Auction 42 - Rare and Important Items

Portrait of Theodor Herzl – Etching by Hermann Struck – Signed by Herzl

Opening: $4,000
Sold for: $6,875
Including buyer's premium
Profile portrait of Theodor Herzl – soft ground etching by Hermann Struck, [1903]. Signed in the plate by Struck and hand-signed in pencil by both Struck and Herzl.
This portrait etching (titled "Bildnis Theodor Herzl"; "Portrait of Theodor Herzl") was created following meetings between Struck and Herzl, which took place in Egypt and Vienna in 1903. A series of preliminary drawings created by Struck while at Herzl's house in Vienna served as the basis for this portrait, in which the radiant image of Herzl's visage is contrasted by the dark background. It is likely that Struck's motive for creating the portrait was his fervent Zionism and the admiration he felt for Herzl. During the sixth Zionist Congress in Basel in August 1903, the two met again and on this occasion Herzl beseeched Struck to allow him to sign a few of the first copies of the etching.
The art critic Dr. Karl Schwarz, a noted researcher and the first general manager of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, described Herzl's image as depicted in this etching: "Presumably, the artist aspired to create an idealistic image of one of the prophets of Israel, and in this task he succeeded. Theodor Herzl lives forever in our hearts in the portrait created by the artist Struck; this was the portrait of Herzl, with a capital T: the visionary absorbed in his vision, with his gaze looking towards the future." ("Hermann Struck, the Man and the Artist." Edited by Itzhak Mann. Tel-Aviv: Dvir, 1954, pp30-31).
After Herzl's death Struck created two additional etchings of his portrait, but it is the etching offered here that is considered his most famous work and the apex of his oeuvre – and indeed the most important portrait of the father of the Jewish State. "Within a short period of time the etching became so well known that it emerged as a symbol of Zionism, especially after the death of the charismatic leader in 1904. It was then that the portrait won the respect of all the Zionist circles. By the time the State of Israel was founded, this portrait of Theodor Herzl was considered the epitome of Zionism itself. It decorated the walls of every Zionist event, anywhere.
(“Hermann Struck, Printmaking Artist.” Tefen Open Museum, 2007, page 38). “This portrait of Herzl serves to this day as one of the quintessential symbols of the State of Israel; it is recognized by almost everyone as the image of the father of the Jewish State.” (Ibid, page 83).
In the 110 years since it was created this iconic portrait has inspired hundreds of items bearing Herzl’s image, including objects, stamps, ephemera, works of art and posters (see for example the catalog of the exhibition “Herzl in Herzliya,” published in 1997 by the Herzliya Municipality).
Ca. 50x39.5cm. Very Good condition. Professionally restored and cleaned, including renovated tears and mounting on acid-free paper. Mounted within a mat (passe-partout).
Category
Rare and Important Items