max pollak and looted objects

max pollak: portrait of dancer kitty starling, radierung um 1925


my daily art break today brought me across a cosmopolitan artist by the name of max pollak within the exbition space of pretty-hoe bayreuth’s art museum which is currently hosting a czech-german coop, ‘die verschwiegene moderne’ , a really worthwhile little assemblage of paintings, sketches and prints. i was fascinated by his depiction of a dancer, the artistic portrait of mila cirus is to be seen in bayreuth, itS beautiful and edgy (and unfortunately the search engines rather know of the teenage stench of miley cyrus than the 1920s dancer).

max pollak seems to have done a lot of portraits of leg-swinging ladies and to have been an en-vogue-portraitist, high in demand at the time by stage beauties like kitty starling (and if i ever get a daughter this will be the nickname i will lure her with; and hopefully later as well her dj-stage name). pollak, prague-born and taught in vienna, left europe in 1927 and established himself in san francisco, where he died in 1970. his wife stayed on for some years before she followed her man to sweet heavens. lacking mila cirus as an virtual impression (but iVe seen it in real life and you should too, aura and all that jazz) here’s the images of kitty starling (above)  and isa marsen:


max pollak: isa martens, ca 1920


his most famous portrait is probably that of sigmund freud, though, at his desk, imagining what there is in a mind:

max pollak: sigmund freud at his desk 1914


it’s interesting how the mindgames cross:

doing a bit of off-the-track-research on max pollak i read a restitution record from vienna 2006 and it exactly links with questions i am writing on in the contexts of afrikan museologies: looted objects, violent appropriation of cultural expressions, lacking reparations. pollak’s collection of 1000 own painting which he had left behind when going to amerika in the first place (he seems to have kept his flat in vienna, and we know the shitty trans-x crossings with heavy luggage…) got ‘confiscated’ by the gestapo, due to the 1941-legislation the couple’s family fortune went straight to the bureaucrats of terror and deprivation. vienna and her cultural institutions actually gave one of pollak’s paintings to his heirs, if i followed up correctly, yet there’s more to be talked about.

concerning the large-scale impacts of this global tendency of grab’n’forget , especially concerning the afrikan-european relations, read opuku’s answer to the bbc, “a history of the world in 100 looted objects” at pambazuka. let’s get our mind wandering towards an atlas mnemosyne along the making of of our visual world and cultural archives, being built up on violent links, and let’s risk a imaginary along the blanks.


5 thoughts on “max pollak and looted objects”

  1. I was a good friend of Max Pollak’s widow for almost thirty years.

    I know his work and life very well if you have question I might be able to answer them.


    1. this is intriguing! sorry for having been very slow in replying, iVe been working on other things too much. how do you feel about him being remembered? how was exile like for him? how did he deal with the artworks stolen from him? greetings & a warm thank you!

  2. Dear Sir
    I have a print of ‘Kitty Starling , The London Darling’ by Ludwig Hohlwein.Do you have any further information about her background and career.It intrigues me how Hohlwein knew about her.
    keith McBarron

    1. Kitty Starling is a woman I would love to learn more about as well. Please keep me updated. Are there comments by Hohlwein?
      all the best

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