, Carl Anton Rottmann's Greek Landscape on the Island of Aegina came in the form of a bequest, and Max Klinger's Roman Woman on a Flat Roof in Rome, Henri-Jacques Evenepoel's At Café d'Harcourt in Paris and Fernand Khnopff's Game Warden entered the collection as gifts from the mother of Walther Rathenau in commemoration of her son, foreign secretary of the Weimar Republic who had been assassinated in 1922. Some one third of the works in the Städel are donations-an expression of the citizens' continuing close attachment to their museum.
As a means of further securing the support accorded the Städel and opening the museum to an even larger cross-section of the society, the Städelscher Museums-Verein (Städel Museum Society) was founded in 1899. At the suggestion of publisher Leopold Sonnemann and after the example of other museum-affiliated societies, the Museums-Verein quickly became an important forum and partner to which the Städel is indebted for the acquisition of numerous superb works. As early as 1905, it was reported in the Frankfurter Zeitung that: "Every visitor to the gallery, if he does not spurn modern art, will be grateful to this society which in the few years of its existence has already supported the institute's administration in so felicitous a manner."

Focus on France
On the occasion of the society's founding, entrepreneur and city councillor Viktor Mössinger donated Alfred Sisley's Banks of the Seine in Autumn to the Städel, making the work one of the first Impressionist paintings to be found in a public museum in Germany. Yet Mössinger also helped the Städel with another sensational purchase: in 1912, at the request of director Georg Swarzenski, he took charge of the financing for Vincent van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet. In the Städel collection, the portrait-executed shortly before the artist committed suicide in Auvers-marks the turning point from the art of the nineteenth century to the modern period. The acquisition did not go uncontested, since art experts at the time were by no means in one mind as to whether German museums should purchase French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. The purchase of van Gogh's Field with Poppies for the Kunsthalle Bremen a year earlier had sparked a heated controversy. Such works were not only too expensive, but also void of content-that was the tenor of the objections raised by many German artists who felt that these purchases were putting them at a disadvantage: "In view of the great invasion of French art which has been taking place for several years in the supposedly progressive German art circles, it appears to me to be imperative that German artists speak out in warning, and not flinch at the accusation that it is pure envy that is driving them to do so." Set forth in writing by Northern German landscape painter Carl Vinnen, these words of protest were accompanied by several pages of German artists' signatures.
Among those who publicly opposed this campaign the same year with a passionate plea in favour of French art was Städel director Georg Swarzenski. In an article for the Frankfurter Zeitung, he expounded: "As far as French painting of the nineteenth century is concerned, there is absolutely no question that its great masters executed works which belong to that highest category in which the world and all things visible are creatively rendered in a new and, in and of itself, consummate manner. ... Thus it is entirely self-evident that every museum with a consciousness of its highest cultural mission will be happy to find itself in the position of being able to purchase such works." Swarzenski, who directed the museum from 1906 to 1938, came from Berlin, where he had served as assistant to the director of the Kunstgewerbemuseum. In the period in which this controversy raged, Impressionist art already had a large following in Germany among art historians, collectors and the public. The point of departure for this development was Berlin. Art journals such as Pan and various galleries in the capital actively promoted this interest. Already before the turn of the century, the director of the Berlin Nationalgalerie, Hugo von Tschudi, had embarked upon the systematic acquisition of Impressionist painting. In most other towns in Germany, including Frankfurt, however, the well-disposed reception of Impressionism only took hold with a delay. It was Marie Held's Moderne Kunsthandlung (modern art dealership) which first showed works by Vincent van Gogh in the city on the Main in 1908 and 1910 alongside compositions by Honoré Daumier, Max Liebermann und Paul Cézanne. With the presentation of eighty-two paintings by van Gogh in 1908, the city's Kunstverein (art society) likewise offered the Frankfurt public an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with his art. In the years that followed, works by Paul Gauguin, Adolphe Monticelli and Auguste Renoir were on display in the town's galleries. Not surprisingly, these intensive exhibition activities in the area of French art were also mirrored in private collections in the city and surrounding region as well as in the Städel: paintings by the Barbizon school, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir and Vincent van Gogh were purchased both by the collectors and by the museum administration. The Städel was thus among the first museums in Germany at which it was possible to see a substantial number of French Impressionist works.
In many cases, the works in question were examples from the early stages of the respective artists' careers. The most recent paintings of the time, including those by the radical young generation of Parisian artists such as Pierre Bonnard or Pablo Picasso, were to be found in Germany only in private collections, and were also repeatedly offered to the Städel for sale. Although Swarzenski recommended the purchase of such works to private collectors, however, he generally rejected such acquisitions for the Städel. He was of the conviction that, to be acquired by a museum, a painting first had to prove itself against the yardstick of history: "Unlike an art exhibition, the museum offers the artwork a permanent home, a privilege which must only be accorded that which has truly proven its worth, that in which eternal value is deemed to be inherent."
If the Städel had focussed throughout the nineteenth century on acquiring contemporary works of German art, Swarzenski began opening the collection to nineteenth-century French art as well. Already in the early years of his directorship, the museum purchased two works by Gustave Courbet (see cat. nos. XX and XX) and van Gogh's Farmhouse in Nuenen (La Chaumière), an early work which does not yet exhibit the radicality of the artist's later compositions. Within a few years, they were followed by Auguste Renoir's La fin du déjeuner and Girl Reading as well as Edgar Degas's Orchestra Musicians, Claude Monet's Le Déjeuner -a major work of his pre-Impressionist period-, and Edouard Manet's Game of Croquet (see cat. no. XX). The acquisition of French painting also encompassed examples by forerunners to the Impressionists: works such as Eugène Delacroix's Fantasia arabe Jean-Baptiste Corot's View of Marino in the Alban Mountains, Summer Landscape or Portrait of an Italian Girl, or Charles Daubigny's large-scale French Orchard at Harvest Time were obtained and placed on view side by side with German art. The Städel differed from most other German museums in that it did not present French art in separate halls, but as important elements of a common history of art.
This acquisition programme was not only exceptionally comprehensive but also quite expensive, and it could never have been realized without the backing of the administration, the museum society, the city and numerous individuals. The bequest of Ludwig Josef Pfungst of Worms had especially far-reaching consequences for the Städel. In 1907, Pfungst left his collection and his fortune of more than two million marks to the city of Frankfurt on the condition that the money be used to purchase works by living artists. It was on this basis that the Städtische Galerie (municipal gallery) was founded, conceived from the beginning as an enhancement of the Städel and headed by the museum's director. The chief aim of the new municipal institution was to collect works by local artists. After all, "... local production has nothing to fear from comparison with works of international renown." Such a clear public expression of dedication to the promotion of contemporary art on the part of a city was something entirely novel at the time. And today? Where in the whole world is there a town that so actively supports young art?
It was immediately clear that the museum would soon be needing more space. Following an architectural competition advertised in 1912, it was decided to add a new, two-storey building-the so-called garden wing-behind, and parallel to, the existing structure. However, the outbreak of World War I delayed its completion: "The shell construction stood there for years, and vegetables were planted in the rubble-strewn garden." It was not until May of 1921 that the garden wing was opened, to this day the section of the building that houses the collection of nineteenth-century and Classical Modern art.

The Rise and Banishment of Modern Art
The economic difficulties that prevailed after World War I affected the Städel's financial possibilities as well, leading to a sharp decrease in the number of purchases. In the speech he gave at the inauguration of the new wing, Swarzenski outlined his conception of a modern museum. He proposed that aesthetic aspects and sensory pleasures are more important than the direct conveyance of knowledge: "In the end, there is only one principle here, only one programme, only one demand, namely that a collection provide an experience of art, that it permit artistic powers to radiate from within it, and that this experience be granted in as pure, intensive and rich a manner as possible and conceivable." For this outlook-based, as it was, on direct viewing and focusing primarily on the viewer's experience-the sensual art of Impressionism was perfect, as was the often highly provocative contemporary art of the time. The director thus now began to advocate the acquisition of contemporary art with all vehemence. In Swarzenski's view, the museum should "not back down when its position reaps attacks. Nor must it shy away from the problematic aspects of this so very intellectual area, for in the manner in which artistic production is problematic, many-indeed, most-other things are also problematic. We can therefore do nothing but endeavour to regard the artistic production of today with the same critical eye and the same love as that of yesterday."
Directly after the war, the Städel began purchasing paintings directly from the studio of Max Beckmann, who was living in Frankfurt at the time, and an extensive collection of the latter's works was thus founded. As a respected artist, Beckmann held a prominent position in the municipal society, and from 1925 onward he also taught at the Städel school. He and Swarzenski were moreover close friends. In the painting Double Portrait, Beckmann placed the director's mistress Carola Netter, who worked at the Städel as an assistant, right next to his wife, Marie Swarzenski. The artist had separately invited the two women to his studio for sittings. Knowledge of these circumstances helps explain the strangely tense mood of the depiction and the distanced attitudes of the two ladies to one another, despite their physical closeness. The fact that Beckmann donated the painting to the museum was surely an expression of his sometimes quite capricious sense of humour.
Apart from the Beckmann works, the collection of the Städtische Galerie was also distinguished early on by important paintings of the "Brücke" group. Two paintings by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner were already purchased in 1919, making the Städel the first museum anywhere to own works by this Expressionist. Paintings by Erich Heckel , Emil Nolde, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Pechstein, Kees van Dongen or Franz Marc and Henri Matisse likewise found their place in the collection. In retrospect, we recognize a strong partiality for German Expressionism, while other tendencies in contemporary art were hardly taken into account. Works of New Objectivity, Constructivism and Surrealism, for example, were not represented in the holdings. Despite this limited spectrum, however, the Städel was at the time one of the museums in Germany most open to contemporary art. This circumstance at least partially explains the great significance held by the museum in the 1920s, not only for the city of Frankfurt, but far beyond its borders. In his memoirs, the successful German author Carl Zuckmayer recalled that the visits to "Swarzenski's Städel Museum in Frankfurt ... were more than education experiences for us; they were journeys into the unknown and the marvellous."
With the so-called seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933, this very productive phase came to an abrupt and tragic end. Modern art first had to disappear into storage; four years later, the most outstanding examples of it were removed from the collection altogether. The National Socialists labelled 77 paintings, 575 drawings and prints and 3 sculptures "degenerate art" and confiscated them. A number of these objects were included in the notorious "Degenerate Art" exhibition which opened in Munich in 1937 and travelled through Germany for three years. Although the authorities endeavoured to dismiss Swarzenski from his post as early as 1933-due not only to his Jewish ancestry but also to his advocacy of modern art-, thanks to its institutional independence the Städel administration succeeded in keeping the director in his post until 1937. However, not only Swarzenski, but also Fritz Wichert-director of the Städel school-and well-known professors such as Max Beckmann were eventually removed from office. While Swarzenski succeeded in emigrating to the United States and continuing his work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Beckmann found exile in Amsterdam. Fritz Wichert likewise left Frankfurt and settled on the North Sea island of Sylt. The Museums-Verein, in which many Jewish intellectuals from among Frankfurt's citizenry had been active, temporarily lost its major significance.
Many of the confiscated works which were of interest to the international art market were sold off far under price; others were even destroyed. Among the works disposed of were paintings by German artists such as Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Franz Marc as well as major works by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. As a collection of modern art, the Städtische Galerie thus virtually went out of existence. The museum had lost all of its important contemporary works; the dream of a modern, forward-looking museum had, for the time being, been extinguished.
Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet had been overlooked during the first confiscation operation for the "Degenerate Art" exhibition, but in December 1937 the National Socialists demanded that it be turned in. Whereas the Städel's examples of van Gogh's early work did not arouse any interest, Field Marshal Hermann Göring-one of the leading politicians of the Third Reich and an extravagant art collector-obtained the portrait and traded it for Old Master paintings. Today an empty picture frame and an X-ray exposure of the painting are the only remaining traces of Dr. Gachet's Frankfurt past.

War Years and New Beginnings
When Swarzenski was forced to vacate his director's post in 1937, he recommended Ernst Holzinger as his successor; the latter headed the museum until his death in 1972. An art historian, Holzinger had earned his doctorate under Heinrich Wölfflin with a thesis on Albrecht Dürer's woodcuts. One of the new director's most important tasks was to oversee the placing of the museum's holdings in external storage for safekeeping. In view of the ever more apparent danger of war, the decision was made to move the works to secluded storage spaces in the vicinity of Frankfurt from 1938 onward. To the extent that museological work was still at all possible, collecting activities were limited to German painting of the second half of the nineteenth century. On behalf of the Städel, Holzinger travelled to France and Holland repeatedly to purchase works on the art markets in the occupied territories. These works were returned after the war. In his capacity as director, he moreover wrote appraisals on the "art assets" Jews were compelled leave behind in their homes when they emigrated or were deported. Despite his prominent position as Städel director during the National Socialist period, Holzinger espoused the cause of Carl Hagemann's Expressionist collection. One of the most important German art collectors and patrons of the early twentieth century, Hagemann, a citizen of Frankfurt, had died in a traffic accident in 1940. His collection of "degenerate art" was in great danger. In a newspaper article of 1974, Doris Schmidt, a former employee of Holzinger's, recalled how the Städel director had rescued the holdings "secretly, in the evening and at night, [moving them] by means of knapsack and wheelbarrow first to the already empty museum and later to a safe location outside Frankfurt." After the war, Carl Hagemann's heirs showed their appreciation for the risks Holzinger had taken by donating their entire holdings of drawings and prints to the Städel and placing numerous paintings at the museum's disposal in the form of permanent loans. After the war, the Expressionist works from the Hagemann collection, including major works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Emil Nolde and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff formed the basis for the re-establishment of the gallery of the twentieth century.
The museum building had been badly damaged by bombing, and its reconstruction, with a new stairway and side wings, was not completed until the mid 1960s. More severe than the destruction of the building, however, were the losses to which the National Socialists had subjected the museum through the confiscation of artworks. After the war, the situation for German art institutions was precarious. On the one hand, it was important to try to close the gaps which had come about-to the extent that this was at all possible-; on the other hand the administration could not concentrate solely on the past and ignore the present, nor did it want to. Between 1948 and 1966, Holzinger, who was on the committee in charge of the Documenta, succeeded in re-obtaining six of the paintings which had been confiscated during the 1930s, among them such important works as Franz Marc's Dog Lying in the Snow  and Erich Heckel's Landscape in Holstein. These were joined by numerous new acquisitions, particularly in the area of Classical Modern art.
A work of outstanding significance in this context is Pablo Picasso's painting of Fernande Olivier, purchased in 1967 with the help of the Museums-Verein. The acquisition of the Cubist portrait of 1909 was conceived of as a reminiscence of van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet. Apart from formal analogies, the two works not only share the tension between the figural and the abstract but also address the question as to the role of the individual in art. Just as van Gogh's painting had once marked the junction between old and new art in the Städel collection, the portrait by Picasso, with all of its broken and interlocking planes, now formed the cornerstone of the twentieth-century collection. The radical late-nineteenth-century innovator of painting was now followed by Picasso, an artist who contributed like no other to shaping the art of the first half of the twentieth century. 

Felix Krämer (exhibition curator)

 


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