In the Roses

Dora Hitz “In the Roses”

The solution to the mystery begins on the picture’s back.

A picture’s auspicious back

When documentation and source information are sparse, an examination of the back of a picture can yield significant clues. As an illustration, let us take a look at the back of a painting by Dora Hitz. Even before the conservator removed the protective cover on the picture’s back, labels could be made out on the ornamental frame that promised to yield interesting information.

Back of a painting

On the right-hand side of the ornamental frame is a small paper label with the scarcely legible inscription Johann Weber M Wiesbaden. It confirms what could already be determined from the purchase documents: the painting was acquired at the end of 1942 for the collection of the Wiesbaden Painting Gallery from the Berlin art dealer Johann Weber.

Detail of the Back of Dora Hitz’s painting
Detail of the Back of Dora Hitz’s painting, adhesive label with the inscription Johann Weber M Wiesbaden; Detail of the back of Dora Hitz’s painting, adhesive label with the printed initials “L.B. & S.

In the immediate vicinity is another adhesive label with a scarcely distinguishable signet imprint and the inscription “MODERNE KUNSTHANDLUNG MÜNCHEN [Munich Modern Art Gallery]; Goethestraße 64”, as well as the handwritten note “Dora Hitz – In den Rosen [In the Roses]”.

A little label yields a big clue

The “Munich Modern Art Gallery” was opened in 1905 by the former tenor soloist Joseph Brakl (1854–1935) at Goethestraße 64 in Munich. At that time the gallery focussed on German Modernism, such as artists of the Munich Secession and the Scholle artists’ association.

An article on the “Munich Modern Art Gallery” in the journal “Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration” [German Art and Decoration] from 1906 is headed by an illustration of the firm’s signet, so that the signet on the paper label can now be unequivocally attributed. The signet’s designer has not yet been identified.

Detail of the back of Dora Hitz’s painting
Detail of the back of Dora Hitz’s painting, adhesive paper label with signet impress (In Arte Libertas), “Moderne Kunsthandlung München, Goethestraße 64”, and the handwritten note: “Dora Hitz, In den Rosen”; Signet In Arte Libertas

In 1909, Franz Joseph Brakl commissioned the architect Emanuel Seidl to construct a residential house with separate business quarters at Beethovenplatz 1, and in the summer of 1913 opened his “Brakl’s Kunsthaus” [Brakl’s Art House] there (see fig. [1].) In 1930, at the age of 76, Brakl dissolved his business; he died five years later.

[1] Thomas Theodor Heine: BRAKLS KUNSTHAUS / BEETHOVENPLATZ / TRAM 12 & 17 (original title), 1913, Munich City Museum, P-71/506Opens in a new window

Thomas Theodor Heine, Poster BRAKLS KUNSTHAUS
Thomas Theodor Heine, Poster BRAKLS KUNSTHAUS / BEETHOVENPLATZ / TRAM 12 & 17 (original title), 1913, Munich City Museum, P-71/506.

It may be assumed that in opening his “Art House” in August of 1913 and thus changing his address from Goethestraße to Beethovenplatz in Munich, Franz Joseph Brakl also changed his firm’s logo. The paper label must therefore have been affixed before 1913, when the “Modern Art Gallery” was still located at Goethestraße 64 in Munich. Based on this assumption, the painting here under consideration must be dated earlier: not “circa 1917” but “before 1913”.

Dora Hitz was a member of the “Verbindung bildender Künstlerinnen Berlin-München” [Berlin-Munich Association of Women Artists], that also exhibited in Brakl’s Modern Art Gallery in the years 1907 and 1908. Whether, and if so when, Dora Hitz’s painting was exhibited there cannot yet be determined.

The initials printed on the red adhesive label—L.B. & S.—also remain a mystery.

A satisfying conclusion - though not entirely so

In this case, examination of the picture’s back brought some interesting details to light, leading to an earlier dating of the painting. Despite further research into the business records of Johann Weber, the Brakl art gallery, and various exhibitions in which Dora Hitz took part, to date the painting’s provenance has not been fully determined.

Miriam Olivia Merz