Provenance Research

Provenance Research

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen conducts research into the provenance of artworks that were acquired or catalogued from 1933 onwards and whose ownership history is unclear. In accordance with the principles agreed at the Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets that was held in 1998, the Staatsgemäldesammlungen continually inspects its holdings at the Pinakothek museums and affiliated galleries in order to determine whether any of its artworks were unlawfully expropriated from Jewish owners during the period of National Socialism in Germany. Our objective is to compile seamless provenance documentation for each work, wherever possible, so that ownership issues can be clarified more easily.

THE BAYERISCHE STAATSGEMÄLDESAMMLUNGEN HAS BEEN CARRYING OUT SYSTEMATIC PROVENANCE RESEARCH SINCE 1999

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen first created a position dedicated to provenance research in 1999, limited to a period of three years. Until 2002, Ilse von zur Mühlen surveyed the museum’s holdings and compiled a catalogue for the 125 works from the former Göring collection, which was published in 2004. In 2006, the investigated works in this report were reported to www.lostart.de on suspicion of theft. In 2008, the museum set up its own department for provenance research to which a full-time conservation specialist was appointed, i.e., the position was made permanent. Since then, Dr. Andrea Bambi has been examining the provenance of artworks that were made before 1945 and acquired by the museum in or after 1933.

THE STATE PAINTING COLLECTIONS PROACTIVELY EXAMINE 7,000 WORKS

In addition to the systematic research of 7,000 works in the inventory (paintings and sculptures), the department deals with both incoming restitution claims and proactively detected cases. It reports these to www.lostart.de for suspected loss through persecution (currently 286 reports) and, if possible, it approaches the entitled beneficiaries. Furthermore, it handles and realizes processes relevant to provenance, such as new acquisitions of works of art created before 1945, loans, database entries and catalogue entries.

The staff members of the department regularly take part in advanced training courses, workshops and conferences on provenance and art market research. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are a member of the research network Provenance Research Bavaria and the researchers actively participate in the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e. V. (Association for Provenance Research).

THE PROVENANCE RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY THE BSTGS EXTENDS TO ALL THREE PINAKOTHEK MUSEUMS AND THE BSTGS’S AFFILIATED GALLERIES

It examines paintings and sculptures acquired from 1933 onwards and created before 1945.

Main research topics:

›Transfers from State Ownership‹: The so-called transfers from state ownership are art and cultural objects from the collections of former NSDAP officials and organizations, which were transferred to the Free State of Bavaria on the basis of directives by the Allied Control Council, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Around 900 of these artworks were subsequently included in the holdings of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, where – due to their origins – they form one of the most problematic groups of works to be researched. This stock has been handled by Dr. Florian Wimmer † (from November 2013 until November 2015), by Dr. Johannes Gramlich (since 1 July 2016) and Anja Zechel M.A. (from November 2012 until May 2017).

›Classical Modernism‹: Since March 2015, 238 selected works of classical modernism have been examined by Johanna Poltermann. The research situation regarding these works is complex, since they were not acquired directly by the Pinakotheken, but were largely donated to the collection in the post-war period. Important groups of works include, for example, the former private collections of Woty and Theodor Werner, Martha and Markus Kruss, Günther Franke as well as Sofie and Emanuel Fohn. Some of these collections were formed in the Weimar Republic, in the time of National Socialism or even in the post-war period, which is why the actual historical circumstances surrounding their purchase have to be subjected to critical examination.

›Acquisitions 1933-1945‹: The works acquired between 1933 and 1945 were inspected for theft at the Collecting Point in Munich in the immediate post-war period, a second fundamental review was carried out between 1999 and 2002. Since the summer of 2017, this stock comprising around 950 works of art is being reassessed for theft by Anja Zechel on the basis of newly accessible sources and updated as to their provenance details.   

›Acquisitions after 1945 to the present‹: In an initial check, limited to data from the inventory and the image act, approximately 2500 works with basic data on provenance are entered into the in-house database, whereupon it is possible to start a detailed search on relevant topics. The aim is to check the works for possible theft suspicion. The project manager is Dr. Ilse von zur Mühlen.

Contact our provenance researchers

Staff

The Provenance Research Department at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen has five staff members.

The Provenance Research Dept. employs a total of five people: the director, Dr Andrea Bambi, art historian, full-time position (chief curator post); Dr Johannes Gramlich, historian, full-time position (fixed-term contract from July 2016 to December 2020); TBD, formerly Johanna Poltermann M.A., art historian, full-time position (fixed-term contract from March 2015 to December 2020); Dr. Ilse von zur Mühlen, currently attached to the cataloguing section (fixed-term contract from July 2017 to June 2019); Anja Zechel M.A., historian, part-time position (permanent). The chief curator’s post and the part-time position are covered by the department’s budget, i.e., are regular positions. The fixed-term contracts are 75 percent financed by the Ministry and 25 percent by third-party funds.

Restitutions

GENERAL SURVEY OF RESTITUTIONS

Since 1998 the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen has restored 14 works from 10 collections to their rightful owners.

Click here for an overview of restitutions to date and further information.

Since the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art were agreed in 1998, the Staatsgemäldesammlungen has made restitution of 14 works. These works had originated from the collections of James von Bleichröder, Eduard Behrens, Josef Block, Curt Glaser, Elisabeth Glanville, Julius Kien, August Liebmann Mayer, Max Meirowsky and Ottmar Strauss. Seven of these restitutions, to the heirs of James von Bleichröder, Eduard Behrens, Julius Kien and August Liebmann Mayer, were initiated proactively by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen.

Proactive research and restitution claims:

In 2017/18, two new provenance reports on works from the collections of Max Stern and Ludwig and Selma Friedmann were created. While the former requieres a restitution, the cause Friedmann was proactively researched and searched for the heirs.''

As a result of proactive research in 2017/2018 the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are restituting a work by Ernst Immanuel Müller to the community of heirs of Ludwig Friedmann (30.10.1880-07.03.1943). The painting entitled "Bauernstube" (Farmhouse Parlour) is to be handed over to one of the heirs Miriam Friedmann, a granddaughter of Ludwig and Selma Friedmann on behalf of the community of heirs.This is the fourteenth work to be restituted by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen since the "Washington Principles" were passed in 1998. As Ludwig and Selma Friedmann were residents of Augsburg and Miriam Friedmann, lives in the city, the restitution will be made at the Schaezlerpalais. It is the community of heirs' wish that, in future, the painting remain in the family. Further information on the restitution can be found here.

In 2006, following a provenance report, the painting The Raising of Lazarus by a south-German master was placed on the internet database Lostart.de, suspected of having been confiscated by the Nazis. In 2016, discussions about the restitution of the painting took place with two firms of lawyers representing the heirs of James von Bleichröder. The restitution took place on 21 July and, thanks to an agreement with the owners’ representatives, the painting was re-acquired by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. Further information on the restitution can be found here.

In 2016 two further provenance reports were produced, on works from the Glaser and Davidsohn collections. In the case of the former a claim for restitution has been made, while in the Davidsohn case the research is proactive, and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are attempting to trace the heirs.

Fritz Salo Glaser (1876‒1956) was a Dresden lawyer and art collector to whom Paul Klee’s painting Harbour Scene (Hafenbild) once belonged. The Staatsgemäldesammlungen received the painting in 1971 as part of the collection of the artist couple Theodor and Woty Werner. It is known that Glaser still owned the work in 1933 and that he tried to sell it in 1936, but there is no trace of it during the period from 1937 to 1968. The heirs of Glaser’s son, represented by a firm of lawyers, and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen are currently attempting to close this gap in the provenance history through an exchange of information and continued research.

In November 1938, the Gestapo confiscated artworks belonging to Julius Davidsohn (1864‒1942), originally from Hanover, and his wife Semaya Franziska (née Hirsch; 1879‒1943) from their Munich apartment. In 1942 the couple were deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where Julius Davidsohn was murdered in August 1942 and Semaya Davidsohn in April 1943. In 1946, the confiscated art objects were taken to the Munich Central Collecting Point. In 1948, since no heirs could be found, the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO), which represented claims in cases of property with missing heirs, made a claim for restitution. Following the compensation agreements between West Germany and eleven western European states of 29 July 1952, collectively known as the Globalabkommen, the JRSO ceded its claim to the Bavarian State, and this is how the art objects confiscated from the Davidsohns in November 1938 came into the possession of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, the Bayerische Nationalmuseum and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, where they remain to this day. The Staatsgemäldesammlungen has now been able to trace the surviving heirs who are living in Germany and, with the assistance of the Jewish Claims Conference Deutschland, are currently looking for remaining heirs in America, England and Zimbabwe. The goal is to restore the artworks to those who have a rightful claim to them today.

On 6 December 2016, the heirs of Alfred Flechtheim filed a suit against the Bavarian State in the Federal District Court in New York, claiming restitution of eight works which were traded and collected by Flechtheim: six paintings by Max Beckmann and one work each by Juan Gris and Paul Klee. The Staatsgemäldesammlungen, however, only came into possession of the works via bequests from Theodor and Woty Werner and Günther Franke in 1971 and 1974, and do not possess any proof of sale from the time of Flechtheim. The claimants assume that the paintings were lost as a result of persecution following Flechtheim’s emigration, while the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen believes, on the basis of current research, that they were legally sold prior to 1933.

In 2015 the Holocaust Claims Processing Office (HCPO), representing the Max Stern Estate, laid claim to the painting Hussars on the March by Hans von Marées, which was acquired by the Staatsgemäldesammlungen at the Karl & Faber auction house in Munich in 1986. In 2016 the HCPO and Staatsgemäldesammlungen exchanged information relating to the work, but since the research by the two parties still leaves fundamental questions unanswered, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen has submitted the case to the Advisory Commission of the German Lost Art Foundation.

The heirs of Carl Hagen have lodged a claim for restitution of the painting The Lemon Slice by Jacob Ochtervelt. This cannot be complied with, since according to the available facts, the painting was not expropriated as a result of persecution under the National Socialists. The painting belonged to Carl Thürling, who gave it to the banking house Hagen & Co., Berlin, as security for a loan, along with 20 other paintings. When the conditions of the loan were complied with in full, the applicant’s claim for restitution of the painting lapsed. The direct heirs of Carl Hagen withdrew their claim for restitution as early as October 1950.

In 2013, the heirs of Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy brought an action in the USA against the Bavarian State for restitution of the painting by Picasso entitled Madame Soler. The claim was rejected on two occasions on the grounds that the State of Bavaria is immune from prosecution in the American courts. Finally, in January 2016, the US Supreme Court in Washington DC, the highest constitutional court in the USA, also dismissed the claim.

Reports of Findings

The Staatsgemäldesammlungen lists research findings on www.lostart.de

In cases where theft or loss caused by Nazi persecution cannot be completely ruled out, the works are registered on the Lost Art website. The online database is open to the public and provides access to the most up-to-date information on the paintings so that potential owners can come forward with their claims. 286 artworks are currently listed on Lost Art (www.lostart.de). The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen is committed to fulfilling its obligation to examine its holdings in keeping with the guidelines on the implementation of the Joint Declaration and the Washington Principles (Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art). This number is increasing steadily, demonstrating that the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen takes its responsibility to inspect its collections and to report looted-art very seriously.

Research into the works is ongoing. Our provenance researchers are consulting additional resources in an attempt to fill in gaps in the chain of ownership and fully clarify the origins of the paintings and sculptures.  

Alfred Flechtheim

Until March 2014, fifteen museums and the website www.alfredflechtheim.com will host exhibitions of artworks whose provenance (ownership history) has a connection with the galleries of Alfred Flechtheim. The works on display came to the respective collections via different routes: some were acquired by the museums directly from Alfred Flechtheim—either as acquisitions or gifts from his collection, or through his contacts. Other works were sold by Flechtheim to third parties and only came to the museums later, mostly after 1945, having changed hands several times in the interim.

The gallery owner Alfred Flechtheim (1878–1937) was a major figure in the art scene of the first third of the 20th century. His support of ‘Rhenish expressionism’, the French avant-garde and German modernism as well as his patronage of such luminaries as Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Paul Klee even brought him international recognition during his lifetime. When the Nazis came to power, however, his life and that of his family changed drastically: in October 1933, Flechtheim was forced to flee Germany—as an art dealer of Jewish origins he was publicly denounced and by 1935 his galleries in Düsseldorf and Berlin had been put into liquation or were continued by his former partners. The remnants of his art collection were transferred abroad, mostly to London where he died after an accident in 1937 at just 59 years of age. His wife Betty, awaiting her pending deportation, committed suicide in 1941. The remaining artworks in her Berlin apartment were confiscated and from then on were thought to be lost.

In 2009, Alfred Flechtheim’s heirs announced their suspicion that numerous works that once belonged to Flechtheim in museum collections in Germany and abroad may have been acquired under duress. The first settlement and restitution of artworks were agreed with the family of Alfred Flechtheim (Bonn, Cologne) in 2012 and 2013. Provenance researchers in the museums have continued since then to work together in accordance with the guidelines on the implementation of the ‘Declaration of the Federal Government of Germany, the German Länder and the National Associations of Local Authorities on the tracing and return of Nazi-confiscated cultural assets, especially from Jewish ownership’, signed in 1999 with the aim of expanding the current body of knowledge and answering unresolved questions. This research was the starting point for the exhibition project, which pays tribute to Alfred Flechtheim’s extraordinary impact as a dealer who promoted artists condemned by the Nazis, and commemorates the abrupt end to his career and the related losses that he experienced as well as the tragic fate of his family.

It is not always possible to provide seamless documentation on the provenance of artworks, as important records are often lost due to persecution, war, flight and emigration or cannot be accessed because of privacy rights. Flechtheim’s business records at the Mayor Gallery were destroyed by the German Air force during the London blitz of September 1940, the Royal Air Force bombed the Düsseldorf gallery in 1943 and no known documents have survived from the Berlin gallery. Because of these circumstances, even now 76 years after Alfred Flechtheim’s death and despite years of international research, it has not yet been possible to conclusively reconstruct the chain of ownership of all of his artworks. 

News

Official statement from the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in direct response to the article by Catrin Lorch and Jörg Häntzschel: “Der Münchner Raubkunst-Basar”, printed in the weekend edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 25/26 June 2016

You can download the official statement here.

„Raub von Kulturgut. Der Zugriff des NS-Staats auf jüdischen Kunstbesitz in München und seine Nachgeschichte“
('In the sights of the NS state: the seizure of art in Jewish ownership in Munich 1938/39’)

In January 2015, the City of Munich, the Städtische Galerie at Lenbachhaus, the Jüdisches Museum and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen initiated a project in cooperation with the chair of contemporary history at Universität Erfurt, Professor Christiane Kuller. Within the framework of the project, contemporary historian Dr Jan Schleusener will investigate the confiscation of artworks that began mid-November 1938 targeting art dealers and other art owners in Munich and the surrounding areas who were Jewish or classed as Jewish according to the racial definitions of the Nazis.

Further information (PDF)

Description of the publication (PDF)

A closer look at provenance research in AVISO 3/2015

Provenance research and dealing with the consequences of the looting of art by the Nazis is an extremely important part of museum work for Dr Bernhard Maaz, General Director of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. In this edition of the journal AVISO, Maaz writes: 'This chapter of history can never be fully closed and morally will always preoccupy us, but from the historical aspect we must continue to pursue it with every means at our disposal’. In addition to General Director Maaz’s detailed statement on provenance research, the journal presents ongoing research projects at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen and other Bavarian institutions such as the Nationalmuseum and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte. AVISO thus offers a comprehensive introduction to the various initiatives that are being undertaken in Bavaria to clarify the provenance of artworks, to identify looted art and to return stolen paintings and sculptures to the families of the victims.

Link to the online version of AVISO 3/2015 in German as e-paper 

 Alfred Flechtheim – Looted art and restitution

The Provenance Research Department at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen regularly makes contributions to the wider field of research. The most recent result of this engagement is a publication co-edited by Dr Andrea Bambi on the topic of looted art and restitution, taking the case of Alfred Flechtheim as an example. Until his death in 1937, Flechtheim was one of the most important art dealers of his time. As an outstanding art collector, dealer and patron, he represented some of the foremost masters of early modernist art such as Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso and was later forced into exile by the Nazis. What happened to his pictures is still not fully clear today.

In this collected volume, international scholars from various fields discuss topical questions on the restitution of looted artworks from an interdisciplinary perspective with the aid of case studies.

Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte:
Andrea Bambi/Axel Drecoll (eds.): ‘Alfred Flechtheim. Kunstraub und Restitution’,  
Munich 2015, De Gruyter Oldenbourg Verlag, 303 pages, €24.95

Link to the publisher’s website

Link to a review by Jürgen Lillteicher (in German)
 

Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern (Provenance Research Network Bavaria)

The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections), are a founding member of the Research Network Provenance Research Bavaria, which was established by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture in May 2015. The network seeks to promote provenance research in Bavaria through intensified cooperation. To this end, important files from participating institutions will be digitally indexed and made accessible to the network. Relevant data and facts will be made available to all participating researchers via a digital platform. At the same time, training in the field of provenance research is to be strengthened. Next to the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, the following institutions intend to become founding members of the network: Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian National Museum), the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung (Munich State Collection of Prints and Drawings) and the General Directorate of the Bavarian State Archives, also the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute for Art History), the Institut für Kunstgeschichte (Institute of Art History) of the LMU Munich, the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin) as well as Landesstelle für die nicht-staatlichen Museen (Bavarian Office for Non-State Museums).  Further public institutions in Bavaria may join the network.

to the official press release (in German)