Ida Bienert (born Suckert)

Langenbielau, Lower Silesia, Germany, 1870–Munich, 1965

German collector, patron, and social reformist Ida Bienert assembled a modern art collection that her contemporaries recognized early on for its importance. What began in 1911 with acquisitions of international avant-garde art gradually shifted toward a collection of primarily constructivist art in the early 1920s. Due to Bienert’s advocacy and patronage, Dresden, albeit only for a few years, emerged as the center of constructivism in the mid-1920s, and remained a lively site for galleries and cultural life.

Born into the wealthy family of a textile industrialist, Bienert was eighteen when she married the successful businessman Erwin Bienert. In 1888 the couple, who ranked among Dresden’s most affluent citizens, moved into a villa at Würzburger Strasse 46 in the suburb of Plauen. Contrary to expectations for women of her social standing, Bienert wore reform dress and participated in the women’s movement by, for example, creating employment opportunities for female workers in a library that she founded in 1904.

Bienert established herself as a collector soon after the birth of her fifth and last child in 1895. Her husband’s capital enabled her to support many avant-garde artists by acquiring or commissioning works and also assisting with temporary housing and exhibition opportunities. Among those artists she sustained were Marc Chagall, Lyonel Feininger, Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, László Moholy-Nagy and Piet Mondrian. In addition to modern art, she also collected works on paper by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt as well as paintings by Arnold Böcklin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Richard Dreher, Otto Fischer, and Otto Modersohn. Walter Hofmann, who worked at the library that Bienert founded, advised her on some of her early acquisitions.

In 1909, Bienert met the German writer and poet Theodor Däubler in Florence. Inspired by his views on the art of their time, she shifted her collecting efforts toward modern art in 1911. Key works that entered her collection included Paul Cézanne’s landscape Sous-Bois (Undergrowth [possibly Fontainebleau], ca. 1892; private collection, Geneva; FWN 289), Claude Monet’s canvas Pommier en fleurs près de Vétheuil (1878; private collection) as well as Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Après la tempête (1872; private collection). Over time, her collection grew particularly strong in examples by Chagall and Klee, which Däubler documented in an article about the collection published in Das Kunstblatt in 1919. Other works cited by Däubler ranged from those produced by local artists to those executed by their European peers such as André Derain (Spanish Village, 1910; Museum Ludwig, Cologne), Albert Gleizes (undated sketch for The Hammock; private collection), Kandinsky (Dream Improvisation, 1913; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich), Edvard Munch (Two Female Nudes, 1903; Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster), and Pablo Picasso (Woman in a Black Hat, 1909; Toledo Museum of Art) as well as countless drawings, watercolors, and gouaches by Jacoba van Heemskerck, among others, and two sculptures by Alexander Archipenko.

Bienert patronized the galleries of Alfred Flechtheim and Herwarth Walden. Däubler introduced her to the latter, from whom she acquired the majority of her works between 1915 and 1921. In fall 1921, after Däubler left Germany for Greece, Bienert often discussed art and her growing collection with the art historians Sophie Küppers, Julius Meier-Graefe, Franz Roh, and Paul Ferdinand Schmidt as well as the architects J. J. Pieter Oud, Hans Poelzig, and possibly also Walter Gropius. Chief among her conversation partners, however, was the art critic and writer Will Grohmann, who acted as her art consultant following Däubler for more than a decade. During this period, Bienert’s home became an important salon within the intellectual scene of Dresden. Those who frequented it included Otto Dix, Hannah Höch, Oskar Kokoschka, Lissitzky, and Lasar Segall; some of these artists also stayed as houseguests for extended periods.

With Grohmann’s input, Beinert shifted the focus of her acquisitions to constructivist art. She supported the work of various members of the Bauhaus and De Stijl groups and purchased constructivist paintings from Feininger, Kandinsky, Klee, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, Mondrian, and Oskar Schlemmer. In 1926 she commissioned Mondrian to redesign the reading room of her Dresden villa, a project that was never realized in part because of the artist’s inability to travel to that city. In 1932 Bienert and Grohmann began to collaborate on a monograph highlighting her collecting activities. Published in an edition of one thousand copies a year later, the volume provided an expansive albeit not comprehensive inventory of her collection, listing fifty-four paintings, seventy works on paper, and four sculptures. Recent research demonstrates that the collection exceeded these numbers. After 1933, Bienert made only a few acquisitions, including a work by Dix. This was due to her husband’s death, which limited her finances, and the changing political climate in Germany, which limited free artistic exchange and its patronage. In the mid-1930s, Bienert largely withdrew from public life, though occasionally welcomed visitors, including Samuel Beckett in 1937. According to Beckett’s diaristic accounts, Bienert appeared to sympathize with Nazi ideology, although little is known about her political leanings during the Third Reich.

Over the course of her decades-long collecting activities, Bienert acted as a generous private lender to exhibitions. During the Second World War she transferred her collection to a location outside of Dresden. After the end of the war, Bienert relocated to Munich, where one of her daughters lived. Thanks to the intervention of Bienert’s family and friends, including Grohmann and art historian Ludwig Grothe, the collection eventually joined her in West Germany in the second half of the 1940s. In support of cultural rebuilding and reeducation efforts, Bienert again lent generously to local and international exhibitions such as the first Documenta held in 1955. Throughout this period, Bienert sold parts of her collection in order to support herself and her family. Many of these works are now held by museums in Bielefeld, Canberra, Cologne, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Essen, Hanover, Madrid, Munich, New York, Ottawa, Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Toledo, Zurich, and elsewhere.

For more information, see:

Biedermann, Heike. “Will Grohmann: Freund und Berater der Dresdner Kunstsammlerin Ida Bienert.” In Zwischen Intuition und Gewissheit: Will Grohmann und die Rezeption der Moderne in Deutschland und Europa 1918‒1968, 227‒36. Dresden: Sandstein Kommunikation, 2013.

———. “Avantgarde als Lebensgefühl: Die Sammlerin Ida Bienert.” In Kunstsammlerinnen: Peggy Guggenheim bis Ingvild Goetz, edited by Uwe Fleckner, Dorothee Wimmer, Christina

Feilchenfeldt, and Stephanie Goda Tasch, 99‒113. Berlin: Reimer, 2009.

———. “Ida Bienert in München 1945‒1965.” Dresdener Kunstblätter 41 (1997): 193‒200.

Däubler, Theodor. “Die Sammlung Bienert-Dresden.”Das Kunstblatt 3, no. 6 (1919): 161‒68.

Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Jayne Warman, and David Nash. “Catalogue.” The Paintings, Watercolors

and Drawings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné. Accessed on July 23, 2019.

Grohmann, Will. Die Sammlung Ida Bienert, Dresden. Potsdam: Müller & I. Kiepenheuer, 1933.

Löffler, Fritz. “Ida Bienert und ihre Sammlung.” Jahresring: Ein Schnitt durch Literatur und Kunst der Gegenwart 71‒72 (1971): 187‒98.

The majority of Ida Bienert’s private correspondence is said to have been destroyed when she moved to Munich in 1945. Some of her letters with Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, however, are housed in the archives of the Bibliothèque Kandinsky at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, respectively. Additional correspondence with Theodor Däubler is preserved in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek-Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Dresden; correspondence with Will Grohmann is held in the Archiv Will Grohmann at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

How to cite this entry:
Mahler, Luise, "Ida Bienert (born Suckert)", The Modern Art Index Project (August 2021), Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.