Art Collector

Intrepid Collector

A work of art always depends on the fact that in its statement the power of an unique personality becomes visible, with which also lasting value accrues to it.

Hanna Bekker vom Rath, 1956

The first object that the young Hanna vom Rath emphatically wanted from her father she had discovered in a Frankfurt Antique store: a life-size figure of Christ.

At this time, she intensively studied the Christian religion, but already rejected blind allegiance: examine yourself and maturely and then act unwaveringly, follow your opinion faithfully, even when you stand alone, she recorded in her notebook in 1911.

In the first decade of her collecting, between 1919 and 1929, it was often sculptural works that attracted her attention: among them the Geneigter Frauenkopf (Bust of the Kneeling) by Wilhelm Lehmbruck – today at Museum Wiesbaden – and a Chinese figure of the Sung Dynasty (12th century), which she bequeathed in her will to the East Asian Museum in Berlin Dahlem.

In the meantime, it has been identified by scientific research as Wuzhiqi, one of four river spirits. Sometimes ironically referred to by her as a (good) house ghost, sometimes as devil, it dominated the Red Room of her house from its pedestal.

Photo Marta Hoepffner, 1946

Between these two worlds, her collecting focused on contemporary art of the time: Brücke, Bauhaus and Blauer Reiter. She bought first works by Heckel, Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff from the famous art dealer Ludwig Schames in Frankfurt. After the latter’s death she switched to buying works directly from the artists in order to support them personally. During the National Socialist era, this form of encouragement for the “degenerate“ painters was given a value that was hardly inferior to the material one.

Adolf Hoelzel, Prozession and Alexej Jawlensky, Gebirge Obersdorf
hanging behind Hanna Bekker, photo Marta Hoepffner, winter 1946/47

Already with the first exhibitions of the Frankfurter Kunstkabinett, Hanna Bekker vom Rath showed representatives of her own generation, but also offered a forum to younger artists. And she herself acquired works by most of them, even if no longer all of them found space on the walls of the Blue House.

On exhibition tours she brought works by German artists back to the worldwide stage – and returned with works by international artists, which were exhibited in the Kunstkabinett. She also added many a work that had emigrated with its previous owner to her collection.

The exhibition Hofheimer Privatbesitz (Hofheim Private Property) presented her collection at the Frankfurter Kunstkabinett in 1956. In the foreword she stated: The brief insight that the exhibition provides to visitors to the Frankfurter Kunstkabinett is intended to serve as an inspiration to art lovers from Frankfurt and the surrounding area as to how a collection slowly builds from small beginnings. … It has arisen purely from interest in the development of the artist’s various creative periods. In addition, the immediate joy in the picture and in the radiance of the mural from the mural to human areas. And if I succeeded in achieving a certain degree of reliability in terms of quality, and if some personal friendship is also expressed in the selection of this collection, then I hope that this collection, which was assembled over a period of about 30 years, will bring joy and inspire young people to emulate it.

While the size of the collection was constantly growing, also the demand for loans was increasing among exhibition organizers. Hanna Bekker vom Rath agreed generously, whether to documenta 1, the Frankfurter Kunstverein, or national and international museums. In 2007, Hanna Bekker vom Rath was once again remembered as the most important lender of the exhibition Modern Painting from Frankfurt private collections in 1963.

Painting and collecting are forms of expression of the same thing: to take possession of something. … At the same time, however, we would like to emphasize that possession is an obligation, at least in the understanding of Hanna Bekker vom Rath.

Klaus Gallwitz, former Director of Städel-Museum Frankfurt, 1978

This is also expressed in her last will, in which Hanna Bekker vom Rath decreed that a substantial part of the collection should be sold to a publicly accessible art collection in the Frankfurt-Darmstadt-Wiesbaden area. The proceeds were not to be tied to the usual market value in order to enable the institution in question to make the acquisition.

Thanks to this provision, the Verein zur Förderung der bildenden Kunst in Wiesbaden e.V. was able to acquire central works from the Hanna Bekker vom Rath collection from the estate in 1987 and has since made them available to the Museum Wiesbaden without restriction as a recognizable permanent loan. The painters Willi Baumeister, Max Beckmann, Erich Heckel, Wassily Kandinsky, Ida Kerkovius, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, and Ernst Wilhelm Nay are included in this group of thirty works, as well as Alexej Jawlensky with 14 and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff with 5 paintings.

Catalog of the exhibition Zwischen Brücke und Blauem Reiter – Hanna Bekker vom Rath als Wegbereiterin der Moderne,
Museum Wiesbaden and Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, 2013

More works from the collection in German museums (selected)

Hanna Bekker vom Rath donated the wooden sculpture Arbeiter mit Ballonmütze by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff to the Brücke Museum Berlin for its opening in 1967. Also the painting Dorfecke by him can be found here as well as several drawings and graphics from her collection. The Brücke Museum acquired Emil Nolde’s Verspottung from the collector in 1981. Hofheim motifs by Schmidt-Rottluff are represented in large numbers in the Brücke Museum’s collection.

The Städel Museum in Frankfurt also houses works with the provenance of the Hanna Bekker vom Rath Collection:

Alexej Jawlensky, Stilleben mit violetter Schale, 1912
Schenkung von Hanna Bekker vom Rath, 1973
CC BY-SA 4.0 Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

The painting Nacktes Mädchen mit Kopftuch by August Macke had been in the Hofheim collection for a while.

In 1988, the Städel received Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s wooden sculpture Adorant as a donation from her estate.

As a legacy from Hanna Bekker vom Rath, the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin Dahlem received the Chinese river spirit Wuzhiqi in 1984. Within this collection, the sculpture from the 12th century is expected to be open to the public on the 3rd floor of the Humboldt Forum from autumn 2021.

In 2013, the Museum Wiesbaden received the portrait Hanna Bekker by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff as a donation from Maximiliane Kraft. In addition, other central works from the Blue House have become part of the Classic Modern Collection at Museum Wiesbaden, including Lehmbruck and Jawlensky.

Lehmbruck, Geneigter Frauenkopf, Steinguss 1920 (postum)
Jawlensky, Früchtestilleben, 1908/09