Lovis Corinth (1858–1925)
Tyrolean with Cat (1913)
oil on canvas, 47.24 x 36.22 in. (120 x 92 cm)
Lovis Corinth’s painting, Tyrolean with Cat, was painted in 1913, and a decade later was in the collection of Fritz (1871-1944) and Thea (1888-1944) Goldschmidt of then Breslau, Germany, today the city of Wrocław, Poland.
Fritz was a successful Jewish entrepreneur, co-founding the grain company Koppenheim & Goldschmidt in 1898 and later pursuing business opportunities in real estate and finance. He was also a civil servant, serving as a regional commercial judge and the temporary president of the Breslau Product Exchange (Produktenbörse Breslau). The Goldschmidts were important members of Breslau society, funding a Jewish hospital, fundraising for a local Jewish school, and co-founding a Jewish museum along with other, local Jewish art collectors. They housed an impressive art collection of many German modernist in their villa at Kommendeweg, and would often loan works for exhibitions throughout Germany.
Discrimination against Germany’s Jewish population began in 1933 with the rise of the Nazi Party. Fritz was soon forced to resign from his presidency at the Schlesische Getreide-Kreditbank AG. He was eventually forced to sell companies as the Nazis “Aryanized” Jewish businesses. Goldschmidts’ three sons were sent out of Germany, settling in the United States, United Kingdom, and then British-controlled Palestine for their own safety.
The Goldschmidts’ financial situation worsened as the discrimination progressed. In 1936, Thea sold nine sculptures from Auguste Gaul’s series The Little Animal Park through the Auktionshaus Paul Graupe in Berlin. A small group of paintings were sent with the Goldschmidt sons and some family friends who were also fleeing the country, but much of their collection remained in Breslau. In 1937, the Goldschmidts were forced to move out of the villa at Kommendeweg and into smaller accommodations at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Strasse 186. They retained the majority of their possessions when they moved but were forced to sell portions at very low prices, including their children’s furniture and their car. Fritz was arrested by the Gestapo on the night of Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, but was released the next day, most likely due to his high position in the Breslau Product Exchange. But his local reputation could no longer protect he and Thea from further persecution. By this time, Nazi laws required German Jews to register their property with the Reich, and further possessions were expropriated from the Goldschmidts, including gold coins, Thea’s large jewelry collection, and a myriad of other personal valuables. The Nazi authorities were also closely involved with non-Jewish members of the art community and shipping agencies in targeting Jewish art collections.
From correspondence the couple wrote at the time, they expressed fear that they would be forced to move again, and if so, would have to sell the remainder of their art collection. The couple’s fears became reality when in 1940 they were forced to move a second time, to an even smaller apartment at Tauenzienplatz 1b, formerly Fritz’s office.
By 1940, Fritz and Thea no longer owned most of their collection and were selling the remaining works, often below fair market prices, to survive. Even through the constant persecution persisted, the Goldschmidts still held out hope that Germany would normalize; they visited their sons in 1942 but told them they weren’t ready to join them yet. Tragically, Fritz and Thea Goldschmidt were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in June 1943, before being transferred to Auschwitz in 1944, where they were murdered. Postcards from Thea revealed that they could only take with them to Theresienstadt what they could carry and that the most valuable works had already been sold. Everything else was left behind in the small apartment and was seized by the Nazis. Tyrolean with Cat was not taken abroad by their sons or friends and would have been one of the works either sold under duress or seized after the Goldschmidts were deported.
Tyrolean with Cat remained in Germany in a private collection until 1950, when it was at the Graphic Arts Cabinet, Bremen (Graphisches Kabinett), now the Wolfgang Werner Gallery (Kunsthandel Wolfgang Werner) for seven years. It was sold on November 21, 1957, at the Math. Lempertz auction house in Cologne, and it is thought that the seller had merely lent the painting to the Bremen gallery, but without documentation we are unable to say for certain. From 1957 to 2006 the painting again languished in a private collection somewhere in the Rhineland. A sale was attempted at Villa Grisebach Auktionen, Berlin, in November 2004, but the work did not sell. It did sell on November 29, 2006, again at Lempertz, and its most recent sale was at Auktionshaus im Kinsky in Vienna on June 17, 2008.
After the war, the Goldschmidt sons reconstructed the inventory of their parents’ collection and filed a case with Germany for financial restitution. In 1961, aware that the painting had sold at Lempertz four years prior, one of the sons approached the auction house for information but was rejected. The Goldschmidt heirs have never received compensation for, nor restitution of, any works lost from the collection as a result of Nazi persecution.