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Cooperation through the Classics: The Exhibitions of Marburg Collecting Point

After the end of the war, one of the most urgent tasks for the Monuments Men and Women was to locate and recover the objects that had been stolen or relocated by the Third Reich. They did this by founding four so-called collecting points in the American Occupied Zone: in Marburg, Munich, Offenbach, and Wiesbaden. When an art depository was discovered, the objects would be moved to the nearest central collecting point, where they would be stored, photographed, inventoried, and prepared for restitution.

Marburg Central Collecting Point employees load a truck with objects from the Rhineland. (Bilddatei-Nr. fmla943_06 © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg)

The city of Marburg was chosen for one of these depots for a number of reasons; its infrastructure had not been badly damaged; it was the home to the important Marburg University with its highly regarded scientific reputation; and it was located in a useful geographical location to many of the Nazi art repositories in central Germany. Under the directorship of Monuments Men Walker Hancock and Sheldon Keck, the recently built State Archives were chosen as the first property, and the incoming art started to arrive just one day after the surrender of the German Reich, on May 9, 1945.

Unlike at other central collecting points, the art that was brought to Marburg had not been stolen from other countries or Jewish owners. Rather they were the collections of German museums, churches, and private individuals that had been moved to art repositories to protect them from damage. From May 1945 to August 1946, more than 4,200 works of art from around a dozen depots passed through the rooms of the Marburg State Archives, as well as over 14,000 books and 17,500 meters of records. There they were catalogued by members of the Universität Marburg and photographed by the facility belonging to the Prussian Research Institute for Art History.

Employees of the Marburg Central Collecting Point unpacking pewter, porcelain and glasses in the Hessian State Archives in Marburg 1945; left the director of the Collecting Point, Monuments Man Francis Waterhouse Bilodeau (left). (Bilddatei-Nr. fmla944_07, Aufnahme-Nr. LA 944/7, © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg)

Under the direction of Richard Hamann, twelve photographers worked to document each piece that came through the State Archive doors. Large-format plate cameras by Leica were most often used, but more rarely smaller 35mm cameras were also employed. Afterwards, the employees would create a property card for each piece of art, including its inventory number, the depot from which it came, its date of arrival, and its date of departure.

Monuments Man Francis W. Bilodeau worked at the Marburg Central Collecting Point (Marburg CCP) alongside Hancock and Keck until February 1946, serving as the collecting point’s last Director. When Marburg officially closed in August 1946, its records were sent to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point. In Marburg, Bilodeau formed a valuable relationship with the Kunsthistorisches Institut of Marburg University, which placed the full resources of its library and staff at Bilodeau’s disposal. Bilodeau later converted the Marburg Central Collecting point into the new home of the Marburg University Library and the State Archives.

Through this collaboration, the University of Marburg today holds an extensive collection of images relating to the central collecting points; they are found today in the Photo Marburg image archive. These images include 4,000 photos of the objects that passed through the Marburg halls, photographs that show the Monuments Men and their German colleagues at work, as well as images of a number of exhibitions that were held at the central collecting point.

The history of the Marburg CCP is currently being highlighted in an exhibition in cooperation with the Marburg Photo Archive and the German Documentation Center for Art History. It “illuminates the founding circumstances . . . in the context of military art protection as well as . . . illustrates the political but also economic difficulties of an ultimately successful German-American cooperation in the midst of the early post-war period.” Showcasing the incredible photographs in their collection, it traces the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives’ (MFAA) founding of the Marburg CCP through to the creation of UNESCO and to the adoption of our current attitudes towards cultural protection and heritage during war. (Click here to visit the exhibition virtually)

Highlighted in our Newsletter Issue n.38, a number of exhibitions after the end of the war were organized through the central collecting points. These were intended to raise the morale of the Allied troops and the local population, and to strengthen the ties between these two groups. By involving local art spaces and professionals, these events benefitted not just them but the greater cultural life of the city.

In October 1945, Richard Hamman, the mayor of Marburg Eugen Siebecke, and university rector Julius Ebbinghaus were granted permission to host an exhibition of the collecting point’s holdings. On November 14, 1945, the Marburg CCP and the local Kunsthistorisches Institut worked together to launch the “Masterpieces of European Painting” exhibition, the first of twelve to be held there.

The images shown are from the "Masterpieces of European Painting of the 19th and Early 20th Centuries" exhibition at the Marburg University Museum, held between April-June 1946. Over 30 paintings from collections in Essen, Berlin, and Koln were shown, including pieces by Renoir, Monet, Manet, and Kokoschka. Some notable pieces include two Gauguins, Jeune fille à l'éventail and Contes barbares, both from the Folkwang Museum, Essen, as well as Courbet’s The Cliffs of Etretat from the Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal, and Lovis Corinth’s Fußwaschung - Bei der Toilette, from the Kunsthalle Manheim.


Below, we have tried to colorize the archival photos in an attempt to convey the grandiosity of this 1946 exhibition.

Bilddatei-Nr. fmla935_16, Aufnahme-Nr. LA 935/16, © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg


1. Wilhelm Leibl, Portrait of his father Carl Leibl (Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Koln)

2. Edouard Manet, Portrait de Faure dans le rôle d'Hamlet (Museum Folkwang, Essen)

3. Wilhelm Trübner, Dame in Grau (Museum Folkwang, Essen)

4. Théodore Rousseau, Sommerlandschaft (Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal)

5. Wilhelm Leibl, Girl at a Window (Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Koln)

6. Pierre-August Renoir, Lise – La femme à l'ombrelle (Museum Folkwang, Essen)

Bilddatei-Nr. fmla935_12, Aufnahme-Nr. LA 935/12, © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg


1. Pierre-August Renoir, Lise – La femme à l'ombrelle (Museum Folkwang, Essen)

2. Wilhelm Leibl, Der Schimmelreiter (Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Koln)

3. Hans von Marées, Ausfahrt der Fischerboote. Skizze zu den Fresken in Neapel (Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal)

4. Honoré Daumier, Jules Michelet (Kunsthalle Mannheim)

5. Honoré Daumier, Ecce Homo (Museum Folkwang, Essen)

6. Hans von Marées, Doppelbildnis Hildebrand und Grant (Kunsthalle Manheim)

Bilddatei-Nr. fmla935_10, Aufnahme-Nr. LA 935/10, © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg


1. Lovis Corinth, Fußwaschung - Bei der Toilette (Kunsthalle Manheim)

2. Fritz von Uhde, Die Töchter des Künstlers im Garten (Kunsthalle Manheim)

3. Max Slevogt, Selbstbildnis im Turmzimmer von Neukastel (Kunsthalle Manheim)

4. Max Slevogt, Vorfrühling (Unknown)

5. Paul Signac, Segelboote im Hafen von Saint-Tropez (Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal)

6. Paul Gauguin, Jeune fille à l'éventail (Museum Folkwang, Essen)

7. Paul Gauguin, Contes barbares (Museum Folkwang, Essen)

8. Oskar Kokoschka, Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal I (Kunsthalle Manheim)

Bilddatei-Nr. fmla935_19, Aufnahme-Nr. LA 935/19, © Bildarchiv Foto

Landscape Room, L-R

1. Claude Monet, Vétheuil (Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal)

2. Claude Monet, The houses of Parliament, London. Sunset. 1904 (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Museum, Krefeld)

3. (In door) Lovis Corinth, Self Portrait in a White Smock (Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Koln)

4. Alfred Sisley, Am Kanal (Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal)

5. Alfred Sisley, Une rue à Marly (Kunsthalle Manheim)

6. Gustave Courbet, The Cliffs at Etretat (Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal)

7. Claude Monet, La Rue de la Bavolle à Honfleur (Kunsthalle Manheim)

Written by MMF Researcher Maria Ognjanovich


Thank you very much for presenting this important American-German collaboration!! And what a great idea to colorize these photographs! With the help of the exhibition catalog I was able to identify two of the unknown pictures: Photograph LA 935/16 Number 4: Théodore Rousseau, Sommerlandschaft (summer landscape) (Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal) Photograph LA 935/12 Number 3: Hans von Marées, Ausfahrt der Fischerboote. Skizze zu den Fresken in Neapel (Departure of the fishing boats. Sketch of the frescoes in Naples) (Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal) All the best, Marco Rasch (curator of the exhibition in the Marburg State Archives mentioned in the text)

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Wonderful! Thanks so much, we'll add those in!

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