Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Walden, Nell (born Nelly Anna Charlotta Roslund; also Nelly Anna Charlotta Lewin)
Karlskrona, Sweden 1887–Berne, 1975

Nell Walden was a Swedish painter, writer, and collector active in Germany and Switzerland during the twentieth century. Married to Herwarth Walden (Georg Lewin), she was a key figure in the activities of Der Sturm in Berlin. In the 1910s and 1920s she amassed a wide-ranging art collection of hundreds of works that included examples of the international avant-garde as well as non-Western art and ethnographic artifacts.

Born Nelly Anna Charlotta Roslund, Walden was the daughter of a Swedish clergyman, Frithiof Roslund. Her family was affluent and well connected thanks to her mother, Hilda Smith, who came from a successful shipping family. Walden was educated in Denmark and Germany with the intention of becoming a musician. In 1911 she met the writer and composer Herwarth Walden, the founder of the Berlin-based weekly avant-garde journal Der Sturm. That same year she moved to Berlin and soon after married Walden. She began collecting art and became deeply involved in the quickly expanding Der Sturm enterprise. Beyond the initial journal, Herwarth Walden’s efforts in promoting the artistic and literary avant-garde included an art gallery, programming of public lectures and discussions, art school, theater, bookstore, and a publishing company. Walden’s responsibilities at Der Sturm revolved around the production of its frequent exhibitions, many of which toured internationally, and the establishment and management of international contacts. She was well acquainted with German and Scandinavian artistic circles, including artists and dealers, and such collectors as Franz Kluxen, an early collector of Picasso in Germany. Nell Walden worked on the watershed 1913 Erster Deutscher Herbsalon, which brought together over three hundred works by ninety artists from fourteen countries, including cubists from Paris and Prague and many Expressionist artists from Germany and other parts of central and eastern Europe. The scale of the show and its international scope cemented Der Sturm’s role as an artistic center on the European scale. Among cubists, Walden included works by Fernand Léger, Vincenc Beneš, Emil Filla, Albert Gleizes, Josef Gočár, Otto Gutfreund, Louis Marcoussis, and Jean Metzinger.

During World War I, Walden initiated her writing career by regularly contributing articles in the Swedish press on the German cultural scene. Funds from her publications went to support the activities of the financially struggling Der Sturm. She continued her career in journalism, but in 1916, encouraged by the artist and friend Gabriele Mütter, Walden also turned to painting, taking instructions at Der Sturm’s art school. She presented her work in solo and group shows organized by Der Sturm in 1917 and 1918. In 1924 Nell and Herwarth Walden divorced and she subsequently broke her ties with Der Sturm, which eventually dissolved in 1932.

Although commonly identified with her husband, recent scholarship has credited Walden as the individual responsible for assembling the art collection and was its sole owner. The nucleus of the collection was a wedding gift in form of a group of drawings by Oskar Kokoschka, which Walden received from her husband. Over time, she amassed a vast collection of paintings and works on paper by regularly purchasing works by the artists who exhibited at Der Sturm gallery and whom she knew well. The collection included such prominent artists as Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, Johannes Itten, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, Münter, and Gino Severini. During her marriage to Herwarth, the growing collection was on display at the couple’s apartment located at 134a Potsdamer Strasse in the same building as Der Sturm gallery and offices, and which they opened to the public several times a week. Walden’s Cubist collection included works by Vincenc Beneš, Emil Filla, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, and Fernand Léger (Drawing for Contrast of Forms [Composition II][1913; Christie’s, New York, November 6, 2007 and Composition [Study for “Nude Model in the Studio”] [1912; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection]). Walden also owned three prints by Picasso.

In 1926, now married to Dr. Hans Heimann, Walden’s collecting interests focused on ethnographic artifacts. Part of the Walden collection assembled during her involvement with Der Sturm was exhibited in 1927 at the Galerie Flechtheim in Berlin while the ethnographic material went on display at the Geneva Enthography Museum in 1929. In 1933 Walden divorced Heimann, who was of Jewish descent, in a ploy to regain her Swedish citizenship and allow her to leave Germany and subsequently help Heimann escape Nazi persecution. She settled in Ascona, Switzerland and took the majority of her collection with her. The artworks that Walden left behind ended up at the warehouse of Wolfgang Gurlitt’s gallery in the late 1930s and were destroyed during World War II. She was unsuccessful in her attempts to reunite with Heimann and in 1940 married the Swiss sports pedagogy specialist Hannes Urech.

After the war, Walden focused on documenting and preserving the legacy of Der Sturm and Herwarth Walden, and co-authored with Lothar Schreyer publications on the subject. She exhibited her collection on several occasions in Swiss and Swedish museums, and eventually sold a large portion of the works at auctions at Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett in 1954 and 1956. In subsequent years she made several donations to museums in Switzerland and Sweden.

Contributed by Anna Jozefacka, August 2017
For more information, see:

Bilang, Karla. “Nell Walden (1887−1975).” In Sammeln nur um zu besitzen? Berümte Kunstsammlerinnen von Isabelle d’Este bis Peggy Guggenheim. Edited by Britta Jürgs. Berlin: Aviva, 2000.

Der Sturm: Samling Nell Walden; Expressionister, Futurister, Kubister. Exh. cat. Stockholm: Riksförbundet för Bildande Konst, 1954.

Francis Picabia. Sammlung Nell Walden. Exh. cat. Basel: Kunsthalle, 1946.

Gemälde und Zeichnungen alter Meister, Kunsthandwerk aus Privatbesitz. Der Sturm: Sammlung Nell Walden aus den Jahren 1912–1920. Exh. cat. Bern: Kunstmuseum, 1944.

Sammlungen Nell Walden und Dr. Othmar Huber: Expressionisten, Kubisten, Futuristen. Exh. cat. Zürich: Kunsthaus Zürich, 1945.

Sjöholm Skrubbe, Jessica and others. Nell Walden & Der Sturm. Exh. cat. Halmstad: Mjellby Konstmuseum, 2015.

The Nell Walden Archive is held in the Landskrona Museum, Sweden.