Ink painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner "Die Panama Girls"
Nazi-looted cultural property

Lothar-Günther Buchheim and the art market

Buchheim Museum Bernried holds exhibition on research findings

In its studio exhibition Lothar-Günther Buchheim and the Art Market, the Buchheim Museum Bernried sheds light on the activities of collector and dealer Lothar-Günther Buchheim (1918-2007) as a protagonist in the art market. Starting on 16 March 2024, the exhibition shows a selection of some two dozen unique works on paper from the ongoing provenance research project Zeichnungen & Aquarelle der ‘Brücke’-Künstler [Drawings and watercolours by artists of the ‘Brücke’ movement], funded by the German Lost Art Foundation, and placing them in context in terms of where they were acquired.

The auction houses mentioned in this connection are the Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Klipstein & Kornfeld in Bern, the Munich auction houses Neumeister, Karl & Faber and Wolfgang Ketterer, and Hauswedell & Nolte in Hamburg. From at least 1952 onwards, Buchheim purchased works at auction by such artists as Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.

The exhibition features two drawings by Fritz Bleyl as examples of acquisitions from artists’ collections: Buchheim had sought contact with Bleyl’s son Wolfgang. Munich art dealer Günther Franke is also mentioned as an example of an intermediary in connection with Emil Nolde’s Kopfstützende Frau[Woman resting her head]. Meanwhile, Buchheim will have acquired Bildnis von Hugo Robinson [Portrait of Hugo Robinson] by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff from a private source, namely the collector Käte Bernard-Robinson.

With no inventory of the collection available, nothing was known about any of these circumstances of acquisition at the start of the project. Drawing on the auction catalogues preserved in the Buchheims’ private library and the handwritten notes left inside them, as well as a small number of invoice papers from the Buchheims’ archive, it was possible to reconstruct initial chains of provenance, and these were then further expanded thanks to the support of the auction houses in question and additional source research.

One focus of the project was on clarifying the provenance of Liegendes Mädchen [Reclining Girl], 1911, by Erich Heckel from the collection of Erfurt industrialist Alfred Hess (1879-1931), which bears Hess’s collector’s stamp at the edge. When Hess’ wife Tekla and his son Hans were persecuted as Jews by the Nazi regime, some items of the collection were confiscated, while others were saved from confiscation by being moved abroad by the family or were restituted after the war. The task was now to clarify which group this watercolour belonged to. Based on research into Buchheim’s frequent bidding activities at auctions, it was possible to establish that this work must have been the painting known as Schlafende [Sleeping Woman] offered at the 25th auction at Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett on 27 November 1956. The Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett Roman Norbert Ketterer Archive subsequently confirmed not only that Buchheim had acquired the watercolour there, but also that Tekla Hess herself had consigned the work for sale in 1956. In this way it was possible to invalidate an initial suspicion that the work may have been Nazi-looted art.

All the findings of the current project are available online at:

The QR codes placed next to and below the exhibits in the graphics cabinet provide direct access to the findings in words and images, along with references to work-related literature and exhibitions.