Two Major Restituted Poster Collections Come to Auction
Eve Kahn’s recent New York Times piece: “Posters Lost to Nazis are Recovered, and Up for Sale” explored the similarities and differences between two recently restituted major poster collections, the Hans Sachs collection, and the Julius Paul collection (to be offered at Swann on December 18). Both collections contained thousands of pieces, both collectors were Jewish and had families that fled Europe before World War II, and both collections contained pieces that have recently been purchased by prominent museums. But, whereas Sachs–a German Dentist–was forced to load his own material onto Nazi trucks, Julius Paul–a rolling-paper magnate in Austria–died before the Nazi occupation. It was Paul’s nephew, the inheritor of the collection, who fled the country in 1939.
Unlike Sachs’s collection, Paul’s was not a “working” collection, meaning that the contents were not loaned out to institutions or used by students or scholars for research. Rather, Paul’s intention from the outset was for the collection to be appreciated but not used commercially: a collector’s collection. This is evident in the remarkable condition of the posters–some are as bright and clean as the day they were printed. From 1939 until 2008 the Paul collection resided in the renowned Albertina Museum in Vienna, where the posters were stored under the highest standards of museum conservation. These were not the spoils of war looted at gun point, these were treasured items that formed half of the great museum’s graphic art collection.