Born in a Jewish family, Ismar Littmann completed doctorate studies in law. In 1906 he settled in Breslau where he opened a notary's office in Schweidnitzerstrasse. About 10 years later he commenced to collect art, including numerous works of the artists related to the Academy of Fine Arts in Breslau, many of whom he knew personally. Littmann was an active member of the city's cultural life, he lobbied for founding a Jewish Museum in Breslau. His ambition was to exhibit the works of art he owned to the public, which came true in 1930, when an exhibition of selected works from his collection was arranged in the villa formerly belonging to the Neissers. Another exhibition at the same location followed 3 years later. After and partly due to the Nazis' rise to power the collector's financial situation rapidly deteriorated to catastrophic levels and he committed suicide in 1934.
The size of Littmann's collection was impressive, as it consisted of over 6000 objects. 300 of them were paintings and the rest was divided between watercolors, drawings and prints. One of the artists which were most valued by Littmann was Lovis Corinth, whose over 600 works found their way to the collection. The collector owned also numerous works by nowadays almost forgotten Jewish artists from Breslau, such as Heinrich Tischler and Isidor Aschheim. The core of the collection were the expressionist works by Otto Mueller, Käthe Kollwitz, Georg Grosz, Emil Nolde and Oskar Kokoschka.
Sammlung Rudolf Ibach-Barmen und Beiträge aus der Sammlung Dr. Littmann - Breslau, Paul Graupe, Auktion 104, 21-22 März 1932, Berlin 1932
Anja Heuss, Der Schicksal der jüdischen Kunstsammlung von Ismar Littmann. Ein neuer Fall von Kunstraub wirft grundsätzliche Fragen auf, „Neue Zürcher Zeitung“ 188 (17 August 1998), p. 23
Caroline Metzner, Die Sammlung Ismar Littmann. Eine jüdische Sammlung in Breslau während der Weimarer Republik, Berlin 2008 [master thesis written at Freien Universität in Berlin]
Anja Heuss, Die Sammlung Littman und die Aktion „Entartete Kunst“, [in:] Raub und Restitution. Kulturgut aus jüdischem Besitz von 1933 bis heute, I. Bertz, M. Dorrmann (ed.), Berlin 2008, p. 69-74
Part of the collection (over 200 works on paper) was auctioned in Paul Graupe's salon in Berlin in March 1932. In November of the same year another auction of objects from Littmann's collection, arranged by the auction house Kunstkabinett, took place in the tenement house "The Golden Ostrich" in Breslau.
- Magdalena Palica