Ernst Seeger was the Councillor of Commerce who purchased many works by Leibl and helped him financially.
The painting has its highly eventful history. Firstly it had belonged to the sitter himself's collection who however sold it in 1908. In 1913/1914 the picture was recorded in the Caspari Gallery of Munich. In the early 1916 it was purchased by Carl Sachs in the Arnold Gallery of Dresden.
Carl Sachs offered the artwork quite often as a deposit. The painting was offered to the public at two exhibitions dedicated to German 19th Century Painting, which took place in 1917 in Basel and Zurich, as well as at exhibitions dedicated to Leibl, which took place in Berlin and Colony (1929).
As the national socialists came in authority the Jewish collector Carl Sachs lost a large amount of his artworks. He managed however to take a few paintings to Switzerland. Therefore the Portrait of Ernst Seeger reached in 1934 Zurich and in 1939 Basel, where Sachs settled.
With his settlement in Switzerland and since his collection in Germany had been totally looted Sachs was forced to have his paintings sold off, in order to gain maintenance. The painting by Leibl reached in 1940 the Fischer Gallery in Luzern, from where it was purchased by the German antique dealer Haberstock who took the painting back to Germany.
By the end of the War the allies captured the artwork for the Collecting Points of Munich, since Karl Haberstock was admitted to be a highly equivocal antique dealer. However the authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany returned this and other artworks to Karl Haberstock afterwards. The same antique dealer sold the portrait in 1954, with assistance of the Böhler Gallery of Munich, to the Kunsthalle in Bremen.
Emil Waldmann, Kunst der Realismus und Impressionismus [series: Propyläen-Kunstgeschichte], Berlin 1930, p. 306
Emil Waldmann, Wilhelm Leibl. Eine Darstellung seiner Kunst. Berlin 1930, Cat. No. 254
- Dr. Hans-Joachim Hinz