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G. Cramer Oude Kunst gallery records, 1873-1998, bulk 1938-1998

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G. Cramer Oude Kunst Gallery Records

Biographical / Historical Note

The gallery of the art dealers Gustav Cramer (1881-1961) and his son Hans Max Cramer (b. 1920) was one of the most renowned and influential galleries dealing in old master paintings during the 20th century in Europe. The gallery was founded in Kassel in the late 19th century by Gustav Cramer's grandfather, Max Cramer. In 1914 Gustav Cramer inherited the gallery. After World War I Gustav Cramer moved to Berlin where for many years he worked at the renowned Van Diemen gallery, in charge of the old masters section, or Alte Kunst. In 1933 he opened his own gallery in the Lennéstrasse in Berlin. In 1936, he was expelled from the official artists' organization Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste (Reich Chamber of Visual Art). In 1938, in order to escape the Nazi regime, the family moved to the Netherlands and opened the G. Cramer Oude Kunst gallery in Javastraat 38 in The Hague. Under the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands Gustav Cramer's son Hans Max Cramer became the official owner of the gallery. While the son officially represented the gallery, the father continued to be in charge of business. After Gustav Cramer's death in 1961, Hans Max Cramer continued his father's business.

During World War II Gustav Cramer dealt on consignment in fine and decorative arts, mainly with German dealers in Berlin. He also engaged as an intermediary in transactions between Nazi agents collecting for Adolf Hitler's museum in Linz and Dutch collectors and dealers who wanted their transactions with the Nazis to remain anonymous. After the war he continued to sell decorative arts and old master paintings to a primarily Dutch and German clientele.

Between 1954 and 1959, the gallery eliminated decorative arts from its stock in order to focus on old master paintings. Records from this period indicate that the firm also began to engage in business more regularly with numerous museums and private collectors in the United States. In 1960 Hans Max Cramer changed the business strategy again and began selling paintings almost exclusively on consignment, a concept for which he was criticized during the early 1960s. This approach turned out to be successful at a time when many private collections were being sold and dispersed. Cramer was able to make substantial business deals by representing some of the most important private collections in the Netherlands, including H.E. ten Cate, the Becker collection, the C.J.K. van Aalst collection, the Sidney van den Bergh collection, and numerous others. The pool of clientele expanded to include the world's most significant old master collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery, London, the National Gallery, Washington, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Toledo Art Museum, and the collections of L.H. Gilbert, Armand Hammer, Norton Simon, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, and many others.

Hans Max Cramer studied at the prestigious Dutch school for art history, the Rijksinstituut voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in The Hague. He was head of the study-room for Dutch and Flemish old masters, and wrote a great number of articles for the Dutch encyclopaedia Winkler Prins. During the 1980s he curated the exhibition Dutch Painting of the Golden Age from the Royal Picture Gallery, Mauritshuis and the Galleries of Hans M. Cramer and John Hoogsteder, held in The Hague in 1986. It was the first publicly sponsored exhibition curated by dealers.

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