Front cover of Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim 1928

Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim am 1. April 1928

 

On the evening before art dealer extraordinaire, Alfred Flechtheim’s 50th birthday on 1 April 1928, a party was hosted in his honour at the Kaiserhof in Berlin. He was presented with a loose-leaf album containing birthday greetings in the form of drawings, watercolours, collages, poems, cards, signed photographs, and other written messages, which had been sent in from all corners of the national and international art world.

Birthday greeting for Alfred Flechtheim by Fernand Léger

The organising committee, which included luminaries of the time, such as actress, Tilla Durieux, author, Thea Sternheim, artists, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee and George Grosz, boxer, Max Schmeling, and cigar manufacturer and patron of the arts, Josef Feinhals, had sent out a call to Flechtheim’s stable of artists and to his many contacts, associates and friends in Berlin, Paris and elsewhere.

Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim including a list of the organising committee
The organising committee of Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim, 1928.

The greetings came flooding in. Edited by Curt Valentin, who would later that year start working for one of Flechtheim’s galleries, they were published as a book in a limited edition of 350, entitled Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim am 1. April 1928. At the party, Flechtheim was presented with a special copy of the book, and the album of loose-leaf greetings, by bankers and art collectors, Fritz Heß, Baron Eduard von der Heydt and Hugo Simon. Guests at the party also received copies of the book.

Alfred Flechtheim, photo: Riess, Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim, 1928

The birthday publication mimicked the layout of the innovative arts and society journal, Der Querschnitt, which Flechtheim had founded in 1921. Now, instead of images of an eclectic mix of art works and socialites, interspersed with articles about the latest literary, high society and art world happenings, familiar from its pages, the birthday greetings were interspersed with witty articles and cartoons in praise of, and lampooning, the art dealer.

Page from Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim featuring cartoons by George Grosz and Carl Hofer
Page from Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim 1928 featuring cartoons by George Grosz and Carl Hofer, and a greeting from department store owner, Alfred Leonard Tietz
Page from Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim featuring drawings by Henri Laurens and Paul Klee
Page from Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim featuring drawings by Henri Laurens and Paul Klee, with a eulogy by poet, Gottfried Benn

Aside from the nearly 140 greetings published in Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim, over 100 contributions appear to have been received after the deadline. The names of the contributors concerned were listed toward the end of the book, with the advice that they would be published subsequently as a supplement (although this appears never to have happened).

Page from Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim drawing by Jean Cocteau
Drawing by Jean Cocteau for Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim, 1928
Hermann von Wedderkop, publisher of Der Querschnitt, and Alfred Flechtheim in fancy dress
Hermann von Wedderkop, publisher of Der Querschnitt, and Alfred Flechtheim in fancy dress

 

It is not currently known precisely what happened during the Nazi period to the album of birthday greetings presented to Flechtheim on the occasion of his 50th birthday. It seems likely that it formed part of his personal art collection and thus remained in Berlin in the possession of his
wife, Betti, after his death in exile in London in 1937, where he had fled due to Nazi persecution. Faced with the threat of deportation, Betti Flechtheim took her own life on 15
November 1941. The contents of her home, by then at Düsseldorfer Straße 44-45, Berlin, where she
was sheltering much of Flechtheim’s personal art collection, previously housed at the Flechtheim marital home at Bleibtreustraße 16, were sequestered by the Gestapo. Rosi Hulisch, Flechtheim’s niece, who had worked for him at the gallery in Berlin since the late 1920s, was witness to the liquidation of his business, and had also stored some of Flechtheim’s collection at her home. Neither woman was able to flee Germany, being unable to fund the
Reichsfluchtsteuer required of them by the Nazi regime. Rosi Hulisch was forced into so-called Jewish lodgings at Günzelstraße 17/18 in April 1942. In November that year, also threatened with deportation, she and her mother took their own lives. Her estate was confiscated.

Back cover of Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim am 1. April 1928
Back cover of Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim am 1. April 1928 featuring drawing by Picasso

Part of the album of birthday greetings has since surfaced, and its contents dispersed, on the art market. The album itself and some remaining drawings and greetings are now held in the Collection of Manuscripts at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

Nonetheless, and perhaps all the more, Happy 145th Birthday, Alfred Flechtheim!

 

Featured image: front cover of Der Querschnitt durch Alfred Flechtheim am 1. April 1928 with drawing, Bravo Alfred, by Ernst Aufseeser

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