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Westheim, Paul

    Full Name: Westheim, Paul

    Other Names:

    • Paul Westheim

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 07 August 1886

    Date Died: 21 December 1963

    Place Born: Eschwege, Hesse, Germany

    Place Died: Berlin, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Expressionist (style), German (culture, style, period), and German Expressionist (movement)


    Early German Expressionism exponent, Kokoschka scholar and art publisher. Westheim was raised in a family of Jewish merchants. After abandoning this career track around 1903, he joined the liberal newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung working on the feuilleton (arts) section. Westheim studied art history at the Technische Universität Darmstadt and then, in 1906, at the University in Berlin Heinrich Wölfflin. In Berlin he made the acquaintance of Theodor Heuss (1884-1963) a liberal political writer and later the first post-war chancellor of Germany, who had also studied art history as a student. Westheim’s perceptive art criticism gained him articles in German art journals, from 1909 in Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration and in 1911 in Die Kunst. He was appointed editor of the progressivist art journal Die Kunstblatt beginning in 1917. The following year he wrote a monograph on Oskar Kokoschka, the first biography of that Austrian Expressionist. His personal acquaintance with the major artists of modernism allowed him to build a considerable modern art collection. A book on Wilhelm Lehmbruck was published in 1922. The rise of the Nazis in 1933 forced him to flee to Paris and abandon his position at Die Kunstblatt, leaving his art collection with a modernist art dealer, Charlotte Weidler (1895-1983). His German citizenship was stripped from him in 1935. In France he wrote for German-language newspapers Pariser Tageblatt (through 1936), the Pariser Tageszeitung (1936-1940) and edited the Freie Kunst und Literatur (Free Fine Arts and Literature). He participated in expatriate artists’ groups including the Kollektive deutscher Künstler (Collective of German artists) whose members counted the exiled artists Max Ernst, Otto Freundlich and Gert Wollheim and the Freier Künstlerbund, among whose members were the art historians Sabine Spiro and Hertha Wescher. Despite his exile status, Westheim was considered an enemy alien in France at the beginning of the war and was interned. Shunted from camp to camp (five in all) he later referred to this as his “Tour de France.” As France fell to the Germans, he escaped his internment camp in 1941, fleeing France through the ERC (Emergency Rescue Committee). From Marseille he moved to Spain, Portugal and ultimately Mexico. His eyesight failing, he met a widow, the translator Mariana Frenk (1898-2004), through the auspices of the Heinrich-Heine-club in Mexico City and the two became a pair. In Mexico, he joined Menorah, founded in 1938, an association of German Jews, with such activists as the editor Paul Mayer (1889-1970) and the actor Charles Rooner (d. 1954). In Mexico Westheim studied and wrote on Pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican and modern Mexican art. He gained an admiration among his adopted countrymen. After the war, he was denied re-immigration to either part of the reorganized Germany (East or West). Westheim wrote to Weidler asking for his collection, but Weidler contended it had been destroyed. He remained in Mexico, gaining Mexican citizenship in 1954. He married Fenk in 1959. During a 1963 trip to Berlin to honor his work in Expressionism, he died. Weidler, in fact, still possessed most of Westheim’s art collection and began selling it after his death.

    Selected Bibliography

    Die Welt als Vorstellung, ein Weg zur Kunstanschauung. Potsdam/Berlin: G. Kiepenheuer, 1918; Oskar Kokoschka: das Werk Kokoschkas in 62 Abbildungen. Potsdam-Berlin: G. Kiepenheuer, 1918; Wilhelm Lehmbruck. Potsdam: G. Kiepenheurer, 1922; Architektonik des plastischen. Berlin: E. Wasmuth, 1923; Rassenschande: Novelle. Paris: Éditions du Phénix, 1935; Ideas fundamentales del arte prehispánico en México. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1957; The Sculpture of Ancient Mexico/La escultura del México antiguo. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963.


    Holz, Keith. “Scenes from Exile in Western Europe.” in Barron, Stephanie, ed. Exiles+Emigrés: the fFight of European Artists from Hitler. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1997, pp. 46-47, 50; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 495-497; Patka, Marcus G. Zu Nahe der Sonne: Deutsche Schriftsteller im Exil in Mexiko. Berlin: Aufbau, 1999; Müller, Melissa, and Tatzkow, Monika. Verlorene Bilder, verlorene Leben: Jüdische Sammler und was aus ihren Kunstwerken wurde. Munich: Elisabeth-Sandmann-Verlag, 2008; Müller, Melissa. Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice. New York: Vendome Press, 2010; “Grosz Heirs file suit against MoMA for artworks unlawfully taken during Nazi Era.” Looted Art: The Central Registry for Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945.


    "Westheim, Paul." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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