Important donation to the National Library

Paul Lipschutz amassed one of the largest private poster collections in the world.

Olof Halldin, supervisor for NL's poster collection, with one of the donated posters.

Paul Lipschutz devoted over fifty years of his life to his principal passion – collecting posters. At the age of nearly 90, he decided to donate his collection to the National Library of Sweden. The collection comprises between 20 000 and 25 000 posters dating from the late 1800s on, and includes works by renowned European artists such as Miró, Alexandre Steinlen, Paul Colin, Raymond Savignac, Storm P, and Sonia Delaunay.

According to Magdalena Gram, who heads the Collections Department at the National Library, the huge volume of foreign posters included in the Lipschutz Collection complements our collection of Swedish posters, and puts it into an international context. The collection also includes works by a number of Swedish artists, including Einar Forseth (the mosaic in the Golden Hall of the Stockholm City Hall), Einar Nerman (Solstickan ["The Sun Match"]), Anders Beckman (Beckman's College of Design) and painter Richard Bergh.

A life on the run

Paul Lipschutz was born in 1920 to Swedish-Jewish parents in Odessa in the Soviet Union. His father was a lawyer but, like many other Jews, experienced problems under the new regime in the wake of the revolution of 1917. In the mid 1920s the family moved first to St. Petersburg and then to Paris, where they lived under fairly impoverished conditions. When France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, Paul was again forced to flee because of his background, and he came to Sweden.

After the war he took a job as a travel guide for Swedish students making cultural study trips to France and Southern Europe. It was on these trips that he began to collect posters through both purchases and trades, but mainly by contacting various agencies that were giving posters away.

Advertisements and propaganda

Paul Lipschutz collected all sorts of posters, irrespective of theme; his only criterion was that they be of high esthetic and artistic quality.

According to Olof Halldin, who works on the library's poster collection, Lipschutz's work as a collector clarifies the propagandistic attitude toward social communication, regardless of whether the context is product advertising or conveying messages in a more political sense.

After completing his studies, Lipschutz's jobs included working as a librarian in Fagersta, but he still devoted the bulk of his spare time to his collection. When the collection began to become too large for Lipschutz to manage, Pontus Hultén, who was the director of the Swedish Museum of Modern Art, offered him storage space at the museum, as he planned to exhibit portions of the collection.

No showing was ever arranged at the Museum of Modern Art, but there were many others, including exhibits at the Swedish Cultural Museum in Stockholm, the Academy of Motion Pictures in Beverly Hills, the Swedish Technical Museum, the Swedish Army Museum in Stockholm, the Musée de l'affiche in Paris and a traveling exhibition in the USA.

In uncertain hands

In the summer of 2006 Lipschutz found himself in a dispute with the Swedish National Property Board, which had discovered that Lipschutz had no lease contract for the storage space in Skeppsholmen. The National Property Board wanted him to sign a lease and start paying for the space, but he refused, citing the promise made to him by the then recently deceased Pontus Hultén.

Lipschutz pondered for a long time whether he should sell the collection, and thereby risk seeing it broken up, or donate it to the National Library. He finally chose the latter option, with the result that the collection can now be stored in a more amenable location than the Swedish Navy's old supply service warehouse in Skeppsholmen.

In the fall of 2008, the National Library will publish two books showing works selected by Lipschutz from his collection. The books will be entitled 110 år i affischer [110 Years of Posters] and Barn and ungdom i affischer [Children and Young People in Posters].

Contact person: Sara Bengtzon, e-mail: firstname.lastname@kb.se

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