Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Reber, Gottlieb Friedrich
Oerlinghausen, Germany, 1880–Lausanne, 1959

Dr. Gottlieb Friedrich Reber was a German textile magnate, prominent art collector, and occasional art dealer. Originally interested in nineteenth-century French art, Reber turned his attention almost exclusively to Cubism after World War I. By 1929 he was considered one of the movement’s preeminent collectors; he owned approximately two hundred paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso. 

When he began collecting around 1906, Reber focused primarily on French Social Realist, Impressionist, and post-Impressionist art. His collection featured works by Gustav Courbet, Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh. He especially favored Paul Cézanne and owned approximately 27 works by the artist. Reber’s collection also had examples of ancient and medieval art, early Chinese bronzes, and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century old masters. 

Reber was well known in German and international artistic circles, and he was friendly with many prominent German dealers and promoters of modern and contemporary art, in particular Paul Cassirer, Alfred Flechtheim, Hugo Perls, Siegfried Rosengart, Heinrich and Justin Thannhauser, and Curt Valentin. He was also a client of Ambroise Vollard, from whom he acquired works by Cézanne and Picasso. In the mid-1920s, Reber befriended the German art historian, critic, and early champion of Cubism Carl Einstein. The latter influenced Reber’s attitudes and opinions of Cubist artists, and the two friends collaborated on various projects, including Einstein’s publication Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (1926), which is illustrated with works from Reber’s collection. 

Until 1919, Reber lived and worked in his native Germany, chiefly in Barmen (since 1929 part of Wuppertal). Alarmed by the social and political unrest that engulfed Germany after World War I, Reber, his wife, Erna (née Sander), and their daughter, Gisela (later Gisela Pudelko), relocated to Switzerland. The family eventually settled in Lausanne at Château de Béthusy, which would become the showcase for Reber’s extensive art collection. With the exception of the years 1941 to 1947, during which time the collector was in Italy, Reber remained in Switzerland until his death in 1959. 

Soon after Reber settled in Switzerland, he began actively acquiring Cubist art. He sold and exchanged pieces from his existing collection while making frequent purchases in Paris from Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Léonce Rosenberg, and Paul Rosenberg. Over a decade, Reber amassed an extensive collection of works by Gris (around 89 pieces) and Picasso (around 73 objects). Braque and Léger (who executed murals for the château in 1930) were also represented, with 16 and 11 works respectively. 

The paintings, sculpture, and works on paper assembled by Reber covered the entire trajectory of Cubism both in terms of temporal framework and formal exploration. For example, the collection included Braque’s Trees at L’Estaque (1908; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection), Picasso’s Portrait of Clovis Sagot (1909; Hamburger Kunsthalle) and Three Musicians (1921; Philadelphia Museum of Art), and Gris’s Harlequin with a Guitar (1917; 2008.468). Reber also kept up with the contemporary art scene in Germany. (Max Beckmann, for example, painted the dealer’s portrait in 1929 [Museum Ludwig, Cologne].) The enormous breath and depth of Reber’s holdings made him a key lender to gallery and museum exhibitions. Even as early as 1913, a selection of his collection was on view at Galerie Paul Cassirer in Berlin. Reber was also a major lender to Picasso’s first museum retrospective, which took place in 1932 at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris and Kunsthaus Zürich, as well as Braque’s retrospective at Kunsthalle Basel in 1933. The 1929 stock market crash damaged Reber’s financial situation, forcing him to gradually sell off his collection. Noted purchasers were his friends the art historians Ingeborg Eichmann (later Dr. Ingeborg Pudelko-Eichmann) and Douglas Cooper, both of whom were noted collectors of Cubism. During the early 1940s, Reber worked as a scout on the Italian art market for his long-time acquaintance and former assistant, Walter Andreas Hofer, who was a personal art advisor to Nazi party official Hermann Wilhelm Goering. Although the partnership with Hofer was short-lived, it had a lasting negative impact on Reber’s reputation as a collector and supporter of modern art. Upon his death, Reber left the significant number of artworks that he had not been forced to sell to his descendants, among them his grandson Christoph Pudelko, an art historian and dealer based in Bonn, Germany.

Contributed by Anna Jozefacka, January 2015
For more information, see:
Fleckner, Uwe, and Peter Kropmanns. “Von kontinentaler Bedeutung: Gottlieb Friedrich Reber und seine Sammlungen.” In Die Moderne und ihre Sammler: Französische Kunst in deutschem Privatbesitz vom Kaiserreich zur Weimarer Republik, edited by Andrea Pophanken and Felix Billeter, 347–85. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001. 

Kosinski, Dorothy. “G. F. Reber: Collector of Cubism.” The Burlington Magazine 133, no. 1061 (August 1991): 519–31.

Artwork from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection formerly owned by Reber:
Trees at L'Estaque
Trees at L'Estaque Georges Braque
L'Estaque, summer 1908
Nude in an Armchair
Nude in an Armchair Pablo Picasso
Horta de Ebro (present-day Horta de Sant Joan), summer 1909
Standing Female Nude
Standing Female Nude Pablo Picasso
Paris, winter 1906–7
Woman in a Chemise in an Armchair
Woman in a Chemise in an Armchair Pablo Picasso
Paris, late 1913–early 1914
Bottle, Glass, and Newspaper
Bottle, Glass, and Newspaper Georges Braque
Paris, early 1914
Man with a Guitar
Man with a Guitar Pablo Picasso
Paris, 1915–16