Sale: 550 / Evening Sale, June 07. 2024 in Munich Lot 39


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Männerbildnis L. Schames, 1922.
Oil on canvas
€ 400,000 / $ 432,000
€ 508,000 / $ 548,640

(incl. surcharge)
Männerbildnis L. Schames. 1922.
Oil on canvas.
Signed and titled "Männerbildnis L Schames" on the reverse, as well as with the estate stamp of the Kunstmuseum Basel (Lugt 1570 b) and the handwritten registration number "KN Da/Ba 12". 150 x 90 cm (59 x 35.4 in).
The work is depiected in the artist's photo album (photographs outside of albums I-IV, illu. 729). [CH].

• Rare full-length character portrait in a grand format.
• Painted the year Kirchner's main art dealer Ludwig Schames (1852-1922) died.
• A few years after he had made the famous woodcut portrait of Ludwig Schames (1918), Kirchner staged his son and successor in front of some of his masterpieces.
• Featured in E. L. Kirchner's first solo exhibition in Switzerland as early as in 1923 (Kunsthalle Basel).
• In 2010 part of the comprehensive Kirchner retrospective exhibition at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main

The work is documented in the Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Archive, Wichtrach/Bern.

PROVENANCE: Artist's estate (Davos 1938, Kunstmuseum Basel 1946, with the estate stamp on the reverse).
Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett Roman Norbert Ketterer, Munich (1954, with the label on the stretcher).
Galerie Michael Haas, Berlin (2005).
Galerie Thomas, Munich.
Private collection Germany (acquired from the above).

EXHIBITION: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kunsthalle Basel, 1923 (titled "Porträt Schames").
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Galerie Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 1923.
Das Werk Ernst Ludwig Kirchners (Malerei, Grafik, Plastik, Zeichnung), Galerie Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione d'Italia, cat. no. 18 (illu., p. 28).
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Museo d'Arte Moderna della Citta, Lugano, Villa Malpensata, Lugano, March 19 - JUly 2, 2000, p. 140 and cat. no. 70 (illu., p. 145, with the exhibition label on the stretcher).
E. L. Kirchner. Die Deutschlandreise 1925-1926, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, May 13 - August 5, 2007, cat. no. 15 (full-page illu., p. 94).
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Retrospektive, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main (not in cat. but on display).

LITERATURE: Donald E. Gordon, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Mit einem kritischen Katalog sämtlicher Gemälde, Munich/Cambridge (Mass.) 1968, pp. 127, 136 and 380, no. 729 (black-and-white illu.).
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Gerd Presler (ed.), Roman Norbert Ketterer: Legenden am Auktionspult. Die Wiederentdeckung des deutschen Expressionismus, Munich 1999, p. 278.
Hans Delfs (ed.), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Der Gesamte Briefwechsel ("Die absolute Wahrheit, so wie ich sie fühle"), Zürich 2010, nos. 1104, 1111, 1193, 1240 and 1242.

"Schames' son stopped by the other day. [..] Schames wants to show my pictures in Belgium and in Holland. Just mine, no other artist, that's the only way it works for me."
E. L. Kirchner in a letter to Henry van de Velde from November 5, 1922.

"Saw Leon in the morning. [..] Lunch at Schames. [..] In the evening at Schames. [..] Leon is very cordial and nice when we say goodbye."
E. L. Kirchner, diary, December 21, 1925, quoted from: Lothar Grisebach (ed.), Ernst Ludwig Kirchners Davoser Tagebuch, Wichtrach/Bern 1997, p. 114.

"In the early 1920s, Kirchner's star shone brighter in Frankfurt am Main than in any other city.“
Quoted from: ex. cat. E. L. Kirchner. Die Deutschlandreise 1925-1926, Chemnitz, May 13 - August 5, 2007.

Kirchner's dealer Ludwig Schames
The painting shows Léon Schames (1882-1956), son of the Frankfurt art dealer Ludwig Schames (1852-1922), who was a close friend of the artist. For Kirchner, the deceased friend was not only of great importance for his role as art dealer. In his "Kunstsalon" on Boersenstrasse 2 in Frankfurt, he started to show an interest in Modernism from early on, promoting the artists of German Expressionism and later also Max Beckmann. As early as 1916, he presented the first major exhibition of Kirchner's works. Further major exhibitions at the Frankfurt gallery made the artist well-known, particularly in Germany, and brought him into contact with important collectors such as Ludwig and Rosi Fischer, who bought many of his works between 1916 and 1919, or Dr. Carl Hagemann, who collected Kirchner until his death in 1938 and who would also support his wife Erna. In February 1922, Ludwig Schames opened the exhibition of Kirchner's "Swiss Works", which was of outstanding importance to the artist: the Berlin art critic and collector Paul Westheim even devoted the March issue of his magazine "Das Kunstblatt" to the exhibition, and the artist.
Ludwig Schames died on July 3, 1922, and Kirchner felt very saddened by the news. And so he wrote to Martha Marx, the daughter of the deceased, on July 19, 1922: "Believe me, I feel as if I have lost a father, a father and friend. His unselfish and fine manner made otherwise unpleasant things wonderful. Throughout the long time we worked together, there was never a single misunderstanding. I saw little of him, but the image I have of him was and is so vivid in my mind that it felt like I was talking to him whenever I wrote to him. [..] I have never met a more noble and sophisticated person and it is difficult, even more so today, to lose such a person." (Hans Delfs, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Der gesamte Briefwechsel, 2010, no. 1015)

The portrait of Leon Schames
But let's get back to the painting. Still in July that year, his son Léon Schames (1882-1956) visited Kirchner in Davos. He studied physics and published a "Preliminary note on an equation of state covering all states of matter and the law of action of molecules" in a journal for physics in August 1920. For this reason alone, he was probably not interested in continuing to run the gallery, although he remained connected to fine arts through his father throughout his life and also helped and supported his cousin Manfred Schames, nephew of the gallery founder, who took over the Kunstsalon.
During Léon Schame's visit to the "Haus in den Lärchen", it was not only this unusual painting, which exerts a fascination on account of its staged 'weirdness' that was created but also a no less striking color woodcut. Both the painting and the woodcut stage the scene in the spacious 'hall' on the second floor of the "Haus in den Lärchen", where not only neighbor farmers used to dance to music from the gramophone, Nina Hard moved around in sweeping gestures clad only in a raffia skirt, and here too, as the background suggests, Kirchner presented his visitor with a selection of paintings leaning against the wall. Kirchner describes a rather official encounter with the Frankfurter at the alpine farmhouse that seemed to have impressed him. He portrays Léon Schames in a golden-brown, reddish iridescent double-breasted suit with a bow tie, his hair tightly parted, his beard well-groomed, and his hands crossed behind his back. Leon Schames appears lost in thought, reserved despite a mild facial expression, standing kind of stiff in the room on the colorful carpet in front of the sketched, magnificently framed paintings, the motifs of which are indistinct: a narrow format which can be assumed to be a typical Kirchner nude in left and a landscape, possibly Kirchner's "Alpweg" from 1921, in a square format (fig). Above it on the right we see the studio scene "Maler und Modell" (Painter and Model) from the Dresden years, which today is in the Hamburger Kunsthalle, a self-confident display of the artist's genius as a painter of German Expressionism. (Fig.)

The continuation of the Kunstsalon
After the death of the old Ludwig Schames on July 5, 1922, his nephew Manfred Schames took over the management of the "Kunstsalon Ludwig Schames" in Frankfurt and moved the gallery to new premises on Junghofstraße. He continued to show exhibitions of works by Kirchner. In 1933, the gallery was closed due to increasing Nazi oppression, in 1939 Schames emigrated to Israel, where he died as the owner of a chicken farm. On January 1, 1925, Kirchner wrote to Gustav Schiefler, the Hamburg judge, art collector, patron, art critic, and author of critical catalogs of the graphic works of Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Liebermann, and Edvard Munch, about Manfred Schames: "Schames will probably come to Hamburg [to negotiate taking over a Kirchner exhibition at Cassirer with Galerie Commeter at the end of 1923] and will see you there. He is a man who deserves full trust. In the almost 17 years that I have been in contact with him, I have only heard good things about him. I am very happy to have him. After his visit, we also became closer as people and I hope that we are and will remain friends. Like his uncle, he is a devout Jew. He was awarded the Iron Cross during the war and is a complete man, warm-hearted and full of feeling for art." (Wolfgang Henze, Kirchner to Gustav Schiefler, Briefwechsel, Zurich 1990)
It is also noteworthy in this context that Erich Heckel portrayed Léon Schames in front of paintings in the rooms of the Frankfurt gallery in 1923: on the left, "Zwei Männer beim Bad am Strand" from 1916 (Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden) and on the right, Otto Mueller, "Liebespaar" from 1919 (Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig). This leads to the conclusion that Léon Schames was part of everyday life at the gallery alongside his work as a physicist. Kirchner also confirmed this fact to Erna from Chemnitz on January 17, 1926, when he was on an extended trip through Germany: "The Schames guys are definitely not bad, but they are terribly lazy guys who don't do anything except for a little commercial hustle."
Léon Schames, born in Paris in 1882, managed to gain a foothold in Switzerland during the rise of National Socialism and died there in 1956. He is buried at the Jewish Cemetery of Veyrier near Geneva. In 2023, the Freie Universität in Berlin published a bachelor's thesis in the Department of Physics entitled: "A reappraisal of Léon Schames' work 'Zur Lösung des Problems der Zustandsgleichung'". [MvL]

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Männerbildnis L. Schames, 1922.
Oil on canvas
€ 400,000 / $ 432,000
€ 508,000 / $ 548,640

(incl. surcharge)