Lost works by Prague artist Gertrud Kauders handed over to Jewish Museum

Gertrud Kauders – Self-portrait, around 1930

After years of negotiations, the Jewish Museum in Prague has received a substantial part of a unique art collection discovered in 2018. Nearly 380 paintings and drawings by the artist Gertrud Kauders have been donated to the institution by her relatives. Unlike her famous contemporary Franz Kafka, Kauders remained completely forgotten for nearly 80 years. I discussed the discovery with the museum’s chief curator Michaela Sidenberg:

Gertrud Kauders – Hybernská street from Powder tower  (Prašná brána),  Prague 1918 | Photo: Dana Cabanová,  Jewish Museum Prague

“We knew for a number of years about Gertrude Kauders from various lists of artist associations and exhibitions. Nevertheless, we did not know about her artworks because simply there were no artworks by Gertrude Kauders in any public collection.

“Only later we discovered the reason why it was so, and that was in 2018, when some of her paintings were discovered by the workers, who worked on the demolition of a house at Prague’s Zbraslav. That house once belonged to one of Gertrude’s friends who saved her works during the war.

“Gertrude actually transferred all her studio before she embarked on her last journey to the ghetto of Theresienstadt and from there immediately to the extermination camp of Majdanek. So this is where it had been hidden for all these years.”

What kind of artworks are we talking about and how many of them were discovered in that house?

Gertrud Kauders – View of the Franciscan Garden,  Prague,  around 1920 | Photo: Dana Cabanová,  Jewish Museum Prague

“Initially, the workers talked about 30 paintings that they found, unstretched paintings on canvas. But later on it turned out that there were nearly 700 works by Gertrude Kauders.

“There are predominantly drawings, because, as I said, it was basically the whole content of her studio at the moment when she decided to transfer it to her friend’s house.

“So there are a lot of sketches, there are a lot of unfinished works, there are a lot of figurative paintings. She was also an excellent portrait painter. She painted a lot of portraits of her friends, predominantly female friends and also family members. And there are also landscapes, so there are a lot of watercolours and also India ink dry brush drawings.”

Kauder’s relatives, who live in New Zealand, decided to give part of the collection, nearly 380 of the works, to the Jewish Museum in Prague. What will happen to the rest of the artworks?

“I think that the family decided to keep some to commemorate Gertrude because obviously it was very emotional moment when paintings were discovered. But I think that most of the art will be distributed to public collections.

“As you said, the Jewish Museum in Prague is receiving the largest part of it. The other parts, as far as I know, should go to some American institutions, such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and the Jewish Museum in New York. And part of it will go to where the family lives, which is Wellington, New Zealand, to the Te Papa Museum.”