Sunday, 3:00am
13 January 2013

Back on the market

Prewar posters from the legendary collection of Dr Hans Sachs will soon go on sale at a New York auction house

A sale of 1250 prewar posters from Dr Hans Sachs’s legendary collection will take place in New York on 18, 19 and 20 January 2013, writes Graham Twemlow. The Guernsey’s auction catalogue states that: ‘… many of the posters in the collection are believed to be the sole surviving examples of those particular images’.

Lots for this sale have been organised into broad themes. The first hundred or so are exhibition posters. Other sections embrace categories such as entertainment, travel, consumer products and propaganda. Sachs was eclectic in his tastes – he had an eye for the best and among the highlights of this sale are fine works by Théophile Steinlen, Alphonse Mucha, Jules Chéret, and some rare Vienna Secessionist posters including, the censored and uncensored versions of Gustav Klimt’s poster for the Secessionist’s inaugural 1898 exhibition.

In this first sale (the auction house are planning to stage two further auctions of the Sachs collection) there are many examples of posters that have never been seen in auction rooms and may only exist in museums. There are rare and expensive works but also an abundance of unusual and relatively inexpensive posters (there is no miniumum reserve on the lots), many by unsung artists of the period.

[The collection, seized by the Gestapo in 1938 and once thought lost, has been the subject of a lengthy legal battle and a historical debate that Steven Heller described as ‘clouded by scholarship and emotion’, in his article ‘Repossession’ in Eye 74.]

Henrÿ, Deutsche Photographische Ausstellung, poster, 1920 (Lot 21). Berlin and Munich tended to be the centre for poster design in Germany but this one by a Finnish artist is printed in Stuttgart.
Top: Johann Baptist Maier (1881-1957), Hirschbold Kraftfahrzeuge, poster for a Munich motor dealership, 1908 (Lot 400). Maier changed his name to Hans Ibe in 1920. I’ve seen a smaller version of this one – but this larger example is rare. Images c
ourtesy of the Sachs Family.


Hans Geier, Neue Kunst, Galerie Goyert Köln, poster, ca. 1918 (Lot 104). Courtesy of the Sachs Family. A riot of colour, geometric shapes and quirky lettering adorn this poster heralding the first art exhibition to be held at Cologne’s Galerie Goyert (still going strong today).


Walter Schnackenberg (1880-1961), one of the better known of the German poster artists, is represented in the sale by three stunning examples of his work. His works are well known to poster aficionados (the German-born fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has a collection of his posters), especially the series he produced for the Odeon Casino cabaret club in Munich. The one on sale (lot 554) exudes an air of decadence, typical of Schnackenberg’s works. The design depicts a leering waiter or club proprietor leaning over a green-turbanned demimondaine sitting at the bar. The economy of line, controlled use of space, and broad areas of colour are reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec at his best.

Walter Schnackenberg, Odeon Casino, poster, 1911. Courtesy of the Sachs Family.


The rarest Schnackenberg on sale, however, is a 1910 poster advertising a performance (in Stockholm) of Läderlappen (die Fledermaus). In this poster Dr Falke, a character from the operetta, is dressed as a monocle-wearing bat enveloping a guest at a fancy dress ball. Once again his mastery of the lithographic process is exemplified in the freely drawn characters, quality of line and controlled use of colour.

Walter Schnackenberg, Laderlappen, poster, 1910. Courtesy of the Sachs Family.


There will be two further Sachs poster collection auctions.

The Hans Sachs Poster Collection (auction one of three), Guernsey’s, New York, 18 > 20 January 2013.

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