Die Zeichen
the complete portfolio of six zincographs, 1919-20, on wove paper, each signed and inscribed with the plate number in pencil, with the title page, signed and numbered No. 38 in pencil on the title page, inscribed and dedicated in ink on the title Herrn Professor Sauerlandt / herzlichst zugeeignet von/ Otto Freundlich/ Berlin, Nov. 1924, the title page with a poem in German by Bekja Gusyk verso, published by Kairos Verlag, Cologne, 1924; together with a proof impression of plate 5, before the edition, signed, dated 1919 and titled in pencil
Sheets 620 x 790 mm. (each)

Max Sauerlandt (1880-1934), Hamburg; a gift from the artist; then by descent to his widow Alice Sauerlandt.
Dr. Ernst Hauswedell, Hamburg, 24 November 1962, lot 443.
Presumably acquired at the above sale; then by descent to the present owners.
Heusinger von Waldegg 461-466
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Lot Essay

A collection’s many journeys
The works in this family collection were carefully brought together by a passionate collector and enthusiast of the arts over a period of almost thirty years, starting in the early 1960s. German art of the 1920s was at the heart of the collector’s interest, and included the social satire of George Grosz (lot 147) and Otto Dix, as well as important works of the Neue Sachlichkeit, Dada and Constructivism. Most of the artists represented in this collection, who had lived through the horrors of World War I and established themselves as artists during the Weimar Republic, found themselves defamed as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazi regime. Some were driven into exile, such as George Grosz, and many of those who remained in Germany were banned from working. Otto Freundlich was murdered at Sobibor concentration camp on the day of his arrival in 1943.
Much of the artists’ work had to be hidden from the ‘Entartete Kunst’-purge, and many of the paintings, works on paper and prints in this collection are rare survivors of this feverish and fascinating, yet doomed period of German art.
Amongst the printed works, the etchings and drypoints of Otto Dix stand at the centre of the collection, oscillating – therein representative of the collector’s wider tastes and choices – between unsparing realism, fierce social criticism, collage-like elements inspired by the Dada-movement, and the surreal and the grotesque, all served up with a generous dose of black humour (see lots 147-153). A similar spirit, yet expressed entirely in their personal styles, is found for example in the works of Karl Hubbuch (lot 154) and Heinrich Hörle (lot 155 & 156). It is fitting that the collection includes Conrad Felixmüller’s portrait of Otto Dix (lot 146): it was the younger Felixmüller who in 1920 introduced Dix to the etching medium. In fact, the portrait is a collaborative work of the two artists, as it was Dix who etched his own work depicted in the image onto the plate. It is thus also his first ever etching.
Constructivism is represented by two extremely rare portfolios of the interwar period, Johannes Molzahn’s Zeit-Taster (lot 157) and Oskar Fischer’s 12 Linolschnitte (lot 158), while the equally rare print series Die Zeichen by the older Otto Freundlich (lot 153) , with its more fluid abstraction and figuration, is perhaps best understood in the context of the brief flourishing of Orphism before World War I.

The works in this outstanding collection were bought after much consideration from a few trusted gallerists, occasionally at auction and, whenever possible, from the artists themselves. Some emerging artists of the post-war period, for example Friedensreich Hundertwasser (lots 122 & 123), were supported with occasional purchases of a work, but above all with boundless generosity and hospitality. The collector would drive through the night across Germany and Switzerland to visit artist friends, attend museum openings or see auction previews. Each new purchase was shown to the family and explained and discussed before finding its place on the walls of the family home.
This was not investment, this was a ceaseless passion. The collection was to be enjoyed amongst friends and family at home, but also by the general public – no museum loan request was declined, and as the reputation of the rarities in this private collection grew, more museum loan requests would follow. There was a constant stream of shippers arriving at the door collecting loans for museums across Germany and the United States. The collection’s journey has continued for another thirty years in the hands of the collector’s family after his passing. Some of the masterpieces in the collection found their way to prestigious museum collections, while others are now being sold, so that they can continue on the next phase of their journey.

The present, extremely rare complete copy of Die Zeichen by Otto Freundlich is dedicated by the artist to the art historian Max Sauerlandt (1880-1934). Sauerlandt was a lifelong supporter of the contemporary art of his time. During his directorship at the Städtisches Museum für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe in Halle from 1908-1919 he modernised the collection through the acquisition of many German impressionist and expressionist works. In 1919, after having served in World War I on the eastern front, he was appointed director at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. Here too, he added considerable holdings to the museum collection, including works by the Expressionists and of the artists and designers of the Bauhaus. He was given many works, such as the present portfolio, by the artists he supported and was friends with. Over the years, he thus built a very substantial private art collection. In 1933, Sauerlandt was disposed of all his posts by the Nazi authorities, including his professorship at Hamburg University. Following his death the following year, his widow Alice was able to hide and keep the private collection throughout the Nazi period and World War II.

Heusinger von Waldegg record only six complete sets of this portfolio, and none has been offered at auction in recent decades. The present example, cited by Heusinger von Waldegg, appears to be the only known numbered set. The total size of the edition is not recorded, but given the rarity of the portfolio, it seems that most sets were either confiscated and disposed of as 'degenerate art' or were destroyed during the war, possible as a result of the catastrophic bombing raid on the city of Cologne.

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