The Surprising Rediscovery of a Prewar Jewish Artist’s Collected Works

October 8, 2020 | Amos Chapple and Dana Vaskova
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Born in Prague in 1883 to a German-speaking Jewish family, Gertrud Kauders was a talented painter and a graduate of that city’s Academy of Fine Arts. Although most of her family had left Czechoslovakia by the time Hitler seized the country in 1939, Kauders remained. She died in the Majdanek death camp, most likely in 1942. But a trove of her works were recently discovered, as Amos Chapple and Dana Vaskova write.

Fearful that the occupying Nazi forces in Prague could confiscate a lifetime’s worth of artwork, . . . Kauders decided in 1939 to hide her vast array of paintings and drawings. Nearly 80 years later, in the summer of 2018, Michal Ulvr was leading a demolition team tearing down a decrepit house south of Prague when “about 30 paintings tumbled out and fell onto my head.”

As the day wore on, the crew turned up more stashes of strikingly beautiful artwork as they dismantled the house—some were under floorboards, others behind walls. By the end of the day some 700 paintings and sketches lay out in the open on the worksite as summer rain clouds gathered over Prague.

When Jakub Sedlacek, the owner of the house, was alerted to the strange discovery, he realized immediately what had been uncovered. Sedlacek had been raised on stories of exquisite art hidden inside the family home he recently inherited. A close inspection of the canvases confirmed the family legend was real—many of the paintings were signed “Gertrud Kauders.”

Photos of some of Kauders’s works can be viewed at the link below.

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