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Provenance Research

With ownership comes responsibility—which is why the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart has been committed to provenance research since 2014. It investigates the origin history and changes in ownership of the artworks in the collection and examines whether they include assets seized as a result of persecution by the Nazi regime. The long-term objective is to review all of the artworks acquired in the period from 1933 to 1945 and since 1945. Taking into account all of the genres represented in the collection, this entails several thousand artworks. At the same time, we are also conducting research into the institutional and collection history of the Städtische Galerie Stuttgart and, from 1961 on, the Galerie der Stadt Stuttgart—the forerunners of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart.

Dr. Kai Artinger

Provenance Research
+49 (0)711 / 216 196 13
kai [dot] artinger [at] kunstmuseum-stuttgart [dot] de

The Kunstmuseum Stuttgart sees itself committed to the goals of the Washington Principles of 1998 and the 1999 Common Statement adopted by the German federal government, states, and municipal umbrella organizations regarding the location and restitution of cultural property, especially from Jewish ownership, confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution.

Thanks to the financial backing initially provided by the Provenance Research Office and then with funding from the German Lost Art Foundation, we were able to successfully carry out the first provenance research project from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2017. The project was primarily devoted to the paintings of Otto Dix and a portion of the paintings acquired from 1933 to 1945.

Since 2017 the provenance research project has been continued with financial support from the City of Stuttgart. As a result, another large group of the paintings was investigated. In February 2020, the investigation began on the graphic collection of the Städtische Galerie Stuttgart established during the National Socialist era. Provenance research in this area is extremely challenging because scarcely any sources on the acquisition of graphics purchased during this period exist. The inventory lists and many other important documents were destroyed by fire in the war.

While the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is a relatively young museum (est. 2005), the history of its origin and development is complex and complicated. The history of its forerunner institutions and especially that of the municipal collection under National Socialism have until now largely remained unexamined. Kai Artinger, in connection with his work as a provenance researcher at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, has closed this gap in the research for the painting collection. He has also comprehensively uncovered and detailed the history of the municipal gallery’s development and its painting collection—which you can read about in his book Das Kunstmuseum Stuttgart im Nationalsozialismus: Der Traum vom Museum "schwäbischer" Kunst (The Kunstmuseum Stuttgart: The dream of a museum of "Swabian" art).

Current and completed projects and restitutions

The mysterious provenance of the ‘double Dix’

Otto Dix’s “Self-Portrait as Soldier” (verso: “Self-Portrait with Artillery Helmet,” 1914) is among the most significant works in the Dix Collection of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. Its provenance, however, was not clarified until July 2021. New research reveals that this work was acquired by the young Austrian secretary Paula Risch (1897–1999)—under mysterious circumstances. She was unaware that there was a second self-portrait on the back of the painting, even though the artwork had been hanging in her home for decades.

Lost Art Database Reports

The Kunstmuseum Stuttgart has to date reported ten paintings to the Lost Art Databank of the German Lost Art Foundation—including an early work by the Dutch landscape painter Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709) and a history painting by an unknown Dutch painter that until recently was attributed to Philip van Dijk (1683–1753). Both paintings were among the costliest postwar acquisitions. The city purchased them for 400,000 Reichsmarks from an art dealer who is suspected of having been involved in the Nazi theft of cultural goods.

The Käthe Loewenthal Restitution Case

The Asparagus Still Life (1941) by Käthe Loewenthal (1878–1942) was acquired by the Städtischen Galerie Stuttgart in 1972. Research has revealed that the painting was confiscated in connection with Nazi persecution. Under the Nazi regime Loewenthal was prohibited from working and in 1942 ultimately deported and murdered. In 2019 Loewenthal’s descendants decided that the painting should remain in the collection of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. As part of a fair and equitable solution, the community of heirs donated the artwork to the City of Stuttgart. With the donation, the museum committed itself to keeping the memory of the artist alive. In conjunction with the exhibition Das Kunstmuseum Stuttgart im Nationalsozialismus: Der Traum vom Museum "schwäbischer" Kunst (February 1–November 1, 2020), the painting was exhibited, its provenance presented, and documents used to commemorate the life and work of the Stuttgart artist.

The Babette Marx Restitution Case

The portrait Grete Marx (1915) painted by Bernhard Pankok belonged to Babette Marx, the widow of a Jewish entrepreneur from Stuttgart’s Bad Cannstatt district. She had four children: the three sons Leopold, Julius, and Alfred, along with a daughter, Grete. Marx died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp; the children survived the Holocaust. Immediately following the National Socialist seizure of power, the Marx company was listed in the defamatory writings "Deutscher kaufe nicht beim Juden!" (Germans, don’t buy from Jews!) and in 1938 "aryanized." After the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9, 1938, Alfred and Leopold Marx as well as other members of the family were imprisoned for a short time at the Dachau concentration camp. In 2019, the painting was restituted to the heirs now living in Israel and the United States and repurchased from them.

A Case of "War-Related" Confiscation:
Margarete Depner’s Die Sinkende

The marble sculpture Die Sinkende (Woman Sinking to Her Knees, 1933) by the German-Romanian painter and sculptor Margarete Depner (1885–1970) was purchased in 1942 at the first touring exhibition Deutsche Künstler aus Rumänien (German artists from Romania)—although the artist never received any money for it. The work’s provenance raised questions even in the postwar period, because it was unclear whether the city had ever paid for the piece. The investigation into its origins in connection with the current provenance research revealed that this in fact had not occurred. The Depner case can be regarded as a "Nazi war-related" seizure of cultural goods. In 2019 the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and the City of Stuttgart decided to retroactively reimburse the artist’s heirs for the fee.