20 September, 2018
The Thannhauser Collection is a bequest of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century art given to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation by Justin K. and Hilde Thannhauser. Justin K. Thannhauser was the son of the German Jewish art dealer Heinrich Thannhauser, who founded the Moderne Galerie in Munich in 1909. From an early age, Justin K. worked alongside his father in the flourishing gallery and helped build an impressive and versatile exhibition program that included the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and regularly featured contemporary German artists. For example, the Moderne Galerie presented the premier exhibitions of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artists’ Association of Munich) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), both of which included Vasily Kandinsky, in 1909 and 1911 respectively.
In 1913, the Thannhausers also organized one of the first major Pablo Picasso retrospectives, thus initiating the close relationship between Justin K. Thannhauser and Picasso that lasted until the artist’s death in 1973. An ambitious businessman, Justin K. Thannhauser opened a second gallery in Lucerne in 1919 with his cousin Siegfried Rosengart.
Eight years later, the highly successful Thannhauser galleries relocated their Munich gallery to the thriving art center of Berlin. There, the dealer organized major exhibitions of the work of such artists as Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and Claude Monet. Business operations were nonetheless hindered in the next decade with the establishment of a Nazi government bent on purging the “degenerate art” of the avant-garde. The Thannhauser gallery in Berlin closed in 1937, shortly after Justin K. Thannhauser and his family immigrated to Paris. Thannhauser eventually settled in New York in 1940 and established himself as a private art dealer.
The Thannhausers’ commitment to promoting artistic innovation paralleled the vision of Solomon R. Guggenheim. In appreciation of this shared spirit, Justin K. Thannhauser gave a significant portion of his art collection, including more than 30 works by Picasso, to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which owns and operates the eponymous museum in New York. Selections from the Thannhauser Collection have been on view at the Guggenheim since 1965.
A bequest of ten additional works received after the death of Hilde Thannhauser, Justin’s second wife and widow, in 1991, augmented the Guggenheim’s holdings and enhanced the legacy of this family of important art dealers. This landmark presentation of the Thannhauser Collection at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will not only trace the development of modernism at the turn of the century, but also underscore the Thannhauser family’s steadfast support of experimental art.
Photo:left to right, Megan Fontanella, curator of the exhibition, Juan Ignacio Vidarte, director of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Rafael Pardo, director of the BBVA Foundation.