1936–1959: The Collection of Emil Bührle
Bührle's most prominent picture


Immediately after the war ended, the number of pictures acquired temporarily decreased, but Emil Bührle nevertheless purchased works that testify to his ever-growing ambitions. In 1946 he acquired three works from Dutch Old Master specialist Nathan Katz in Basel that were attributed to Rembrandt, as well as a portrait by Frans Hals. In 1948 he purchased Paul Cézanne’s The Boy in the Red Waistcoat, one of the best-known pictures in the collection, followed in 1949 by Auguste Renoir’s Little Irene. He was less fortunate with his purchase of what was claimed to be a second version of van Gogh’s Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin which had eluded him in Lucerne in 1939. It was soon found to be a copy that had been reworked with fraudulent intent.

The number of works acquired increased markedly from 1951 onwards, with around 100 pictures and sculptures now routinely being added to the collection each year. Many of Emil Bührle’s purchases were made abroad, when visiting galleries while on business trips. Alongside Paul Rosenberg, the close circle of leading dealers from whom Bührle purchased included Germain Seligmann in New York, Georges Wildenstein in New York and Paris, Frank K. Lloyd of Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. in London, Max Kaganovitch in Paris as well as Walter Feilchenfeldt and Fritz Nathan in Zurich. Bührle enjoyed a particularly trusting relationship with Arthur Kauffmann, whom he had met during the First World War and who was now living in London.

In June 1954 Emil Bührle presented a slide show at the University of Zurich entitled On the Genesis of My Collection. In it, he described his own historical position within the reception of French Impressionism and explained the art-historical principles that guided him in the selection of earlier art. The text is the only surviving statement by Bührle on his collection and reveals an acute awareness of the aims he was pursuing.