Sand Hills in Grünau (Translation)
Bei Gruenau (Primary Title)

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, German, 1880 - 1938 (Artist)

Educational
1913
German
Oil on canvas
Framed: 35 1/4 × 39 1/16 × 2 1/4 in. (89.54 × 99.22 × 5.72 cm)
Overall (canvas): 33 7/8 × 38 in. (86.04 × 96.52 cm)
2016.135

Originally titled Sand Hills in Grünau and dated 1913 in Rosy Fischer’s records, this painting was left behind when her son Max fled Nazi Germany in 1935. A series of title changes after it was taken led to the work’s misidentification for seventy years.

Initially, private German collector Kurt Feldäusser retitled it Dunes at Fehmarn in 1938, assuming it portrayed Fehmarn, an island off the northern coast of Germany, which was one of Kirchner’s most popular landscape subjects in 1912 and 1913. After Feldäusser’s death, it was sold in 1949 through a New York gallery to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1967, a scholar of Kirchner’s work, Donald Gordon, recognized that the painting’s setting was not Fehmarn. He suggested that MoMA change the title to Sand Hills in Engadine and date it 1917–18, thinking that it resembled the landscape Kirchner painted after he moved to Davos, Switzerland, at the end of World War I. When the Fischer family renewed the search for Max’s work in 2004, a MoMA researcher found a postcard picturing the hills near Grünau that almost exactly matches the composition of this painting. This discovery confirmed that it is indeed the painting titled Sand Hills in Grünau that Rosy Fischer recorded on her original list, which led MoMA to return the painting to the Fischer family.

Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, and Gift of Eva Fischer Marx, Thomas Marx, and Dr. George and Mrs. Marylou Fischer
"Ernst Ludwig Kirchner", Neue Galerie, NY, October 3, 2019 - January 13, 2020

“The Mystic North: Symbolist Landscape Painting in Northern Europe and North America 1890-1940”, Art Gallery of Ontario, January 13 - March 11, 1984; Cincinnati Art Museum, March 31 - May 13, 1984.

“20th Century Masterpieces”, Musée Moderne, Paris, May – June, 1952; Tate Gallery, London, July 15 – August 17, 1952.
Price, Renée, Ronald S. Lauder, Nelson Blitz, Sharon Jordan, Jill Lloyd-Peppiatt, Sherwin Simmons, and Janis Staggs. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. München: Prestel, 2019. (no. 29, p. 162)

Exil: Die Sammlung Ludwig und Rosy Fischer, Frankfurt am Main. München: Prestel, 1990, p. 162, no. 183.

Donald E. Gordon. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1968, p. 339, no. 506 (illus).

Franz Roh. “Entartete" Kunst : Kunstbarbarei im Dritten Reich. Hannover: Fackelträger-Verlag, 1962, p. 163.

Painting and Sculpture in the Museum of Modern Art, a Catalog, New York, 1958, p. 33.

James Johnson Sweeney, et al. 20th century masterpieces: an exhibition of paintings and sculpture at the Tate Gallery, 15 July-17 August, 1952. London: Arts Council, 1952.

MOMA Bulletin XVII/2-3 1950, no. 834, ill. p. 10.

By 1925, Ludwig Fischer [1860-1922] and Rosy Fischer [1869-1926], Frankfurt am Main, Germany; [1] In 1926, Max Fischer [1893 – 1954], Frankfurt, Berlin, Germany, by inheritance. [2] Kurt Feldhäusser, Berlin [1905-1945], between 1938-1945; [3] Marie Luise Feldhäusser [1876-1967], Berlin and Brooklyn, NY, 1945-1949, by inheritance; [4] [Erhard Weyhe Gallery, New York], 1949; [5] Sold to Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1949; [6] in 2015, MOMA restituted the painting to Fischer Family Descendants (Eva Fischer Marx and George Fischer); [7] March 2016, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond. [8]

[1] Ludwig and Rosy Fischer were art collectors in Frankfurt, Germany, who collected German Expressionism between 1905 and 1925. By the time of Ludwig's death in 1922, it was a collection of about 500 works. Rosy Fischer founded an art gallery in her home in November of 1923. The gallery was closed in 1925. She died in 1926 while traveling in North Africa. See Fredrick R. Brandt. German Expressionist Art: Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection, Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1987, pp. 1 - 11.
In 1926, the Fischer collection was divided and inherited by Ludwig and Rosy Fischer's sons, Max Fischer (1893-1954) and Ernst Fischer (1896 – 1981). See Brandt, 1987, pp. 1 -11.

The painting was likely in the Fischer collection by 1922 and is included in a 1925 handwritten list by Rosy Fischer, titled: Sandberge im Grünau. See Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Archiv Grohmann: https://www.staatsgalerie.de/en/g/collection/digital-collection/einzelansicht/sgs/werk/einzelansicht/EAC84DD3DBAA4697B69229D5B8903B96.html

[2] In 1926, the Fischer collection was divided and inherited by Ludwig and Rosy Fischer's sons, Max Fischer (1893-1954) and Ernst Fischer (1896 – 1981). The painting is included in a 1931 list as Bei Grünau and owned by Max Fischer. This list was part of correspondence between Galerie Ferdinand Möller and Max Fischer. See Ferdinand Möller Archive at the Berlinsche Galerie, Berlin: http://sammlung-online.berlinischegalerie.de/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=211545&viewType=detailView

The work is listed without a value on and is marked “unverk. [aeuflich]” which can mean either “not for sale” or “unsaleable” in German. According to the Museum of Modern Art’s (MOMA) 2015 “Kirchner Restitution Provenance Timeline” which was published on MOMA’s website, Möller returned the painting to Max Fischer in early 1933, a few weeks before the Nazis came to power. This 1933 return to Max Fischer is also cited in Cordula Frowein’s “Liste der Werke aus der Sammlung Fischer” found in Heuberger, Georg, Ed. Expressionismus und Exil: Die Sammlung Ludwig and Rosy Fischer, Frankfurt am Main. München: Prestel, 1990, p. 162, no. 183.

In October of 1935, Max Fischer leaves Germany on a tourist visa to visit his brother Ernst in Richmond, Virginia and does not return to Germany. See MOMA’s Kirchner Restitution Provenance Timeline.

[3] Kurt Feldhäusser, a Berlin-based collector of Expressionist art, acquired a painting titled Dünen auf Fehmarn (Dunes at Fehmarn). No records have been found to indicate the source or reason for the painting's title change when it entered Feldhäusser's collection. It is listed in his 1943 inventory list as formerly owned by Max Fischer and as acquired in 1938. Feldhäusser was killed in late-war Allied bombings in Nuremberg in January of 1945. See MOMA’s Kirchner Restitution Provenance Timeline.

[4] In 1945, Marie Luise Feldhäusser inherited her son’s collection, including this painting. She would sell much of this collection through E. Weyhe Gallery in New York. See MOMA’s Kirchner Restitution Provenance Timeline.

[5] Marie Luise Feldhäusser emigrated to New York and consigned this painting to the E. Weyhe Gallery. See MOMA’s Kirchner Restitution Provenance Timeline.

[6] In 1949, MoMA acquires the work titled Dunes at Fehmarn from the Weyhe Gallery in New York (accession number D285.1949). In 1967, the title was changed to Sand Hills in Engadine and given a new date of 1917-18. See MOMA’s Kirchner Restitution Provenance Timeline. See also Donald E. Gordon. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1968, p. 339, no. 506 (illus) as Sand Mountains in Engadine and dated 1917-18.

[7] Following years of research, MOMA learned that some of their internal provenance information was incorrect. Due to confusion over titles and dates over the years, it was not immediately clear that this was a work Max Fischer owned before he left Germany. Through research and discovery of an historical postcard of the dunes near Grünau, it was concluded that the painting was of an area outside of Berlin. After determining that a painting titled Sand Hills in Grünau was listed in the original records of Ludwig and Rosy Fischer’s collection, MoMA agreed that it mostly likely belonged to Max Fischer. (See VMFA press release: https://www.vmfa.museum/pressroom/news/german-expressionist-work-is-reunited-with-ludwig-and-rosy-fischer-collection-at-vmfa/)
Although facts around the painting’s transfer to Kurt Feldhäusser in 1938 may never be fully known, MOMA concluded that the context in which the transfer took place made it likely that Fischer did not have full knowledge or choice regarding the transaction or receive its proceeds. Given these circumstances, the Museum of Modern Art and its Board of Trustees decided to restitute the work to the heirs of Max Fischer. See MOMA’s Kirchner Restitution Provenance Timeline.

[8] Information in VMFA Curatorial and Registration files.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.