Theo Hermsen jr.

Ein niederländischer Kunsthändler zu Zeiten der Besatzung in Paris

  • Markus Leifeld (Autor/in)
  • Britta Olényi von Husen (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


During the period of Nazi-German occupation, the Paris art market comprised of a number of art agents one of which was the Dutch-born art dealer Theo Hermsen jr. (born on 12th June 1905 in Den Bosch; died on 2nd December 1944 in Paris) who was living in Paris since 1939. He descended from a The Hague artists and art dealers-family which had focused on Old Masters’ works. In The Hague, he had already managed his father’s art shop ‘Dorus Hermsen N.V.’ together with his brother Kees, when the Great Depression heavily afflicted the business which finally went bankrupt in 1936. Starting in 1939, Hermsen was active in Paris as an art agent, swiftly establishing a reliable network. He worked as a commissioned agent, or ‘prête-nom’, for well-known art dealers such as Raphaël Gerard, Andre Schoeller, or Martin Fabiani. His most important clients were Hildebrand Gurlitt, Hans Herbst from the Dorotheum in Vienna as well as ‘Sonderauftrag Linz’ (‘Special Commission Linz’) represented by Hermann Voss in Dresden. Hermsen’s successful operating is documented by a high number of export licenses kept in French archives. His contacts with German as well as French authorities were crucial in greatly enabling him to overcome administrative and financial obstacles within the flourishing Paris art market of the occupation period. In this regard, it seems likely that he may have benefited from his position as operative of the German Secret Field Police. His early death in late 1944 leaves a documentation gap, not closed until today, regarding his brisk activity in German occupied Paris which the article at hand tries to shed at least some light on.

Keywords: Theo Hermsen; Hildebrand Gurlitt; ‘Special Commission Linz’; Paris art market; export license


Theo Hermsen, Hildebrand Gurlitt, ‘Special Commission Linz’, Paris art market, export licenses