Kolle’s self-portraits accompany his brief artistic career like a pictorial diary. He usually poses in a suit jacket, sometimes as a boxer or in a hunting costume and only rarely in the role of a painter. In his penultimate self-portrait he depicts himself as a vulnerable and melancholy figure, gaunt and with dark eye sockets. The red of his breast pocket handkerchief – which, like his lips, stands out against the work’s otherwise reductive palette – may be an allusion to his heart disease and thus to the finitude of his creative work.
Like Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the art critic, dealer and collector Wilhelm Uhde served as an intermediary between Paris and Germany. He championed Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Henri Rousseau. He was in contact with Max Beckmann when the latter lived in Paris, between 1929 and 1932. In 1932 Wilhelm Uhde gave the Städel Museum a painting by Helmut Kolle which was later confiscated by the Nazis. After the Second World War, likewise on Uhde’s initiative, three further paintings by Kolle were added to the Städel collection. Uhde made every effort to position his life partner in the ongoing discourse on art: by organising gallery exhibitions, writing a biography of the artist, and donating works by Kolle to museums.