The Thannhauser Galleries originated in Munich in autumn 1909, when Heinrich Thannhauser (1859–1935) decided to end an association with his former partner Franz Josef Brakl, and installed his Modern Gallery (Moderne Galerie) at the Arco-Palais, Theatinerstrasse 7.
In its early years, the Moderne Galerie exhibited the earliest presentations of movements and artists who would later come to define the avant-garde: Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artists' Association of Munch) in 1909, Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1911. Both exhibitions featured the work of Vasily Kandinsky, considered by many to be the pioneer of abstraction in art. The gallery also mounted the first major Pablo Picasso retrospective in 1913.
After the end of World War I, Heinrich Thannhauser's son Justin K. Thannhauser established a branch in Lucerne/Luzern, Switzerland in 1919. Justin entrusted the gallery to his cousin Siegfried Rosengart(1894–1985) in 1921, when Justin was called back to Munich to assist his suffering father. In 1927, Justin successfully expanded business to Berlin, and established a third branch of the Galleries. In the 1930s, the business operations of the Thannhauser Galleries were sanctioned and delayed by the Nazi government, which was vehemently opposed to the art of the avant-garde, branded by them as "degenerate art." Heinrich Thannhauser died in Lucerne in 1935. The Galleries were formally closed by 1937, and Thannhauser and his family immigrated first to Paris before settling in New York in 1940, where Justin established himself as an art dealer.
The Thannhausers’ support of artistic progress, and their advancement of the early careers of artists like Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and Paul Klee, paralleled the vision of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim (1861–1949). In recognition of that connection, and in honor of his first wife and two sons (who died at tragically young ages), Justin Thannhauser bequeathed the most essential and iconic works of his collection to the Guggenheim Foundation in 1963. From 1965 through Thannhauser's death in 1976, the works were on loan to the museum and on view in the Thannhauser Wing. The over seventy artworks form an important part of the Guggenheim's permanent collection and provide an important antecedent to the contemporary works in the collection.
Up to 1914, all catalogues were based on exhibitions.
Moderne Kunsthandlung Brakl & Thannhauser
- 1908: Vincent van Gogh - Prices indicated ("Die Preise verstehen sich in holländ. Gulden.")
Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser, München
- 1909: Impressionisten
- January 1910: Cuno Amiet & Giovanni Giacometti
- Spring 1910: Félix Vallotton
- April 1910: Édouard Manet (aus der Sammlung Pellerin)
- Summer 1910: (Heymel Collection)
- August 1910: Paul Gauguin
- mid-July - August 15, 1911: Carl Schuch
- Oct. 1911: (Theodor Alt)
- February 13 - March 10, 1912: Kollektiv-Ausstellung Edvard Munch
War time selections from the stock of the gallery
- Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser (folder, without date) (pre-1916)
- Katalog der Modernen Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser, introduction by Wilhelm Hausenstein and 174 reproductions, Munich 1916
- Nachtragswerk I mit 76 Abbildungen zur grossen Katalogausgabe 1916, Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser, Munich, September 1916
- Nachtragswerk II mit 105 Abbildungen zur grossen Katalogausgabe 1916, Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser, Munich, Juli 1917
- Nachtragswerk III mit 115 ganzseitigen Abbildungen zur grossen Katalogausgabe 1916, Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser, Munich, 1918
Galerien Thannhauser, Berlin - Luzern - München
- Eröffnungs-Ausstellung unseres neuen Berliner Hauses, Bellevuestr. 13, illustrated catalogue, dated June 1927
- von Lüttichau, Mario Andreas: Die Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser in München, in: Junge, Henrike (Ed.), Avantgarde und Publikum: Zur Rezeption avantgardistischer Kunst in Deutschland 1905-1933, Böhlau, Köln, Weimar & Wien 1992, pp. 299–306