From Menzel to Monet

The Wolffson Collection in Hamburg

The exhibition From Menzel to Monet sheds light on the hitherto little-researched high-calibre Wolffson Collection in Hamburg, its position in the Hanseatic city’s collection landscape, and the relations between the collector Albert Martin Wolffson (1847–1913) and the Hamburger Kunsthalle. The occasion is the Wolffson Collection’s rise to prominence in the course of research for the exhibition Gurlitt: Status Report, which presented the controversial legacy of the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt in a historical context (most recently shown at the Gropius Bau in Berlin from September 2018 to January 2019). The Wolffson heirs were forced to sell numerous works owned by the family under duress during the Nazi era. These works included some of the 36 drawings by the artist Adolf Menzel (1815–1905) that once formed the core of the Wolffson Collection. After the Berlin exhibition, the Wolffson family gave six outstanding Menzel drawings that were now back in their possession to the Hamburger Kunsthalle on permanent loan.

These six are now being shown with other drawings by Menzel from the Hamburger Kunsthalle’s Department of Prints and Drawings, alongside other works including the painting Waterloo Bridge (1902) by Claude Monet (1840–1926), which the Kunsthalle acquired from Albert Wolffson’s widow, Helene Marie, in 1927. In addition to these key works displayed in the Harzen Cabinet, other works and objects from the Wolffson Collection will also be brought together for the show. These comprise paintings, drawings, prints and autographs by artists including Balthasar Denner, Louis DouZette, Gerdt Hardorff, Thomas Herbst, Arthur Illies, Hermann Kauffmann, Paul Kayser, Leopold Graf von Kalckreuth, Gotthardt Kuehl, Franz von Lenbach, Max Liebermann, Ascan Lutteroth, Anton Melby, Carl Osterley, Valentin Ruths, Frits Thaulow, Fritz von Uhde and Heinrich von Zügel, among others. Decorative objects, photographs and archival material will round out the presentation.

Albert Wolffson (21 July 1847–16 December 1913) was the son of the Hamburg lawyer Isaac Wolffson. He studied law and was admitted to the Hamburg bar in July 1869. He initially worked in his father’s law firm and then formed his own successful firm in the 1880s with partners Max Schramm and Otto Dehn. Starting in 1895, he represented Hamburg authorities in civil proceedings. As an art collector, Wolffson had close connections with the Kunsthalle and became a member of its administrative »commission« in 1898. From 1880 to 1910 he was involved in the Hamburg Parliament, and he sat on the supervisory boards of the Hamburger Vereinsbank and Hypothekenbank. Albert Wolffson is buried in the Wolffson family grave at Ohlsdorf cemetery.

After the death of Albert Wolffson, the close ties between his family and the Hamburger Kunsthalle remained. Helene Marie Wolffson’s name is emblazoned on one of the patrons’ plaques at the Hamburger Kunsthalle along with the year 1916, when she gave a bust of her husband to the museum. Other works of art had previously been donated by the family.

Support: Freunde der Kunsthalle e. V.

From Menzel to Monet. The Wolffson Collection in Hamburg

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