Eberhard Kornfeld, Art Dealer, Collector and Historian, Is Dead at 99

For more than a half-century, Eberhard Kornfeld, a renowned art auctioneer, dealer, collector and scholar, presided over an annual June auction under a tent adjoining his Galerie Kornfeld, which made its home in a grand 19th-century mansion in Bern, Switzerland.

A two-day event, the auction was a high point of the Swiss social season, at which Mr. Kornfeld — Ebi to almost everyone who knew him — typically sold millions of dollars of works by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Younger, Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and other old masters, along with those by more recent artists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.

Besides being an astute salesman, Mr. Kornfeld was a noted art historian and the author of heralded monographs, including a definitive 1979 study of the German Expressionist Kirchner.

“That’s what makes him such a seminal and unique figure in the art world,” Klaus Albrecht Schröder, the director general of the Albertina Museum in Vienna, said in an interview in 2010. Mr. Kornfeld’s passion for Kirchner led him to purchase the artist’s home in Davos, Switzerland, and restore it as a museum containing a vast archive of Kirchner letters and works.

Mr. Kornfeld enjoyed intense relationships with living artists, whose works he collected and sold. His Swiss compatriot, Alberto Giacometti, drew multiple portraits of Mr. Kornfeld and pleaded with him to write a comprehensive monograph about him. Mr. Kornfeld finally did so as a co-author in 2010, long after the artist died.

Mr. Kornfeld himself died on April 13, 2023, at his home, on the outskirts of Bern, the country’s capital. His gallery announced his death soon after, but it was not widely reported and only recently came to the attention of The New York Times. He was 99.

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