For the citizens of Cologne it was like the tidings of a better world when in 1946, Josef Haubrich entrusted his treasures to the city. A world of art that everyone had thought was lost; but now it toured in triumph round Germany and Europe in a travelling exhibition. Today the collection is in the keeping of Museum Ludwig. It is considered one of the greatest in Europe for Expressionism, but it also extends to the New Sobriety and other currents in Classic Modernism.
Haubrich (1889–1961) was a lawyer and a proper Cologne “character”, gregarious and generous in equal part. And he had something that not everyone possessed in the Third Reich: courage. The collection mirrors his personality, and his love of life and the new. Already during the First World war he began to collect works by contemporary artists, above all from Germany, including such pièces de résistance as Otto Dix’s Portrait of Doctor Hans Koch, the very first modernist painting to enter the collection, or Dreamers by Emil Nolde, and the celebrated Half-Length Nude with Hat by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, which was exhibited as early as 1925 at the Venice Biennale and is now a shining example of the collection. Among the other masterpieces are works by Marc Chagall, Karl Hofer, Heinrich Hoerle, Wilhelm Lehmbruck and Paula Modersohn-Becker. Watercolours form here the basic stock and oils the substance, while sculptures are in the minority. Haubrich was loathe to cross the boundary to abstraction, and avoided Constructivism and the Blue Rider, just as he did Dada and the November Group. Not until 1946 - when the collection was further expanded in consultation with the director at that time of the Wallraf-Richarz Museum, Dr. Leopold Reidemeister - were works by the Blue Rider, Bauhaus and Cubism included.
Starting August 4, the collection can once again be marvelled at in its original constellation. While preparing the exhibition and the catalogue, the painted rear sides of three works were re-discovered, two of which - Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner’s Fränzi in Wiesen and Alexej von Jawlensky’s Variation – have never been shown. The new presentation will highlight these twin-sided paintings.
An extensive catalogue – the first publication since 1959 on the paintings and sculptures in the Haubrich Collection – brings together the best from the holdings, along with new photographs and astute essays, carefully gleaned information on the collection’s origins, and the current state of the research into the provenances. With the help of a specially-created position for provenance research, it is now possible to show the often circuitous routes by which the over 140 works came to be in the Museum Ludwig. Hats off to a man whom Cologne, a city of art, has much to thank.
Exhibition Curators: Dr. Julia Friedrich together with Dorothee Grafahrend-Gohmert