The Collection of Carl Sachs

Published on: 13 / 12 / 2009

Authors of this entry:
  • Magdalena Palica

Born in Jauer (today’s Jawor), Carl Sachs was one of the first grand art collectors of Breslau’s Jewish community. His first professional experience came from working for his uncle’s trade company in Landeshut (today’s Kamienna Góra). After the uncle’s death Carl Sachs moved to Breslau and started a haberdashery trade business.

Formerly on decline, the company Forell & Co. (producing and selling haberdashery and undergarments) improved considerably under his management and opened its branches in Berlin and Danzig (today’s Gdańsk). Sachs married Margarete Forell, the daughter of the company’s owner and together they moved into a villa in Kleinburgstrasse 18/20 (today ul. Januszowicka, the building does not exist), built in 1907. The villa was designed by Fritz Behrendt and its walls were decorated with paintings from Sachs’s collection. Among those of the collector’s guests who had a chance to see his collection during the following years were art critics Julius Meier-Graefe and Karl Scheffler.

Sachs who was fluent in English, French and Italian travelled a lot around Europe and Northern Africa. Thanks to his close contacts with famous art critics his collection of great works of art quickly expanded. In putting together a collection of prints Sachs was advised by an expert in contemporary prints, Loys Henri Delteil, who facilitated some of the purchases. The collector acquired numerous works of art at auctions, e.g. he bought many French authors’ prints at the auction of Tadeusz Natanson’s collection. One of the jewels of his collection, an outstanding

and it still is the pride of this museum. Little more than a year after Sachs’s departure from Breslau, the works of art which he left behind were taken over by the state, in spite of the collector’s attempts to send them abroad (a part of them was moved to the city museum in Görlitz). The collector died in exile in Basel in 1943.

The article is based on the book: M. Palica, Od Delacroix do van Gogha. Żydowskie kolekcje sztuki w dawnym Wrocławiu (in print).

Formerly on decline, the company Forell & Co. (producing and selling haberdashery and undergarments) improved considerably under his management and opened its branches in Berlin and Danzig (today’s Gdańsk). Sachs married Margarete Forell, the daughter of the company’s owner and together they moved into a villa in Kleinburgstrasse 18/20 (today ul. Januszowicka, the building does not exist), built in 1907. The villa was designed by Fritz Behrendt and its walls were decorated with paintings from Sachs’s collection. Among those of the collector’s guests who had a chance to see his collection during the following years were art critics Julius Meier-Graefe and Karl Scheffler.

Sachs who was fluent in English, French and Italian travelled a lot around Europe and Northern Africa. Thanks to his close contacts with famous art critics his collection of great works of art quickly expanded. In putting together a collection of prints Sachs was advised by an expert in contemporary prints, Loys Henri Delteil, who facilitated some of the purchases. The collector acquired numerous works of art at auctions, e.g. he bought many French authors’ prints at the auction of Tadeusz Natanson’s collection. One of the jewels of his collection, an outstanding portrait of countess Pourtales by Renoir, was probably purchased at the auction of a famous Dresden collection of Rothermundt. Sachs was also a client of Berlin art dealers, e.g. Cassirer, where he most probably bought another brilliant painting – „Portrait of Victor Jacquemont Holding a Parasol” by Monet (today in Kunsthaus in Zurich). This masterpiece, together with eighteen other works from the collection of Sachs could be admired by the citizens of Breslau at the fourth exhibition of contemporary painting organized in the Silesian Museum of Fine Arts in spring 1911. Five years later another exhibition was organized in the art salon of Ernst Arnold, presenting only paintings and graphics from the collection of Carl Sachs. We do not know much about the arrangement of the works of art in the collector’s villa, but it seems that the central point of the exposition was Auguste Renoir'sPortrait of Countess Pourtalès” (today in Museu de Arte de São Paulo), since it was mentioned first by numerous connoisseurs describing the collection. The assemblage was supplemented by canvases of Courbet, Delacroix, Pissarro and Sisley. Another important part of it were works of German artists, including paintings by Max Liebermann, Max Slevogt, Lovis Corinth, Hans von Marées i Carl Spitzweg as well as sculptures by Georg Kolbe.

However, the paintings were not the core part of Sachs’s collection. His main interests were focused on prints. Many of them were presented to the Breslau audience at the exhibition in 1916 displaying the works of Ludwig Richter, Hans von Marées, Käthe Kollwitz and drawings by Adolph von Menzel. . These works by German authors were accompanied by prints of their contemporaries from other European countries such as famous Belgian Félicien Rops and Frenchmen Louis Legrand and Adolph Willette. Sachs started collecting prints intensively after WW1. The first grand presentation of the selected works from his sizeable collection took place in 1929 in the building of General Headquarters in Schweidnitzer Strasse. The public could admire works of the most famous artists, including Honoré Daumier, Henri de Tolouse-Lautrec and Edvard Munch. A financial crisis forced Sachs to sell a notable part of his precious collection in 1931. The collector did it through reputable auction houses of Carl Gustav Boerner and Paul Cassirer. Art dealers organizing the auction decided to precede it with displays of Sachs’s works of art which confirms the high quality of the collection. On 22nd of October the collection of prints belonging to Sachs was presented to the public in Casirer’s salon in Amsterdam. The exhibition was continued in Berlin (also in Cassirer’s salon) and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig, where the auction took place on 6th of November. The exhibition presented 460 pieces, e.g. graphics of Goya, Corot, Munch, Picasso, Tolouse-Lautrec and Whistler) and original drawings (e.g. by van Gogh).

Carl Sachs was renowned in Breslau as a marvelous collector supporting exhibitions organized in the city with works belonging to his collection. He achieved a particular recognition in 1931, when, despite the economic crisis, he donated his whole collection of German artists’ prints and drawings to the Silesian Museum of Fine Arts. After receiving them, the museum organized a special exhibition presenting the donation of Carl Sachs. The works of such artists as Max Liebermann, Max Slevogt, Lovis Corinth and Käthe Kollwitz were especially important as those artists had not previously been properly represented in the museums in Breslau.

The economic crisis of the late 1920s forced many connoisseurs of art in Breslau to partially sell out their properties. As we know, Sachs decided to sell European masters’ prints in 1931. Truly grave problems for Jewish collectors began with the Nazis’ rise to power. In 1933 Sachs who since the beginning of 1930s suffered from worsening eyesight, especially hard for an art collector, received bad news. He was removed from the Supervisory Board of the Silesian Museum of Fine Arts, the institution which he supported for many years and to which he donated a notable part of his collection. Once considered a respected patron of the arts, Sachs suddenly became an unwelcome guest in the Museum and he quickly realized that his precious collection is not safe in Breslau anymore. As early as in September 1934 he decided to deposit four paintings in Kunsthaus in Zurich. At the beginning of the following year there were already 22 objects from his collection in the warehouses of that institution, including the most precious ones, such as canvases by Courbet, Delacroix, Monet, Pissarro, Sisleya and Renoir as well as German painters (e.g. Hans von Marées, Hans Thoma, Carl Spitzweg). Various charges imposed on Jews, such as Judenvermögensangabe (a wealth tax, including possessed works of art) and Reichsfluchtsteuer (a tax on leaving Reich) ruined Sachs financially. In February 1939 the 80-years old collector managed to emigrate together with his wife to Switzerland, where, thanks to his foresight, a part of his collection was stored. Out of all his property from Breslau, he was left with only 10 marks in cash. Loans taken out on the pledge of the works of art deposited in Zurich provided him means to live in exile. Eventually Sachs decided to sell a few paintings with the help of art dealer Fritz Nathan. The portrait of Jacquemont by Monet was bought by Kunsthaus in Zurich in 1939 and it still is the pride of this museum. Little more than a year after Sachs’s departure from Breslau, the works of art which he left behind were taken over by the state, in spite of the collector’s attempts to send them abroad (a part of them was moved to the city museum in Görlitz). The collector died in exile in Basel in 1943.

The article is based on the book: M. Palica, Od Delacroix do van Gogha. Żydowskie kolekcje sztuki w dawnym Wrocławiu (in print).

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