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In the early 20th century, Fritz Thomée, regional councillor in Westphalia, started collecting art . Over the next decades he made several visits to the Kaiser Friedrich-Museum (now Bode-Museum), not merely to be inspired by the objects on display there, but also to seek the professional advice of Wilhelm von Bode, then director, and Max J. Friedländer, his deputy. Both men maintained a correspondence with Thomée at several points in their careers.
After initially limiting his collecting activities to late medieval art from Westphalia, the Rhineland, and the Netherlands, Thomée went on to expand his collection in accordance with Bode's principles and build a comprehensive collection that, besides European art and design, also included Asian works.
In stark contrast to the once-renowned private collections in Berlin from this period, which later suffered at the hands of the Nazis and the subsequent war (most notably the remarkable collection of James Simon, the Berlin museums' greatest patron), Marks-Thomée's collection has fortunately survived virtually intact and has been passed down to his grandchildren.
The exhibition 'The Fortunate Collector – Masterpieces from the Marks-Thomée Collection' lifts the veil on the inside world of an affluent, educated, and bourgeois family in the early decades of the last century. The collection also reveals how the then-novel form of museum collection, as invented by Bode in Berlin, also shaped private collections of this era. Paintings, sculptures, and design objects were now collected and displayed alongside one another.