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Circus Rider (recto), Dancers with Castanets (verso)

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, German (active Switzerland), 1880–1938
1914 (recto) / 1910 (verso)
Oil on canvas (recto), oil on canvas (verso)
Made in
Berlin, Germany, Europe
Current Location
On View, Gallery 213
79 x 59 7/16 in. (200.7 x 151 cm)
Credit Line
Bequest of Morton D. May
Public Domain
Object Number
A rearing horse and rider dominate the center of this canvas. A clown in white makeup and red cap hurries by amidst green and yellow stage lights. The ringmaster stands at bottom right while the viewer of the painting is positioned as a member of the audience behind a row of fellow circus-goers. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was attracted to the bohemian atmosphere found at the circus. In this flattened and compacted composition, he evokes the thrilling energy and vitality of the circus arena.
- 1928
Paul Multhaupt, Düsseldorf, Germany

1928 - 1937
Walter-Kaesbach-Stiftung, Mönchengladbach, Germany, given by Paul Multhaupt [1]

1937 -
German National Socialist (Nazi) government, confiscated as "degenerate" from the Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Mönchengladbach [2]

- 1941
Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Cologne, Germany; Berlin, Germany [3]

1941 - 1945
Kurt Feldhäusser (1905-1945), Berlin, Germany, purchased from Galerie Ferdinand Möller [4]

1945 - still in 1948
Marie Luise Feldhäusser (1876-1967), Berlin, Germany; Brooklyn, NY, USA, by inheritance [5]

- 1951
E. Weyhe Gallery, New York, NY, USA, purchased from Marie Luise Feldhäusser [6]

1951/10/04 - 1983
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, purchased from E. Weyhe Gallery [7]

1983 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, bequest of Morton D. May [8]

[1] A publication by Sabine Kimpel-Fehlemann describes the friendship between Paul Multhaupt and Walter Kaesbach, and Multhaupt's donation of the painting to the foundation, the Walter-Kaesbach-Stiftung, in 1928 [Kimpel, Sabine. "Walter Kaesbach Stiftung, 1922-1937: die Geschichte einer expressionistischen Sammlung in Mönchengladbach." Mönchengladbach: Stadtarchiv und the Städtisches Museum, 1978]. Walter Kaesbach, Professor at the Akademie in Düsseldorf and a Mönchengladbach native, founded the Walter-Kaesbach-Stiftung in 1922. In 1928, Kaesbach donated the foundation's collection to the city of Mönchengladbach, making it part of the Städtisches Kunstmuseum, Mönchengladbach.

[2] This painting is listed as confiscated from Walter-Kaesbach-Stiftung in the list of Nazi confiscations published in 1962 [Roh, Franz. "Entartete Kunst: Kunstbarbarei im Dritten Reich." Hannover: Fackelträger-Verlag, 1962, p. 227]. The dramatic dismantling of the Mönchengladbach collection is described in the Kimpel-Fehlemann publication (see note [1]).

[3] Ferdinand Möller was one of four German art dealers who were appointed by Hitler in 1938 to the Verwertungskommission (disposal commission) to sell the confiscated "degenerate" art on the international art market. This painting was among those confiscated works, which ended up in the Möller gallery stock. In 1941 Möller sold the painting to the Kirchner collector Kurt Feldhäusser, Berlin [Roters, Eberhard. "Galerie Ferdinand Möller: Die Geschichte einer Galerie für Moderne Kunst in Deutschland 1917-1956." Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1984].

[4] Various sources, including the Morton D. May Papers at the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Kirchner catalogue raisonné, and the Eberhad Roters publication (see note [3]), indicate that the painting was acquired by Feldhäusser in 1941 [May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum; Gordon, Donald E. "Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: mit einem kritischen Katalog sämtlicher Gemälde." München: Prestel-Verlag, 1968; Haxthausen, Charles Werner. "Modern German Masterpieces from the Saint Louis Art Museum." St. Louis: Saint Louis Art Museum, 1986; Roters, p. 292].

Kurt Feldhäusser acquired a great deal of his collection from Ferdinand Möller and collected works by Kirchner quite heavily. Feldhäusser died in a bombing raid in Nürnberg in January 1945. His mother, Marie Luise Feldhäusser, inherited his collection and subsequently sold much of it through E. Weyhe Gallery in New York [letter from Wolfgang Schöddert, Ferdinand-Möller-Stiftung, dated November 20, 2002, SLAM document files].

According to Andrew Robison, Marie Luise Feldhäusser moved to Brooklyn, NY in May 1948 to join her other son Erwin and his family. She brought nearly all of Kurt's collection with her, hoping to keep it intact, but eventually offered it through E. Weyhe Gallery [Robison, Andrew. "Kirchner Collector Kurt Feldhäusser" in "Festschrift für Eberhard W. Kornfeld zum 80. Geburtstag." Bern: Galerie Kornfeld, 2003].

[5] See note [4]. According to information provided by E. Weyhe to Morton D. May in a letter dated May 3, 1968 [SLAM document files]. In May 1949, Weyhe Gallery included this painting (titled "Zirkusreiter") in a list of paintings and sculpture available "from a European collection" [Robison, p. 252-54]. It is unclear whether these works were owned by Mrs. Feldhäusser or Weyhe Gallery at this time.

[6] See note [5].

[7] Bill of sale dated October 4, 1951, and correspondence from E. Weyhe [May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum]. May also bought other works by Kirchner at this time: "Russian Dancer," "Two Female Nudes," and "View from the Window" – all from the Feldhäusser collection. "View from the Window" (902:1983) is also now in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum.

[8] Last Will and Testament of M. D. May dated June 11, 1982 [copy, May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum]. Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, September 20, 1983.
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