Swann Galleries to Offer Selections from the Restituted Julius Paul Collection of Posters


New York—On December 18, Swann Galleries will offer works from the restituted Julius Paul Collection of Posters, an outstanding collection of scarce images in remarkable condition—the likes of which are rarely seen at auction.

The collection was formed between 1900 and 1935 by Julius Paul, a Hungarian-born Viennese distributor of cigarette papers, who died two months before the takeover of Austria by the Nazis in March of 1938. Paul was a meticulous man and a passionate collector who amassed more than 6300 posters. He kept careful track of each piece in his collection and stored them in a custom-built, oak storage cabinet.

His was not a “working” collection, meaning that the contents were not loaned out to institutions or used by students or scholars for research. Rather, Paul’s intention from the outset was for the collection to be appreciated but not used commercially: a collector’s collection.

Upon Paul’s death, the collection was left to his nephew who was forced to flee the country in 1939. In that same year, the posters appeared for sale in a catalogue for a Viennese bookseller. It is unknown whether Paul’s nephew consigned the posters in order to fund the escape and atonement taxes levied on Jews, whether he was forced into a sale or if he abandoned the collection.

Documents from record the collection’s sale to Vienna’s Albertina Museum at a very low price. In fact, more was paid for the wooden storage cabinet than for the posters themselves. For nearly 70 years the posters remained at the renowned museum, where they were stored under the highest standards of conservation, and made up half of the museum’s graphic art collection. Other than the Albertina’s collection stamp and pencil-written inventory numbers, they were virtually untouched and treated with the same care and deference as by their original owner.

When the Julius Paul collection was restituted in 2008, the heirs decided on a careful and strategic plan to disperse the posters. Rather than flood the market by bringing the whole collection immediately to auction, they worked with a New York gallery to slowly sell posters to prestigious institutions and private collections, resulting in many being exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Neue Galerie, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Madrid’s Juan March Foundation and the Hungarian National Gallery.

They have now decided to give the poster-collecting world at large an opportunity to acquire works at auction from the collection.

The approximately 380 posters chosen for this auction serve as a sort of time capsule of European life from the twilight of the Belle Epoque and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (the source of the majority of the posters in Paul’s collection) and the years before the Great War through the inter-war years and up until Paul’s death in the late 1930s.


Hedonistic pursuits are represented in full force via posters promoting smoking, drinking, eating, nightclubs and performers. Fashion images make bold appearances as do sports posters. Posters for movies and movie theatres, bars and restaurants, masked balls and cabarets vividly depict the joys and decadence of Mitteleuropean nightlife in the teens and twenties. Even the more sedate luxuries, such as tea, coffee and chocolate make an indelible impression. There are posters for the recent inventions of the automobile and the camera, along with the good old-fashioned bicycle. In the cultural realm are posters for important German, Austrian, Hungarian and Czech fine and decorative art exhibitions, as well as books, bookstores and newspapers, architectural exhibitions and poster exhibitions.

It comes as no surprise that Austrian posters constitute a large part of the collection. In addition to the Vienna Secession and the Wiener Werkstätte are works by Josef-Maria Auchentaller, Adolf Karpellus, Hermann Kosel, Theo Matejko, Hans Neumann, Emil Ranzenhofer, Bernd Steiner and Victor Theodor Slama.

Among the most exciting discoveries are the posters from Julius Paul’s native Hungary. A strong and varied graphic style permeates these eye-catching posters ranging from caricature and humor to expressionistic and bold. Many of these are by Mihaly Biro, now recognized as a giant of early 20th-century poster design. Also represented is Marcel Vertes, who emigrated to America and became a celebrated costume designer in Hollywood; Geza Ferago, whose colorful posters are sought after in the U.S. and in Hungary, and the lively nightlife posters of Lipot Satori.

“To come across hundreds of superb, scarcely—if ever—seen images is wonderful,” said Swann President and Vintage Posters Specialist, Nicholas D. Lowry, “and to find all of these images in exceptional condition, carefully folded and preserved from the ravages of time and use is really a once in a life time event.”

The auction will take place on Wednesday, December 18 at 1:30 p.m. The posters will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries Friday, December 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, December 14, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday, December 16 and Tuesday, December 17, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Wednesday, December 18, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

An illustrated auction catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at www.swanngalleries.com.

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Swann’s poster department at (212) 254-4710 ext. 53, or via e-mail at posters@swanngalleries.com.

Live online bidding is available via Invaluable. Click the Invaluable link on the swanngalleries.com homepage.

First image: Original hand-stenciled poster by Josef Hoffmann, announcing the opening of the first Weiner Werkstätte showroom in Vienna, 1905. Estimate: $250,000 to $350,000.

Second image: Willy Stieborsky, Blumenkorso Sommernachts Redoute, 1928. Estimate: $1,200 to $1,800.

Auction Guide