STEPHEN HAHN

Obituary
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HAHN--Stephen. The art world has lost one of its great dealer-collectors with the passing of Stephen Hahn on April 2, 2011. Stephen was born February 1, 1921 in Hungary and spent his formative years in Paris. He came to New York from post-war Europe and was drawn to art dealing which he learned from his father, who was a well-known art dealer specializing in the works of the Old Masters. During the war, he was deported from Portugal, as a French refugee, to Santo Domingo where he remained for 6 years, finding work as a surveyor. When the war was over, he returned to his shattered family in Paris, eventually studying teaching at the Sorbonne. At age 30, he moved to Greenwich Village in New York City and started buying and selling paintings out of the trunk of his car. He met Jean Dubuffet and became a champion of the relatively unknown painter. Eventually, he established the Stephen Hahn gallery on 75th and Madison, which remained a famous fixture for over two decades. Many well-known people visited the gallery and became clients, including Charles Laughton, Edward G. Robinson, Woody Allen, Edward Albee, Mike Nichols and Greta Garbo. Stephen continued his rise to prominence by representing Norton Simon at Sotheby's and Christie's auctions and he counseled him in the acquisition of many important pieces of his collection. His friends and colleagues included prominent European and American dealers and collectors, including Richard Feigen, Gene Thaw, Bill Aquavella, Thomas Gibson, Daniel Malingue, Alexandre Rosenberg, Leo Castelli, Heinz Berggruen, Klaus Perls, and many others. His personal collection was notable for its extensive depth, breath and quality. It included major works by Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse among other great modern masters, with a particular appreciation for Jean Dubuffet. Many of the paintings which passed through Stephen's hands now hang in the important museums, institutions and private collections of the world. Stephen was one of the founding members and an early president of the Art Dealers Association. He donated works to major cultural institutions both in the US and abroad. Stephen was not just a dealer but also a scholar of impeccable honesty and taste, with an encyclopedic knowledge on the history of any given painting. As such, he was called on many times to validate a painting's authenticity. His eye for quality was universally respected and he was internationally acknowledged as the authority not only on Picasso, but also Degas and Douanier Rousseau, In Clifford Irving's book "Fake" Stephen is mentioned numerous times in relation to a large collection of Picassos. Stephen Daniel Saidenberg and Klaus Perls were all in agreement: 43 of the Picassos hanging on the walls were fake. Stephen had a great passion for the musical arts. He was an opera lover, Wagner in particular. One of his great enjoyments was attending Ring Cycle productions around the globe. His devotion to music was clearly exemplified by his generosity as a benefactor of The Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA. Many of the young musicians and singers he sponsored have gone onto become some of today's esteemed classical musical talents, including pianist Vassily Primakov and soprano Susanna Phillips, who would often come to stay, practice and perform in his Montecito home. Stephen's legacy at the Music Academy lives on in the beautiful conservatory space he endowed, Hahn Hall, completed in 2008. Stephen's achievements are a testament to his fascinating character and many qualities. His dignity and savor-faire made him preferred among dealers and clients, his intelligence, mischievous wit, and charm made him a favorite at the table. His drive and competitive spirit was manifest in his love of sports. He frequently traveled with a tennis racquet. Stephen approached life with keen observance and thoughtfulness. He was truly kind and generous and very devoted to his family. A man who once wielded substantial power in his sphere entered the twilight of his life with touching grace and a lively glint in his eye. He is predeceased by his sister Agnes Brodie, survived by his wife, Carla, his sister Suzanne, his children, Robert, Elizabeth, Thomas. Isabella and Lily, his stepchildren, Zachary, Brandon, and Katharine O'Brien, six grandchildren, a niece and a nephew. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his name may be made to; Music Academy of the West, Attention: Gift Processor, 1070 Fairway Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108.

Published in The New York Times on Apr. 7, 2011