The fabled Dr. Hans Sachs Poster Collection is universally described as being the most significant collection of its type in existence. Indeed, descriptions that have appeared in the press include "... the greatest pre-war collection of posters," and "thousands of the rarest posters." One need only search for Dr. Sachs' name on the Internet to find the compelling story that, in abbreviated form, follows.
In the last years of the nineteenth century, a young German Jewish student, fascinated by the strong graphics applied in promotional posters, began a quest to collect. Thus began what is internationally regarded as the first recognized poster collection the world was yet to see. As the student graduated into the world of dentistry, so did his collection grow. Among the many categories of posters the young Dr. Sachs sought out covered the worlds of art, propaganda and politics, entertainment (from cabarets and dining to opera and early film), travel, sports, consumer products (from cigarettes to the first automobiles) to scenes of war.
With a keen eye for the very finest creations, Dr. Sachs acquired posters by such noted artists as Mucha, Steinlen, Cassandre, Cheret, Bernhard, Edel, Gipkens, Klinger, Carlu, Schnackenberg, Dufau, Grasset, Fennecker, Hohlwein, Kainer, Pechstein, Scheurich, Biro, Leyendecker, Christy, Flagg and many more. In time, his interest was so great that he organized the first poster collecting society and, in 1911, followed that by publishing Das Plakat (The Poster), an international magazine which quickly developed a devoted following. All the while, his collection grew.
By 1938, under the direction of Josef Goebbels, the Gestapo seized the collection, placing Dr. Sachs in a concentration camp. Although, with the help of family and friends, Dr. Sachs was able to gain his release from the camp, he never saw nor heard of his collection again. Just before the outbreak of World War II, almost penniless, Dr. Sachs escaped Germany and led his family to the United States. In time, he came to believe that his beloved collection was destroyed at the hands of the Nazis.
In 1960, the German government, recognizing the need to provide Dr. Sachs some restitution, offered him a relatively small amount for his loss. Without any other option, he accepted the offer. Dr. Sachs passed away a decade later. Following a long career as an airline pilot, Dr. Sachs' son retired several years ago. While in retirement, Mr. Sachs had time to search evidence from the past and discovered, amazingly, that his father's poster collection, long thought lost to history, indeed existed in the vaults of a German national museum, located in what was once East Berlin.
The Sachs family's efforts to retrieve their collection from the museum failed leading to a well-documented legal battle. With the assistance of both German and American law firms, the collection became the focus of a case that rose through the ranks of the German Court system, eventually debated in Germany's highest court. All the while, the epic case became the subject of countless news reports appearing throughout the global media.
In the end, the Sachs family was granted approval to recover Dr. Sachs' collection. Today, the nearly five thousand posters in the collection constitute what knowledgeable experts in the poster world view as the very finest collection of its type. Indeed, many of the posters in the collection are believed to be the sole surviving example of those particular images.
As this is being written, the posters are being reviewed. But already, certain facts seem apparent. Approximately two thirds of the collection is of German posters; the balance being French, English, Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, Scandinavian, American and assorted other nationalities. The condition of the posters range from excellent to poor with only a few being beyond the point of restoration. Most importantly, it is clear that Hans Sachs exercised great judgement by selecting artistically thrilling images for his collection. In short, the posters are great!
From both an artistic and historic perspective, Guernsey's feels distinctly honored to have been chosen to represent to the world the extraordinary Dr. Hans Sachs Poster Collection.
A beautifully designed catalogue will be available in an extremely limited edition. Click here to order your Hans Sachs Poster Catalogue copy.
Those who are unable to attend the auction but would like to participate can view the full catalogue online, and leave advance absentee bids, as well as bid live as the sale is taking place at www.liveauctioneers.com.