Brave New Visions: The Émigrés who transformed the British Art World

17 July – 9 August 2019,

an exhibition hosted by Sotheby’s,

1-2 St George Street, London W1R 9DJ 

Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm, Free 

 EXHIBITION PATRONS  René Gimpel, David Juda, Sally Kalman 

In bleak, war-torn 1940s London, British gallery-goers had barely adjusted to Post-Impressionism, let alone the challenges posed by Picasso. Then everything changed. A group of émigrés who had fled Nazi-dominated Europe resolved to embrace the future and introduce avant-garde European and British artists to the public and press. These pioneering dealers, three of them fearless women, transformed the London gallery scene. Their impact and influence was profound – and remains so. 

Outsiders by language, temperament and tragic personal histories, these Jewish refugees were drawn to artists exploring new and ground-breaking ways of depicting the world, and to others who rejected representational art altogether. They championed new generation artists Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi, William Scott and William Turnbull. They broke down isolationist barriers by showing radical European figures such as László Moholy-Nagy, Naum Gabo and Alberto Giacometti – often for the first time in London. 

Amazingly as early as 1934 Carl Braunschweig exhibited 86 German-Jewish so-called ‘degenerate artists’ at the Parsons Gallery. In December 1939, just three months after war was declared, refugee John Heartfield showed his photomontages, One Man’s War against Hitler, at the Arcade Gallery, Old Bond Street founded by Paul Wengraf. Artist Jack Bilbo pioneered a multi-media performance space at his Modern Art Gallery and publishing house first in Baker Street and then in Charles II Street (1941-8), where fellow émigré Kurt Schwitters had his only London show. 

In 1943, Lea Bondi Jaray turned St George’s Gallery Mayfair into a flagship for modern art, especially European Expressionism. In 1945, Henry (Heinz) Roland and Gustav Delbanco opened a gallery in Cork Street with Lillian Browse and promoted artists like Henry Moore and Josef Herman. 

In 1946, Erica Brausen founded the Hanover Gallery and launched Francis Bacon’s career. The same year former French resistance fighter Charles Gimpel and his brother Peter opened Gimpel Fils in honour of their late father, and became significant supporters of post-war British art. 

At Crane Kalman Gallery (opened 1949 in Manchester, ‘57 in London), Andras Kalman promoted emerging British artists like Ben Nicholson and Graham Sutherland as well as prompting recognition for neglected English Folk Art. Annely Juda espoused abstract artists like Jackson Pollock and Gillian Ayres at Molton (1960), Hamilton(1963) and finally Annely Juda Fine Art (1968), where she showed Mondrian, Bauhaus artists and the Russian avant-garde. She also helped to establish the international reputations of David Hockney and Anthony Caro. 

Frank Lloyd and Harry Fischer founded Marlborough Fine Art in 1948, and by 1960, they had fully internationalised the London art market. The Klaus Anschel Gallery opened on King’s Road in 1962, sold contemporary pop prints and played its part in ‘Swinging London’. 

Fellow émigrés led a parallel revolution in the staid world of British publishing, providing a platform for European scholarship in affordable art books while raising standards of design and reproduction. Successful Viennese publishing house Phaidon, and its Austrian owners Béla Horovitz and Ludwig Goldscheider, had been saved from the Nazis by British publisher Sir Stanley Unwin. In 1950 they printed Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art; 16 editions later, it is a world best-seller (8 million copies in 30 languages). Naming Thames & Hudson after the great rivers of two cities where they planned to open offices in 1949, Walter Neurath and Eva Feuchtwang also specialised in books on art and design accessible to non-specialists as well as connoisseurs. Their ambition to create a ‘museum without walls’ still guides the company today. 

The exhibition is curated by Sue Grayson Ford, founder of the Serpentine Gallery and The Big Draw, assisted by Cherith Summers. It will include key works of art and documentary material to illustrate these twin revolutions and the personal histories of the main protagonists. Brave New Visions is part of the 2019 Insiders/Outsiders festival, a year-long programme marking the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two. The festival will pay tribute to the indelible contribution of the artists, photographers, writers, architects, designers, actors, film-makers, dancers and musicians, as well as art historians, dealers, collectors and publishers, who in fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe in the 1930s and 1940s greatly enriched this country’s culture. 

Further Information from Sue Grayson Ford: +44 (0)208 351 1719;