Pissarro Montmartre Comes to Auction

An amazing painting by Camille Pissarro, with a harrowing and historic provenance, is coming to auction early next year.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network are glad to see the proceeds of this auction reach the painting's rightful heirs

'Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps of 1897', was originally owned by Max Silberberg, a Jewish industrialist based in Breslau. He assembled one of the finest pre-war collections of 19th and 20th Century art in Germany.

The painting was restituted in 2000 to Silberberg’s family. It will be offered at auction in Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 5th February 2014 with an estimate of £7-10 million.

A leader of the business community in Breslau, Max Silberberg assembled an art collection that included magnificent examples of French Impressionism by Manet, Monet, Renoir and Sisley, as well as, masterpieces of Realism and Post-Impressionism by Delacroix, Courbet, Cézanne, and van Gogh.

He was ranked as great a collector as Andrew Mellon, Jakob Goldschmidt and Mortimer Schiff.

Sadly, by 1935 Max Silberberg was forced to relinquish his public roles, his company, and his house. He was forced to consign most of his wonderful works to a series of auctions at Paul Graupe’s auction house in Berlin in 1935 and 1936 (including Boulevard Montmartre).

In 1938, his son Alfred was arrested on Kristallnacht and taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Alfred was permitted to return home a few days later on the condition that he depart the country immediately.

Max Silberberg and his wife Johanna, however, were deported to Theresienstadt and then to Auschwitz in 1942, where they were killed.

Alfred Silberberg had emigrated to England with his wife Gerta, and while he had passed away in March 1984, she survived him and took up the search for the artworks that had belonged to her father-in-law prior to the Nazi era.

Restitution Begins

In 1999, Gerta became the first British relative of a Holocaust victim to recover a work of art under the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-looted art.

An exquisite drawing of an olive grove by Van Gogh, L’Olivette (Les Baux), had found its way from Max Silberberg’s collection into that of the National Gallery of Berlin. The museum was instrumental in its prompt restitution, a landmark case in Germany.

The work was sold at Sotheby’s in December 1999 for £5.3 million – then a record price for a pen and ink drawing by the artist. Proceeds from the sale helped fund the search for further works of art that had belonged to her father-in-law.

'Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps', one of the most important works in Max Silberberg’s original collection, had also made its way into an important museum collection.

Following its forced auction in Berlin in 1935, the work passed through a number of hands until its sale in 1960 to John and Frances L. Loeb.

Found in Israel

In 1985 the Loebs promised the painting to The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, in honor of its Founder Teddy Kollek and on the occasion of its 20th Anniversary, and bequeathed it to the American Friends of the Israel Museum in 1997.

Following a four-month period of intensive research, undertaken jointly by the museum and by representatives of Gerta Silberberg in 1999, the work was restituted to Gerta Silberberg in 2000.

In appreciation of the museum’s exemplary and groundbreaking efforts on her behalf, Mrs Silberberg loaned the painting back to the museum, where it remained on display for the remainder of her life. (Gerta Silberberg passed away earlier this year.)

Camille Pissarro’s series paintings of Paris are among the supreme achievements of Impressionism, taking their place alongside Monet’s series of Rouen Cathedral and the later waterlilies.

Pissarro's New Paris

Pissarro’s series of paintings of Paris executed in the last years of the 1890s were hugely significant achievements that evoke the excitement of the city at the fin-de-siècle.

The artist exploited the artistic possibilities of the new urban landscape that Haussmann’s renovations had created.

He extolled the artistic possibilities in a letter to his son Lucien: ‘It may not be very aesthetic, but I’m delighted to be able to have a go at Paris streets, which are said to be ugly, but are [in fact] so silvery, so bright, so vibrant with life [...] they’re so totally modern!’

Pissarro’s views of Paris focused principally on the new vistas, which not only proved highly successful artistically but also critically and commercially, since the extensive grid of straight roads, avenues and boulevards was the setting for a burgeoning middle-class, whose appetite for modern painting far outstripped that of the established aristocracy.