Antique Dealers: the British Antique Trade in the 20th Century

Peter Paul Kronthal

Peter Paul KRONTHAL (1896-1967) was an art and antiques dealer based in Germany during the period 1918-1935, before moving to London in 1937.
He was born on 16 June 1896 in Berlin to Dr. Paul Kronthal (1859-1926) and Clara Salomon (1869-1954). The paternal side, an old established Jewish family, was based in Poznan. The Kronthal Art Foundation donated several paintings to the local Museum. On the mother’s side, the Jewish family Salomon managed a business of leather goods in Berlin. In the 1880s, the Salomon brothers opened up a subsidiary company in London.
Dr. Paul Kronthal worked in Berlin as a neurologist. He published some innovative articles about sleep research. The couple took up residence Landgrafenstraße 19, in the prosperous urban quarter of Tiergarten. In order to fully assume their social upcoming, they converted to Protestantism and had baptised their two children Hilde and Peter Paul.
Peter Paul Kronthal left school at the age of 17. He worked for some month as employee for the Vereinigte Chemische Werke A.G. before joining the army in August 1914 as a volunteer. In November 1918, he returned to Berlin, badly damaged by war wounds from the last Verdun battle.
Profiting from his father’s connoisseurship and contacts as a long-time private art collector, he transformed a part of the parental flat in his fist antiques shop. A letter in the archives of the Staatliche Nationalgalerie Berlin (proposal of a Hosemann painting, 1925) is the only document of his activities.
His father’s death in 1926 constrained him to close the shop. He was hired by the owners of the Jac. Hecht auction house as an art and value expert, in order to organize the compilation of the auction catalogs. Some preface texts about private art collectors are identifiably written by Kronthal. The insolvency of the auction house in 1929 was the starting point for the creation of the “Internationale Kunst- und Auktionshaus G.m.b.H.” Kurfürstenstraße 79, a stone’s throw away form his parents’ address.
According to his own account, the average annual turnover augmented to 1 million Reichsmark in the early 1930s. He was portrayed in the newspaper “Berliner Tageblatt” as an “emperor-auctioneer” in October 1934. Like all art dealers of Jewish extraction, he suffered from the Nazi laws taking effect since 1935: The progressive exclusion of Jews from the art business forced him to close down the auction house. He tried to keep working clandestinely on his own account in spite of the restrictions, but one of his former employees denunciated him. A letter of recommendation for the “reliable merchant” and “well-informed art expert” Kronthal, signed by the art historian Max J. Friedländer, could not offer him any protection.
In September 1937, he immigrated to England. The Nazi state deprived him of the German citizenship. He applied to the British Home Office for the work permit as an art dealer. In 1940, he took over shares in Knox Antiques Ltd. in London but lost this business because of his internment – between July and September 1940 – in Huyton’s Internment Camp for so called “enemy aliens”. During the war, he was mostly without regular income. In 1948, he became naturalized British citizen. His working activities after the war are rarely documentable. Only private letters and fragments of a correspondence with the Rubens Expert Ludwig Burchard prove his activities as an art dealer selling at Sotheby’s and Christies.

(We are very grateful to Sandra Schmidt for composing this entry for the dealer Peter Kronthal; Kronthal was the great-uncle of Sandra Schmidt)

Trading Names

Peter Paul Kronthal 1918 - 1967


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Peter Paul Kronthal 1918 - 1967

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