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Emanuel Schlesinger

  • The art collector Schlesinger provided primarily financial aid by creating working opportunities for young artists in post-independence Bombay, and initiated the corporate culture of buying art.
  • Emanuel
  • Schlesinger
  • 04-01-1896
  • Zemun (RS)
  • 01-11-1968
  • Mumbai (IN)
  • Factory OwnerTechnical DirectorArt CollectorArt Critic
  • The art collector Schlesinger provided primarily financial aid by creating working opportunities for young artists in post-independence Bombay, and initiated the corporate culture of buying art.

    Word Count: 26

  • Opening of the Raza exhibition, first row from left: Unknown, S.H. Raza, Käthe Langhammer, Rudolf von Leyden, second row from left: Walter Langhammer, K.H. Ara, Emanuel Schlesinger, 1948 (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz, authorized by the late S.H. Raza © Raza archive; All Rights Reserved).
  • If Salman Rushdie had to enlarge on the character of a rich, passionate art collector-entrepreneur in exile, he could fall back on the biography of Emanuel Schlesinger. While Kekoo Gandhy appears in Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh as Parsi gallery owner “Kekoo Mody”, Schlesinger and Rushdie only share the same address in Bombay’s posh Breach Candy district: Villa Windsor in the Westfield Estate off Warden Road (now Bhulabhai Desai Road). Picturesque mansions characterize this residential complex with villas of some of the richest men in Mumbai today. In 1946, Emanuel Schlesinger lived in one of these bungalows, the Windsor Villa. Before that, the Austrian refugee couple Camilla and Julius Thenen, relatives of Joe Schimmel residing in the neighbourhood, lived there; then, after Schlesinger, the author Salman Rushdie as a child in the 1950s. Rushdie’s Muslim parents left Delhi in 1947 at the advent of the Partition riots to live in cosmopolitan Bombay. They later bought the villa, only to sell it again in 1964 and move to Pakistan. Rushdie showed his strong emotional ties to his childhood home by using the colonial estate as a model for the Methwold estate of his Midnight’s Children.
    It was Schlesinger’s first residential address in South Bombay, after years of living in accommodation in his factory in a more northerly district, Dadar. His Austrian daughter Susanne joined him from Australia at the beginning of the year. The frugal man had probably finally decided to spend money on adequate housing to welcome his descendant after being separated from her during the entire war. With the uprising of the Nazi regime in Austria, the Viennese family had been scattered across several continents.
    In 1938, Emanuel Schlesinger’s Austrian property was expropriated due to his Jewish origin. From his in-laws, he inherited the hat factory, Damenhuterzeugung und Handel S. Engelmann [women’s hat production and trade S. Engelmann] in Vienna’s textile district. In late 1938, he managed to make arrangements for his family to emigrate to the United Kingdom. His daughter Eva (born 1923) and her later husband Max Grünwald as well as his wife Nelly (née Engelmann; born 1900) settled in Manchester, where he bought them a house. His mother-in-law Fanny Engelmann (1872–1940) had to stay behind and died a year later. Emanuel Schlesinger himself was able to leave Vienna on 28 February, 1939. With the help of a friend, he fled via Switzerland to Italy, where he boarded a passenger ship heading east, with Shanghai as his final destination. But with arrangements of John Klein through the Jewish Relief Association in Bombay, he received a visa for India while on board the ship, and arrived in Bombay on 20 March 1939. In search of entrepreneurial opportunities, Schlesinger concluded an agreement with Messrs. Omprakash Durgadas to start manufacturing pharmaceutical products in collaboration with the Viennese pharmacist Hans Blaskopf (1903–1974). At the beginning of the Second World War, he was briefly interned for two months, first in Deolali and then in Ahmednagar.
    After their release, the two Austrian businessmen Schlesinger and Blaskopf, together with their Indian partner, set about installing their pharmaceutical company Indo-Pharma Pharmaceuticals Works (INDON) at Dadar (Bombay) and concentrated on the production of vitamins. The Indian counterpart sold his share to the two Viennese refugees in January 1941, turning them into two successful factory owners who achieved a monthly income of around 3 000 rupees in 1946. Despite his high income and business success, Schlesinger was unable to bring his family to India, neither his wife with their younger daughter, who survived the war in England, nor his brother. Although he had been granted a visa, the brother was unable to leave Europe because the war had broken out and he spent most of the war years hiding in Vienna.
    In April 1947, Emanuel Schlesinger was granted British citizenship. In the autumn of that year – after eight years of separation – he went to Manchester to reunite with his family. After this long period of estrangement, the couple agreed on a divorce, and Schlesinger later married his Indian domestic servant and started a family with her in Bombay, raising two daughters.
    During the war, he had already regained financial security and resumed art collecting; like others, he collected Indian coins, wood and stone sculptures. But, as in Austria, he began to also collect modern, contemporary art. This was now Indian contemporary art by young, unknown artists; artists who did not study at the art academy and who made a living by painting posters and washing cars. Schlesinger’s financial resources and his deciphering eye for talent made him a respected art collector whose purchases became trendsetting in cosmopolitan Bombay of the late 1940s and 1950s.
    Together with the Langhammer couple, the Leyden brothers and a circle of Indian art lovers and promoters like Mulk Raj Anand, Homi Bhabha or Kekoo Gandhy, he shared the vision for modern Indian art, the belief and confidence in the creativity and success of these young artists, mainly of the Progressive Artists’ Group. They all actively supported the young Bombay avant-garde by writing favourable art reviews in newspapers, opening their exhibitions, and expanding their exhibition spaces by displaying their paintings in calendars and advertisements, and thus getting the paintings into the homes of the common people.
    Unlike Leyden or Langhammer however, Schlesinger was not a practitioner, but an art connoisseur. The businessman Schlesinger had a good understanding of the financially difficult conditions of the artists and tried to provide financial help by commissioning the young artists to paint. With some of the artists, he maintained a lifelong friendship and sponsored them temporarily, like Raza and Husain. Schlesinger’s 1956 letter to Raza (Schlesinger 1956), six years after Raza’s departure and settlement in France, shows the continued support by Schlesinger, who tried to get articles about Raza’s exhibitions and successes in France printed in Indian newspapers and to make paintings of his collection available for calendar prints. When Schlesinger visited him in France, Raza received a painting by Fernand Leger as a wedding present.
    In the 1940s and 1950s, Emanuel Schlesinger was one of the most important modern art collectors in Bombay. With his company INDON, he was one of the first and most important drivers of the corporate culture of buying art in India.
    “Schle”, as Langhammer and Leyden called their comrade in the common cause of supporting the young avant-garde, primarily provided financial support for mostly destitute artists by creating employment opportunities for and collecting works by promising young artists. All five of the emigrant circle, Käthe and Walter Langhammer, Albrecht and Rudolf von Leyden and Schlesinger, had a strong understanding of art and used it for constructive criticism on an equal footing. Putting their forces together, they tried to democratize the art display by generating new audiences and virtual spaces for exhibitions through printing in newspapers. However, Schlesinger’s greatest and foremost contribution to the development of modern art in Bombay in the 1940s and 1950s was his collecting activity, which found many followers in individuals as well as in corporates.

    Word Count: 1166

  • Letter from Emanuel Schlesinger (Bombay) to S. H. Raza (Paris), September 1956, on official INDON letterhead paper (Reprinted from: Vajpeyi 2013, 96; Image courtesy: The Raza Foundation).
    Emanuel Schlesinger (far left, seated in the first row) at the opening of the Chemould Gallery at Jehangir Art Gallery Main Hall, September 1963 (Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz © Gandhy Archive, Mumbai; All Rights Reserved).
    Early Raza painting Street Scene in Bombay from Schlesinger Collection as a calendar print (Photo: Margit Franz 2010; All Rights Reserved).
  • Dalmia, Yashodhara. The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives. Oxford University Press, 2001.

    Dhage, Vrushali. “P. A. G. and the Role of the Critics.” art etc. news & views, February 2012, Accessed 18 April 2021.

    Franz, Margit. “Transnationale & transkulturelle Ansätze in der Exilforschung am Beispiel der Erforschung einer kunstpolitischen Biographie von Walter Langhammer.” Mapping Contemporary History. Zeitgeschichten im Diskurs, edited by Margit Franz et al., Böhlau, 2008, pp. 243–272. Academia, Accessed 14 March 2021.

    Franz, Margit. “Graz – Wien – Bombay – London: Walter Langhammer, Künstler und Kunstförderer.” Historisches Jahrbuch der Stadt Graz, vol. 40, edited by F. Bouvier, and N. Reisinger, Stadt Graz – Kulturamt, 2010, pp. 253–276. Academia,ünstler_und_Kunstförderer. Accessed 14 March 2021.

    Franz, Margit. Gateway India: Deutschsprachiges Exil in Indien zwischen britischer Kolonialherrschaft, Maharadschas und Gandhi. CLIO, 2015.

    Franz, Margit. “From Dinner Parties to Galleries: The Langhammer-Leyden-Schlesinger Circle in Bombay – 1940s through the 1950s.” Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century, edited by Burcu Dogramaci et al., Leuven University Press, 2020, pp. 73–90. Project Muse, doi: 10.1353/book.77990. Accessed 30 March 2021.

    Franz, Margit. “Die multiplen Identitäten und Loyalitäten der Käthe Langhammer.” Das Exil von Frauen. Historische Perspektive und Gegenwart (biografiA. Neue Ergebnisse der Frauenbiografieforschung, 26), edited by Ilse Korotin and Ursula Stern, Praesens Verlag, 2020, pp. 148–167.
    Rushdie, Salman. The Moor’s Last Sigh. Random House, 1997.

    Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children. Cape, 1981.

    Schürer, Norbert. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children: A Reader’s Guide. Continuum, 2004.

    Vajpeyi, Ashok, and Shruthi Issac, editors. Geysers: Letters Between Raza & Akbar Padamsee, Bal Chhabda, E. Schlesinger, F.N. Souza, Laxman Pai, M.F. Husain, R.V. Leyden, S.K. Bakre, Tyeb Mehta, V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, Walter Longhammar (Raza correspondence, vol. 2). Vadehra Art Gallery, n.d. [2013].

    Zitzewitz, Karin. The Perfect Frame: Presenting Modern Indian Art. Stories and Photographs from the Collection of Kekoo Gandhy. Chemould Publications and Arts, 2003.

    Word Count: 345

  • Private Archive Margit Franz, Sinabelkirchen.

    Archival records from personal interviews between the author and Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai, 30 April to 3 May 2003; 18 to 22 January 2004; 26 April to 12 May 2007; 13 to 15 October 2008; 24 October 2010.

    Archival records from personal interviews between the author and S.H. Raza, Paris, 3 to 4 July 2006; and Gorbio, 18 August 2010.

    Archival records from a personal interview between Yashodhara Dalmia and Maseeh Rahman and Käthe Langhammer, London, August 1993 (Private Archive Margit Franz: digital audio material and transcription).

    Private Archive of late Khorshed & Kekoo Gandhy Archive, Mumbai

    Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes
    National Archive of India, New Delhi, Application from Mr Emanuel Schlesinger to Austrian Jewish Refugee For Naturalisation Under the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 (National Archives of India, New Delhi), Home Political/E/1946/ F32–27.

    Bombay Art Society exhibition catalogues from 1938 till 1960.

    Times of India Archive via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Accessed 18 April 2021.

    Word Count: 148

  • Margit Franz
  • Bombay, India (1939–1968).

  • Indo Pharma Pharmaceutical Works Private Ltd., Shanti Bhavan, 83 Kohinoor Road, Dadar, Bombay 14 (now 83, Swami Gyan Jivandas Marg, Lokmanya Tilak Colony, Dadar, Mumbai) (residence and work, 1939–1946); Windsor Villa, Westfield Park, Warden Road, Bombay 26 (now Windsor Villa, 1 Westfield Estate, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Cumballa Hill) (residence, 1946).

  • Bombay
  • Margit Franz. "Emanuel Schlesinger." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 31-07-2021.
  • Mulk Raj Anand
    WriterPhilosopherArt PatronCultural Critic

    As a global socialist and modernist, Mulk Raj Anand sought and shaped opportunities for intellectual exchanges between Asia and Europe.

    Word Count: 20

    Rudolf von Leyden
    GeologistAdvertisement SpecialistJournalistArt CriticArt CollectorCartoonist

    The advertisement expert, Rudolf von Leyden, became a major art critic and art historian in Bombay in the 1940s, advocating an urgent need for modernism in art in post-colonial India.

    Word Count: 30

    Iconic Photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and Their Associates

    There are two versions of the PAG photo at the opening of M.F. Husain's first solo exhibition in 1950 (published in 1996 and 2003) and two narratives about the opening.

    Word Count: 28

    Picture of Rudi von Leyden’ s Bust by Sadanand K. Bakre

    The picture of the previously lost and recently located sculpture by Sadanand K. Bakre reflects the relationship between the artist Bakre and the art critic Rudi von Leyden.

    Word Count: 28

    Baumgartner’s Bombay

    The novel Baumgartner’s Bombay provides an opposite picture to that of the successful refugee in Bombay. Anita Desai’s fiction depicts poverty and failure in Indian exile.

    Word Count: 28

    One Man exhibition and subsequent trial, Akbar Padamsee
    Court Case

    Akbar Padamsee’s solo exhibition in Bombay in 1954 was overshadowed by his arrest on charge of displaying obscene pictures. The subsequent court case drew support from across the art world.

    Word Count: 30

    Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer

    The painter Walter Langhammer and his wife Käthe built an informal infrastructure to promote local avant-garde artists and regularly invited them to Open Studio Evenings at their studio.

    Word Count: 29

    Institute of Foreign Languages
    Language SchoolExhibition SpaceLibraryTheatre

    With its wide range of cultural activities, the Institute of Foreign Languages − founded in 1946 by the Viennese emigrant Charles Petras − became a glocal contact zone in Bombay.

    Word Count: 27

    Bombay Art Society

    One of the oldest art societies in India founded by colonial rulers, Bombay Art Society showcased art students and professional artists from all over India, including the Progressive Artists of Bombay.

    Word Count: 31

    Kekoo Minochair Gandhy
    Frame Shop OwnerGalleristArt Collector

    Starting from a cosmopolitan milieu for young local artists, Kekoo and his wife Khorshed Gandhy developed a business model that turned the frame shop into Gallery Chemould.

    Word Count: 27

    The Leydens: Sculpture, Paintings, Cartoons

    In 1948 Albrecht and Rudi von Leyden sold their personal works of art in order to set up an “Artists' Aid Fund”, which became an institution in the following years.

    Word Count: 29

    Schimmel’s Wedding Film 1948

    The film shows Schimmel’s Jewish wedding ceremony at the prestigious Glamis Villa, followed by lunch at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Among the guests were Käthe and Walter Langhammer.

    Word Count: 30

    Jewish Relief Association Bombay
    Relief Organisation

    In 1934, the first refugees from National Socialism founded a Jewish aid association in Bombay called the Jewish Relief Association (JRA) to help refugees in financial and other difficulties.

    Word Count: 28