Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., was counted among the foremost French and American art dealers in antiquities and decorative arts and was among the first to foster and support the growth and appreciation for collecting in the field of contemporary European art. The company's clients included most of the major American and European art collectors of the era, and the art that passed through its galleries often ended up in the collections of prominent American and European museums through the donations of the wealthy benefactors who purchased them from the company. Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., took an active part in promoting such donations as well as providing its own donations and selling paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts directly to many museums.
The company was first established as Jacques Seligmann & Cie. in 1880 on the Rue des Mathurins in Paris by Jacques Seligmann (1858-1923), a German émigré who came to France in 1874 and soon thereafter became a French citizen. The company experienced so much success that in 1900 a new, larger Galerie Seligmann was opened on the Place Vendôme, and Jacques's two brothers, Simon and Arnold, joined the business as partners. Simon served as the company's accountant, and Arnold was in charge of correspondence with the firm's many clients. Jacques remained as the manager and was in charge of all purchases for the firm.
Prominent clients of the company included Baron Edmond de Rothschild of France, the Stroganoff family of Russia, Sir Philip Sassoon of England, and American collectors Benjamin Altman, William Randolph Hearst, J. P. Morgan, Henry Walters, and Joseph Widener. As American clients increasingly came to dominate the company's sales activities, a New York office at 7 West Thirty-sixth Street was opened in 1904. Five years later, Jacques purchased the Hôtel de Sagan (also called the Palais de Sagan by the Seligmann family) in Paris as a location where Jacques Seligmann & Cie. could stage larger exhibitions and receive its most distinguished clients.
In 1912 a family quarrel resulted in a lawsuit that split the company. Arnold remained at the Place Vendôme location, reorganized under the name Arnold Seligmann & Cie., while Jacques consolidated his operations and moved the headquarters for Jacques Seligmann & Cie. to the Hôtel de Sagan. Jacques also opened an additional gallery at 17 Place Vendôme to retain a presence near the company's original location, but this branch soon relocated to 9 Rue de la Paix. The New York office, which formerly had operated out of a single room, was upgraded to larger office space and a gallery at 705 Fifth Avenue.
Jacques's son, Germain Seligman (1893-1978), showed an interest in art connoisseurship from his early years and often accompanied his father to work in the galleries. (In 1943, when Germain Seligman became an American citizen, he dropped the second "n" from his surname, and for clarity his name appears with this spelling throughout this finding aid.) His father taught him how to deal with clients and often assigned him tasks to help in the completion of sales. Germain accompanied Jacques on many business trips and in 1910 was sent to St. Peterburg, Russia, to secure information about the selling price of the Swenigorodskoi enamels owned by the Russian collector M. P. Botkine.
Germain continued to work informally in the firm's galleries until the outbreak of World War I. Within hours of the mobilization order in 1914, Germain joined the French army as a second lieutenant in the 132nd Infantry Regiment of Rheims. By 1916 he was promoted to first lieutenant in the Twenty-fourth Infantry Brigade and in the following year achieved the rank of captain in the Fifty-sixth Infantry Division. Also in the same year, he was assigned as the first French liaison officer to the First Division of the American Expeditionary Force in France, serving as translator for Major George C. Marshall. Seligman was discharged from the French army in 1919 and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with six citations. (In 1938 Seligman also was awarded the Office of the Legion of Honor from France, and in 1939 he was decorated by General John Joseph Pershing with the Distinguished Service Medal of the United States, in recognition for his service during World War I.)
After his discharge from military service, Germain Seligman actively joined his father's company as a partner in 1920. Jacques Seligmann & Cie. was changed to Jacques Seligmann et Fils, and Germain was placed in charge as the president of the New York office. The strong American art market necessitated Germain's making numerous cross-Atlantic trips each year. Upon the death of his father in 1923, Germain took over as president of both the Paris and New York offices, and the company was once again renamed Jacques Seligmann & Cie.
In the early years of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., the firm carried few paintings, as collectors focused their interest mostly on small objects, enamels, ivories, and other decorative pieces from the Byzantine to the Renaissance eras. Stone and bronze sculptures, medieval and Renaissance tapestries, and eighteenth-century French furniture were the most avidly collected pieces of the era. The galleries of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., reflected its clients' tastes, but soon after the turn of the century art trends began to change.
The 1913 Armory Show introduced many Americans to contemporary European art, and collectors in the United States began to show marked interest in it. The advent of World War I brought much of the art market to a standstill in Europe, but interest in the Impressionists continued in the United States, and it quickly resumed in Europe, as well, after the war. Both collectors and dealers began buying modern art, led by such progressive American collectors as Walter Arensberg, Albert C. Barnes, A. E. Gallatin, Mrs. Horace O. Havemeyer, Mrs. Potter Palmer, Duncan Phillips, and John Quinn, among others.
Under Germain's leadership, Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., began acquiring works by Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, and Vincent van Gogh. While Germain promoted this trend for modern art in the New York gallery, other family partners did not approve as this was a new direction for the firm. For this reason Germain Seligman looked to establish a new, independent business venture in the evolving field of modern art. He selected as his partner César Mange de Hauke.
César Mange de Hauke was born on March 8, 1900, the son of a French engineer and a Polish mother. After completing academic and art studies in England and France in the years following World War I, de Hauke arrived in the United States in 1926. While in New York City, he was introduced to Germain Seligman by Germain's cousin, René Seligmann, and by 1927 de Hauke had joined Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., as a sales representative.
With their shared interest in modern French painting, Seligman and de Hauke decided to explore the feasibility of sales in this area by forming a subsidiary to Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., that would specialize in contemporary European artists. In 1926 Seligman personally financed the fledgling company, first called International Contemporary Art Company, Inc., and he appointed de Hauke its director, but even before the legal documents setting up the company were completed the name was changed to de Hauke & Co., Inc. Although the bulk of the new company's art purchases took place in Paris and London, the majority of its sales occurred in the United States.
Seligman and de Hauke worked out an agreement allowing de Hauke to purchase works of art that could then be sold as stock inventory of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., or privately under de Hauke's own name. Ownership of paintings was often shared among various art dealers, involving complicated commission transactions upon completion of sale. Seligman provided display space for de Hauke & Co., Inc., at the new, larger gallery of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., now located at 3 East Fifty-first Street. The two businesses were deeply intertwined, as evidenced by the facts that Seligman's financial records include a great deal of de Hauke material and many of de Hauke's records are written on the stationery of Jacques Seligmann Co., Inc.
During the second half of the 1920s, de Hauke showed the work of modern French School artists in New York City. He exhibited works by Pierre Bonnard, Amedeo Modigliani, Odilon Redon, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Edouard Vuillard, and many others. De Hauke was equally interested in French School drawings and watercolors, and the scope of his exhibitions also included works by nineteenth-century masters such as Paul Cézanne, Jacques-Louis David, Eugè00E8;ne Delacroix, Jean Ingres, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Georges Seurat.
Among the exhibitions held at the New York gallery were two highly successful shows featuring the works of Pablo Picasso. The first one, held in 1936, displayed paintings from the Blue and Rose Periods and was soon followed by the 1937 exhibition, Twenty Years in the Evolution of Picasso. The star of this exhibition was Les Demoiselles d'Avignon which Germain had recently acquired from the Jacques Doucet Estate sale.
Despite the bleak economic conditions of the 1930s, the new business venture proved so successful that the other family members of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., withdrew their opposition to expanding into the field of modern art, and de Hauke & Co., Inc., was dissolved and re-formed under the new name, Modern Paintings, Inc. César M. de Hauke was appointed its director, but tensions had crept into the relationship between the former partners, and by 1931, de Hauke had resigned and returned to Paris.
The mid-1930s appear to have been a period of reorganization for the company. By 1934 Modern Paintings, Inc., was also dissolved, and it assets were assumed by Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., and by Tessa Corp., another subsidiary of the firm. In 1935, however, the firm established a new subsidiary, the Contemporary American Department, to represent young American artists. Theresa D. Parker, a longtime gallery employee, was selected to head the department, and she initiated an exhibition and loan program. Soon thereafter, the City of Paris offered to buy the company's building at the Hôtel de Sagan as part of a complicated negotiation for a site for the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la vie Modern 1937. The Paris office of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., reestablished itself at 9 Rue de la Paix, but Germain selected the New York office as the headquarters for Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc. Subsequently he filed his legal residence as New York City. Germain's half-brother, François-Gerard, was left in charge of the Paris office operations, although Germain continued to commute between the two offices until the summer of 1939.
During the New York World's Fair of 1939, Germain served as a member of the Exhibition Committee, which coordinated the art section. When the fair was extended for an additional year, Seligman was asked to take responsibility for planning the French art section. World political events intruded, however, and rumors of impending war affected both the European and American economies as well as the international art world. Speculative sales, particularly in Europe, made for a chaotic and unpredictable market. In June 1940 German forces invaded France and occupied Paris. Business for Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., took a dramatic downturn. In the summer of 1940 the Seligmann galleries and family holdings were seized by the Vichy government, along with Germain's private art collection. The family house and its contents, along with almost the entire stock of the Paris firm, was sold at public auction. Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., staff burned the Paris office archives in an effort to keep the records relating to works of art from falling into the hands of the Nazi occupiers, who were looting and shipping art to Germany.
Family members also experienced the pains and changes brought on by the war. Jean Seligmann, a cousin of Germain and the head of Arnold Seligmann & Cie., was captured and shot in Vincennes, France. François-Gerard, a half-brother, was drafted into the army and subsequently joined the French Resistance. Another brother, André, fled France in September 1940 and arrived in New York City, where he opened his own gallery. (He would later return to Paris after the war, but died shortly thereafter from a heart attack.)
Germain applied for a commission in the United States Army in 1942, but his application was initially turned down due to his noncitizen status. Soon thereafter, however, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the second War Power Act, which stipulated that naturalization could be expedited if the individual served in the military during the war. This act prompted Germain to further press his application for a post overseas, citing his citizenship status as fairly inconsequential or at least no longer a grave hindrance. Despite numerous letters exchanged with the War Department, however, his application was eventually rejected due to changes in military personnel policy.
During the war years, the Seligmann company in New York moved from its 3 East Fifty-first Street location to smaller quarters at 5 East Fifty-seventh Street. The first exhibition in this space was held in the spring of 1944. By 1945 the Contemporary American Department was reactivated, with Theresa D. Parker as its head.
In the years following the war, a rapprochement occurred among the family members who had been split since the family quarrel between Jacques and Arnold Seligmann. With the death of Jean Seligmann during the war, Arnold Seligmann & Co. had been left without a director. Germain consolidated the two family businesses, but made separate financial and administrative entities of the Paris and New York offices. Henceforth they were affiliated "only by ties of affection."
During the early to mid-1950s, many of the activities involving Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., centered upon the recovery of looted artwork and property as well as resolving outstanding issues from the consolidation of the various family businesses. The firm was also involved in the sale of several significant collections.
In 1951 Germain was commissioned by the family of the Duc d'Arenberg to sell the family's collection of important illuminated manuscripts, engravings, and select paintings. Jan Vermeer's Portrait of a Young Girl was purchased for over a quarter million dollars.
Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., also handled the 1953 sale of works from the Prince of Liechtenstein's collection and negotiated the purchase of seven Italian marble sculptures that were eventually sold to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 1954. From the late 1950s up until the closing of the company in 1977-1978, the exhibitions mounted by the firm seem to indicate a gradual focus back toward drawings and more traditional art. Contemporary American artists continued to be shown as well, but the firm no longer maintained its leading edge in the art market.
Germain, who during the 1940s had written several works, among them a monograph on Roger de La Fresnaye in 1945 and The Drawings of Georges Seurat in 1947, devoted himself more and more to writing. In Oh! Fickle Taste; or, Objectivity in Art, published in 1952, Seligman addressed the importance of political and social climates in understanding the evolution of art collecting in the United States. He followed this book with the 1961 publication of Merchants of Art, 1880-1960: Eighty Years of Professional Collecting which memorialized his father and traced the history of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc. Germain's most significant work, Roger de La Fresnaye, with a Catalogue Raisonné (1969), was lauded by art critics and listed among the 1969 "Best Ten Books of the Year" by the New York Times.
With the death of Germain Seligman in 1978, the firm doors closed, leaving behind a legacy of collecting that helped to establish American collectors and museums in the forefront of the international art world. A survey of the major art museums and collections in the United States reveals the significant number of works that were acquired either by sales or through donation from Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc. The influence the company wielded is also demonstrated through the network of relationships it built with collectors, art museums and institutions, and other dealers, such as Dr. Albert C. Barnes, Bernheim-Jeune, George Blumenthal, Sen. William A. Clark, the Detroit Institute of Arts, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Henry Walters, and Wildenstein & Co., among others.
1858, September 18
Jacques Seligmann born in Frankfurt, Germany.
Jacques Seligmann leaves Germany to work in Paris, France, as an assistant at Maître Paul Chevallier, a leading Paris auctioneer. Soon after he leaves to work for Charles Mannheim, an expert in medieval art.
Jacques Seligmann opens his own shop at the Rue des Mathurins. An early client is Baron Edmond de Rothschild.
1893, February 25
Germain Seligman is born in Paris, France. His mother's maiden name is Blanche Falkenberg (d. 1902).
Jacques Seligmann & Cie. is formed when Jacques's brothers, Arnold and Simon, join him as partners and the business moves to the Place Vendôme.
The New York City office of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., is established, with Eugene Glaenzer as the manager. Beginning in 1905, Seligmann begins yearly visits to the New York office.
Jacques Seligmann is elected a Fellow for Life of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Jacques Seligmann & Cie. acquires the Hôtel de Sagan on the Rue Saint Dominique. Jacques moves the headquarters for the company to this location and reserves its use for the most exclusive and important clients, but his brother Arnold continues to oversee the general operations of the company at the Place Vendôme.
A lawsuit between Jacques Seligmann and his brother, Arnold, results in a split in the family company. Arnold remains at Place Vendôme under the name Arnold Seligmann & Cie. Jacques consolidates his activities at the Hôtel de Sagan. He also opens another gallery at 17 Place Vendôme, but this is soon moved to 9 Rue de la Paix.
As a result of the split in the family business, a new office and gallery are opened at 705 Fifth Avenue, and Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., is incorporated within the State of New York.
Germain Seligmann serves in the French army as a second lieutenant in the 132nd Infantry Regiment of Rheims. Later he is assigned as the first French liaison officer to the First Division of the American Expeditionary Force in France. He is discharged from active service in 1919.
Germain Seligman becomes a partner with his father and formally joins Jacques Seligmann & Fils as the president of the New York office.
Germain Seligman becomes the president of both the Paris and New York offices. Several of his brothers and sisters become partners in the firm. Theresa D. Parker joins the New York office.
The New York office moves to 3 East Fifty-first Street. Germain Seligman, with César Mange de Hauke, sets up de Hauke & Co., Inc., to sell modern European paintings to American clients.
De Hauke & Co., Inc., becomes Modern Paintings, Inc.
De Hauke resigns as head of Modern Paintings, Inc., and returns to Paris.
Modern Paintings, Inc., is dissolved, and its assets are assumed by Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., and by Tessa Corp., another subsidiary of the parent company.
The Contemporary American Department is created as a part of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., and Theresa D. Parker directs its operations.
Jacques Seligmann et Fils moves out of its gallery space at the Hôtel de Sagan and briefly reestablishes its headquarters at 9 Rue de la Paix. By 1937, however, the company headquarters moves to New York City. Germain Seligman establishes his legal residence there.
During the summer, the Seligmann family house and its contents (at Rue de Constantine) are seized and sold by order of the Vichy government, along with Germain's private art collection and the gallery's stock. The Paris archives of Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., is destroyed by the Seligmann staff in order to keep the records from falling into the hands of the Nazis. René Seligmann dies in a New York hospital in June; François-Gerard, Germain's half-brother, is called up to serve in the army and joins the French Resistance. Another brother, André, escapes to the United States and opens a gallery in New York. Jean Seligmann, a cousin of Germain and the head of Arnold Seligmann & Cie., is captured and shot at Vincennes, France.
Germain Seligman becomes an American citizen (and drops the second "n" from his original surname).
The New York gallery holds its first exhibition in the new 5 East Fifty-seventh Street location in New York City. During the war years, the firm had moved from its Fifty-first Street location to smaller quarters.
The Contemporary American Department is reactivated.
After the war, Arnold Seligmann & Cie. is left without a director, although it remains at the Rue de la Paix location. Germain consolidates the two firms but organizes the Paris and New York offices as separate financial and administrative entities.
Germain Seligman publishes Roger de La Fresnaye, with a Catalogue Raisonné. The book receives acclaim and is listed on the 1969 New York Times "Ten Best Books of the Year."