From engravings depicting Jewish life in German lands in the 16th century to abstract works by German-Jewish émigrés in the second half of the 20th century, the works in the art collection complement the archival and library collections as a visual record of German-Jewish history. Among the thousands of paintings, sculptures, watercolors, drawings, and prints are many fine works of great artistic and historical significance. More importantly, the art collection in its totality forms an unparalleled documentation of the material culture of German-speaking Jewry.
The emergence of an assimilated and educated German-Jewish middle class in the 19th century, for instance, is evident in the work of Daniel Moritz Oppenheim. His work and career attests to the new opportunities afforded by the emancipation. Born in the Hanau ghetto near Frankfurt, he became the first Jew to achieve prominence as a painter while remaining observant, painting scenes of Jewish daily life as well as portraits of patrons including the Rothschild family, Emperor Josef II, and the Jewish enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn.
A significant body of works from Berlin Secession artists such as Max Liebermann and Hermann Struck mirrors the development of new aesthetic and political perspectives at the turn of the 20th century. Each of these artists dealt with the horrors of World War I, and Struck in particular explored Jewish themes and Zionism in his work.
In many cases, LBI’s art holdings are complemented by significant documentary and archival holdings that illuminate the life and work of an individual artist. The Prague-born illustrator Hugo Steiner-Prag for instance, created iconic images for Gustav Meyrink’s 1916 novel, Der Golem as well as the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allen Poe. In addition to hundreds of drawings and prints in the Art Collection, LBI Archives preserve Steiner-Prag’s correspondence and manuscripts.
LBI’s art collection also includes many works by non-Jewish artists, many of them donated by Jewish collectors and their heirs, that speak volumes about the roles that Jews played in German society and the Zeitgeist of the respective era. A portrait of the children of Hermann Wronker, the owner of a large chain of department stores, was painted by Adolf Ziegler, who went on to become chief exponent and enforcer of the Nazi aesthetic as the curator of the “Degenerate Art” exhibition of 1937.
Another such work, Anselm Feurbach’s “Head of A Girl,” was donated to LBI by the heirs of a Leipzig furrier after it was returned to them in a restitution case.
The Leo Baeck Institute mounts exhibits in the Katherine and Clifford H. Goldsmith Gallery on a variety of themes illustrated with items from its own collections. Material for the LBI art collection is frequently requested and made available on loan to museums, galleries, and exhibitions around the world.
For questions regarding the LBI art collection and exhibitions please contact the curator Renata Stein.
Highlights of the LBI Art Collection