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Schmalenbach, Fritz

    Full Name: Schmalenbach, Ernst Friedman

    Other Names:

    • Ernst Friedman Schmalenbach

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 13 July 1909

    Date Died: July 2005

    Place Born: Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

    Place Died: Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period) and museums (institutions)

    Career(s): directors (administrators) and museum directors

    Institution(s): Kunstmuseum Basel


    Museum director, exponent of modern art. Schmalenbach’s father, Eugen Schmalenbach (1873-1955), was a professor at Cologne in business studies. His mother was Marianne Sachs (1875-1956). The younger Schmalenbach graduated from a Realgymnasium in 1928 and studied art history, archaeology and history at the universities of Berlin under Edmund Hildebrandt, Freibug, Cologne under Albert Brinckmann, and Munich. His mother faced persecution from the Nazis due to her Jewish ancestry, and so the senior Schmalenbachs fled in 1933 to Bad Godesberg where they acted as a private tutor. Fritz Schmalenbach’s dissertation on the art nouveau in Münster was accepted by Martin Wackernagel in 1934 at Münster (Westfalen). His habilitation work was interrupted by the Nazi rules against Jewish people (and, like Schmalenbach, of Jewish ancestry) teaching. He fled to Basel, Switzerland in 1934 due to a lack of career prospects for non-aryans and an opposition to the national socialist party where he continued to research his habilitation. Unfortunately, the death of his supervisor made that degree impossible. He wrote his only article in the English language, “The Term ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’” in the Art Bulletin in 1940. In 1945 he married Susi Bing (b. 1905), a professor of Germanics. After World War II, he found a position as assistant curator at the Prints and Drawings department of the Kunstmuseum Basel. Five years later, he was named curator, remaining at that station until 1955. In 1956, he returned to Germany to head the Museen für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte der Hansestadt Lübeck where he remained until retiring in 1974. He was named an honorary professor at the Medizinischen Hochschule Lübeck. His cousin, Werner Schmalenbach, was also an art historian.


    Selected Bibliography

    • [dissertation:] Jugendstil in Münster. Würzberg, 1934;
    • Jugendstil Ein Beitrag zu Theorie und Geschichte der Flächenkunst. Würzburg 1935;
    • “Jugendstil und neue Sachlichkeit.” 14th Internationalen Kongresses für Kunstgeschichte, Bern (1936): 145-146 later in Werk 24, (1937): 129-134;
    • “The Term ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’.” Art Bulletin 22, (1940): 161-165;
    • Kunsthistorische Studien. Basel 1941;
    • “Ein schüchterner Impressionist: François Bocion.” Pro Arte July/August (1942): 9-10;
    • “Zum Fehlen des Impressionismus in der Schweiz.” Pro Arte (1942  Supplement): 17-20;
    • “Eine frühe schweizerische Äußerung über die französischen Impressionisten.” Pro Arte 2 (1943): 171-1761;
    • Jugendstil Ein Beitrag zu Theorie und Geschichte der Flächenkunst. Triltsch, 1935;
    • Oskar Kokoschka. Langewiesche, 1967;
    • Kurt Schwitters. Cologne: DuMont Schauberg 1967, [English] New York: H. N. Abrams 1970;
    • Paula Modersohn-Becker Ansprache bei Eröffnung der Ausstellung im Behnhaus Lübeck, 1959;
    • Studien über Malerei und Malereigeschichte. Mann, 1972;


    • Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 618-620.
    • Betthausen, Peter, et al. Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon. 2nd ed. Munich: Metzler, 2007, pp. 376-77;

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen and Zahra Hassan


    Lee Sorensen and Zahra Hassan. "Schmalenbach, Fritz." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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