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OBJECT OF THE MONTH


Hilde Pollak (Vienna, November 2, 1874 – Treblinka, October 19, 1942)
Expressionen I-XII, c. 1920
Selected from the Treuhandstelle warehouse in Prague and catalogued in the JMP’s collection on May 21, 1944
last owner prior to confiscation: Hilde Pollak, Prague

Visual Arts Collection
JMP 82.262–82.273
Watercolor on cardboard framed by black galloon, average size 80 x 100 cm
Unsigned and undated

Hilde (Hildegarda) Pollak was born November 2, 1874, in Vienna. Her parents were Max Kontányi and his wife Henriette (Czech var. Jindřiška), née Deutsch. All that is known about here life and work to date comes from bits of unpublished accounts. Apparently she studied art under Imre Révész (1859–1945) and Christian Landenberger (1862–1927), one of the founding members of the Munich Secession. After completing her studies, she was active mainly in Vienna – Impressionist genres are clearly prevalent in her work from this period, as are portraits, which were a reliable source of income. She participated in the exhibitions of the Vienna Artists’ Society (Genossenschaft der bildenden Künstler Wiens) at the Vienna Künstlerhaus, and contributed work to Hagenbund exhibitions. For exhibitions organized by the Association of Austrian Women Artists she mainly contributed allegories laden with theosophical symbolism, as their title suggest: Mensch in der Wesenheit (The Essence of Humanity) or Der Glaube (Faith). Hilde’s textile work was also imbued with her theosophical predilections and Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy (she designed rugs and other interior textiles with lavish embroidery). In addition to her own creative work, she taught drawing and painting at a school for women (Kunstschule für Frauen und Mädchen) that she founded. After she married the Prague painter Richard Pollak (1867–1942), who hyphenated his surname with Karlín after the city district where he was born, she resided mostly in Prague (the wedding was held in Vienna on December 1, 1912). In 1914, however, she relocated to Dornach in Switzerland where from the outset she participated in creative life at Steiner’s anthroposophical colony. It was she who started the custom of painted programs, of which her design for the program to the first performance of Steiner’s eurythmy-drama Faust Himmelfahrt (The Assumption of Faust) has been preserved. More importantly, together with her husband Richard she was in the group of painters who decorated the domed ceilings of the wooden First Goetheanum, designed by Steiner himself. She is said to have depicted here the fabled continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, about which Steiner wrote a tract. The Pollaks returned to Prague at the beginning of 1920, which was about when the Goetheanum was completed, only to be tragically destroyed by fire two years later. The Pollaks kept in contact with the colony, and in the 1930s they had a joint exhibition in Dornach. The series of twelve cardboard pictures with Steiner motifs were evidently created while Hilde was still at Dornach. They became part of the Jewish Museum in Prague’s collection after being selected from the Treuhandstelle warehouse in Prague, where they had been deposited when the Pollaks’ last place of residence was cleared out after they had been transported to Terezín on July 13, 1942. On October 19 of the same year both Hilde and Richard Pollak were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp and murdered.




















Richard Pollak, “Certificat Provisoire,” document identifying him as a citizen of the Czechoslovak state, issued by the Consulate of Czechoslovakia in Bern for the period from November 10, 1919, to February 10, 1920




Hilde Pollak, “Certificat Provisoire,” document identifying her as a citizen of the Czechoslovak state, issued by the Consulate of Czechoslovakia in Bern for the period from November 10, 1919, to February 10, 1920










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