He was the first Jewish artist to receive academic training: Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800-1882). Oppenheim studied Jewish tradition intensively and painted portraits of the most prominent members of the Jewish community in his time. Thus his work constitutes the centrepiece of the art collection. Only a few Jewish artists of the 20th century, such as Ludwig Meidner, Jakob Steinhardt and Hermann Struck, continued this exploration of Judaism in their works.
Works by Jakob Steinhardt
Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968), Returning Home from Temple, watercolor, 1916.
Steinhardt was sent to the Eastern Front—now Poland and Lithuania—as a soldier in World War I. It was there that he encountered Eastern European Jewish culture, which he documented in numerous works. This experience also led him to discover his own religion.
Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968), Walk, drawing, 1922.
In addition, the museum also collects works of Jewish artists that do not address religious motifs. Their works clearly show that in the first half of the 20th century, Jews were a natural part of urban society, from which they were systematically ostracized and which was ultimately taken from them beginning in 1933. The Jewish Museum collects these works to remind viewers of the multi-faceted German-Jewish art and cultural scene of that period. The museum is also dedicated to contemporary Jewish artists.
Jewish artists of Frankfurt
One of the art collection's major focal areas is painting and graphic art by Jewish artists of Frankfurt, primarily from the 1920s. These artists shaped the city's artistic life, although they were later ostracized, persecuted, and forced into emigration or murdered by the NS regime. Works in this category include, for example, pieces by Samson Fritz Schames (1898–1967). The Jewish Museum presented an overview of his works for the first time in 1989.
We are currently working on a set of around 400 drawings by Expressionist artist Erna Pinner (1890–1987) as well as the life and works of the forgotten Expressionist Rosy Lilienfeld (1896-1942). With the help of the Society of our Friends and Patrons, a new collection focus was created in recent years, supplementing the collection of the so-called "Lost Generation" of artists.
Hermann Struck (1876 - 1944), Gerbermühle in Frankfurt am Main, 1910/11.
Rosy Lilienfeld (1896–1942), Hand drawings on Jewish themes and landscapes: View from Sachsenhausen to the Eiserner Steg and Dom, 1926, chalk on paper
Erna Pinner (1890–1997), Bolivian Indian Woman, undated, watercolor and pencil on thin paper, adhered to heavier paper
Samson (Fritz) Schames (1898–1967), Bombed House and Broken Wheel Barrow, 1941, print
Arts in Exile in the Ludwig Meidner Archive
The Ludwig Meidner Archive comprises around 2,000 works from the artistic estate of Expressionist Ludwig Meidner (1884–1966), but also includes additional estates from exiled artists. Else Meidner (1900–1987), Ludwig Meidner’s pupil and later wife; Kurt Levy (1911–1987), who became a renowned artist in Colombia; Arie Goral (1909–1996), whose paintings demonstrate the belligerent publicist and activist’s poetic side; the painter and stage set designer H. Henry Gowa (1902-1990); the artist Ida ("Adi") Ritter (1900–1975), who emigrated to the US via the Bahamas.
The 21st century contemporary art collection is in the process of being built up. It has an international focus and will include photography, sculpture, installations, and films in addition to paintings. Our interest lies in aesthetic and conceptual forms of representing a wide variety of different notions of Jewish identity, in the artistic exploration of Jewish tradition, and in Jewish perspectives and reflections on the impact of the Shoah. We commenced with the commissioned work "Untitled" (2018) by Ariel Schlesinger (*1980). The sculpture will be on view in the outside area of the museum from September 2019. An installation entitled "The Glory and the Misery of Our Existence" (2018) by Nir Alon (*1964) will be shown in the former entrance hall of the Rothschild Palais.