Starting 24 January 2024, the Städel Museum presents an exhibition of works by the French artist Honoré Daumier (1808–1879) to mark the 125th anniversary of the Städelscher Museums-Verein. The works are part of the outstanding private collection belonging to the Frankfurt patron of the arts, Hans-Jürgen Hellwig, that constitutes one of the most distinguished collections of Daumier outside France. The collection comprises a total of 4,200 lithographs and wood engravings, 19 drawings, 2 paintings and 36 bronze sculptures – many of which have never been publicly exhibited. Mirroring the full scope of Honoré Daumier’s artistic oeuvre, the private collection impresses with its unique quality. With the Städel Museum’s presentation of a selection of around 120 works from the Hellwig Collection, these works will be on view to the general public for the first time. The collection is to be donated in its entirety to the Städelscher Museums-Verein as an anniversary bequest, which in turn will entrust it as a permanent loan to the Städel Museum, where the collection will be preserved, researched and presented.
Honoré Daumier was one of France’s greatest draughtsmen. As a keen observer and controversial contemporary critic, he made a name for himself in the political circles of 19-th-century Paris, primarily through his caricatures which he produced for the illustrated periodicals La Caricature and Le Charivari. Both feared and loved, Daumier became the conscience of an epoch marked by radical social and political upheaval and profound change. His commitment to republican and liberal ideas, to the press and freedom of speech, his fervent interest in modern innovations and his critical, but also profoundly human view of the conditions of his time are impressively manifested in the exhibited works. The exhibition in the Städel Museum is sponsored by the Städelscher Museums-Verein.

Director of the Städel Museum, Philipp Demandt, on the patron of the arts Hans-Jürgen Hellwig and on the significance of this bequest for the Städel Museum: “Hans-Jürgen Hellwig is a collector par excellence: passionate, persistent, enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable. We are delighted to present a selection of some 120 works from his outstanding Daumier collection here at the Städel Museum as our first exhibition of the new year. It is a show that offers sensual pleasure to all viewers, sharpens the mind and invites visitors to engage with the fundamental questions of our own time. As an anniversary gift to the Städelscher Museums-Verein and now on permanent loan to us, the Hellwig Collection is an invaluable addition to our own collection. As a result, the Städel Museum will permanently be established as one of the most significant centres of Daumier research in Germany. My heartfelt thanks go to Hans-Jürgen Hellwig, who through his work on the board of our museum’s association has for decades furthered the interests of the Städel Museum. With his exceptionally generous bequest, he has inscribed his name into the history of patronage for the Städel, which began with its founder Johann Friedrich Städel and has continued to this day in a variety of ways. It is through such commitment by the people of our city that this museum is sustained.”

The collector, Hans-Jürgen Hellwig, on the bequest: “A question that preoccupies many collectors is what will eventually become of their collection. For me, this question has never really arisen. In my more than sixty years of collecting, I have collected art for its own sake and not as an investment. And during the over half a century that I have been living in Frankfurt, I have personally incorporated the great tradition of this place: that its citizens see the cultural and social institutions of their city not only as a public responsibility, but also as their own. Margret Stuffmann, former Head of the Prints and Drawings Collection at the Städel Museum, accompanied me as a private collector with her expertise in 19th century French art. For considerable time, I had seen Honoré Daumier only as a caricaturist of political events. It was she who opened my eyes to the artist Daumier: to his artistic qualities, which lie in every single lithograph; to the spectrum of his work, which encompasses all themes of human existence; and to his rich knowledge of history and art. So it is also in gratitude for this that my collection is being passed on to the Städel Museum – as a bequest in my lifetime to the Städelscher Museums-Verein.”

Sylvia von Metzler, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V. on the anniversary and the bequest: “This year, the Städelscher Museums-Verein is celebrating its 125th anniversary, hence also 125 years of commitment to the Städel Museum by Frankfurt’s citizens. Since its foundation on 27 June 1899, our first concern as a museum association has been to facilitate the Städel Museum in consolidating and expanding its collection – and, in addition, in important research projects or large-scale special exhibitions. For over thirty years, our board member Hans-Jürgen Hellwig has rendered outstanding services to the Städelscher Museums-Verein: with the commitment he has shown both to Frankfurt and to the Städel Museum, he continues to emphasise the value of individual civic engagement for the cohesion of society. We owe this exhibition and, above all, this unique bequest to his generosity. His impressive Daumier collection will now become the property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein Foundation on the occasion of our association’s anniversary, to be housed and preserved in the Städel Museum. A truly splendid occasion to celebrate!”

You can download the complete press release as a PDF here.

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