Table of contents for Monet to Matisse : the triumph of impressionism and the avant garde : the Howard D. and Babette L. Sirak collection at the Columbus Museum of Art / with essays by Richard Brettell and Peter Selz.


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		Contents
Director's Statement for the 2004 Edition
Private Passion to Public Treasure
	Nannette V. Maciejunes
	
Curator's Introduction to the 2004 Edition
Collecting Modern Art in the 1960s and 1970s
	Annegreth Nill
Preface to the 1991 Edition
	Merribell Parsons
Collectors' Statement for the 1991 Edition
	Howard and Babette Sirak
French Painting and the European Vanguard
	Richard Brettell
German Expressionism in the Context of the European Avant-Garde
	Peter Selz
Catalogue of the Collection
Documentation
Acknolwedgments to the 1991 Edition
</to
Director's Statement for the 2004 Editio
Private Passion to Public Treasure
The Sirak Collection and the Tradition of the Columbus Museum of Art
The acquisition in 1991 of the Howard D. and Babette L. Sirak Collection was a watershed moment in the history of the 
Columbus Museum of Art. This renowned collection, which was hailed by ARTNews as one of the finest private 
holdings of art in the United States, features seventy-eight spectacular paintings, sculptures, and works on paper that 
represent a chronicle of groundbreaking developments in European modernism. As part of its 125th anniversary 
celebration, the Columbus Museum of Art takes great pride and pleasure once again in presenting the Sirak Collection in 
its entirety in the Museum's galleries and in publishing this revised and updated catalogue, originally issued more than a 
decade ago and out-of-print for some years. 
The permanent collection of the Columbus Museum of Art has been formed in large part by generous contributions of art 
from individual collectors in our own community. In 1931, the Museum received from longtime Columbus resident 
Ferdinand Howald an illustrious group of European and American modernist works. The acquisition of Howald's 
pioneering collection, which was formed at a time when there were very few patrons of modern art, immediately 
distinguished us from other public institutions, whose collections were decidedly less adventurous. Sixty years later, the 
Sirak pictures, an ideal complement to the Howald pictures, greatly extended and enriched our capacity to tell the story 
of modern art.
The Howald Collection brought us several significant cubist pictures by Picasso, Braque, and Gris, and the Sirak 
Collection contributed key works by Robert Delauney, Lyonel Feininger, and Gino Severini-artists who developed 
avant-garde styles from cubist precedents. The Sirak acquisition added striking works of German expressionism-a 
style hitherto underrepresented in the Museum's collection-by Ernst Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, and Alexej 
Jawlensky, and it brought to the Museum eleven works by Paul Klee, a group of pictures that illuminates a quarter-
century of this artist's career. The Sirak Collection also brought to the Museum works by important artists not 
previously represented at all in the Museum's collection-Gustav Klimt, Goergia Morandi, Medardo Rosso, Egon 
Schiele, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo.
A particularly exciting characteristic of the Sirak Collection is that it reflects the taste of collectors who did not feel 
constrained always to buy the canonical picture, the `expected' picture. Henri Matisse's Still Life with Self-Portrait is a 
good example. An early work created a decade before Matisse gained notoriety as a fauvist, the painting had no less an 
admirer than aits previous owner Paul Cézanne. Though not a `typical' Matisse, recent scholarship has demonstrated the 
signal importance of this work in Matisse's maturation as an artist. Similarly, at the time the Siraks bought Weeping 
Willow, a late work by Claude Monet, very few collectors were interested in such works. Other superb if unconventional 
acquisitions made by the Siraks include a rare landscape painting by Edgar Degas, as well as two major paintings by 
James Ensor, which are rare in American collections. These highly regarded pictures are prized among the Museum's 
holdings.
From the beginning, museums around the world have been eager to borrow the Sirak pictures for special exhibitions, a 
testament to the importance of the collection. Although we have continued to lend pictures with some frequency to 
exhibitions both in the United States and abroad, one of our most important charges as a public institution is the 
stewardship of the art works-their care and conservation, so they may be enjoyed by future generations. In that regard, 
the Sirak collection includes a few pictures that staff members affectionately call our "Emily Dickinson pictures"-
because they remain "at home" and rarely if ever tour. These works include Monet's Weeping Willow, whose pigment is 
so heavy it cannot travel safely; Gino Severini's Rhythm of the Dance (Dancer), which sheds its applied sequins at a 
whisper; and the pastels by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas, whose surfaces are so fragile that they cannot travel 
without serious risk.
We are delighted to showcase the Sirak Collection as part of the Columbus Museum of Art's 125th anniversary 
celebration, an event that allows us once more to realize and to express our gratitude to the Siraks-and to all our 
collector benefactors-who epitomize "private passion to public treasure."
Nannette V. Maciejunes
Executive Director
Curator's Introduction to the 2004 Edition
Collecting Modern Art in the 1960s and 1970s
One can assert that all the stars were in proper alignment at the moment in 1964 when Howard and Babs Sirak happened 
to wander into M. Knoedler & Company in New York.1) That moment marked the inadvertent beginning of their 
wonderful collection of mostly classic modern art. At the time, prices on the art market were still moderate, and works of 
art of quality were still readily available. The Siraks were newly married, had a large house, and led busy independent 
lives, but they soon discovered that they shared a passion for art. Although Babs had accompanied her parents as a child 
to the Columbus Museum of Art (then known as the Columbus Gallery of Art) and as an adult was involved in the Art 
Museum, neither she nor Howard were regular museum visitors, and they had only occasionally entered a commercial 
gallery. This was all to change when Martin Jennings, at Knoedler's, showed them several paintings and suggested he 
send them on approval to Columbus at no cost to them the 1961 Vieira da Silva, The Atlantic, which they had especially 
liked. It became their first purchase of an original work of art.
That seminal visit to Knoedler's had another, far more profound consequence. The Siraks had seen and liked a painting 
by the German Expressionist painter Emil Nolde. Before they could return to New York to look again at the painting, 
Babs committed what she has called "the fatal deed." She bought a book about Nolde and the group of German 
Expressionist artists called "die Brücke," ("the Bridge") with whom he is associated. Six months later they returned to 
Knoedler's, saw Nolde's 1943 Sunflowers in the Windstorm again, and still loved the strong, unusual colors and the 
message of survival and endurance of sunflowers bending but not breaking in the storm. Babs also remembered that the 
previous year she had seen Nolde's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, which had included the picture. The 
painting was sent to Columbus, "at no cost" to them, becoming their second purchase in 1964. The Vieira da Silva, the 
Nolde, and the 36 works of art the Siraks bought the following year became the foundation of the Sirak collection. 
Their experience with the Nolde set in motion a self-directed, crash course in the history of art. It also established a 
pattern in which they discovered new pictures and then learned as much as possible about the works of art and the artists 
that had created them. The Siraks absorbed the world of art with an intensity and pleasure that must have recalled to 
Babs her art appreciation course at Wellesley as an undergraduate that inspired weekly visits to the Boston Museum. In 
this new endeavor, the Siraks worked diligently at becoming "art people." According to Babs:
We became more and more involved, subscribing to art magazines and traveling to museums, where we began 
looking at paintings critically. We sought out examples of great works of art. We tried to determine why they 
were considered great, why they had lasted through the ages, while others hadn't. When we were alone, we 
spent all our spare time thinking and learning about art. It was really a love affair between Howard and me and 
between us and art. 2)
Howard and Babs Sirak clearly realized that in order to be given the opportunity to purchase the best available works of 
art, it was necessary to establish credibility as collectors. The art market is a competitive environment. Although it is not 
often articulated, most dealers have a pecking order according to which they release their best works. Committed art 
dealers are in the business because they love art and are therefore interested in placing their charges not only to best 
advantage and positions of prestige, but also in situations in which the works are appreciated and cared for. Dealers are 
also business people who are well aware of the investment capabilities of their clients. Thus collecting is a form of 
courtship in which the dealer convinces the client that the art he or she has for sale is "important" and the clients prove 
they are worthy of being entrusted with the work and know the value of what they are acquiring. 
The Siraks' relationship with Sam Salz, dealer extraordinaire in impressionist and post-impressionist paintings was a 
courtship. When the Siraks learned about Sam, they were told that this very private dealer dealt with only the "Mellons, 
the Rockefellers, and the Fords." Undaunted, Howard contacted Sam Salz by phone in New York in February of 1965, 
introduced himself as a heart surgeon and beginning collector, and secured an appointment for the next day. The Siraks 
made their way to the townhouse on East 76th Street, where Sam Salz and his wife Janet lived, and ascended to the 
famous viewing room on the fourth floor. 
Sam Salz had come to New York from Paris in 1939, and with his remarkable inventory quickly established himself as 
the leading dealer in impressionism. Fortunately the chemistry between the Siraks and Sam worked out, as Sam realized 
they were as teachable as he was eager to teach them. Their friendship flourished, and Sam encouraged them to travel to 
train their `eye.' On their first trip to Europe, Sam met them every day in Paris for lunch and dinner to discuss what they 
had seen and to plan the rest of their trip. Wherever they went they bought collection and exhibition catalogues to help 
them remember what they had seen and to build up their library in Columbus. The association between the Siraks and 
Sam Salz led to some 27 transactions between 1965 and 1977: the first purchase was Monet's View of Bennecourt of 
1887 and the last was Monet's Weeping Willows of 1918. By 1977, prices for quality works had outpaced the Siraks' 
pocket book, and simultaneously they had run out of wall space. The seventy-eight works of art that make up the Sirak 
collection had all found their place and filled the house. 
Sam Salz (1894-1981) was a direct link between his clients, in particular the Siraks, and the first dealers of impressionist 
and post-impressionist paintings. He was also a direct link to artists working in Paris before World War II. Salz met 
Soutine, Vlaminck, and Derain in the early twenties, when he was still aspiring to be an artist. Disillusioned by his lack 
of talent and needing to support himself, he began selling the work of his friends, gradually earning a reputation as a 
dealer. Ambroise Vollard (1865-1939), the larger-than-life art dealer who had given Cezanne his first exhibition in 1895, 
became Sam's mentor. At weekly luncheons, Vollard would show Sam his latest treasures, eventually giving Sam a 
painting each by Cezanne, Renoir, and Gauguin on consignment to sell on his own. 3) Renoir's The Gypsy Girl, 
Cezanne's Seated Bather, and Matisse's Still Life with Self-Portrait, which once belonged to Cezanne, passed through 
hands of both Vollard and Sam's before becoming part of the Sirak collection. 
By the nineteen thirties, Sam Salz was a respected European art dealer in his own right who cultivated his friendships 
with Vuillard and Bonnard and with family members of the two most prominent galleries dealing with impressionist 
painting, Durand-Ruel and Bernheim-Jeune. They were his source for most of the impressionist paintings he sold to the 
Siraks. In 1950, Sam was named the executor of the Durand-Ruel family holdings, and he advised the family (there were 
seven branches) to move half of their paintings to a bank vault in Switzerland, foreseeing that the French government 
would pass a law prohibiting national treasures from leaving the country. Cleverly, Sam rented a vault across from theirs, 
and now and then he would succeed in prying a painting out of them. Because many of these paintings had never been 
shown before, Sam called them "virgins." 4) 
In some cases, Sam had to wait for years before he was able to separate a favorite painting from its owner. Sam shared 
many anecdotes with the Siraks about how he acquired the paintings he was "allowing" them to buy from him. For 
example, Sam had long coveted the little Degas Le Petit Dejeuner in the collection of Charles Durand-Ruel. Finding 
himself in Paris over the Christmas holidays with the flu, he was very depressed. Unable to tolerate seeing his friend so 
upset, Charles asked what he could do to make him feel better. Sam replied, "Oh, just bring me the little Degas for a 
while, and let me look at her. Then I will feel better." 5) Sam never returned the painting, and later he sold it to the 
Siraks. In another instance, he really wanted a painting that was in the collection of actor Sacha Guitry, Monet's The 
Seine at Port-Villez (A Gust of Wind), which Monet had held onto for about twenty years before selling it to his actor 
friend Sacha in 1924. Every time Sam Salz visited with the Guitrys, he would stare at the painting, until one day Sacha 
said: "As long as I live, you are not going to buy this painting from me." 6) When Guitry died in 1957, Sam Salz bought 
and held the painting until December 1968, when the Siraks added it to their collection. Sam Salz also waited for many 
years for Derain's Portrait of the Painter Etienne Terrus, a painting from his Fauve period. When Terrus died in 1922, 
the painting passed to his daughter, Mme. Comte. Sam became aware of the painting in the 1930s and visited Mme. 
Comte every summer. They made polite conversation while drinking terrible brandy. This ritual went on for nearly thirty 
years. Nothing was ever said about the portrait, until one day, Mme. Comte, having grown very old, asked Sam whether 
he wanted to buy the painting of her father. 7) 
Sam Salz was very guarded about the content and the extent of his holdings. He would bring out what he thought was 
right for his clients and then observe their reactions. When Babs and Howard did not like something they simply said it 
was interesting and asked what else there was. During one of their visits they just happened to mention Ensor, as they 
were then reading a book on the Belgian artist, considered the forerunner of expressionism. Sam's eyes lit up, and he 
quickly retrieved from his famous closet The Assassination. Both Howard and Babs responded to the painting and 
immediately inquired whether it was for sale. "If you really love it, you can buy it," was the reply. While reading up on 
the painting they had just bought, they discovered in a credit line, that Sam owned another work by the artist, The 
Seashells, which also became part of the Sirak collection. 8) 
Sam Salz was known to like to form whole collections for his clients so that he could say, "It's all Salz" (9), but the 
Siraks always maintained their independence and bought what they were both drawn to. Although Sam Salz "opened 
their eyes to the beautiful world of impressionism," the Siraks, seeing the history of modernism as a continuum, 
simultaneously pursued later developments in modern art, such as fauvism, cubism, orphism, and expressionism. They 
avoided, however, creating a collection that had the appearance of textbook illustrations. Howard and Babs Sirak have 
repeatedly stated that they were not interested in collecting "names." They collected what they were both drawn to. But 
once they found an artist whose work they liked, they tried to collect that artist's work in depth. Of the thirty-seven 
artists represented in the collection, nineteen are represented by more than one work.
Around the time the Siraks met Sam Salz, they also met Ulfert Wilke (1907-1988) at the apartment of New York 
collector Dick Zeisler. Ulfert Wilke was an artist, teacher, museum director, and especially an avid collector, who had 
emigrated from Germany in 1938. He was in many ways the antithesis of Sam Salz. Where Sam was private, Ulfert was 
public; where Sam was selective, Ulfert was inclusive. In 1975, the University of Iowa Museum of Art in Iowa City held 
an exhibition with the telling title An Artist Collects: Ulfert Wilke, Selections from Five Continents. The exhibition 
featured ancient art, African, Oceanic, and Native American art, art from China and Japan, and modern and 
contemporary American and European art. The catalogue reprinted entries from Ulfert's journals, providing a fascinating 
snapshot of the art world from 1949 to1974. With Ulfert Wilke's incredibly wide-ranging contacts, he quickly became a 
very important person in the Siraks' life. "He opened doors for us. He knew practically everybody in the art world, and 
everyone knew him. He introduced us to private collectors and to reliable dealers." And since he was living in New York 
at the time, he contacted the Siraks when he encountered exceptional paintings. He did the same when he was traveling 
in Europe. 10) 
Several entries from Ulfert's journal convey a little of the flavor of the Siraks' early quest to form a collection: 
New York, May 9, 1965
Howard Sirak called and mentioned their interest in a good Feininger, Kirchner and a 1920 Kokoschka painting. 
He also informed me that they decided to buy my Beckman painting, Two Negroes in a Café.
New York, June 16, 1965
Mrs. Feigl has a 1912 Kirchner painting that Howard and Babs should buy. It is a large landscape with bathers 
formerly owned by Dr.Victor Wallerstein.
New York, June 20, 1965
Two days with the Siraks of looking and negotiating in art galleries. They bought a great Soutine from 
Silberman, the 1912 landscape by Kirchner from Grete [sic] Feigl, but more important to me, my Beckman 
painting.11)
By the time the Siraks bought Soutine's Landscape at Ceret from E. & A. Silberman Galleries, they already owned two 
paintings by the artist, Landscape at Cagne and Melanie the Schoolteacher. They had discovered Soutine early in 1965 
when they visited the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. On their next trip to New York, they stopped by 
Knoedler again and asked about Soutine. Their inquiry was rewarded by the presentation of two excellent examples of 
this deeply troubled artist's work. 12) At virtually the same time, the Siraks were buying, also at Knoedler's, two 
paintings by the chief representative of Orphic Cubism, Robert Delaunay. One of these colorful works, the Portuguese 
Woman, painted in 1916 during World War I in Portugal while Delaunay was escaping the besieged French capital, 
belonged to Louis Carré, a famous French dealer to whom Knoedler had connections. The painting was shipped from 
Paris directly to Columbus where it remained. 13) 
World War I cast its shadow on another painting in the Sirak collection, the cubist portrait of Jacques Nayral. Nayral 
was the brother-in-law and best friend of the painter Albert Gleizes, who painted the portrait as a memorial in 1917 when 
Nayral was killed. The Siraks first saw this painting in 1964 at the Columbus Gallery of Fine Art, as the Art Museum 
was then called, in a large international traveling retrospective organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the 
Musée national d'art moderne, and the Museum am Ostwall (Dortmund, Germany). Babs and Howard returned to study 
the painting many times, learned that it was on loan from the Leonard Hutton Galleries, and promised to buy it at the 
conclusion of the tour. It entered the collection in April 1965.
The dealer Leonard Hutton and the Guggenheim Museum were to figure in another of the Siraks' purchases in a way that 
clearly demonstrates the high level of competition the Siraks occasionally encountered for desirable works of art. In 
February and March of 1965, the Leonard Hutton Galleries had a centennial exhibition of work by the Russian artist 
Alexej Jawlensky, from which the Siraks singled out Schokko with Red Hat of 1909. The painting, however, was on hold 
for the Guggenheim Museum along with a slightly larger 1910 painting of Jawlensky's mistress, Helene with Colored 
Turban. The Guggenheim finally selected Helene for their collection, allowing the Siraks to take Schokko home to 
Columbus. 
Jawlensky, who was living in Munich when he painted Schokko, was part of a group of artists called the Blue Four that 
also included Kandinsky, Feininger, and Paul Klee. The Siraks were never able to find the proper Kandinsky, but in 
November of 1965 were able not only to add Feininger's large Cathedral to their collection with the help of Greta Feigl, 
but also to purchase five Klees from the prestigious Swiss dealer Ernst Beyeler. Ulfert Wilke happened to be in Basel 
when Beyeler was presenting a Klee exhibition at his gallery. According to his journal, he spent a whole day studying the 
Klees, and singled out Still Life with Dove thinking it would work well with the other cubist paintings in the Sirak 
collection. He contacted the Siraks and asked whether they were interested. They were, if the work could be shipped to 
Columbus. When the package arrived it contained several other works by Klee from which the Siraks made a selection, 
including the mask-like late work Fire Spirit. To their surprise they discovered that Klee had painted an abstraction on 
the back of Still Life with Dove. Beyeler had named it Construction, and because the board on which the two paintings 
were painted was warping and needed conservation, the Siraks asked a conservator to split it into two. Now the two 
paintings can be enjoyed side by side. 14) 
The Siraks first encountered Klee in July of 1965 in New York at the Staempfli Gallery. They bought Ilfenburg, a 
mysterious looking work that Klee had given Jawlensky in a trade, and they began to learn about the artist, as was their 
custom. With the help of Ulfert Wilke, they eventually purchased a total of eleven works by Klee. Ulfert introduced the 
Siraks to a collector named Frederick C. Schang, Jr., who was President of the Columbia Concerts Corporation, one of 
the world's leading music management firms, now called Columbia Artists Management Inc. Over the years Fred 
Schang had assembled a large Klee collection, but he was ready to sell some of the works to start a trust for his 
grandchildren. One of the works the Siraks acquired from him was View of Saint Germain of 1914. It came from a 
sketchbook in which Klee recorded his impressions of his travels in North Africa. The trip convinced Klee, who was also 
an accomplished musician, to become a painter. Klee had given View of Saint Germain to the prestigious German art 
historian Wilhelm Hausenstein for writing a book on him. 15) Hausenstein reproduced the work as Tunisian Landscape 
in the 1921 annual Ganymede, which he edited. Fred Schang passed the book on to the Siraks with the following note 
written on the back of a photo of himself:
	To my Kleemates Babs and Howard Sirak
May they get from the works of this great man the same joy and thrill which he has given [me] F. Schang
The truism "every picture has a story" can certainly be applied to the works of art in the Sirak collection. Howard and 
Babs Siraks were acutely aware of the histories of their pictures. Every time they acquired a new work, Howard would 
visit rare book dealers to find reproductions or mention of the work in books, catalogues, and magazines to make its past 
come to life. The stories of the works in their collection also made them acutely aware of how many art collections are 
eventually dispersed and enter into new collections. The Siraks had many suitors--directors from other museums--for this 
or that picture or group of pictures, but they had a strong desire to keep the collection together. It is because of their 
forethought and planning and to the great benefit of the Art Museum and Columbus that they succeeded in keeping the 
collection intact and in Columbus, where it was created. Surely they would echo the words of Fred Schang: 
May the visitors to the Columbus Museum of Art get from these great works the same joy and thrill which they 
have given us.
Annegreth Nill. Curator of Twenteith-Century and Contemporary Art
Endnotes
. 
1) Unless otherwise noted this text is based on two interviews conducted with Dr. and Mrs. Sirak on December 18, 
2003, and January 22, 2004. Carole Genshaft and Annegreth Nill conducted the first interview; Annegreth Nill 
conducted the second). Additional information is based on Babette Sirak and Kirsten Chapman, Love Affair: 
The Story of the Sirak Art Collection, The Columbus Museum of Art and The Ohio State University, 1991. This 
essay is intended to incorporate some of the highlights of the collecting histories of the works in the Sirak 
collection detailed in Love Affair into the present catalogue.
2) Love Affair, p. 2.
3) Martin Esterow, "The very special world of Sam Salz," Art News, (May 1974): 38, 9.
4) Love Affair, pp. 5, 6.
5) Ibid., p. 46.
6) Ibid., p.44.
7) Ibid., pp. 45, 6 and Esterow, p. 40, who places the incident in 1968.
8) Love Affair, p. 22.
9) Tanneguy de Quenetain, "The Treasures of Sam Salz: Realites Visits an Eminent Collector and Art Dealer," 
Realites, (June 1965): 46.
10) Love Affair, p. 4.
11) An Artist Collects: Ufert Wilke, Selections from Five Continents (exh. cat. The University of Iowa Museum of 
Art, 1975), p.24.
12) Love Affair, p. 32.
13) Ibid., p. 28.
14) Ibid., p. 24.
15) Wilhelm Hausenstein, Kairuan, oder eine Geschichte vom Maler Klee und von der Kunst dieses Zeitalters. 
Munich, 1921.
Preface to the 1991 Edition
We at the Columbus Museum of Art are pleased and very excited to present the inaugural exhibition of the 
Howard D. and Babette L. Sirak Collection of European modernist masterpieces. As these works take their place in the 
permanent collection, the museum's community feels a sense of profound gratitude mixed with pride. In coming to this 
museum, the collection, which ARTnews saluted in 1976 as one of the finest private collections in the world, forges 
another link in the grand tradition in which enlightened collectors entrust works of art to a public institution. Few 
museums have an opportunity such as this to acquire so many distinguished works at a single time. This museum is 
immeasurably grateful to the Siraks for the privilege of housing these great works of art and the opportunity to offer 
them now for public view and enjoyment.
Had we set out to organize a major exhibition of Impressionist and early modernist works with the intent of 
documenting some of the most revolutionary trends in the history of art, we could hardly have assembled a more 
sweeping, and at the same time more satisfying, survey. This group of seventy-eight works, publicly exhibited in its 
entirety for the first time, includes the gentle light-filled reveries of the Impressionists as well as some of those artists' 
more provocative social commentaries. Also included are the cerebral ruminations of the Cubists, and the bold emotional 
revelations of expressionists of many persuasions. For all its diversity, the Sirak Collection is a remarkably coherent 
entity that cuts a wide swath through the range of artistic possibilities. Here are paintings, works on paper, and 
sculptures. Here are small, exquisite works such as Morandi's sparkling little etchings, and much larger paintings by 
Delaunay, De Staël, and Vuillard, among others. Here are early works of major artists such as Matisse that foretell grand 
innovations, mature works by giants such as Monet that sum up much of the character and accomplishment of a long 
successful career, and, in the case of Paul Klee, eleven works that illuminate an entire career. Here are characteristic as 
well as rare creations by thirty-seven of the most important artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Howard and Babette Sirak formed the collection during the years 1964-1977, guided by personal taste, as well 
as arduous study and conversations with such art world luminaries as Sam Salz, a renowned dealer in Impressionist art, 
and Ulfert Wilke, a well-known collector. Through Sam Salz, the Siraks were able to obtain a number of paintings that 
came directly from members of the Durand-Ruel family, whose grandfather had been the original dealer for Monet, 
Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, and others. Clearly, both Siraks are endowed with a talent for seeing that goes beyond 
those abilities that can be acquired by diligence and determination. Many of the countless viewers who were graciously 
permitted to see the works in the Siraks' home in Columbus will attest to the privilege of having one or both of the 
Siraks as tour guides - often unexpectedly. Their love of these treasures could be observed in their eyes as well as in 
their words, as they recounted story after story about the artists, about the works, about collecting. A visitor not familiar 
with the proposition that works of art have a life of their own soon would be convinced that this indeed is true.
Happily, the Sirak Collection adds entirely new dimensions to the museum's holdings in European modernist 
works, strengthening the collection in some areas and increasing its scope overall. With the addition of these works, the 
Columbus Museum of Art establishes a major public collection in the Midwest, with particular strengths in 
Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, and German Expressionism. As part of our inaugural celebration, we offer this 
catalogue of the collection, an assemblage of some of the latest scholarship by experts on the artists and the periods 
represented.
We are especially grateful to Richard Brettell director of the Dallas Museum of Art, and Peter Selz, professor 
emeritus, University of California (Berkeley), who contributed informative essays and served as readers of other 
contributions. Our thanks go also to the scholars who provided the catalogue entries. Particular commendation is due to 
Leslie Stewart Curtis, who made frequent trips to key archives to research the works and provide a solid foundation for 
future inquiries into provenances, exhibition histories, and references, and to Norma Roberts, who not only edited the 
catalogue but marshalled all forces necessary to put it together beautifully and on time.
The museum is forever grateful to those groups and institutions that provide financial support for its services to 
an expanding arts community, both at home and nationwide. We are indebted to the National Endowment for the Arts for 
generous funding of the inaugural presentadon of the Sirak Collection. We gratefully acknowledge the many 
contributions to the Campaign for Enduring Excellence, which made the acquisition and future maintenance of the col-
lection possible. And for providing funds for this publication we extend our heartfelt thanks to Battelle Memorial 
Institute, Huntington National Bank, the Frederick W. Schumacher Foundation, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the 
Women's Board of the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Estate of Ruth G. Lea. Because of the generosity and 
enlightenment of such as these, the arts continue to thrive and the community is made richer.
Merribell Parsons
Director
Collectors' Statement for the 1991 Edition
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar, ACT 4, SCENE 3
One Saturday, in early 1964, we were in New York, walking on 57th Street near Fifth Avenue. We came to 
Knoedler's art gallery, where Babs's father had bought a painting about fourteen years earlier. On the spur of the 
moment, we decided to go in. Neither of us had ever been in an art gallery before. As we entered, we were greeted by a 
pleasant gentleman named Martin Jennings. We told him we would like to look at some pictures. He conducted us to a 
fourth-floor viewing room and, after we sat down, began placing one picture after the other on a viewing stand in front of 
us.
Of the many paintings we were shown, we especially liked an abstract landscape by Maria Elena Vieira da 
Silva, and a bold, vivid, explosive painting by German artist Emil Nolde entitled Sunflowers in the Windstorm. Martin 
Jennings could see that we were drawn to the Vieira da Silva, and so he told us that we could try living with it in our 
home. There would be no expense to us, he assured us: "We'll pay all the shipping and crating costs even if you decide 
to return it. It won't cost you a cent." We couldn't resist. "What have we got to lose?" we said to each other.
After the Vieira da Silva arrived home, we hung it in different rooms. Everywhere we placed it, we liked it, and 
so a month later we bought it. But we couldn't get the other painting out of our minds. One day, Babs came home with a 
book called Emil Nolde and His Friends. We would lie in bed at night with our two-year-old son John between us, 
poring over this book and the others that began to pile up on either side of our bed. We didn't realize it then, but we were 
studying art and falling in love with it.
Five months later, we were back in New York and heading straight for Knoedler's. Martin Jennings greeted us 
and immediately took us upstairs. He brought out the Nolde Sunflowers. Astutely recognizing that we were hooked on 
the picture, Martin repeated his speech that we should try living with the painting in our home, and again he said, "It 
won't cost you a cent." Needless to say, Sunflowers was never sent back. This painting proved to be a catalyst, because 
the next year, 1965, we acquired thirty-six paintings: works by Vlaminck, Utrillo, Monet, Muller, Klimt (two), Soutine 
(two), Gleizes (two), Delaunay, Schiele, Kirchner (three), Jawlensky, Severini, KIee (six), Beckmann, Bissier (two), De 
Stael, Derain (two), Feininger, and another by Nolde. This was a frenetic year indeed. We don't know how we did so 
much, nor can we say what instinct drove us, but in retrospect we realize that we were fortunate because unconsciously 
we were buying exceptional works ahead of the market. We had taken the "tide" at the "flood."
At this point in our lives, we had been married only three years. Between us we had seven children and a 
spacious house in Bexley full of tropical fish tanks and empty walls. Howard was a practicing heart surgeon and a 
professor of surgery at The Ohio State University. Babs was busily involved with the children, family and friends, and 
community affairs. Nevertheless, in whatever spare time we could find, we would avidly study art in books, magazines, 
transparencies, and, when traveling, in art museums. Whenever we went to New York, we were transformed: we 
became-and became known as-art people. This enabled us to see other collections and meet wellknown people in the 
art world. One opportunity led to another. Each purchase seemed to expand our contacts so that the quest became a 
thrilling adventure. Our lives were enriched by our friendship with Sam Salz, a great and famous art dealer, who opened 
to us the beautiful world of Impressionist art. Similarly, there was Ulfert Wilke, an artist, collector, and museum director, 
who seemed to know all the other collectors, art dealers, and many of the contemporary artists whom we subsequently 
met. These vigorous art-collecting years continued until 1977 when we bought our last painting from Sam Salz: Monet's 
Weeping Willow.
From the time of the purchase of our first painting and through all the years of buying pictures, we worked very 
hard to improve our "eyes" so that we could confidently differentiate between the various levels of quality. Whenever we 
traveled, whether in the United States or Europe, we spent most of our time in museums or in churches (especially in 
Italy) or visiting private collections. One of many satisfactions came from fine-tuning our taste and seeing this become 
recognized by dealers and the various other art people whom we encountered. We developed faith in our collective 
"eye," and thus we would be satisfied with only the best examples of an artist's work. We were never tempted to buy just 
for the name. We had become, as Sam Salz put it, collectionneurs sérieux.
	For many years we have lived surrounded by these great and powerful works of art. We have felt a tremendous 
sense of responsibility for their well-being as well as a sense of obligation to the artists themselves. We believe that they 
are meant to be seen and shared with others-not just with family and friends but with the whole community, and thus 
for years we opened our home to people from far and near who wished to view the art. Moreover, we recognized that 
these great paintings have a life of their own-they had existed long before they became a part of our home and our life, 
and with tender and proper care they would exist for centuries more. Thus, even though they had become part of us, we 
knew that we were only their temporary custodians. We wanted them always to be together in our city, Columbus, and 
for this reason the arrangement was made with the Columbus Museum of Art to assure that generations to come would 
enjoy this great art.
We hope that those who experience "our" works in the museum will receive from their beauty and their various 
personal messages about life some moments of joy and peace and an appreciation of man's creative genius and its 
enduring spirit, which somehow enable us all to survive the worst.
Howard and Babette Sirak
January 24, 1991




Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication: Art, European 19th century Exhibitions, Art, European 20th century Exhibitions, Impressionism (Art) Europe Exhibitions, Modernism (Art) Europe Exhibitions, Sirak, Howard D, Art collections Exhibitions, Sirak, Babette L, Art collections Exhibitions, Art Private collections Ohio Columbus Exhibitions, Columbus Museum of Art Exhibitions