Dr. Max Stern

Photo of Dr. Max Stern

Dr. Max Stern was born in München-Gladbach, present-day Mönchengladbach, Germany on April 18, 1904.  His father, Julius Stern, a successful textile manufacturer and avid art collector, established the Galerie Julius Stern in 1913, which dealt mainly with academic and Dutch Old Master paintings. Dr. Stern became the gallery’s sole owner after his father’s death in 1934.

Barely a year after his father’s death, on August 29, 1935, Dr. Stern received notice that as a Jew he did not fit the membership requirements of the Reichskammer der bildenden Künste, a subsidiary of the Reichskulturkammer, and was legally prohibited from buying and/or selling art. Though Dr. Stern sought review of the order to close his Galerie, from a letter he wrote in October 1935 to Dr. Schneider, Director of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD), it is clear that he recognized that any efforts he undertook to try to save his business were destined to fail and that he would need to seek a new livelihood.

Dr. Stern received the final irrevocable order on September 13, 1937 that he was forbidden to deal in cultural property and had to sell the gallery’s entire inventory immediately through a Nazi-approved RKdbK dealer.  The local Gestapo office helped the RKdbK enforce this order against Dr. Stern. In compliance with the September 1937 order, Dr. Stern consigned and liquidated over two hundred pictures, including the Painting, with Kunsthaus Lempertz (Lempertz) in Cologne.  The November 13, 1937 Lempertz sale of Dr. Stern’s paintings was a so-called forced “Jewish auction”, in which his paintings sold for a fraction of their fair market value.

On December 23, 1937, Dr. Stern fled Germany for England.  Little over a month after Dr. Stern fled Germany, on January 26, 1938, an order was issued blocking all of his domestic assets, particularly his bank accounts (Sicherungsanordnung). On July 12, 1939 Dr. Stern’s German citizenship was revoked, which enabled the Nazi authorities to confiscate any of his remaining German property.

Photo of Bagpipe Player artwork, including family of Max Stern

Dr. Stern’s plans for his life in exile were short circuited soon thereafter by the outbreak of war in September 1939; considered an “enemy alien” he was interned on the Isle of Man. After his release in 1940, he immigrated to Canada, where he spent almost two years interned as a “civilian alien”.

Despite his harrowing past, Dr. Stern went on to become one of Canada’s most influential and important art dealers, as director of the Dominion Gallery in Montreal. Dr. Stern died in 1987.  He bequeathed the residue of his property, including any potential recovery of lost artworks, to the charitable Dr. and Mrs. Max Stern Foundation.  The Foundation benefits three non-profit institutions:  McGill University (Montreal), Concordia University (Montreal), and Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel).

Recovered Works from the Stern Collection