The Kimbell Art Museum has purchased an early 20th-century painting that adds a new facet to the modern-art holdings in its distinguished collection.
“Portrait of the Art Dealer Heinrich Thannhauser” (1918) by the German artist Lovis Corinth was purchased for an undisclosed sum through Galerie Arnoldi-Livie in Munich. It went on display Wednesday morning in the Kimbell’s Louis I. Kahn building as part of the permanent collection.
“It’s a great work of art, a very arresting portrait,” said Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell. “We had no 20th-century German works in the collection, so we jumped at the chance to get it. I think it’s one of the greatest works by this artist in America.”
Lovis Corinth (1858-1925), who is a beloved figure in Germany but less well-known in the U.S., straddled impressionism — a subject of much interest at the Kimbell over the years — and expressionism.
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The artist was born on a farm in East Prussia, studied in several European cities and became a leader of the forward-thinking Berlin Secession, a group of artists opposed to restrictions imposed by the academic schools. He worked in landscape, still life history painting and portraiture, and in several mediums.
Corinth suffered a stroke in 1911 that paralyzed the left side of his body. Afterward, his art became more expressionistic, with vigorous, free brushwork and intense emotionalism and immediacy, as in “Portrait of the Art Dealer Heinrich Thannhauser.”
“Corinth’s genius with a brush is apparent in the deliberate touches of white here and there — on a metallic watch, on the ash of a cigar or on a shining eye — and in the trails of a brush dragged through wet paint to record the wafting smoke of the sitter’s ever-present cigar,” the Kimbell said in its announcement. Critics regard Corinth’s work from this period as his best.
But this portrait is also of interest because of its subject, who was a key figure in the history of modern art. Heinrich Thannhauser, Lee said, was Kandinsky’s most important dealer. His Moderne Galerie in Munich was home to a landmark, 90-painting Van Gogh exhibit in 1908 and the first major Picasso show outside of France. Thannhauser also showed pieces at the legendary Armory Show in New York that introduced modern art to Americans with a jolt.
After Thannhauser’s death, his son Justin, fleeing the Nazis, opened a gallery in New York and eventually bequeathed dozens of important paintings to the Guggenheim Museum, including 32 Picassos. But the Thannhausers held on to Corinth’s portrait of their patriarch. It remained in the family until now.
It was George T.M. Shackelford, the Kimbell’s deputy director, who spotted the painting in Munich recently and “thought it would make a great addition to the collection,” Lee said. But to be sure, they had to bring it to Fort Worth for a visit.
“We think of ourselves as a museum of masterpieces,” Lee said. “What we look for above all else is quality. But we also see how the work looks with the rest of the collection. Unless it’s really terrific, it can fall apart when seen in that context. This museum itself is the great judge of works of art, you could say.”
They had the Corinth shipped to Fort Worth and found that “yes, it’s very commanding in the galleries along with other great modernist paintings.”
On Wednesday, it takes its place amid all the Picassos, Braques, Legers and Mondrians.
Kimbell Art Museum
Admission to the permanent collection is free.
3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday and Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Friday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.