For the Lehmbruck Museum, safeguarding Lehmbruck’s entire life’s work, and it forms the basis of the museum’s outstanding international collection of 20th century sculptures, is of fundamental importance. As such the Lehmbruck Museum is the only institution worldwide to conduct research into the life and collect the work of Wilhelm Lehmbruck.
The relationship between Lehmbruck and the City of Duisburg was certainly an eventful one. The purchase of only a single work during Lehmbruck’s life time – the “Duisburgerin” in 1912, which was financed by the Böninger family – was followed three years later (1915) by the artist’s rejection of a request for him to design a heroic figure in the cemetery of honour on the Kaiserberg. Not until 1925, six years after the artist’s death, did August Hoff, the Director of the Museum Association, succeed in receiving as a loan a large part of Lehmbruck’s estate from his widow Anita. In 1927, the bronze “The Kneeling Woman” fell victim to a pre-fascist attack. The Nazis deemed Lehmbruck’s work to be “degenerate”, which is why the museum as an official institution had to give the estate back to the family. During the Nazi era it was only with great difficulty and under dangerous circumstances that the family was able to preserve the sculptor’s oeuvre, albeit with some wartime losses. Owing to these experiences it was only with considerable effort and not until 1964 that the City of Duisburg succeeded in regaining the Lehmbruck estate on loan from the family to coincide with the opening of the museum designed by Manfred Lehmbruck; however, it had not secured it under contract. Over decades the Lehmbruck Museum was able to acquire a total of 165 works by the artist.
At the beginning of 2005 the Lehmbruck family gave the City of Duisburg, as the artist’s home, first refusal, for a limited period of time, to purchase of the estate. The Board of Trustees of the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Foundation immediately accorded the possible permanent acquisition the highest priority.
After almost four years of negotiations in 2009 the museum at long last managed to permanently secure the extensive estate for Duisburg. Now contractually secured, the museum’s collection grew by 33 sculptures, 18 paintings, 11 pastels, 819 drawings and 260 prints. Until then these 1,141 works had only been on loan from the joint heirs but now, thanks to support from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, the Kulturstiftung der Länder (Cultural Foundation of the Federal States), the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Kunststiftung NRW (Art Foundation NRW), the City of Duisburg and businesses in Duisburg were able to be acquired by 2011 as part of a successful public-private partnership-model.
Please note that not all of the collection’s pieces can be displayed.
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