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Einstein portrait to appear in New York show

By James Dacey

This ink-on-paper sketch of Einstein (courtesy: Sigrid Freundorfer Fine Art LLC; click to view large) will go on public display for the first time tomorrow as part of an art show in New York City. It is the handiwork of Josef Scharl, a German artist who produced the work in 1950 while visiting his close friend Albert Einstein at Princeton University in the US.

Born in Munich in 1896, Scharl gained recognition in his time after being part of the “New Munich Secession” artists in the 1920s. He won various awards including the Albrecht Dürer Award from the city of Nuremberg, and the Prix-de-Rome. But Scharl was a vocal critic of the Nazi Party and by 1935 he was considered a “degenerate artist” and banned from painting.

Einstein, who by this time was already working at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, had met Scharl in 1927 in Berlin at the house of photographer Lotte Jacobi. Upon learning of the fate of his friend, Einstein offered to sponsor Scharl’s immigration to the US, which the artist accepted. Once in the States, Scharl used to visit Einstein regularly and when the artist passed away in 1954 Einstein wrote the eulogy that was read at the funeral.

“Scharl was an outspoken man, not shy with his opinions, often rather witty. Einstein appreciated Scharl’s candor and views on this or that, and their conversations were lively and informative for both,” says Sigrid Freundorfer, the fine-art dealer based in New York who owns the drawing. “It must have been refreshing for Einstein to have had somebody like Scharl to talk to once in a while, in German at that.”

Freundorfer bought the painting last year from someone in the field of manuscripts and rare books “Being an art dealer, I bought it first as a magnificent drawing by Josef Scharl, depicting this great man Einstein, signed by both men,” she said. The image will go on sale at the Master Drawings New York exhibition, which runs 26 January – 2 February and has a preview show on 25 January.

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