Nancy Netzer, Director
(617) 552-8587

Rare Self-Portraits by German Artists: Preserved from Nazi Destruction

Reclaiming a Lost Generation: German Self-Portraits from the
Feldberg Collection 1923-1933
October 6 - December 8, 2002

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (7-30-02) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will host an exhibition exclusive in the United States this fall, Reclaiming a Lost Generation: German Self-Portraits from the Feldberg Collection 1923-1933. The exhibition—which presents self-portraits by prominent German artists in the 1920s and 1930s—will be on display from October 6 through December 8, 2002.

Reclaiming a Lost Generation presents 56 works from the Feldberg Collection—which has a dramatic history—and offers the American audience a rare opportunity to view these works of art. Now stored in the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin where they have never been displayed, this exceptional collection of self-portraits preserves the memory of a generation of German artists who otherwise would have fallen into oblivion after having been declared degenerate by the Nazis.

"The McMullen Museum is honored to be the only U.S. venue for this extraordinary exhibition that allows us to envision how our picture of German art in the twentieth century might have been altered, had many of the accomplished and promising artists included been able to live long and productive lives," said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer.

"Siegbert Feldberg’s remarkable assemblage encourages us to contemplate how works of art take on additional meaning both within the context of collections and as a result of the historical circumstances of their acquisition and preservation. The exhibition also raises important questions about the relationship between identity imposed by societies and identity created by the individual, as well as the role of collections in shaping our understanding of the past. Had these self-portraits not been on paper—deemed of lesser value (the price of a suit) by the Nazis and so easy to pack in a suitcase—they probably would not have survived."

[MEDIA NOTE: Color images from the exhibition are available upon request from the McMullen Museum: (617) 552-8587. A complete list of works also is available.]

Opening Reception
To commemorate the opening of the exhibition, the McMullen Museum will host a reception for invited guests on Wednesday, October 9, 2002. Hans Feldberg, the son of the collector, will attend with his daughter Georgina who will speak at the event. The evening will include a lecture by Dr. Dietlinde Hamburger, co-curator of the exhibition, titled "Individualism and Identity: Feldberg's Collection as Self-Portrait." The Honorable Rolf Schnelle, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Boston will offer remarks and officially open the exhibition.

Reclaiming a Lost Generation: German Self-Portraits from the Feldberg Collection 1923-1933
The Feldberg Collection tells the fascinating story of Dr. Siegbert and Mrs. Hildegard Feldberg, art patrons and friends of Berlin's avant-garde poets and artists, and their journey from Nazi Germany to a new life.

Siegbert Feldberg (1899-1971), a men's clothing manufacturer from Stettin, Germany, built a collection of self-portraits by Berlin artists in the 1920s and 1930s. The collection includes works by prominent German painters Max Liebermann, Käthe Kollwitz, Oskar Kokoschka, Erich Heckel, and other late Impressionists, Expressionists and members of the New Objectivity movement.

In a time of spiraling inflation, Feldberg sponsored artists by trading coats and suits from his stores in exchange for works of art, while establishing friendships with Germany’s best-known artists. According to a web site on the collection (see URL below), "The idea of self-portraits seemed to have been especially significant to Dr. Feldberg. They held the notion of preservation, especially important to members of the Jewish community."

During the 1930s, when the Feldbergs were forced to leave Berlin to emigrate to India as a result of political circumstances in Germany, they managed to save the collection—works of art that likely would have been confiscated or destroyed by the Nazis, who considered them degenerate.

The Feldberg Collection documents artistic identities that were annihilated or changed irrevocably with the rise of the Nazis. By the end of World War II, many Berlin artists had lost their studios and their works of art during the air raids over Berlin. Some of the artists in Feldberg's collection were pressed into military service and died in combat. Jewish artists, who make up over half of the artists in the collection, emigrated from Germany or died in ghettoes and camps.

After Dr. Feldberg’s death in 1971, according to the collection web site (see URL below), Hildegard sold the largest part of their collection, including the self-portraits. "It had been important to Dr. Feldberg that the collection be kept in Germany. The Feldberg Collection stands as a tribute to this family and to the time in which it was created."

According to Dr. Dietlinde Hamburger, co-curator of the exhibition, "Not only the artists, but also the collector belong to the Lost Generation: a generation defined by displacement and dispossession, careers truncated and creative promise unrealized. In many cases the self-portraits in the Feldberg Collection are the only surviving testimony of artists, who were quite well known in Berlin during the 1920s but disappeared from view after 1933. If it had not been for Feldberg preserving his collection in exile, any memory of these artists would have been completely obliterated. Since even the better known artists lost much of their work produced prior to World War II, their self-portraits in the Feldberg Collection remain extremely rare examples of their art."

The exhibition was organized and curated by Hamburger (Cambridge, Mass.) and Freya Muelhaupt (curator, Berlinische Galerie), for the Hart House Gallery at the University of Toronto, where it was on display in May and June, titled The Feldberg Collection: Self Portraits from 1920s Berlin. It explores the collectors, artists, stylistic movements, and the cultural contexts for the works. University of Toronto exhibition web site: or

The McMullen Museum is the Feldberg Collection’s exclusive United States venue.

Exhibition Catalogue
Hamburger and Muelhaupt authored the accompanying, 165-page catalogue, which features color images of the works in the exhibition, essays and biographies of the artists. The catalogue, Self-portraits from the 1920s: The Feldberg Collection, is available from the Boston College Bookstore.

McMullen Museum Tours and Programs
The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the exhibition and scholarship of the works on view. Guided tours and public programs will accompany the exhibition, to further interpret the works of art to viewers.

For this exhibition, the McMullen Museum will organize public programs in conjunction with the Goethe Institute in Boston, as well as with the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College. They include the following:

Dr. Beeke Sell-Tower
(Curator, Goethe Institute), "The Far West and the German Imagination." Wednesday, October 16, 4:30 pm, Devlin Hall room 101.

Cardinal Walter Kasper (President, Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews), "The Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews: A Crucial Endeavor of the Catholic Church." Wednesday, November 6, 8 p.m. Location TBA.

Associate Professor Claude Cernuschi (Boston College Fine Arts Department), "Body and Soul: Oskar Kokoschka’s The Warrior, Truth and the Interchangeability of the Physical and Psychological in Vienna 1900." Wednesday, November 20, 4 p.m., Devlin Hall room 101.

Associate Professor Rachel Freudenberg
(Boston College German Studies Department), "Hat flies off pointy head of middle –class man": German Expressionist Poetry, Identity and Clothing. Friday, November 1, 1:15 p.m., McMullen Museum.

The Blue Angel
, a German Expressionist film starring Marlene Dietrich. Wednesday October 23, 7:00 p.m., Devlin Hall room 026
For additional films see

Ur Sonata text by Kurt Schwitters and "For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise"
with images by William Blake, music by Martin Bresnick and Lisa St. John Moore. Monday September 30, 7:30 p.m., Gasson Hall room 100.

Boston College’s String Quartet-in-Residence, the Hawthorne String Quartet (Terezin Chamber Music Foundation), works by Hans Krasa, Haydn, and David Post. Monday, October 21, 8 p.m., Gasson Hall room 100.

Kabarett: From Weimar to Terezin
. Wednesday, November 13, 7:30 p.m., Gasson Hall room 100.

Also on Display
Also on exclusive display at the McMullen Museum this fall is an exhibition which showcases classic and contemporary works from the American West. Cowboys, Indians and the Big Picture—which comprises 38 works of art, including paintings and sculptures—will be on display from October 6 through December 8, 2002. The exhibition includes works from the private collection of McMullen Museum of Art benefactor John J. McMullen, many of which have never before been on public display.

"The two exhibitions have been mounted together this Fall to allow viewers the opportunity to ponder broader issues of ethnic and individual identity in two very different cultures and political contexts," Netzer said.

[For more information on Cowboys, Indians and the Big Picture, please call (617) 552-8587 or visit www.]

McMullen Museum Hours
Admission to the McMullen Museum is free; it is handicapped accessible and open to the public. The Museum is located in Devlin Hall on the Chestnut Hill campus of Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue. During this exhibition, McMullen Museum hours are as follows: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The mcMullen Museum is closed on holidays. For directions, parking and additional information, call the Arts Line at (617) 552-8100, or visit the web site at [Please note: parking is not available on the following Saturdays this fall: October 19, November 16 and November 30.]