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Gerstenberg, Otto

German, 1848 - 1935


German businessman Otto Gerstenberg was one of the best known German collectors of the early twentieth century. Born in Pyritz in 1848, his father died that same year. After studying math and philosophy, he bagan a career in the insurance firm Victoria, Berlin, eventually becoming its director. In 1884 he married Elise Wilhelmina Wingerling [d. 1926], with whom he had two daughters: Ada [1886-1889] and Margarethe [b. 1889]. Around 1904 Gerstenberg had a house built in Grünewald, and it was there that he housed his collection. His first acquisitions were of Old Master prints, which he dispersed at auction in 1922-1923. He then concentrated on English and Dutch paintings, assembling works by Constable, Reynolds, Hobbema, van Goyen, van Ostade and others. These, too, were sold. Gerstenberg's most enduring passion in collecting was French painting of the nineteenth century. His Berlin townhouse was filled with pictures by Courbet, Corot, Delacoix, Manet, Degas, Daumier and Toulouse-Lautrec, to name a few. Gerstenberg died in 1935, and his collection was inherited by his daughter, Margarete Scharf, who stored much of the collection in the Berlin Nationalalerie during World War II, with whose collection it was stored in bunkers. These were sent to the Soviet Union as "trophy art." Another portion of the collection was stored at the Victoria insurance firm, where Otto had been Director, and were tragically destroyed during an air raid. Margarethe did manage to salvage some of the collection and bring it with her to Bavaria after the war.


Adriani, Götz. Toulouse-Lautrec, The Complete Graphic Works: A Catalogue Raisonné. The Gerstenberg Collection. London, 1986:12.
Kostenevich, Albert. Hidden Treasures Revealed: Impressionist Masterpieces and Other Important French Paintings Preserved by The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. New York, 1995:17-18
Pucks, Stefan. "Von Manet zu Matisse: Die Sammler der französischen Moderne in Berlin um 1900," in Manet bis van Gogh: Hugo von Tschudi und der Kampf um die Moderne. Exh. cat. Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1996:388
Gaehtgens, Thomas W. and Julietta Scharf, "Die Sammlung Otto Gerstenberg in Berlin," in Die Moderne und Ihre Sammler: Französische Kunst in Deutschem Privatbesitz. Berlin, 2001:149-184
Kuhrau, Sven. Der Kunstsammler im Kaiserreich: Kunst und Repräsentation in der Berliner Privatsammlerkultur. Kiel, 2005:39-45, 274.

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