What are some ideals of your life

Cultural Foundation of the Länder

Of which Dr. jur. Hermann Henrich Meier jr. (1845 –1905) dreamed, nobody can say exactly today. Because Meier jr. died more than 100 years ago. What is certain is that he did not dream the same dreams as his father Hermann Henrich (1809–1898), the famous founder of North German Lloyd, the consul, the clever and risk-taking businessman, the politician in the Frankfurt National Assembly and in the Reichstag in Berlin. Meier junior also did not become mayor of Bremen, like some of his ancestors.

And yet his fame will stand the test of time: Dr. jur. Hermann Henrich Meier jr., Who had the same names as his father and grandfather and therefore the addition jr. was not only a merchant, but above all a buyer. Looking at the bulk of the art he owned, theoretically he could have acquired several works a day. At the end of his only 60-year life, his collection included around 60,000 prints and a large art library. He bequeathed all of this to the Kunstverein in Bremen.

Meier's foundation from 1905 is still considered to be the largest and most famous at the Kunstverein. She was not the first and only one in affluent and art-loving Bremen. Hieronymus Klugkist (1778 - 1851), for example, donated watercolors and drawings by Albrecht Dürer as well as parts of his graphic works as early as 1851. Klugkist's legacy is one of the main focuses of the Bremen collection to this day. Johann Heinrich Albers (1774 –1855) and Melchior Hermann Segelken (1814 –1885) presented the association with Dutch and old Italian art at the end of the 19th century. And Heinrich Wiegand (1855 –1909) donated 500 Japanese woodblock prints and block books from the 17th to 19th centuries. Meier's commitment was therefore entirely in the tradition of his city and his time and yet it is extraordinary. The current Kunsthalle director Christoph Grunenberg designates H. H. Meier jr. as an exceptional figure and the collection as "incomparable in mass and quality". But patronage is deeply rooted and widespread in Bremen even today, emphasizes Grunenberg.

Like Meier jr. collected where he found information about art, where he bought - all of this has so far been little researched in Bremen despite this high level of appreciation. There is also no comprehensive biography, no complete catalog of collections. His correspondence with Max Klinger is well known; Meier probably bought directly from Käthe Kollwitz's studio, and from the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard in Paris. His collection reflects his interest in the medium of printmaking with its variety of different printing techniques as well as for the latest artistic developments and for young art. So he bought - in addition to graphics by Goya and Bonnard, Menzel and Runge - works by contemporaries such as Max Klinger and Max Liebermann. He was also enthusiastic about Käthe Kollwitz and Edvard Munch, color lithographs by the French and English, French and Dutch poster art. Contemporary advertising graphics, which most collectors ignored at the time, also found their way into his collection. If you read out the names of the artists that Meier owned, one after the other, it would take a long time. Because there are 2,000. “Today there is no thematic exhibition without works from the Meier Foundation,” says curator Anne Buschhoff, who keeps making discoveries in her own portfolio.

Amadée Ernest Lynen, Régates Bruxelles, poster for a rowing regatta in Brussels, 70.5 × 89.5 cm; Kunsthalle Bremen; © Kunsthalle Bremen - The art association in Bremen

Käthe Kollwitz, Female Nude from the Back on Green Cloth, 1903; Kunsthalle Bremen; © Kunsthalle Bremen - The art association in Bremen

William Hogarth, Gin Lane, 1750/51; Kunsthalle Bremen; © Kunsthalle Bremen - The art association in Bremen

The first director of the Bremen Kunsthalle Gustav Pauli described Meier's collecting in 1905 as follows: “And because he was there earlier, saw and collected where the public passed by carelessly, he was able to achieve a lot with relatively modest means and, on top of that, earned the gratitude of the living artist. ”One of them - Max Klinger - portrayed the collector in 1898. Meier was 53 years old. Klinger shows a white-haired, bearded, massive man in a suit and with a cigar, who - at least from today's perspective - looks much older than he was when the picture was taken. Turning away from the viewer and turning inwards, only the strong, agile hands testify to the energy.

Gustav Pauli defined three types of collectors. He did not characterize Meier as a proven art lover with a delicate taste and also not as a collector of a certain art direction, but as belonging to a type of collector who set himself the greatest goal. “Your area is a whole cultural section, such as antique sculpture or Dutch painting or the art of copperplate engraving. Such diverse knowledge and extensive resources are required here that are seldom available to an individual. Therefore, in this case the collectors are usually public institutes with a civil servant body of specialist scholars whose experiences complement each other and who can draw on the steadily flowing source of public funds. Only in exceptional cases can an individual undertake to stand by their side. One of these exceptions was Dr. H. H. Meier ”, wrote Pauli in the obituary for Meier, who died in 1905.

This Hermann Henrich Meier jr. was born in 1845 as the second son of Hermann Henrich and Mathilde Meier. His older brother died shortly after giving birth. The couple later had a daughter. Meier Jr. studied law in Göttingen, Heidelberg, Berlin and Lausanne, did his doctorate and became a partner in the company H. H. Meier & Co. founded by his father, an import and export company whose business activities included emigration to North America. Later he ran it alone. He married Käthchen Koop (1847–1929) from Bremen. The marriage remained childless. Meier died in Bad Harzburg, where the family had a second residence. His tombstone is part of the family grave in the cemetery in Bremen-Riensberg.

In the list of his offices there are, in addition to the political and professional (member of the Bremen citizenship, the merchants' convention and the Chamber of Commerce), a particularly large number of cultural commitments - Meier was on the board of a foundation for the beautification of the city, on foundation boards of concert and theater institutes and of course of the art association. Meier jr. not a completely new accent in the family tradition. Grandfather and father already promoted the establishment of the art association. However, it is not known whether they also collected art. The archives of North German Lloyd, which merged with Hamburg-based Hapag to form Hapag-Lloyd in 1970, were lost in the war. The biography of Lloyd founder H. H. Meier von Friedrich Hardegen from 1920 is primarily devoted to his economic and political work. The art-collecting son appears in it only marginally. Apparently he played no important role in the father's undertakings. Not even as a possible advisor in financial speculation with which Meier sen. lost so much money at the end of his life that he even had to sell his large house in Bremen. His nephews had speculated on South American cinchona and Meier sen. lost a million marks as a limited partner. If over the last years of his life, in which "younger forces in public" took his place, it was said: "(...) the virtue of renunciation and humility was not given to his energetic nature", then one can roughly guess what for a person Meier sen. was.

Meier Jr. on the other hand, it was about a balance between entrepreneurship and love of art, between reputation through wealth and reputation through art connoisseurship. He has steadily consolidated his position as chairman of the “Kunstverein in Bremen” founded in 1823, which is responsible for the Kunsthalle and is now one of the largest in Germany: in 1880 he was elected to the board, in 1885 he was deputy, from 1887 to 1890 and from From 1892 until his death in 1905 he headed the art association. In his speech at the opening of the extension to the Kunsthalle, which was built between 1847 and 1849, he said in 1902: “Just as Bremen's name has a bright ring to it in trade and business, so may our association and our Kunsthalle achieve a position that is constantly growing in importance in German art life. so that the conviction breaks out more and more that in addition to the economic advancement, the care of ideal goods in our hometown finds an equal home in our hometown. "

Meier's influence was immense. Not only in Bremen: The Berlin Kupferstichkabinett would also be poorer without Meier's collection, because as early as 1881, its director Friedrich Lippmann von Meier asked for 400 etchings by French artists for an exhibition. Lippmann did not only want to show the Berliners unknown works of art, he wanted to emphasize "the urgency of acquisitions for the Berlin Cabinet", as Anne Röver-Kann, former custodian of the Kupferstichkabinett at the Kunsthalle Bremen, states.

Jules Chéret, Loïe Fuller, poster for the guest performance of the American serpentine dancer at the Folies-Bergère Variété theater in Paris, 1893, 124 × 88 cm; Kunsthalle Bremen; © Kunsthalle Bremen - The art association in Bremen

Max Klinger, action (from the cycle “Ein Handschuh”, Opus VI, 1881), 1881; Kunsthalle Bremen; © Kunsthalle Bremen - The art association in Bremen

Ramon Casas, Pèl & Ploma, poster for the magazine Pèl & Ploma, published by Casas and Utrillo in Barcelona, ​​64 × 90 cm; Kunsthalle Bremen; © Kunsthalle Bremen - The art association in Bremen

Röver-Kann praises the years of Meier's chairmanship in the catalog published in 2007 for the exhibition “Old, New, Very New. Collecting around 1900 ”as“ probably the most important years in the history of the Kunstverein ”. So he arranged the signage of the paintings with brass plates - they still adorn the frames today. He brought heating and ventilation to the showrooms. He had the walls covered in color and provided electrical lighting in all rooms. A security company was commissioned and daily opening times were enforced. He arranged for the first exhibition room to be set up as early as 1885. The most important decision, however, was - in addition to this fundamental professionalization of the museum operations - to finance the position of a director. Initially, the board members did this from their private assets. Gustav Pauli could only be hired on a trial basis in 1898, and from 1902 onwards. The art historian bought many important works for the Kunsthalle - paintings by Paula Modersohn-Becker, for example, and Vincent van Gogh's “Mohnfeld” (1889), which triggered a loud, widespread “artist dispute”. Pauli's choice of contemporary art cannot be praised enough. The budget for purchases and its sources are usually not discussed. However, this fails to recognize the crucial role played by the financiers, who not only gave the art historian they trust a free hand in spending the money, but also made it available in the first place. Meier had already changed the statutes of the association in 1897/98 so that the available money was no longer spent on plaster casts of sculptures, but new works could be purchased for the copper engraving cabinet and the library. Immediately after the amendment to the statutes, Meier had a "complete collection of graphic works from the Worpswede painters' colony" purchased. But he was not only interested in the graphic collection. He campaigned intensively for bequests, bequests and gifts of paintings. In addition, Meier wrote as early as 1901/02 in the “Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Kunstverein” - modestly, a little mischievously and without naming his own collection: “Hopefully a rich treasure of the reproductive art of modern masters will ripen in the quiet.

With a witty, diplomatic skill, keen interest in art and a healthy dose of pragmatism, he ran his art association, commented on the controversial new building and laid down the guidelines for collecting: “Let us fight each other on my behalf - not eye for eye, but eye to eye - if if we are each convinced of the other's honesty and altruism, it is only a matter of time before we join hands. The real adversary in a dispute over art is not the one who disagrees, but the one who is indifferent to these ideal goods of life. That is the real brake on culture. ”Regarding the collection strategy, he explained in the same report with great far-sightedness:“ The space on our walls is precious to us, very precious. We do not desire the pleasing, the fairly or the very good, but we desire the best. (...) While in the economic life of a people everyone, even the smallest, can be valuable, indeed irreplaceable, in his place, in the development of the fine arts only number one is decisive, valuable and irreplaceable. Our choice has to be based on this. "

Despite the immense importance of the Meier donation, there is still no complete list of all works from Meier's possession - neither by himself nor by the museum. That will change in the next few years, because the Kunsthalle is digitizing its holdings. The aim is to complete the work in 2023, the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Kunstverein.

Uta Baier

is an art historian and journalist based in Berlin.