Julius Elias' interest in the visual arts developed when he was a young man in Berlin studying German literary history. In 1888, he married Julie Levi; two years later, he moved to Paris. Here he was exposed to the works of modern French artists, and started a collection that would grow to include such artists as Manet, Monet, Cézanne, Pissarro and Toulouse-Lautrec. Upon returning to Berlin, he was instrumental in the introduction of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, convincing art dealers to undertake exhibitions showcasing their work. In 1892, he established a journal for modern German literature, which he financed until 1925. After World War I, he took over the art department of the Ullstein Publishing company.
Elias died in 1927. His wife, Julie, and son, Ludwig, left Germany in 1938 due to the Nazi restrictions on Jewish residents and settled in Norway, where they were able to extend their residency permits for several years. However, the situation became complicated after the invasion of the Nazis in December 1940. The art works in Julius? collection proved invaluable at this time, due to the difficulty in removing money from German accounts. Several works were sold through lawyers or dealers to pay for living expenses. Julie, who was quite ill at the time, managed to avoid being sent to an internment camp, and stayed with friends until her death on 21 August 1943. Because of her delicate state, she was never told the truth about her son?that he had been deported with some 500 other Jews from Denmark to Auschwitz in 1942.
After the war, three paintings from the Elias collection were exported to the United Kingdom to heirs of Julie Elias (including Manet's "A King Charles Spaniel" now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art). The extensive correspondence of Julius Elias was dispersed between the University library in Oslo and the Elias heirs.
Der Cicerone 19 (1927): 248 [obituary].
Neue deutsche biographie. Berlin, c. 1953:439-440
Sokoll, Gabriele. "Julius Elias, Halvdan Koht und das jüdische Exil in Norwegen." Skandinavistik: Glückstadt 21:2 (1991):116-130