by Heinz R. Böhme. Hirmer Verlag, Munich, 2020. 271 p. col. ill. ISBN 9783777433899 (h/c), $45.00.
Reviewed September 2021
Philip Dombowsky, Archivist, National Gallery of Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org
We Haven’t Seen Each Other For So Long is the first catalog for an art collection assembled by Dr. Heinz R. Böhme, comprising works by artists from central and eastern Europe who were banned by Germany’s National Socialist government between 1933 and 1945 for their embrace of modernism. Böhme’s primary goal in building his collection, now housed at the Museum Kunst Der Verlorenen Generation (Art of the Lost Generation Museum) in Salzburg, Austria, is to restore to cultural memory the life stories of these artists, one-quarter of whom were women. Their lives disrupted or ended by the Nazi regime, the artists featured remain largely unknown and many of their works have been lost. Although some were able to resume making art after the war, only a few were able to achieve the success they had enjoyed prior to Nazi rule. Several of the artists experienced additional persecution for their political activities or because they were Jewish. Twelve of the Jewish artists died in or while being transported to Nazi concentration camps.
The catalog includes an interview with Böhme in which he describes the origins and the development of his collection, mainly consisting of paintings, and his decision to open a non-profit museum in Salzburg in October 2017. The historical context of Böhme’s collection, including the Nazi government’s widespread efforts to obliterate modernist art, is expertly described in essays by Gerda Ritter and Professor Robert Streibel. The main part of the catalog consists of biographical entries written by Böhme for each of the eighty-six featured artists, alongside a full-page color reproduction of a work for each artist. An inventory of the 282 works in the collection cataloged at the time of the book’s publication follows the biographical entries. The inventory is organized alphabetically by artist and includes a small color image of each work, along with the title, medium, dimensions, and inventory number.
Bibliographical sources relating to individual artists are presented within the biographical entries rather than at the end of the book. Endnotes are included in the two essays but not in the biographical section. The catalog is beautifully produced and includes over 120 color illustrations (excluding the 282 thumbnail images), many of them full-page. The clear writing style throughout enhances the catalog’s accessibility to both general and specialized readers.
We Haven’t Seen Each Other For So Long is a deeply moving account of the fate of modernist artists who lived under Nazi rule and is highly recommended for all academic and art museum libraries. As well as serving as an important reference resource on eighty-six little-known modernist artists, the catalog will appeal to readers interested in the impact of ideology on art, the contribution of women to twentieth-century art, and the history of collecting. Since the book’s publication, the Böhme collection has continued to grow, with new additions to be featured in a subsequent volume.