Reinhold Cassirer

Is your surname Cassirer?

Research the Cassirer family

Reinhold Cassirer's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Share

Reinhold Cassirer

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Death: Died in Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Hugo Cassirer and Charlotte (Lotte) Cassirer
Husband of Nadine Gordimer-Gavronsky, Nobel Prize in Literature 1991
Father of <private> Cassirer and <private> Cassirer
Brother of Stephan Walter Cassirer

Occupation: Southebys CEO in South Africa
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Reinhold Cassirer

For Nadine Gordimer and Reinhold's meeting and her introduction to his Berlin click on Nadine Gordimer . In 1954 Cassirer became Gordimer's second husband, and she his third wife.

Sunday Times Obituary: Eccentric art dealer in a class of his own

Reinhardt ( Reinhold ) Cassirer, who has died in Johannesburg at the age of 93, was married to Nadine Gordimer for almost 50 years. Far from being overshadowed by the famous Nobel laureate for literature, his own contribution to the arts in South Africa was profound.

He established Sotheby's in South Africa in 1969 and ran it for 11 years before starting his own gallery, Cassirer's Fine Art, in Rosebank, Johannesburg. He identified, nurtured and exhibited some of South Africa's best artists long before they became famous. Major talents like William Kentridge, David Koloane, Sam Hlengethwa, Deborah Bell and Karel Nel were introduced to the world in his gallery.

When Kentridge lost all belief in himself as an artist and stopped painting, Cassirer - who was every bit as obtuse as he was enthusiastic - wouldn't hear of it. He cajoled and bullied the demoralised artist into picking up his brushes again.

Cassirer largely avoided being drawn into the fierce rivalry between dealers. When he retired he took Kentridge to lunch with Linda Goodman, founder of another famous Johannesburg gallery, and rather formally handed him over. This unusual gesture was as typical of the eccentric art dealer as was his parting admonishment to Kentridge to mind his table manners.

When exile Gerard Sekoto was down and out in Paris, Cassirer visited him there and decided to reintroduce him to the country of his birth. He mounted Sekoto's first one-man exhibition in South Africa, found buyers for his work and did more than anyone else to re-establish his name in SA.

Cassirer came from one of Germany's most intellectually, culturally and commercially distinguished families. He was born in Berlin on March 12 1908. His father, Hugo, who died when Reinhold was 12, was a leading industrialist who built up a successful cable manufacturing business and used his wealth to acquire a major art collection.

Reinhold's early life was steeped in the privilege that characterised the German elite of that era. He took a horse and cab to school, and hunting parties were de rigueur. He attended Heidelberg University and became a doctor of philosophy. He studied in Switzerland with his close friend Golo Mann, son of the writer Thomas Mann, and at the London School of Economics.

His life was turned upside down when Hitler came to power in 1933. Two years later the family business was confiscated by the Nazis, and later became part of Siemens. There was never any financial compensation, although there is today a Hugo Cassirer Street in Berlin.

Reinhold managed to save much of his father's art collection from the Nazis. He and a friend loaded the works onto a train and went to Holland. When confronted, they said the friend was an artist and they were going to exhibit his paintings in Amsterdam.

His uncle Bruno Cassirer is recognised as one of the most important art publishers of the 20th century. Another uncle, Ernst Cassirer, was a famous philosopher.

When the cable manufacturing business was confiscated, a company agent in South Africa happened to be visiting and suggested the family emigrate there.

While his uncle Bruno went to London and joined the publishing house Faber & Faber, and his brother Stefan went to Denmark, Reinhold came to Johannesburg, followed a couple of years later by his mother, Charlotte.

He joined the SA Army when World War 2 began, and was sent to Cairo, where he was seconded to British Intelligence with the rank of captain. He led a team that monitored all speeches and broadcasts from Germany.

His father's business had supplied electrical equipment to mines around the world and, after the war, Cassirer used some of these connections to establish a mine engineering company.

Art was always closest to his heart, however.

Refugees from Europe had brought a lot of valuable works with them to South Africa. Cassirer knew many of both the paintings and their owners. His family name had been highly respected in the art world of pre-war Germany, and he had an extensive knowledge of art. He was ideally placed to make the most of the opportunities that arose when they decided to sell.

When the then chairman of Sotheby's in London, Peter Wilson, visited South Africa in 1969, Cassirer persuaded him to open a branch of the auction house in South Africa, and let him run it.

Cassirer brought a novel integrity and aesthetic standard to the art business locally. He abhorred some of the practices he observed. Passing something off as a Rembrandt, for example, without authentication, was something he would never have dreamed of doing. No more did he keep quiet about a work which he knew had been heavily restored.

It was not altogether surprising that, by the time he retired from Sotheby's in 1980, he'd put most of the once leading auctioneers in town out of business.

The respect he commanded overseas helped him open up the SA art market to the world. In the mid-1970s he persuaded Sotheby's to hold sales of Impressionist artists in South Africa for two or three years, and it is thanks to him that many South Africans are the proud owners of paintings that would certainly be beyond their means to buy today.

As a dealer Cassirer was unusually frank about the quality of work presented to him, often to the point of being found abrasive. But there was no arrogance about him, and artists soon learned to respect his honesty.

In 1954 Cassirer became Gordimer's second husband, and she his third wife. He is survived by three children.

Chris Barron

Sunday Times

Location: Sunday 28 Oct 2001 > Insight Sunday.Times.Co.ZA http://www.suntimes.co.za/2001/10/28/insight/in08.asp

----------------

established Sotheby's in South Africa in 1969 and ran it for 11 years before starting his own gallery, Cassirer's Fine Art, in Rosebank, Johannesburg. He identified, nurtured and exhibited some of South Africa's best artists long before they became famous. Major talents like William Kentridge, David Koloane, Sam Hlengethwa, Deborah Bell and Karel Nel were introduced to the world in his gallery.

When Kentridge lost all belief in himself as an artist and stopped painting, Cassirer - who was every bit as obtuse as he was enthusiastic - wouldn't hear of it. He cajoled and bullied the demoralised artist into picking up his brushes again.

When exile Gerard Sekoto was down and out in Paris, Cassirer visited him there and decided to reintroduce him to the country of his birth. He mounted Sekoto's first one-man exhibition in South Africa, found buyers for his work and did more than anyone else to re-establish his name in SA.

Cassirer came from one of Germany's most intellectually, culturally and commercially distinguished families. He was born in Berlin on March 12 1908. His father, Hugo Cassirer, who died when Reinhold was 12, was a leading industrialist who built up a successful cable manufacturing business and used his wealth to acquire a major art collection.

Reinhold's early life was steeped in the privilege that characterised the German elite of that era. He took a horse and cab to school, and hunting parties were de rigueur. He attended Heidelberg University and became a doctor of philosophy. He studied in Switzerland with his close friend Golo Mann, son of the writer Thomas Mann, and at the London School of Economics.

His life was turned upside down when Hitler came to power in 1933. Two years later the family business was confiscated by the Nazis, and later became part of Siemens. There was never any financial compensation, although there is today a Hugo Cassirer Street in Berlin.

Reinhold managed to save much of his father's art collection from the Nazis. He and a friend loaded the works onto a train and went to Holland. When confronted, they said the friend was an artist and they were going to exhibit his paintings in Amsterdam.

His uncle Bruno Cassirer is recognised as one of the most important art publishers of the 20th century.

Another uncle, Ernst Cassirer, was a famous philosopher. When the cable manufacturing business was confiscated, a company agent in South Africa happened to be visiting and suggested the family emigrate there. While his uncle Bruno went to London and joined the publishing house Faber & Faber, and his brother Stefan went to Denmark, Reinhold came to Johannesburg, followed a couple of years later by his mother, Charlotte.

He joined the SA Army when World War 2 began, and was sent to Cairo, where he was seconded to British Intelligence with the rank of captain. He led a team that monitored all speeches and broadcasts from Germany. His father's business had supplied electrical equipment to mines around the world and, after the war, Cassirer used some of these connections to establish a mine engineering company. Art was always closest to his heart, however.

Refugees from Europe had brought a lot of valuable works with them to South Africa. Hugo Cassirer knew many of both the paintings and their owners. His family name had been highly respected in the art world of pre-war Germany, and he had an extensive knowledge of art. He was ideally placed to make the most of the opportunities that arose when they decided to sell. When the then chairman of Sotheby's in London, Peter Wilson, visited South Africa in 1969, Cassirer persuaded him to open a branch of the auction house in South Africa, and let him run it.

Cassirer brought a novel integrity and aesthetic standard to the art business locally. He abhorred some of the practices he observed. Passing something off as a Rembrandt, for example, without authentication, was something he would never have dreamed of doing. No more did he keep quiet about a work which he knew had been heavily restored. It was not altogether surprising that, by the time he retired from Sotheby's in 1980, he'd put most of the once leading auctioneers in town out of business.

The respect he commanded overseas helped him open up the SA art market to the world. In the mid-1970s he persuaded Sotheby's to hold sales of Impressionist artists in South Africa for two or three years, and it is thanks to him that many South Africans are the proud owners of paintings that would certainly be beyond their means to buy today.

As a dealer Cassirer was unusually frank about the quality of work presented to him, often to the point of being found abrasive. But there was no arrogance about him, and artists soon learned to respect his honesty. In 1954 Cassirer became Gordimer's second husband, and she his third wife. He is survived by three children.

===

How did it come about that two South Africans, myself and Hugo Cassirer, decided to make a film about Berlin - indeed, had the presumption to want to make one? What was Berlin to us?


Well, as I am very much the senior partner in the enterprise, let¥s start with me. And go a long way back, 45 years in fact. Until then, Berlin was present in my mind as newsprint photographs (no television in South Africa then), the mis en scene of a few movies, and the setting of some novels. Then, that year I met a born Berliner, a Jew who had been stripped of his German citizenship by the nazis and had fled to South Africa as an immigrant who soon became a South African citizen and had served in the South African and the British armies during the war. We married. He had a whole life, the formative years up to his mid-twenties, about which I knew nothing. I had never been to Europe, let alone Berlin.


However compatible we were in the South African 1950¥s, however much we shared of those half-foreboding, half-hopeful times - the National Party had come to power, but the defiance campaign against unjust laws was in progress - within him there was a world I was shut out of. Berlin was its magnetic centre.


In 1954 I went to Europe for the first time in my life. Reinhold Cassirer, my new husband, went back to Berlin for the first time since he fled for his life. He took me to Berlin. On the western side of the wasteland that lay before the Wall, he showed me Sigmundstrasse, the weed-filled ground where his parents¥ house once was; the still-standing, restored Matthäuskirche he used to ride round and round on his bicycle as a child. At the cable factory that the nazi regime seized from his family, and that was seized once again, by the Russians, there was an old woman employee who remember go him as a lad and who embraced him more like someone arisen from the dead than a survivor of all these employers.

Later on, back home in Johannesburg, I wrote a story that came out of experience. Its title was face from atlantis - for me, my lost city of Atlantis was Berlin, the Berlin of the late 1920¥s and early 30¥s, emerged from the waves of the past through the discovery of my husband¥s hidden life. Hugo and I were both struck by the same phenomenon: the concurrence, the many similarities, between the contemporary human situation in Berlin and that in Johannesburg. Berlin, one of the greatest cities of Europe, founded in the 12th century, and Johannesburg, founded as a mining camp hardly more than 100 years ago - what ominous forces of socio-political engineering in the 20th century have brought this about!


The Berlin Wall separated Berliners, the walls of Apartheid separated Johannesburgers. The means were different, but the intention was the same - in Germanyís metroplis, a political ideology, in South Africaís metropolis, a politico-racist ideology. When these walls came down, within a few months, even weeks of one another in both cities - the watershed release of African National Congress leaders celebrated on October 15, 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the declaration of Germany Unity early in 1990, the scrapping of Apartheid with the release of Nelson Mandela in February that year - Berliners embraced and celebrated, Johannesburgers embraced and celebrated. There was a period of euphoria which, surely everyone in either city had earned.

History of the Jews in South Africa

view all

Reinhold Cassirer's Timeline

1908
March 12, 1908
Berlin, Germany
1954
January 29, 1954
Age 45
2001
October 17, 2001
Age 93
Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, South Africa
October 2001
Age 93
October 2001
Age 93