Ludwig Meidner, Groteske Szene (Ausschnitt) aus einem Skizzenbuch 1941–1947

Ludwig Meidner Archive

Exiled Jewish Artists

The Jewish Museum has been in charge of the artistic estate of Ludwig Meidner since 1994 and administers it through its Ludwig Meidner Archive. Other estates of artists forced into exile during the Nazi era because of their Jewish origins have been added in the meantime.

For many artists, exile represented a dramatic break in their career. Emigration often meant the loss of museum commissions, scholarships, patrons and gallery owners. Not all the artists succeeded in making a new beginning abroad; many of them also fell into oblivion in Germany.

The Ludwig Meidner Archive handles a series of estates of such artists. Ludwig Meidner (1884-1966) is the most prominent among them and the Archive takes its name from him. The estate of this painter, draughtsman and writer, who became famous as an Expressionist and later devoted himself intensely to religious themes, contains about 2,000 works. The Archive strives to document his work, for example, by publishing a catalogue raisonné of his sketch books in 2013 or the work-in-progress on the catalogue raisonné of his paintings. It is also the owner of copyright on Meidner’s artistic oeuvre and deals with corresponding copyright issues.

Letter from Ludwig Meidner to Jane Kern, neé Hannelore Rothschild, dated 13 February 1949

As we are not in a position to exhibit our artworks, especially as the costs are prohibitive, and as no one who is in any way an expert seems them, I no longer have any real judgement on them and no critical distance to my works.

Else Meidner

Else Meidner, self-portrait, 1961/62
Else Meidner’s most frequent motif is the portrait. She painted and drew hundreds of self-portraits, which are impressive psychogramms and also witnesses to her increasing isolation and demoralisation.

Else Meidner, neé Meyer (1900-1987), former student and later wife of Ludwig Meidner, was also an artist. Her very promising career came to a halt in 1933, however, and she also failed to achieve the hoped for artistic breakthrough while in exile in England. The almost 2,200 works in her estate include not only paintings and etchings from her Berlin years, but also numerous oil paintings and drawings from her time in exile.

Kurt Levy

Gouache von Kurt Levy, Die Seereise, 1960
Kurt Levy, Die Seereise, 1960 © Ludwig Meidner-Archiv, Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Whereas exile for the Meidners was a dramatic caesura in their work, it marked the beginning of a successful career for the artist Kurt Levy (1911-1987), whose estate contains 1,200 works. In the 25 years he lived in Columbia, he advanced to become a recognised artist and professor at Barranquilla University there, and his paintings were shown in numerous exhibitions.

Arie Goral

Ölgemälde von Arie Goral, Ohne Titel, aus der Serie „Israelische Ikonen“, 1968
Arie Goral, Ohne Titel, aus der Serie „Israelische Ikonen“, 1968 © Ludwig Meidner-Archiv, Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Arie Goral (born Walter Sternheim, 1909-1996) gained fame as a poet and strident journalist. The 1,700 artworks in his estate, however, testify to the militant activist’s more sensitive side. Goral began painting in Israel, where he set up a painting school for children in a kibbutz.

H. Henry Gowa

This photo was taken during his time as director of the Werkkunstschule Offenbach, 1955 © Nachlass Henry Gowa

The painter and stage designer H. Henry Gowa (born Hermann Gowa, 1902-1990) went underground in a southern French mountain village in 1943 so as to avoid deportation. The more than 1,200 work and countless documents in his estate show him to have been a border-crosser between Germany and France and a keen advocate of cultural exchange in the post-war years.


Ida ("Adi") Ritter

Ida ("Adi") Ritter, self-portrait
Ida ("Adi") Ritter, self-portrait, oil paiting, 1920-35, donation by Ulrike and Klaus Voswinckel © Jewish Museum Frankfurt, CC BY SA 4.0

Ida ("Adi") Ritter, née Lauinger (1900-1975) fled with her husband, the writer Fritz (Frederick) Ritter (1896-1987) in May 1939, first to the Bahamas and then to the United States. The 1.000 works in her estate are early works from her years in Berlin, paintings done during emigration and later works from the period when the Ritters were living in Switzerland.