1904. Oil on canvas. 86 x 75 cm. Private collection. Read Note.
Harry Graf Kessler (1868-1937) was a German art collector and patron, museum director, publisher, writer, politician and diplomat. Harry was the son of the German banker Adolf Wilhelm Kessler (1839-1895) and his wife Irin Alice Kessler, nee Blosse-Lynch (1844-1919), who came from a noble Irish family. There were persistent rumors during Harry's life that his father was really the German Kaiser Wilhelm I, and not Adolf Kessler.
Kessler was born in France, where his parents were temporarily staying and his childhood was spent in equal parts in France, England and Germany. Later in life, he traveled frequently throughout Europe and served as a diplomat under the Weimar Republic. As a result, he was often described as a "man of the world" and said that he felt himself to be a member of one great European community. The First World War affected him deeply and made him a confirmed and outspoken pacifist.
Kessler became the director of the Weimar Museum of Arts and Crafts in 1903. He believed that art should be accessible to everyone, and in 1904 embarked on an ambitious program to publish more art books, which eventually led him to enter the publishing business.
Kessler despised anti-Semitism and spoke out strongly against it. In 1922, he wrote the biography of Walther Rathenau, a German-Jewish politician murdered by right-wing extremists. He was also an outspoken opponent of the Nazis, and this made him a persona non grata in Germany after their rise to power. Kessler spent the last years of his life in France.