The Thyssen Art Macabre is not only the history of one of the world’s largest art collections, it is also the history of the Thyssens’ industrial past and the creation of the German fortune that helped fund the family’s art collection.
By 2002, when Heini Thyssen died, the collection had already been divided between The Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid; Heini’s Spanish widow, Tita Cevera and his various offspring. By 2006, when Quartet published this book, it was also becoming obvious that the Thyssen family fortune, was unlikely to ever re-achieve its spectacular pre-war levels, while the ethical and financial problems of Thyssen AG, their corporate nemesis, were becoming increasingly more obvious.
Having been obliged to merge with the legendry Krupp organisation; the ThyssenKrupp corporation was subsequently discovered to have been involved in a seemingly endless series of public scandals, while spectacular losses resulting from ill advised and managed foreign investment, precipitated the creation of massive debts and a huge fall in their share price. This has now reached a point where, once again, a break-up of ThyssenKrupp is a foreseeable possibility.
The Thyssen Art Macabre is unquestionably a fascinating story of both the rise and the fall of what was once one of the richest families in the world and its industrial and artistic heritage. Meanwhile, Litchfield remains optimistic that one day both the family and the corporation will accept the reality of their past and, like many other German industrialists, profit both morally and financially from their transparency.
David R Litchfield is a writer, publisher, journalist and documentary film maker. He spent fourteen years researching this book in Germany, the USA, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Monaco, Bermuda and Spain.