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The Feldberg Art Collection. A Series of Three Exhibitions of European Artworks collected by the Feldberg Family

  • In 1950 the Institute of Foreign Languages organised three exhibitions of paintings from the collection of the exiled Jewish manufacturer Siegbert Feldberg and his wife Hildegard from Stettin.
  • The Feldberg Art Collection. A Series of Three Exhibitions of European Artworks collected by the Feldberg Family

    Word Count: 17

  • The Feldberg Art Collection. A Series of Three Exhibitions of European Artworks collected by the Feldberg Family
  • Exhibition
  • 08-02-1950
  • 28-02-1950
  • In 1950 the Institute of Foreign Languages organised three exhibitions of paintings from the collection of the exiled Jewish manufacturer Siegbert Feldberg and his wife Hildegard from Stettin.

    Word Count: 27

  • In February 1950 the Institute of Foreign Languages organised a series of three exhibitions of European paintings from the collection of the exiled Jewish men’s clothing manufacturer Siegbert Feldberg and his wife Hildegard from Stettin. The first exhibition showed 70 self-portraits by German, Austrian and Czech artists from the interwar period, while the second and third exhibitions presented landscapes, portraits and still lifes by these artists. The shows were a sensation for Bombay’s cultural scene, which until then had had very little access to contemporary artworks from Europe due to the lack of a local cultural infrastructure under British colonial rule. These initial displays from the hand-picked Feldberg art collection conveyed a wide spectrum of artistic expression to the public of Bombay, whose progressive art scene was yet to find its own position. It would be more than 50 years before any part of the Feldberg Collection was exhibited again.

    “‘If you are going to be happy on earth / you have to become a master of tightrope walking” [’Soll es Dir gut ergehn auf Erden / im Seiltanz mußt Du Meister werden‘], was the bitter message on a New Year’s card sent by Siegbert and Hildegard Feldberg for New Year 1934 (Müllhaupt 2004, 51).

    A year after the National Socialists rose to power in 1933, the Jewish businessman Siegbert Feldberg emigrated to India with the aim of setting up a branch of his Stettin- and Berlin-based clothing factory in Bombay. When he failed to achieve this goal, he became a chief sales representative for the Austrian car manufacturer Steyrer Daimler Puch in Bombay. In 1939 his wife Hildegard succeeded in following her husband with their two sons. Despite the great obstacles to emigration at this time, such as the enormous “Reichsfluchtsteuer” [flight tax], Hildegard managed to save and take with her into exile their collection of artworks, many of which would have been banned by the National Socialists as “degenerate” due to their Jewish originators and non-regime-compliant aesthetics.
    The Feldbergs, Hildegard Philippine, née Barasch (1902–1996), a trained opera singer and musician, and the doctor in law Dr. Siegbert Hermann (1899–1971), were socially and culturally very active in both Berlin and Stettin. In the 1920s, when money kept losing its value, the young businessman started to acquire art in exchange for clothes. During the years of the Great Depression and hyperinflation, he continued his generous exchange partnership with artists and supported them during difficult times. In exchange for their work, he gave them winter coats or other clothing made by the Feldberg family business. Over the following years, he continued this form of barter, but may also have commissioned works by well-known artists such as Lesser Ury, Alexander Kanoldt and Oskar Kokoschka.
    Although the collection cannot be reconstructed in its entirety, in 1933 there were about 150 works on paper using various techniques (watercolour, gouache, pastels, drawing and graphics) by nearly 90 contemporary artists in the Feldbergs’ possession. With the exception of a nineteenth-century ink print by Käthe Kollwitz (1891), they were produced in the twentieth century. Overall, the selection of artists suggests a present-orientated, yet rather conventional taste profile, as there is no reference to works by controversial avant-garde Berlin artists of the 1920s, such as George Grosz. According to various sources, the Feldbergs’ collecting activities seem to have been predominantly determined by their network in Berlin and thus included a wide range of artistic schools. On the one hand, this included established artists such as Max Liebermann, then president of the Prussian Academy, but also marginalised artists like Annot. Many of them were members of various artists’ associations and groups operating in Berlin, such as Deutscher Künstlerbund, Novembergruppe and Berliner Secession.
    In retrospect, the collection's focus on self-portraits, which were to provide the framework for the Feldbergs' first exhibition in the arrival city of Bombay, is particularly noteworthy. Of the more than 70 self-portraits, the majority were by male artists, with only four female artists represented. Many of the artists were of Jewish origin, which had not necessarily been a strategic decision, but rather reflected the artistic scene in Berlin at the beginning of the 20th century. A third of the artists had to emigrate after 1933. Paradigmatic for the time is the cover picture of the collection folder by Michael Fingesten (around 1933) entitled Selbstbildnisse Deutscher Maler – Dr. Siegbert Feldberg Stettin [Self-portraits by German Painters]. The watercolour, which looks as if it is fading, shows an emaciated figure on a light background. The figure of the artist can be identified by the dripping brush and the palette in his hand as he hangs himself from a rope. This image bears frightening witness to the economic hardship and political horror of the 1930s. The title of the portfolio, as well as Feldberg’s choice of this graphic, expresses the ambivalence of Jewish Germans and artists defamed as degenerate and now facing a possible death sentence.
    Stylistically, the artworks ranged from the naturalistic Self-portrait (around 1930) by Willy Jaeckel to the neo-objective self-portrait by the artist Ines Wetzel (1930). While the Breslau painter Jaeckel was commercially successful in the Weimar Republic, the politically committed Wetzel was tied to Berlin’s subculture. What unites them is their systematic ousting from the art field by the Nazi regime, which in Wetzel’s case led to her murder in the Dachau concentration camp. Many of the Expressionist works in the collection, such as the contrasting artist portraits by Moriz Melzer (1923) and artworks by Jews, were saved from the destructive excesses of the Nazi regime by the Feldbergs’ emigration.
    After arriving in Bombay at the beginning of May 1939, Hildegard accepted a position as a receptionist in Victor Sasson's photo studio and also worked as a musician with All India Radio. In addition to her concert activities and her participation in the artistic services of the British Army, she also gave piano and singing lessons. Her sons were sent to a British boarding school. In September 1939, however, with the outbreak of World War II, Siegbert was interned by the British in Ahmednagar. It was there that he got to know Walter Langhammer and a creative art friendship developed, which ten years later led to the first and only exhibition of the entire Feldberg collection. After leaving the camp, Siegbert served as a clothing expert in the British Army from 1940 until the end of the war and received British citizenship together with Hildegard. In 1949 they moved to Karachi, in the newly-formed Pakistan.
    Further links to the vibrant Bombay art and exile scene are indicated by the sale of 19 works from the Feldberg Collection to the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery in 1944/45. At that time the museum was directed by the German exile art historian Hermann Goetz, who was also one of the founding members of the innovative Marg magazine. In February 1950, the Feldberg art collection was prominently presented at the Institute of Foreign Languages in Menkwa Building in Fort Bombay – in three one-week exhibitions. Rani Maharaj Singh, the wife of the first Indian Governor of Bombay and informal cultural ambassador for the government of Bombay, visited the preview of the first exhibition on 7 February 1950. The first series consisted only of self-portraits, of which Rudi von Leyden wrote in The Times of India:
    “What strikes one first is the extreme seriousness that speaks from most faces in the self-portraits. There is little light-heartedness and very little visible sense of humour. […] On the other hand you will find introspection, dramatization, inverted hero-worship which find an artistic expression that goes under the name of ‘expressionism’.” (The Times of India, 9 February 1950, 3).
    The majority of the artists belonged to a younger generation that was disillusioned with World War I, such as Feldberg himself. This could be the reason why many of the self-portraits have a melancholy expression. Exhibitions two and three showed painted landscapes, portraits, still lifes – including the well-known Girl from a South Sea Island by Carl Hofer – as well as etchings and woodcuts by Fingesten, Josef Budko and Georg Tappert.
    The shows were a sensation for Bombay and the first and only exhibitions of the hand-picked Feldberg art collection. These events were art exhibitions and entertainment, but also educational and advertising projects for the young artists of Bombay, who got to know different artistic approaches from Europe. But, strangely, the collector’s name was never revealed in the press. After the third show, Rudi von Leyden summed up:

    “The three exhibitions gave a mixed fare. Not all looks were master-pieces. There were mediocrity and vulgarity next to greatness, and altogether we were given more the picture of a period than the well round view of a particular style. In our isolation from the arts in other countries this was a rare opportunity for which we are grateful.” (The Times of India, 25 February 1950, 8)

    After Siegbert’s death in 1971 the family sold most of the artwork to the Berlinische Galerie in 1976. From 2002 to 2004, the preserved self-portraits from the Feldberg Collection were put on view at the Hart House Gallery of the University of Toronto (Canada), the McMullen Museum in Boston (Massachusetts, USA), the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Cologne and the Jewish Museum Berlin in partnership with Berlinische Galerie. Half of the self-portraits can currently be viewed virtually on the Berlinische Galerie homepage.
    All translations in the text from German to English are from the authors.

    Word Count: 1542

  • Michel Fingesten, Selbstbildnisse Deutscher Maler – Dr. Siegbert Feldberg Stettin, around 1933, coloured pencil and watercolour on paper, 56,6 x 43,5 cm, Berlin (Courtesy of Berlinische Galerie. Museum für Moderne Kunst).
  • Extract from the University of Toronto’s Feldberg Collection 2002 poster; with a collage of the self-portraits from left to right by Josef Oppenheimer, 1933, Friedrich Winkler-Tannenberg, 1930, Conrad Felixmüller, 1929, Willi Jaeckel, 1929 (© Ryan Massiah; All Rights Reserved).
    Stylistic variance in the Feldberg Collection. Self-Portrait by Willi Jaeckel (left), 1929, Pastel on black watercolour bütten paper, 51 x 35,5 cm, Berlin. Self-Portrait by Ines Wetzel, 1930, Watercolour, gouache and pencil on drawing cardboard, 47 x 38,4 cm, Berlin (Courtesy of Berlinische Galerie. Museum für Moderne Kunst).
    Menkwa Building, Outram Road, site of the three exhibitions of the Feldberg Collection, 2018 (Photo: Margit Franz; All Rights Reserved).
    Exhibition review (© Marg, vol. 4, no. 1, 1950, p. 59; reproduced with the permission of The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, India; All Rights Reserved).
    The reunited Feldberg family in India: Siegbert Feldberg (left), Hildegard Feldberg (seated in front of her husband), Heinz Günter Feldberg (with glasses), Hans Jürgen Feldberg (standing next to his seated brother). The other four people are unknown, 1942 or 1943. (© John Feldberg; All Rights Reserved).
  • Anonymous. “Exhibitions: Art Chronicle 1st Quarter 1950.” Marg, vol. 4, no. 1, 1950, p. 59.

    Franz, Margit. Gateway India. Deutschsprachiges Exil in Indien zwischen britischer Kolonialherrschaft, Maharadschas und Gandhi. CLIO, 2015. (especially chapter: 6.1. Kunstvermittlung: Das Institute for Foreign Languages von Charles Petras als interkulturelles Kultur- und Kunstzentrum, pp. 248–265. Academia, Accessed 17 June 2021.)

    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.

    Fetthauer, Sophie. “Hilde Feldberg.” LexM – Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen in der NS-Zeit, edited by Claudia Zenck and Peter Petersen, Universität Hamburg, 2010 [updated 29 March 2017], Accessed 14 April 2021.

    Georg-Schicht-Preis für das schönste deutsche Frauenporträt, exh. cat. Galerie Gurlitt, Berlin, 1928.

    haGalil. “Neue Ausstellung im Jüdischen Museum Berlin: ‘Selbstbildnisse der 20er Jahre. Die Sammlung Feldberg’.” 31 March 2004, Jüdisches Leben online, Accessed 10 March 2021.

    Kacprzak, Dariusz. “Kolekcja Feldbergów.” 28 April 2017,, Accessed 10 March 2021.

    [Leyden, Rudolf von.] “Central European Paintings: Bombay Display.” The Times of India, 9 February 1950, p. 3.

    [Leyden, Rudolf von.] “Mixed Fare at Show: Central-European Paintings.” The Times of India, 25 February 1950, p. 8.

    McMullen Museum of Art. “Reclaiming a Lost Generation.” McMullen Museum of Art, Accessed 10 March 2021.

    Mehta, R.N. Genesis and activities of the Museum and Picture Gallery, Vadodara (special issue of Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery: Museum Bulletin, vol. 30). Dep. of Museums, Gujarat State, 1995, p. 34.

    Mülhaupt, Freya. “Jüdisches Museum Berlin. Selbstbildnisse der 20er Jahre. Die Sammlung Feldberg.” MuseumsJournal, vol. 18, no. 2, 2004, pp. 51–53.

    Nahrwold, Regine. Künstler sehen sich selbst – graphische Selbstbildnisse des 20. Jahrhunderts: Bestandsverzeichnis der Sammlung im Miteigentum des Braunschweigischen Vereinigten Kloster- und Studienfonds (Sammlungskataloge des
    Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museums Braunschweig, edited by Jochen
    Luckhardt, vol. 8), exh. cat. Herzog-Anton-Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, 2000, doi: 10.24355/DBBS.084-201809241208-0. Accessed 5 April 2021.

    Selbstbildnisse der 20er Jahre. Die Sammlung Feldberg = Self-portraits from the 1920s. The Feldberg Collection, edited by Freya Mülhaupt, exh. cat. Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, Berlin, 2004.

    Wolff, Larry. “Lost Generation.” Boston College Magazine, Winter 2003, Accessed 10 March 2021.

    Word Count: 392

  • Application For Naturalisation from Mr Siegbert Hermann Feldberg Under the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 (National Archives of India, New Delhi, 1946), Home Political/E/1946/NA/F-32-74.
    Berlinische Galerie, Accessed 10 March 2021.
    “Feldberg, Dr. Siegbert”, Lost Art-Datenbank Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste, Jüdische Sammler und Kunsthändler (Opfer nationalsozialistischer Verfolgung und Enteignung),,%20Dr.%20Siegbert.html?cms_lv2=5664&cms_lv3=8706. Accessed 10 March 2021.

    Word Count: 103

  • Margit Franz; Mareike Schwarz
  • Annot (Anna Ottonic Jacobi), Josef Bato, Lis Bertram, Josef Budko, Michael Fingesten, Carl Hofer, Käthe Kollwitz, Oskar Kokoschka, Bruno Krauskopf, Issai Kulvianski, Leo Lesser-Ury, Emil Orlick, Hermann Max Pechstein, Arthur Segall, Georg Tappert

    Word Count: 34

  • Conrad Felixmüller, Self-portrait, 1929; Carl Hofer, Girl from a South Sea Island; Carl Hofer, Self-portrait, around 1925; Rudolf Jacobi, Houses in Italy; Willi Jaeckel, Self-portrait, 1929; Oskar Kokoschka, Self-portrait, 1923; Käthe Kollwitz, Self-portrait, 1891; Max Liebermann, Self-portrait, 1923; Josef Oppenheimer, Self-portrait , 1933; Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Still Life; Friedrich Winkler-Tannenberg, Self-portrait, 1930.

    Preview: 7 February;
    first show:  8–14 February;
    second show: 15–21 February;
    third show: 22–28 February.

    Word Count: 55

  • Menkwa Building, Outram Road, Fort, Bombay (now Buddha Bhavan, Purshotamdas Thakurdas Marg, Fort, Mumbai).

  • Bombay
  • No
  • Margit Franz; Mareike Schwarz. "The Feldberg Art Collection. A Series of Three Exhibitions of European Artworks collected by the Feldberg Family." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • 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

    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

    Marg. A Magazine of Architecture and Art

    Local and exiled creatives formed the Modern Architectural Research Group to publish a progressive journal of art and architecture in Bombay from 1946 onwards.

    Word Count: 23

    Exhibition of prints by Käthe Kollwitz

    A German woodcut exhibition organised at the Zeitgeist Bookstore presumably took place in June 1931. In June 1932. A further exhibition with more than 200 works by German artists, including works by Käthe Kollwitz and George Grosz, was shown at the Chinese Y.M.C.A.

    Word Count: 44

    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