The Jewish Museum's art collection has been established and developed entirely after the museum was founded since, in contrast to the Collection of Ceremonial Art, the art collection had no original foundation on which to build.
Moritz Daniel Oppenheim: Joseph Baer (1767–1851), c. 1840. oil on canvas, 59x 50 cm
The museum's art collection has various priority areas. The collection contains, for example, some outstanding 19th-century paintings, including works by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800–1882), the first unconverted Jewish artist to be trained at a state art academy. During his training and in the years afterwards, Oppenheim not only spent time in Munich and Paris, but also in Rome where he belonged to the circle of Nazarene artists around Friedrich Overbeck.
Initially, his subjects were primarily religious. However, in 1825 after he had returned to Frankfurt, he started to make a name for himself as a portrait painter.
Oppenheim painted numerous portraits of figures in the Jewish community, particularly of the Rothschild family, and became the artist of the emancipated Jewish bourgeoisie.
Moritz Daniel Oppenheim: Hanna Baer (1773–1843), c. 1840. oil on canvas, 59x 50 cm
The permanent collection also includes the portraits of Hanna Baer (1773–1843) and her husband Joseph Baer (1767–1851), acquired in 2004. Joseph Baer founded the Frankfurt business Joseph Baer & Co. which became a major antiquarian bookseller and bookshop.
Eduard Julius Friedrich Bendemann (1811–1889), another important 19th-century artist and leading member of the Düsseldorf School, is represented in the permanent exhibition with a version of his painting The Mourning Jews in Exile (before 1830).
Bendemann was born in Berlin to a converted Jewish banker's family. During the Second World War, many of his most important works and nearly all his large-scale paintings were destroyed. His graphic works have been widely dispersed and are hardly known, especially since only a small proportion of them are in public collections.
Eduard Bendemann: By the Waters of Babylon (The Mourning Jews in Exile) (after 1832), oil on canvas, 71 x 103 cm
Jakob Steinhardt: Cain fleeing, Berlin, probably from the time of the Pathetiker (Pathos) Group, c. 1912, oil on canvas, reverse of a canvas painted on both sides, 95 x 75 cm. Front: Schnapsschänke (Liquor tavern, c. 1920)
Art works from the period before 1933 form another main area of the collection. The permanent exhibition includes, for instance, a canvas painted on both sides with the works Kain fliehend (Cain fleeing) (c. 1912) / Schnapsschänke (Liquor tavern) (1920) by the well-know expressionist artist Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968).
However, the collection is also especially designed to raise public awareness of those artists who were defamed and driven into exile, and are now largely forgotten. Such figures include the two Frankfurt artists Hanns Ludwig Katz (1892–1940), a second generation German Expressionist painter, as well as Samson Fritz Schames (1898–1967) forced into exile in 1938 after the Night of Broken Glass, and only able to take a few of his paintings with him.
Thanks to a number of acquisitions by the museum and generous donations from Edith Schames, the artist's widow, it is now possible to show changing works from different phases of Schames' oeuvre in the permanent exhibition.
The Collection of Prints and Drawings contains prints from over three hundred years. Portfolios of prints are one main area of the collection. These range from the 10 Plagues, woodblock prints from 1921, by Jakob Steinhardt, illustrating the Pesach Haggadah, to various series of prints by Frankfurt artist Jakob Nussbaum (1873–1936), including 30 lithographs from charcoal sketches of the landscape of Tenerife (1912), 15 lithographs from French war zones (1917), 12 lithographs of Frankfurt city views (1921), 10 etchings of landscapes in Palestine (1925), as well as original sketches showing portraits of family members.
The museum also gained a substantial group of prints and drawings in 2003, when writer and critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki donated his entire collection of portraits of writers and poets. Reich-Ranicki's collection was built up over decades and comprises a history of literature in printed and sketched portraits. It also has a particular focus as well, since the majority of those depicted in the portraits fled Germany and Austria in the 1930s. The artists themselves were usually of Jewish origin and belonged to the best known portrait painters in Germany before 1933, such as Hermann Struck (1876–1944), Eugen Spiro (1874–1972) and Emil Orlik (1870–1932).
Jakob Nussbaum: Tiberias, Mosque, etching, 24 x 31.3 cm
Jakob Steinhardt: 10 Plagues, 1921, woodblock prints on Japanese paper, 24 x 24 cm
In 2007, a donation by Akademie der Künste Berlin provided the museum with a further group of 40 etchings from different series by the artist Lea Grundig (1906–1977). Since the works primarily date from 1934 to 1936, they offer the perspective of a Jewish artist and committed communist on the emergence and increasing dominance of National Socialism.
Both the Collection of Paintings and the Collection of Prints and Drawings are being gradually expanded; one aim in this process is to enlarge the collections' holding of art works from the second half of the twentieth century.
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