Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 – 1938) was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke (The Bridge), a key group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. He volunteered for army service during WW1, but soon suffered a breakdown and was discharged. In 1933, his work was branded as "degenerate" by the Nazis, and this was a contributing factor to his suicide.

In 1913 Kirchner painted this Berlin Street Scene that was bought after WW1 by Jewish collectors Alfred and Tekla Hess renowned for their support of German expressionist art in the late 1920s and early 1930s, making a succession of large purchases and frequently inviting prominent artists into their home.

In the 30s, Tekla Hess, widowed of Alfred, had to leave Germany and the collection was scattered through Europe by the Nazis :
Berlin Street Scene was sent to Switzerland, sold to Frankfurt collector Carl Hagemann in 1936 and, after the war, purchased by the Berlin's Brücke Museum as a treasured example of the country's rich history of expressionist art.

But eventually the grand-daughter of Alfred Hess - a 62 year old British citizen named Anita Halpin - filed a claim for restitution of the Berlin Street and in 2006 -after two years of negociations between the Berlin Museum and the Hess heirs- the picture was brought back to her by the museum. A politically Left person, member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Mrs Halpin thus inherited one of the most reknown and expensive Expressionists works. She did not keep it in her property for long and in 2007 she sold it to art dealer Daniella Luxembourg from New York for £ 20.5 million ( $ 38 million) on behalf of cosmetics heir
Ronald Lauder, son of Estée Lauder, and among the richest people of the world with an estimated net worth of $3.0 billion in 2007.

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