1929: a Highpoint of Visibility and Success
On 24 May 1929, Moissey Kogan celebrated his 50th birthday. A few days later, he received a letter addressed to him in Paris from one of his key patrons, Max Sauerlandt, the director of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, congratulating him on the resurgence of his career. Sauerlandt wrote of his delight at being able to witness the sculptor’s burgeoning success and the increasing visibility and recognition of his work.
Ich freue mich des schönen Aufschwunges, den Ihre Arbeit gerade in den letzten Jahren wieder genommen hat und freue mich von Herzen der immer wachsenden Anerkennung und Wirkung Ihrer Kunst, die ich nun schon seit 17 Jahren so genau verfolge […]
Letter to Moissey Kogan from Max Sauerlandt, dated 29 May 1929 (SUB Hamburg: Nachlass Max Sauerlandt: 14.41).
1929 would, indeed, prove to be an important year for Kogan in many regards. The year had started in great style with the opening of his second solo exhibition of sculpture and drawings at the Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin on 7 January. Kogan had written to Sauerlandt hoping to see him at the show and to let him know he would be in Berlin for 10 days. They arranged to meet on 11 January on the Potsdamer Platz at Café Josty, famously frequented by many avant-garde artists of the era. That same month, Sauerlandt‘s article on Kogan would appear in the major art journal, Das Kunstblatt.
The following evening Kogan met Sauerlandt again to dine with Alfred Flechtheim and Dr G. F. Reber, the German art dealer and collector of Cubist work, visiting from Lausanne.
As ever, Flechtheim had done a great deal to promote the sculptor’s show. One of his woodcuts appeared prominently on the front cover of that month’s number of Der Querschnitt, and, in the run-up to the exhibition in January, the December 1928 edition of the same journal featured photographs of important terracotta works by Kogan (see featured image), as well as an essay on the artist by art historian, Luise Straus-Ernst, the then ex-wife of artist, Max Ernst. Extracts of Straus-Ernst‘s essay would appear in the exhibition catalogue Flechtheim published to accompany the show. The art dealer also provided photographs of Kogan‘s works to illustrate an article on the artist by art critic, Hugo Kubsch, which appeared in the art journal, Der Kunstwanderer, just after the exhibition closed in February 1929.
In February, a much more comprehensive exhibition of Kogan‘s works in all media opened at the Kunstsalon Hermann Abels in Cologne. This, too, may have been facilitated by Flechtheim as Kogan‘s main dealer for Germany (his own gallery in the city had closed in 1925), although the artist had important contacts there, too. In a review for the journal, Der Cicerone, Alfred Salmony, assistant director of the Museum of Asiatic Art, wrote of the delightful rhythm that infused Kogan‘s entire oeuvre, whatever the medium, and praised the tactility of his figures in bronze and artificial stone.
Der wundervolle Rhythmus seiner Graphiken, Zeichnungen und Stickereien ist bekannt. Man sieht plastische Arbeiten in Bronze und Kunststein, köstliche Dinge, welche die tastende Hand verlangen.
Der Cicerone: Halbmonatsschrift für die Interessen des Kunstforschers & Sammlers,
no. 7, 1929, p. 206*
It is not known whether the artist was present at this show, although it is highly likely, but he would certainly visit Germany on at least two other occasions that year. Two of his torsos in bronze and terracotta were shown as part of a group show at the Galerie Flechtheim in Düsseldorf in June, and other sculptures by him were featured at the Berlin branch of the gallery in summer 1929. He spent the month of December in Berlin to coincide with the exhibition of his sculpture and drawings as part of the major group show, Seit Cézanne in Paris, hosted by Flechtheim there from 23 November until Christmas that year.
1929 was altogether a busy year in terms of exhibition opportunities for the artist. It is perhaps unsurprising, given his concurrent representation elsewhere, that Kogan was able to submit only a few works to the large group show in Darmstadt at the Mathildenhöhe, exhibited from June until October that year. Entitled Der schöne Mensch in der neuen Kunst, it was billed as an international exhibition, although the reviewer from the journal, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, stressed that almost all exhibitors were either French or lived in Paris. As was the case with Lhote, Herbin, Foujita, Chagall, Derain and others, it was impossible to get a good sense of the artist’s oeuvre from the works on display, the critic claimed.
In June and July, an exhibition of Kogan‘s sculpture and prints was shown in Duisburg as part of a group show at the Museumsverein. Then in July, the artist’s drawings were on display again, this time shown alongside Persian and Indian miniatures, at Günther Franke‘s Graphisches Kabinett in Munich, perhaps another intervention by Flechtheim. In August, a sizeable collection of Kogan‘s works in various media, with loans from Kunstsalon Hermann Abels and the Münzkabinett Munich, was exhibited at the Kunsthütte Chemnitz at the same time as an exhibition of paintings by fellow Parisian artist, Le Fauconnier.
In October, the Galerie Zak, Paris showed Kogan‘s terracottas as part of a major exhibition deemed ‘excellent’ by the journal, L’Amour de l’art. Entitled, Sculptures et dessins de sculpteurs, it also featured work by other prominent sculptors working in Paris at the time, including Joseph Bernard, Antoine Bourdelle, Charles Despiau, Marcel Gimond, Robert Wlérick and Morice Lipsi (Moryce Lipszyc).
Kogan had made many of the works exhibited that year in 1928 in Krefeld at the Töpferei Grootenburg, a pottery known especially for its glazes, methods of working with which the sculptor was particularly interested to learn. The ceramic workshop had been founded by his friend, the renowned ceramic artist, Paul Dresler, whose interest in Persian and Japanese pottery must have further intrigued the sculptor. Other works displayed in 1929 had been made in Paris at the artist’s main studio home. As ever, Kogan sought out specialist studios in which to make, fire and finish his sculpture, frequently preferring to work close to the location of approaching exhibitions to prevent damage in transit to his works. It was in Düsseldorf that year, for instance, that he would undertake the life-size portrait head known as Portrait of a Young Artist for a new, wealthy patron. In September, following a holiday in Ascona in August, he found time to race to Laren in the Netherlands, a reformist, theosophically-based artists’ colony, where he would work for short periods in his endeavour to further consolidate his career in that country, and where the studios of other sculptors were open to him.
After a hectic year, it was to Kogan‘s Berlin studio in December 1929 that an extremely frustrated Carl Georg Heise, director of the Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Lübeck, addressed a letter, wanting to know whether Kogan was too well-off now to bother to consider his request to acquire some of the sculptor’s work. Having struggled to contact Kogan via the Galerie Flechtheim and other avenues, Heise bought a cast of the Torso below, as well as a number of woodcuts and drawings by the artist, from the Kunstsalon Hermann Abels.
Indeed, it was overall a relatively lucrative year for the sculptor. Although he must have spent considerable sums on travel and accommodation, as well as studio hire at times, not to mention the continuing costs of maintaining his home studio and family in Paris, he must have been gratified to see his work acquired by numerous private clients and to witness it enter the collections of several museums. Amongst other major sales, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne acquired the important bronze, Frauentorso, along with a drawing, from the artist that year. The Museum der Stadt Stettin bought a cast of the terracotta, Halbfigur eines Mädchens (see featured image, right, also known as Seated Torso or Sitzender Torso), as well as a number of prints and drawings, and the Lehmbruck Museum acquired a cast of the terracotta relief, Kneeling Figure (Kauernde or Kniende) illustrated above, both via the Galerie Alfred Flechtheim. Meanwhile, the Kunsthütte Chemnitz made a number of purchases from the artist, finally settling the invoice in December, after chasing Kogan to provide one for most of the year.
* I would like to thank Dr. Ev-Isabel Raue for alerting me to this review.
Featured image: Head of a girl (Mädchenkopf) and Half-length figure of a girl (Halbfigur eines Mädchens), both terracotta, ill. Der Querschnitt, December 1928.
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