The set of lithographs by David Friedmann, Portfolio No. 28, Köpfe berühmter Schachmeister (Portraits of Famous Chess Masters) produced in 1923, was donated by Dr. Meindert Niemeijer to the National Library of the Netherlands in 1948.
David Friedmann was born December 20, 1893, in Mährisch Ostrau, now Ostrava, Czech Republic. At the age of seventeen, he ventured to Berlin, studying painting with Lovis Corinth and graphic arts with Hermann Struck. During World War I, Friedmann served primarily as a military artist in the Austro-Hungarian army. After the war, he returned to his Berlin art studio and had successful exhibitions throughout Germany. Friedmann was a recognized painter known for his portraits drawn from life. He perfected his technique while working as a freelance artist for the major Berlin newspapers, producing hundreds of portraits of famous contemporary personalities. His talent for portraiture played a central role throughout his career and saved his life during the Holocaust.
He learned that an important International Chess Master Tourney would take place in Ostrava. Friedmann met Dr. Emanuel Lasker in Berlin, who was enthusiastic about his idea to publish a portfolio of 14 lithographs of the chess masters. Portfolio No. 4, “Das Schachmeister Turnier In Mährisch Ostrau, Juli 1923”, has surfaced in the Ostrava Museum collection. A single lithograph portrait of Akiba Rubinstein was found in the Brussels Jewish Museum.
Lasker wrote the “Foreword” in Berlin where Friedmann’s inspiration developed into the portfolio, “Köpfe berühmter Schachmeister”. These portfolios differ in composition from the original Ostrava tourney subjects. The less famous players were omitted and Ossip Bernstein and/or Richard Teichmann were added depending upon the portfolio, which could include 12 - 14 portraits. All lithographs bear the signature of the chess player, which along with the portrait were part of the original plate. The signature of the artist was handwritten in pencil on each lithograph. The portfolio in the collection of the KB is numbered 28/50. This presumes that there were 50 published portfolios. No. 23 and the Lasker portfolio No. 27, have been located and it would be interesting to learn if other portfolios survived.
Friedmann was famous for this portfolio, which was cited in his biography published in the “Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts”. He continued to enjoy chess tournaments and portray the champions. Among those found published in Berlin newspapers from 1925-1929 were: Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker, Nimzowitsch, Reti, Rubinstein, Spielmann, Tartakower, and Vidmar.
At the end of 1938, Friedmann, his wife and infant daughter fled the German Reich to Prague, leaving behind the art collection. He created new art, but in October 1941, the family was deported to the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. In 1941-1942, the Gestapo confiscated more than 2000 drawings, graphic, watercolor, and oil paintings in Berlin as well as Prague.
Separated from his family in August 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other concentration camps. In January 1945, he was liberated from Camp Blechhammer and made his way back to Prague. Tragically, his wife and daughter did not survive the Holocaust. After his second marriage in 1948, he fled Communist Czechoslovakia to Israel in 1949, and then moved to the U.S. in 1954. Becoming a U.S. citizen in 1960, he dropped the second “n” from “Friedmann". He continued to produce portraits and art illustrating the events and personal experiences of his time. However, Friedman was most passionate about the series of paintings and drawings created from his horrific memories of the ghetto and concentration camps, entitled “Because They Were Jews!”. It is a sad irony that several of the portrayed chess masters were persecuted during the Nazi Regime because they were Jews, including Heinrich Wolf who was murdered.
David Friedman died February 27, 1980, in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 2005, David Friedman’s daughter, Miriam Friedman Morris, permitted the Koninklijke Bibliotheek to display these extraordinary lithographs on the library’s website. She is still searching for lost portfolios containing portraits from either series.
For further information about David Friedmann, please contact Mrs. Friedman Morris or see:
Köpfe berühmter Schachmeister
Portrayed chess masters
Portfolio number 28
Akiba Rubinstein (1882 - 1961)
Alexei Selesnieff (1888 - 1967)
Dr. Emanuel Lasker (1868 - 1941)
Dr. Ossip Bernstein (1882 - 1962)
Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch (1862 - 1934)
Dr. Savielli Tartakower (1887 - 1956)
Ernst Grünfeld (1893 - 1962)
Efim Bogoljubow (1889 - 1952)
Heinrich Wolf (1875 - 1943)
Dr. Max Euwe (1901 - 1981)
Max Walter (1896 - 1940)
Richard Réti (1889 - 1929)
Rudolf Spielmann (1883 - 1942)
Richard Teichmann (1868 - 1925)
"Köpfe berühmter Schachmeister"
Copyright © 1999 Miriam Friedman Morris