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14 Cornith Bears and Satyr.png

Bears and Satyrs                                                                                                                                                                                                  Lovis Corinth



The beginnings of the collection.

l-r: Anthony, Marie, Paul and Alfons Blaschke on holiday in the Marlborough Sounds. January 1956.           








The first graphic prints forming the heart of the Blaschke art collection were purchased in Berlin during the early 1920s by Eugen and Anna Vandewart, parents of Marie Blaschke (1911-2005).  Eugen Vandewart was an electrical engineer employed at the large Siemens factory in the west end of the city. He and Anna were of Jewish descent but thoroughly assimilated, middle-class and secular, typical of thousands of other Berliners.


Alfons Blaschke (1906 – 2002) had come from Düsseldorf to Berlin in the early 1930s to study as a social worker. There he met Marie Vandewart, then a cello student at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik, and became a part of the Vandewart family setup. Alfons may well have assisted Eugen with curating tasks. He also started purchasing inexpensive graphic works on his own account.  Alfons' interest could have originated much earlier, as the son of an established stained-glass manufacturer in Düsseldorf. The Blaschke family lived on the business premises and Alfons' daily childhood life was spent with the work of the factory going on around him. Later, as a young bank clerk, he went to evening classes in art appreciation.


As the Nazis gained power in Germany in the early 1930s, Alfons and Marie realised that a mixed marriage would be impossible. However, it was not until Eugen was incarcerated for a time in Sachsenhausen concentration camp that he sanctioned the emigration of the three daughters. He knew that as a senior engineer in a defence-sensitive industry there was no chance of his leaving Germany. Anna and Eugen perished in the Holocaust at the end of 1941.


As the daughters prepared to leave Berlin, the future of the art collection would have become an issue. There was no question of Alfons or Marie being able to take it with them on their flight from Germany in May 1939; in Marie's case as a sponsored refugee to faraway New Zealand, in Alfons' case a one-way trip to England, where he was able to stay, but not to join Marie in New Zealand. We only know that a close friend of theirs, Annelies Schmidt, undertook to keep the collection with her in Germany. This she did, while living in great hardship in Berlin throughout the war.


Alfons and Marie were not re-united and married until Marie went back to England in 1946.  Their early married life, shifting around various flats and the youth institutions where Alfons worked, scarcely permitted contemplation of retrieval of the art collection.


Eventually Marie and Alfons and young son Anthony were able to emigrate together to New Zealand in early 1951. They settled in Wellington where Marie had earlier found congenial refuge during the war years, and their younger son Paul was born. When Alfons and Marie were settled they felt confident enough to request Annelies send out the collection.


It duly arrived in mid-1952 but in terrible condition: having survived the war intact it had apparently been inundated by a flood in storage on route. Many of the graphics were stained or had bad ink run. Alfons was not deterred in patiently restoring the prints as far as possible although he had minimal resources or professional advice. Anthony as a five-year-old remembers bleach baths and patient work on the kitchen table of their Karori West house.


In 1954 forty-one of the partially restored Expressionist prints together with ten Käthe Kollwitz reproductions from another collection had their first public exhibition at the Architectural Centre Gallery in Lambton Quay. The crude cyclostyled catalogue from this exhibition, entitled Conflict of the Twenties, describes the collection:


                  The original lithographs and etchings have been kindly loaned by Mr Alfons

                  Blascke [sic] who, after leaving Germany when Hitler came to power, had

                  considerable difficulty in saving his collection from destruction. Only recently

                  has it been possible for Mr Blascke to gather a part of his collection together

                  in this country.


In 1962 Alfons and Marie with their two sons moved to Auckland where Marie took up a position teaching cello at the Auckland University Music School. The prints were taken out of the canvas folders in which they had been kept, and rehoused. About 40 works from the Expressionist collection of Volker and Maria Heine (also refugees from Nazi Germany), together with one or two further Expressionist prints, were acquired in the 1970s.


Alfons' retirement in 1971 allowed more time for the collection. Nearly all the pictures were remounted on art board, and some restoration work undertaken. Alfons compiled a handwritten catalogue of the works and some research was undertaken in the course of several trips to Europe between 1968 and 1992.


Most importantly, there was time to show the collection to friends and acquaintances.

There was some ritual to the showings: often after an evening meal, guests were seated around the dining room table, issued with white cotton gloves, and prints handed around the table and discussed.


Alfons and Marie Blaschke with Austrian visual artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000) at his home in Northland, New Zealand, early 1990s.

Marie and Alfons Blaschke - Hundertwasser.jpg


Alfons and Marie expressed a strong desire that the collection should stay together and stay in New Zealand. Alfons died in 2002 aged 96 and Marie in 2006 aged 94. Their sons felt that a Trust ownership status was the most suitable and in 2009 the Alfons and Marie Blaschke Art Trust was formed to take over ownership and management of this unique collection.  In 2014-15 fourteen of the Collection were included in an Auckland Art Gallery exhibition, Age of Turmoil, curated by Mathew Norman.


Original Trustees of the Alfons and Marie Blaschke Art Trust were: Anthony and Paul Blaschke, Frans Baetens, Ian Ross, and Frieder Voit. Frans Baetens retired in 2021 and his place has been taken by Alfons and Marie’s grandson William Blaschke.

Anthony Blaschke and Paul Blaschke 2010 revised 2021.

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