Following their marriage in Munich shortly after World War II, Hugo Klotz and his new bride, the former Ruth Baroness von Riedel (figs. 1 and 2), traveled to New York in search of a permanent residence. Hugo was the only son of a well-to-do family from Berlin who also owned a neo-gothic country estate in Mecklenburg. He followed his family when, in order to escape the current political climate in Germany, they packed up their art collection from the Berlin Villa near the Tiergarten in order to move to Pontresina (fig. 3).
Ruth, together with her almost identical twin sister Beatrice, was the youngest of a glamorous, highly respected, and influential Bavarian family. Beatrice studied to become a doctor while vivacious Ruth chose the stage, beginning her career in Heidelberg. She was quickly discovered by Heinrich George, who brought her to Berlin's Schiller Theater where she trained with such luminaries as Fritz Kortner and Juergen Fehling. The years in war-torn Berlin, however, had lasting effects on Ruth's health. It was when she returned to Munich after the war to work at the Kammerspiele that she met Hugo, and the two fell in love and were married. According to family history, Ruth had an engagement at the theater on the eve of her wedding, so her twin sister Beatrice donned the wedding gown and received the wedding guests at the reception in her stead until Ruth could take her legal place.
Once in New York, the young couple searched for a home in the country not too far from Manhattan, so that Hugo could commute to his job as a stockbroker at Wall Street. Their search led them to Bonniebrook Farm in Monroe at the foot of the Catskills in upstate New York, a delightful but highly impractical old farmhouse which they filled with treasures rescued from Berlin by Hugo's parents. Eventually, they too left Germany and came to live at the Hotel Pierre. For safety reasons, the valuable Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt (fig. 4) was placed on a long term loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It was sold privately to the J. Paul Getty Museum after Hugo's death. However, the whereabouts of a beautiful painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder of St. Barbara in a Wooded Landscape, lot 14 in the present sale, remained unknown, together with many other priceless works of art in Germany at that time. Its fate remained a mystery until Hugo and Ruth happened to have lunch with New York's Chief of Police, Manfred Schreiber. When the conversation turned to displaced art works, Chief Schreiber suggested that the painting might be found among other confiscated art works in a secret cache in the nearby salt mine that had once served as Hitler's bunker. Ruth, determined to retrieve it, began her research and persevered until she discovered the whereabouts of the missing Cranach, which was subsequently restituted to the family. Hugo gave the painting to his wife as a reward, at which point it became known as 'Ruthie's Cranach'.
The Klotz farm was a charming place, with the main house set on a hill before a lake and the property framed by tall fir trees planted by Hugo himself over the years. Every spring, the meadow filled with thousands of daffodils, enjoyed by the couple's many visitors. Hugo and Ruth were generous hosts, always ready to welcome their friends with a lavishly set table. The Klotzs also understood that art and antiques were meant to be lived with and enjoyed rather than admired only for their monetary value. Hugo was most often found in his library surrounded by his many first editions (Christie's sold his collection of incunabula, German books and atlases in London in a single-owner sale on 2 November 1994). He was also greatly interested in bronzes and silver, especially objects dating to before the French Revolution, and was particularly proud whenever a guest spotted a new acquisition.
Ruth had given up the stage, but her early training made her a clever and a gracious hostess. Later in life, her main passions were for her flowers and her dogs; visitors frequently found her in the green house repotting plants, usually accompanied by Big Bella, her huge Great Pyranese, and several smaller dogs.
The Klotz home saw many distinguished and talented guests: young actors or singers from the City Opera, sponsored by the couple; diplomats; artists including Sir George Solti and Samuel Barber; and the acclaimed Irish tenor Robert White, who would sing for the guests on special occasions. Ruth remained the consummate hostess throughout her life, even after Hugo's death when she became increasingly frail and the privations of the war years began to take their toll. Nevertheless, she was determined not to surrender to old age, and Bonniebrook Farm remained a favourite and welcoming destination for her many friends throughout her life.
New York, February 2006
Christa von Hassell
THE PROPERTY OF HUGO AND RUTH KLOTZ