Snapshotsof German-Jewish History and Culture
Moritz D. Oppenheim – Paintings of Jewish Family Life
Today we would like to introduce you to two German-Jewish personalities who embodied an affiliation to the German ideal of Bildung paired with a confident Jewish identity: the famous painter Moritz Daniel Oppenheim and the German Judaica publisher and bookseller Louis Lamm.
The touchpoint between their paths lies in a beautiful collection of prints from Oppenheim’s famous cycle “Scenes from Traditional Jewish Family Life”. The exquisite red linen gift edition is embossed with golden images of the symbols representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel which encircle the star of David. It was published in the early 20th century by Louis Lamm’s renowned publishing house (Louis Lamm Verlag, Berlin).
Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800, Hanau – 1882, Frankfurt a. M.) is the first formally trained Jewish painter. He received his education in Frankfurt a. M., Rome, Munich and Paris. After his studies he returned to Frankfurt and settled there until the end of his life. Unlike many of his generation, he pursued an outstanding career in the fine arts without converting to Christianity. He was well known amongst both his German-Jewish and gentile contemporaries alike for his portraits of members of the middle class, public figures and historical paintings of German royalty such as Kaiser Otto IV and Joseph II as well as Biblical scenes. Oppenheim’s Jewish clientele included the Rothschild family in Frankfurt am Main and Heinrich Heine.
Moritz Oppenheim’s popularity among German Jewry grew even further with his late work, the ‘Scenes from Traditional Jewish Family Life’, a cycle that he commenced in the 1850s. The latter were widely circulated as popular prints such as postcards, pewter plates or the gift edition you can see here. The paintings presented traditional Jewish religious life as a warm and congenial family experience. They illustrated Jewish tradition and religious practice in adherence to core values of the German Bürgertum (the emerging German middle class): respectability, education, tradition and piety. Respectability and education were also core values inherent to the German ideal of Bildung.
The Bavarian Louis Lamm (1871 Wittelshofen – 1943, Auschwitz) was born into an Orthodox Jewish family. He was trained in the book-trade in Frankfurt a. M. and subsequently established his famous publishing house Verlag Louis Lamm in Berlin in 1903. He dedicated his career to the publication of Judaica and Hebraica. In the specialist field of Judaica he was indeed one of the most renowned antiquarians and book sellers. He published both scholarly literature and publications that aimed at a lay
audience. After the Nazi’s seizure of power and early experiences of anti-Semitic violence in public, two of his children emigrated to Israel whilst he resettled in Amsterdam with his youngest daughter.
Once the National Socialists occupied the Netherlands, Lamm was imprisoned in Westerbork and deported to Auschwitz where both he and his daughter Ruth Fanny (1911-1943) were murdered on the 19th of November 1943. His books, however, survived.
The gift edition of prints of Moritz Oppenheim’s paintings is part of collection of historical pamphlets within the Leo Baeck Institute London’s specialist library on German-Jewish history and culture, which can be accessed via the library at Queen Mary University.