Best Denver Art-World Mystery

The missing work of Max Lazarus

In 1939, German-Jewish artist Max Lazarus came to the United States from Trier, Germany, where he was that city's most important expressionist painter. Prominent in the Jewish community, Lazarus was commissioned to paint a mural on the ceiling of Trier's main synagogue. But the 1930s was not the best time to be a Jewish modernist in Germany, and Lazarus emigrated to the States. He eventually settled in Denver, where, in the 1940s, he got a job teaching arts and crafts and carried on his work as an artist until shortly before his death in 1964. Now the museum in Trier would like to collect his work, and since very few German pieces survived -- the Nazis burned down Trier's synagogue, and most of his other work was destroyed -- the institution has come looking in Denver. But nearly forty years after his death, Lazarus has been absolutely forgotten in the Mile High City, and except for a handful of pieces, his work is unknown. So the museum has launched a concerted effort, even hiring a detective to track down the estate. It's a good mystery, and, hopefully, one that will be solved.


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