Paul Westheim

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Paul Westheim
Born(1886-08-07)7 August 1886
Died21 December 1963(1963-12-21) (aged 77)
OccupationArt historian

Paul Westheim (7 August 1886 in Eschwege, Germany – 21 December 1963 in Berlin, Germany) was a German art historian and publisher of the magazine Das Kunstblatt. The fate of Westheim's art collection, which was sold after his death by Charlotte Weidler, has been the subject of major art restitution lawsuits.[1]


Paul Westheim's exhibition catalog in German of 135 illustrations by Oskar Kokoschka was published in 1925 by the Paul Cassirer Verlag in Berlin

Born into a Jewish[2] family Westheim studied art history at the Technische Universität Darmstadt and then, in 1906, at the Humboldt University of Berlin where he was taught by Heinrich Wölfflin and Wilhelm Worringer. Westheim published monographs on Oskar Kokoschka, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, and Mexican sculpture.

Westheim was the founder and editor of the important German arts magazine, Das Kunstblatt[3] which was published monthly from 1917 to 1932, ceasing to appear when Westheim fled the Nazis.[4]

Nazi persecution, internment, flight to Mexico[edit]

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Westheim was persecuted because he was Jewish.[5] He fled to France in 1933 (Paris). His German citizenship was stripped from him in 1935. From September 1939, he was interned as an enemy alien in several French camps, including Gurs. He was freed in late 1941 with the help of friends and the American Emergency Rescue Committee.[5] From Marseille he moved to Spain, Portugal and ultimately Mexico.[6]

In Mexico from 1941 until his death in 1963, he established himself as a leading authority on Mexican art, both ancient and modern.[7][8] He met Mariana Frenk, a German Jewish writer and translator whose husband, physician Ernst Frenk had died, and married her.

Paul Westheim's Art Collection[edit]

Before the rise of Hitler, Paul Westheim had gathered an important art collection of German Expressionists.[9] When he fled Nazi Germany, he entrusted the care of his art collection to his friend Charlotte Weidler.[10] Weidler told Westheim the artworks had been destroyed; however she began selling them as her own after his death.[11][12]

Lawsuit for restitution[edit]

In 2013, Westheim's daughter Margit Frenk, sued the Yris Rabenou Gallery; its owner, Yris Rabenou Solomon; her husband, David Solomon; and their sons, Darius and Teimour Solomon, in New York County Supreme Court for the return of at least four paintings and $3.6 million for a fifth one she says the gallery sold. The paintings included a Paul Klee watercolor and Max Pechstein’s “Portrait of Paul Westheim.”[13][14]

The complaint stated:

“After the conclusion of World War II, Weidler had led Westheim to believe that his art collection had been lost or destroyed during the war, and she broke off communications with him.

Following the war, Weidler shipped artworks from the Westheim Collection that had in fact survived the war to New York and fraudulently concealed them from Westheim. After Westheim’s death in 1963, Weidler began to sell artworks from the Westheim Collections.”[13]

Six years of court battles ensued.[15] In 2019, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of art dealer and collector Yris Rabenou Solomon and her family. David Rowland,the attorney who represented Margit Frenk criticised the ruling, saying, “It’s a horrible decision, and it really is a miscarriage of justice. It undermines the rule of law because it favors the alleged thief above the true owner, who in this case was a Nazi victim searching for his collection.”[15]

Paul Westheim's archives[edit]

Paul Westheim’s archives, stolen in Paris by the Germans, then seized by the Soviets, are currently kept in Moscow.[16]


Das Kunstblatt

El grabado en madera[17]

The sculpture of ancient Mexico = La escultura del México antiguo

Paul Westheim, Die Frauenausstellung. Ein Nachwort, Kunst und Handwerk: Zeitschrift für Kunstgewerbe und Kunsthandwerk, Vol. 62, Nr 9, 1911/1912, page 274

Paul Westheim, Ausstellung, “Die Frau in Haus und beruf” in Zoologischen Garten, Kunstgewerbeblatt, Vol,. 23 Nr 7 April 1912, page 142-143

Paul Westheim, Oskar Kokoschka : das Werk Kokoschkas in 135 Abbildungen. Paul Cassirer Verlag, Berlin, 1925[18]


  1. ^ Selvin, Claire (2019-06-28). "Six-Year Challenge to Ownership of Art Historian Paul Westheim's Modernist Art Collection Dismissed in New York Supreme Court". Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  2. ^ "The Jewish Museum".
  3. ^ Windhöfel, Lutz (1995). Paul Westheim und das Kunstblatt : eine Zeitschrift und ihr Herausgeber in der Weimarer Republik. Köln: Böhlau. ISBN 3-412-04095-9. OCLC 34745141.
  4. ^ "Various Artists. Das Kunstblatt (1917-1932)". Retrieved 2021-05-24. Published monthly for sixteen years, Das Kunstblatt promoted the work of living artists and the spirit of the "new art" in all its forms, eventually covering art, theater, film, literature, and architecture. The title is an antiquated word for print that, more generally, translates as "art paper." Das Kunstblatt reflected the discerning taste of its founder and editor, Paul Westheim. In an opening salvo, Westheim explained that the true artist went beyond creating pretty, lifelike surfaces to probe "the depths of being." He named Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Ernst Barlach, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Oskar Kokoschka, Erich Heckel, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner as exemplars of this modern ideal. Later, Das Kunstblatt provided equally impassioned support of sharply critical artists such as Otto Dix, George Grosz, and other practitioners of Neue Sachlichkeit. Leading novelists, playwrights, curators, and critics also contributed to the journal, including Bertolt Brecht, Theodor Däubler, Alfred Döblin, Carl Einstein, Gustav Hartlaub, and Franz Roh. From the beginning, Das Kunstblatt was international in scope, featuring works that satisfied Westheim's definitions of modern art no matter the source. Most issues included an original print (two in the deluxe edition). The publication also brought together art historical essays on African, Indian, and Asian art—a cosmopolitan style that provoked condemnation by the Nazis. The last issue appeared in March 1933, and that summer Westheim fled Germany.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b "Lost Art Internet Database - Jüdische Sammler und Kunsthändler (Opfer nationalsozialistischer Verfolgung und Enteignung) - Westheim, Paul". Archived from the original on 2018-11-06. Retrieved 2021-05-24. 1933 Emigration nach Frankreich (Paris); ab September 1939 Internierung in c. 10 frz. Camps, u.a. Gurs; Ende 1941 Befreiung mithilfe von Freunden und des American Rescue Commitee; Visum für Mexiko, wo er anschließend dauerhaft lebte.
  6. ^ "Westheim, Paul". 2018-02-21.
  7. ^ Chametzky, Peter (2001). "Paul Westheim in Mexico: A Cosmopolitan Man Contemplating the Heavens". Oxford Art Journal. 24 (1): 23–43. doi:10.1093/oxartj/24.1.23. ISSN 0142-6540. JSTOR 3600377.
  8. ^ "El espíritu del arte en México · ICAA Documents Project en Español · ICAA/MFAH". Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  9. ^ Monika, Tatzkow; Thomas, Blubacher; Gunnar, Schnabel (2010-01-01). Lost lives, lost art: jewish collectors, nazi art theft, and the quest for justice. Vendome Press. ISBN 9780865652637. OCLC 901166899.
  10. ^ "A dispute about an art collection left in custody by an emigrant from Germany in 1933". Retrieved 2021-05-24. n 1933, Paul Westheim fled Germany to escape the persecution of Jewish citizens. Paul Westheim went to France, Spain and Portugal, and eventually to Mexico. When leaving Germany, Paul Westheim left the art collection he possessed in the custody of Charlotte Weidler, an art dealer in the German capital city of Berlin.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR)-Case Summary-Frenk v. Solomon". Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  12. ^ "Suit filed by heir of German art critic and publisher Paul Westheim against heirs of Charlotte Weidler 25 January 2013". Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  13. ^ a b Klasfeld, Adam (2013-01-30). "Art Case Alleges WW II-Era Double-Cross". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  14. ^ Klasfeld, Adam. "Art Case Alleges WW II-Era Double-Cross". Retrieved 2021-11-10. Westheim's daughter, Margit Frenk, seeks the return of at least four paintings and $3.6 million for a fifth one she says the gallery sold. The paintings include a Paul Klee watercolor and Max Pechstein's "Portrait of Paul Westheim."{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ a b Selvin, Claire (28 June 2019). "Six-Year Challenge to Ownership of Art Historian Paul Westheim's Modernist Art Collection Dismissed in New York Supreme Court". Archived from the original on 2020-04-26. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  16. ^ "NEWSLETTER January 2021 – N°8 Case Studies CIVS" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Paul Westheim; Mariana Frenk (2014). El grabado en madera (in Spanish). Fondo de Cultura Economica / Mexico. OCLC 1029024296.
  18. ^ Westheim, Paul (1925). Oskar Kokoschka: das Werk Kokoschkas in 135 Abbildungen (in German). Berlin: P. Cassirer. OCLC 973433805.

External links[edit]


Malcolm Gee, ″Defining the modern art collector in the Weimar years″, in: Geschmacksgeschichte(n): öffentliches und privates Kunstsammeln in Deutschland, 1871–1933, eds. U. Wolff-Thomsen, and S. Kuhrau, Kiel, Verlag Ludwig, 2011, 115–130.

Malcolm Gee, ″The 'cultured city': the art press in Berlin and Paris in the early twentieth century″, in Printed Matters: Printing, Publishing and Urban Culture in Europe in the modern period, eds. M. Gee and T. Kirk, Ashgate, 2002, 150–173.

Malcolm Gee, "The Berlin Art World, 1918–1933" in: Malcolm Gee, Tim Kirk and Jill Steward (eds), The City in central Europe : culture and society from 1800 to the present, Ashgate, 1999.

Melissa Müller, Monika Tatzkow, Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice, 2010, Vendome Press, ISBN 978-0-86565-263-7