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Donath, Adolph

(1876–1937), poet, journalist, art historian, and critic. Adolph Donath was born in Kromĕříž (Kremsier) in the Habsburg province of Moravia. After graduating from the German gymnasium in Kromĕříž in 1895, he moved to Vienna, where he studied law and philosophy (without taking a degree) and wrote for several newspapers, including the Neue Freie Presse, which was Vienna’s leading German-language daily, and Die Gesellschaft, a modernist cultural journal published in Leipzig (and later Munich).

As a poet, Donath achieved fame through his publication of a three-volume series of Jewish poetry known in full by the name of the final volume, Judenlieder: Tage und Nächte (Day and Night; 1898), Mensch und Liebe (Man and Love; 1901), and Judenlieder (Jewish Poems; 1920). Donath’s poems caught the attention of Theodor Herzl, who published 10 of them in Die Welt, the official organ of the World Zionist Organization, between 1898 and 1903. A self-declared “aesthetic Zionist,” Donath was on the editorial staff of Die Zeit in 1902–1903 but steered clear of Zionist politics.

In 1905, Donath moved to Berlin to work with Wilhelm von Bode (1845–1929), a German art critic and the director of the Berlin Museum. Donath married Marie, a Catholic convert to Judaism, in 1906; he edited the Berliner Zeitung am Mittag from 1905 until 1915, and published Psychologie des Kunstsammelns (Psychology of Art Collecting) in 1911. With the outbreak of World War I, Donath was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army, which stationed him in Brno and Lublin.

After the war, Donath became a citizen of the newly created Czechoslovak state, though he made Berlin his home. There he founded a biweekly art journal, Der Kunstwandler, which he edited from 1919 until 1932, and the Jahrbuch für Kunstsammler, which he edited from 1921 until 1923. Both periodicals helped foster impressionism, expressionism, and other modern art movements that flourished in the Weimar Republic. Donath befriended many Jewish artists in Berlin—including Max Liebermann (1847–1935), Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925), Hermann Struck (1876–1944), Erich Wolfsfeld (1881–1956), and Lesser Ury (1861–1931)—and published critical studies of their artwork. He also published another study on art collecting titled Technik des Kunstsammelns (Technique of Art Collecting; 1925).

With Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Donath fled to Prague; his writings were burned by the Nazis. In Prague he founded a new art journal, Die Internationale Kunstwelt, in 1934, which he edited until his death from a heart attack in 1937. His last published work was Wie die Kunstfälscher arbeiten (How Art Forgers Operate; 1937).

Suggested Reading

Doris Bensimon, Adolph Donath, 1876–1937: Parcours d’un intellectuel juif germanophone: Vienne, Berlin, Prague (Paris, 2000); Josef Svátek, Adolf Donath (Kroměříž, Czechoslovakia, 1990); Salomon Wininger, Grosse jüdische National-Biographie, mit mehr als 8000 Lebensbeschreibungen namhafter jüdischer Männer und Frauen aller Zeiten und Länder (Cernăuți, 1925–1936), vol. 2, pp. 66–67; Rudolf Wlaschek, Biographia Judaica Bohemiae (Dortmund, Ger., 1995), p. 37.