Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sie Kommen

A viewer on our YouTube MuseumZeitraum Channel has raised the question of how Johann Dieter Wassmann’s works came to leave Germany for Washington, D.C. in 1910. The long answer can be found in my essay Sie Kommen on our website, but I’ll try to keep it blog-length here. After the death of Johann’s widow Anna in 1900 from pneumonia, his boxed constructions, photographs, writings and personal archives were stored in 56 crates on the Weimar estate of their daughter Ilsabein and her husband Edward Liszt. Arch-conservative Liszt viewed the works as inflammatory, but out of respect to Ilsabein saw to their proper care. Concerned with inquiries as to their whereabouts from Henry van de Velde, Liszt revealed his cache to Ilsabein’s second cousin, Frederick Wassmann, visiting from Washington, D.C. in 1910, arranging with Frederick for their surreptitious shipment to Washington. In the United States, Frederick could do little to promote the contents of his windfall with the growing spectre of war inciting strong anti-German sentiment. The crates remained in storage until 1930, when they are moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania by Gladys and Karl Wassmann, Sr. (pictured left, Karl was Federick’s nephew). Karl, Sr. died in 1966. Gladys died in 1969. In Gladys’ will, a small amount of money was left to establish a foundation, “dedicated to overseeing the scholarship, conservation, publication, exhibition and promotion of the writings, personal archives and constructed works of Johann Dieter Wassmann.” MuseumZeitraum is currently negotiating with The Wassmann Foundation for the repatriation of the works to his native Leipzig.

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