September 21, 2023


Make Some Fun

Artwork Historical past Information: Castaway Modernism

6 min read

 Historic background: 

Germany For the reason that flip of the century, many German museums had spent appreciable sums on collections of recent artwork, shopping for works of Expressionism, the New Objectivity, Cubism, and Dadaism in addition to French modernism. The Nationwide Socialists, who had seized energy in 1933, branded such artwork with the derogatory label “degenerate.” In the summertime of 1937, the Nazi authorities seized greater than 21,000 works of “degenerate” artwork from German museums. Works by Jewish artists and works with Jewish or political topics had been among the many main targets of the marketing campaign. Lots of the confiscated works had been displayed within the exhibition Degenerate Artwork held in Munich in 1937. 

 Out of the huge stockpile, round 780 work and sculptures and three,500 works on paper had been declared “internationally salable”—which is to say, they had been seen as appropriate on the market overseas to boost funds in foreign currency. These works had been moved to a storage web site within the north of Berlin. 125 works had been chosen for an public sale to be held by Theodor Fischer in Lucerne in late June 1939. 4 artwork sellers, amongst them Karl Buchholz and Hildebrand Gurlitt, had been introduced on board to seek out worldwide patrons for the remaining artwork. A lot of the “unsalable” stockpile was burned in Berlin on March 20, 1939. 

Basel round 1939 

In 1936, the Kunstmuseum Basel had inaugurated its new house on St. Alban-Graben— in the present day’s Hauptbau. The relocation into the spacious constructing revealed how little the gathering of recent work needed to provide: the works of Previous Masters Konrad Witz and Hans Holbein the Youthful constituted the core of the holdings. Otto Fischer, the museum’s director on the time, had sought to rectify this imbalance, however a number of makes an attempt to purchase trendy artwork had been rebuffed. 

Taking the helm of the museum in 1939, Georg Schmidt, like his predecessor, wished to construct a contemporary assortment. As a journalist, he had noticed and criticized the persecution of recent artwork in Germany since 1933. His ambition was to purchase as lots of the confiscated works as doable—on the upcoming public sale in Lucerne, but additionally straight from the warehouse in Berlin, which he visited in late Might 1939 on the invitation of the sellers Buchholz and Gurlitt, who had been tasked with “liquidating” the artwork. Buchholz and Schmidt drew up a choice of works that was despatched to Basel for inspection. 

The Fischer public sale in Lucerne 

The public sale Fashionable Masters from German Museums was held at Galerie Theodor Fischer, Lucerne, on June 30, 1939. The Kunstmuseum’s board of trustees utilized to the Canton of Basel-Metropolis for a particular fund within the quantity of CHF 100,000 for acquisitions of artwork previously held by German museums. The query of whether or not shopping for artwork from a dictatorial regime was a defensible choice—particularly at a time when all the things prompt that struggle was imminent—was controversial. On the night earlier than the public sale, nevertheless, the canton allotted CHF 50,000. On the public sale, the Kunstmuseum bought eight works: Paul Klee’s Villa R, a nonetheless life by Lovis Corinth, Otto Dix’s Portrait of the Artist’s Mother and father I, Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Self-Portrait as a Half-Size Nude with Amber Necklace II, and Franz Marc’s Two Cats, Blue and Yellow, in addition to André Derain’s Nonetheless Life with Calvary, a piece on paper by Marc Chagall, and his massive portray The Pinch of Snuff (Rabbi). These works now rank among the many highlights within the museum’s traditional modernism galleries.

 Even earlier than the public sale, Marc’s Animal Destinies was the primary work faraway from a German museum to be purchased straight from Berlin. Two weeks after the Lucerne public sale, the works despatched from Berlin for inspection had been arrange within the Kunstmuseum’s skylight corridor. The museum bought a further twelve of them, together with Max Beckmann’s The Nizza in Frankfurt am Major, Lovis Corinth’s Ecce Homo, two work by Modersohn-Becker, and Oskar Kokoschka’s Bride of the Wind, a masterwork of Expressionism. As a result of budgetary constraints, the museum was unable to purchase all works on the public sale and from the choice despatched to Basel that Schmidt would have preferred to amass. 

The exhibition Castaway Modernism is the primary to reunite the works of “degenerate” artwork that entered the museum’s assortment on the time with those who Basel didn’t buy, amongst them Pablo Picasso’s The Soler Household, James Ensor’s Loss of life and Masks, and Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s Seated Woman. Three of the works that traveled to Basel for inspection in 1939 or that Schmidt had requested are actually believed to have been destroyed: Oskar Schlemmer’s Three Girls and Otto Dix’s The Widow and Trench. Represented by black-and-white projections, these works are included within the exhibition as nicely. 

 The “forgotten era” 

The good majority of the 21,000 confiscated artifacts had been works by artists within the early phases of their careers. Many of those objects had been destroyed in 1938 as a result of the Nazis didn’t see any doable use for them. The names of the creators light into obscurity. The exhibition Castaway Modernism dedicates a separate gallery to this “forgotten era.” Marg Moll’s Dancer is an particularly putting illustration of the vagaries of the historical past of loss sure up with the persecution of “degenerate artwork”: till not too long ago, the work, which was displayed within the exhibition Degenerate Artwork, was thought to have been destroyed. In 2010, it was recovered in the course of the development of a brand new subway line from the rubble left by the bombing of Berlin. Movies within the exhibition Silent movies with a working time of round three minutes primarily based on historic images and paperwork play in a loop in every gallery and function an introduction to the displays. The movies had been developed and produced by teamstratenwerth. 


The scholarly catalogue reconstructs the occasions, starting with the confiscations from German museums, and embeds them of their historic context. Essays on the public sale in Lucerne, on Georg Schmidt’s technique, and on the place of the acquisitions within the historical past of the Basel assortment convey particularly Swiss elements into focus. With essays by Claudia Clean, Gregory Desauvage, Uwe Fleckner, Meike Hoffmann, Georg Kreis, Eva Reifert, Tessa Rosebrock, Ines Rotermund-Reynard, Sandra Sykora, Christoph Zuschlag. Eds. Eva Reifert, Tessa Rosebrock, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 296 pages, 200 illustrations, ISBN 978-3-7757-5221-3


Pablo Picasso, The household Soler, 1903. Oil on canvas, 150 x 200 cm. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Liège, © Succession Picasso / 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich.

Franz Marc

Animal Destinies (The Timber Confirmed Their Rings, the Animals Their Veins), 1913

Oil on canvas, 194.7 x 263.5 cm 

Kunstmuseum Basel Picture: Jonas Hänggi

Kunstmuseum Basel Picture: Jonas Hänggi


Oskar Kokoschka

The Bride of the Wind1913

Oil on canvas, 180.4 x 220.2 cm

Kunstmuseum Basel

© Fondation Oskar Kokoschka / 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich

Picture: Jonas Hänggi

Kunstmuseum Basel

© Fondation Oskar Kokoschka / 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich

Picture: Jonas Hänggi

Marc Chagall

The Pinch of Snuff (Rabbi), 1923-1926

Oil on canvas, 116.7 x 89.2 cm

Kunstmuseum Basel

© 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich Picture: Martin P. Bühler

Kunstmuseum Basel

© 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich Picture: Martin P. Bühler

Paula Modersohn-Becker

Self-Portrait as a Half-Size Nude with Amber Necklace II, 1906

Oil on canvas, 61.1 x 50 cm

Kunstmuseum Basel Picture: Martin P. Bühler

Kunstmuseum Basel Picture: Martin P. Bühler

Works offered as “internationally marketable”

Paul Gauguin

The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa, 1902

Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Liège

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Liège

James Ensor

Loss of life and Masks1897

Oil on canvas, 78,5 x 100 cm

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Liège

Max Beckmann

Descent from the Cross1917

Oil on canvas, 151 x 129 cm

The Museum of Fashionable Artwork, New York

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Peasants Consuming Lunch (Peasant Meal),


Oil on canvas, 133 x 166 cm

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Peasants Consuming Lunch (Peasant Meal),


Oil on canvas, 133 x 166 cm

Ulmberg Assortment

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