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Hugo Perls Collection

Identifier: AR 6400

Scope and Content Note

This collection mainly documents the professional life of the art dealer and writer Hugo Perls. Prominent topics found among these papers include the philosophy of Plato and its application to aesthetics as well as the publication of the works of Hugo Perls and Eugénie Söderberg Perls.

Documents relating to Plato's philosophy will be found throughout the collection; much of Hugo Perls's writing concerns the Greek philosopher. The area of the collection where this can be seen most easily is among Hugo Perls's manuscripts, found in Subseries 1 of Series III: Writings. While living in Paris in the 1930s, Perls undertook a close study of Plato's writings. Some notes on these are among the notes in Subseries 2 of Series III. The results of this period led to his work, Platon, sa conception du kosmos, which was later published in translation in German. Many other works in this Subseries also deal with Plato's philosophy, including Das Geheimnis der Kunst, which examines the relationship between beauty, art, and aesthetics. Other material concerning Perls's knowledge of Plato is seen in Series II, where his correspondence with scholars defends his writing, and where a letter sent to David Baumgardt mention the creation of a Platonic Academy. Finally, the correspondence also holds letters and some documents on lectures he gave on Plato's philosophy.

The most prominent type of documents in this collection are the manuscripts of Hugo Perls's writings. There are often several drafts of items that Perls published, written in German, French, or English. Drafts usually contain many handwritten notes and corrections, and some versions may have differing page numeration. Correspondence with various publishers concerning the publication of his writing will be found in Series II, Subseries 3. Reviews of his published works are located in the last subseries of Series III, while informal opinions on his works may be found among the correspondence in Series II, Subseries 2.

Material pertaining to Perls's work as an art dealer will also be found in this collection. Most useful to researchers may be his manuscript Warum ist Kamilla schön? , which was published in 1962. This piece documents Perls's experiences as an art dealer, and includes descriptions of individuals he encountered in this profession, including Max Friedländer and Pablo Picasso. Photographs of artworks he owned and of his gallery in New York will be found in Series I: Personal. Correspondence concerning his work as an art dealer, especially of the financial aspect of the work, is held in Subseries 1: Art of Series II.

This collection contains a small amount of documentation on Eugénie Söderberg, Hugo Perls second wife. There are a few manuscripts of the writing of the Swedish journalist and author, located in Subseries 3 of Series III. In addition, a few letters sent from her to her husband is in Series II, Subseries 2. Lastly, numerous obituaries in Swedish for her will be found in Series I.


  • 1923-1976
  • Majority of material found within 1946-1965


Language of Materials

The collection is in German, French, English, Greek, and Swedish.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Hugo Perls was born in Rybnik in Upper Silesia (then Germany, now in Poland) on May 24, 1886. He studied law, philosophy, and art history at the Universities of Freiburg and Berlin. In 1910 Hugo and his wife Käthe Perls had their first child, Frank. Two years later they had another son, Klaus. After Hugo Perls completed his studies, he joined the German civil service, where he worked for a time for the Ministry of the Interior before serving in the German Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) in World War I.

In 1914 Perls began collecting artwork, and by 1921 was working as an art dealer, establishing the Käte Perls Gallerie in Berlin and collecting and selling the works of many well-known artists, especially impressionists. Among the works of artists included in his collection were pieces by Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Cézanne, among others. In 1913 Munch had painted a portrait of Hugo and Käte Perls.

Perls moved to Paris in 1931 because of the growing strength of the National Socialists in Germany, where he studied the works of Plato in their original language. At this time he also studied the works of Goethe and Kant. This research eventually led him to compose several pieces concerning Plato, his philosophy, and aesthetics. These articles were published in journals such as the Revue Philosophique, Mercure de France, and the Revue de Morale et de Métaphysique. He also gave lectures at the Sorbonne on Plato. In 1938 his research resulted in the publication of his first book: L'Art et la Beauté vus par Platon.

In 1941 Hugo Perls immigrated to the United States, where he lived in Manhattan. In the same year he married his second wife, the Swedish writer Eugénie Söderberg (1903-1973). His eldest son Klaus had established the Perls Galleries in New York in 1937, and during this time Hugo Perls may have assisted his son in the acquisition of artwork. In 1939 his son Frank opened the Frank Perls Gallery in southern California. For a short time after World War II Hugo Perls lived in Italy and traveled in Europe to further study collections of paintings. From this time until his death, Perls concentrated on writing and publishing his works, most of which concerned Plato and his philosophy and how his concepts could be used in judging and appreciating art. Perhaps most significant among his writing was his work Platon: sa conception du kosmos, originally published in 1946. This book, based on Perl's studies of Plato's original writings while in Paris, was republished in German twenty years later. Other topics focused on in his published works included the discussion of aesthetics and the relationship between beauty and art. His work Die Komödie der Wahrheit (The Comedy of Truth) also featured other topics such as German intellectualism and the growth of anti-Semitism.

Hugo Perls's wife Eugénie died in New York in 1973. After her death he married the writer Monica Schall. Hugo Perls died in New York in 1977.

Bibliography of Published Works

  1. "Mousa, étude sur l'esthétique de Platon," Revue Philosophique (Paris), March 1934.
  2. "Mousa, étude sur l'esthétique de Platon," (second article) Revue Philosophique (Paris), March 1934.
  3. "La Philosophie de Droit dans l'Oeuvre de Platon, " Revue Philosophique (Paris), 1936.
  4. "La Savoir et la Foi Religieuse dans l'oeuvre de Platon," Mercure de France (Paris), 1938.
  5. L'Art et la Beauté vus par Platon, Paris: Skira, 1938.
  6. Platon, sa conception du Kosmos, New York: Edition de la Maison Française, 1945.
  7. "Le Tyran d'aprés Platon," Oeuvres Nouvelles (New York), 1946.
  8. "Platon et Kant, Les 2 Concepts de Cause" in Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale (Paris), 1937.
  9. "Le Triomphe de la Beauté," Pagine Nuove (Rome), 1948.
  10. "Le Secret de l'Art dans l'oeuvre de Goethe," Revue Philosophique (Paris), 1948.
  11. Das Geheimnis der Kunst, Zürich: Artemis, 1959.
  12. "L'esthétique de Goethe," Revue Philosophique (Paris), 1960-1962.
  13. Warum ist Kamilla schön?, Munich: Paul List Verlag, 1962.
  14. Plato, seine Auffassung vom Kosmos, Bern: Francke Verlag, 1966.
  15. Die Komödie der Wahrheit, Bern: Francke Verlag, 1967.
  16. Goethes Ästhetik und andere Aufsätze zur Literatur und Philosophie, Bern: Francke Verlag, 1969.
  17. Lexikon der platonischen Begriffe, Bern: Francke Verlag, 1973.


6 Linear Feet


This collection focuses on the professional work of art dealer and Plato scholar Hugo Perls. Among the documents assembled here are an extensive amount of manuscripts, notes on his writing, some correspondence, clippings, photographs and a few manuscripts of the writing of his second wife, Eugénie Söderberg.

Custodial History

Donated in 1992 by Klaus Perls.


This collection has fourteen reels of microfilm.

  1. Reel 1: 1/1-1/36
  2. Reel 2: 1/37-1/42
  3. Reel 3: 1/43-2/4
  4. Reel 4: 2/5-2/10
  5. Reel 5: 2/11-3/6
  6. Reel 6: 3/7-3/13
  7. Reel 7: 3/14-3/18
  8. Reel 8: 4/1-4/8
  9. Reel 9: 4/9-4/13
  10. Reel 10: 4/14-5/5
  11. Reel 11: 5/6-5/24
  12. Reel 12: 5/25-6/10
  13. Reel 13: 6/11-6/38
  14. Reel 14: 6/39-6/45

Related Material

Two collections at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. pertain to this collection. The first of these is the Perl Galleries records, which consist of 66.3 linear feet and concern the Perls Galleries in New York. This collection is restricted until 2007. The second related collection at the Archives of American Art is the Frank Perls papers and Frank Perls Gallery records. Frank Perls was the eldest son of Hugo Perls, and this 37.5 linear feet collection holds papers of his as well as records of the Frank Perls Gallery he founded in Beverly Hills, California.

A collection of papers of Eugénie Söderberg, Hugo Perls's second wife, are located at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The LBI Library holds some of the published work of Hugo Perls, including his autobiography Warum ist Kamilla schön?, which describes his experiences as an art dealer and collector.

Processing Information

During reprocessing, similar materials were grouped together to form series and subseries. In addition, many manuscripts formerly titled 'miscellaneous' were examined closely and placed in the appropriate section of Series III with materials of a similar nature.

Guide to the Papers of Hugo Perls (1886-1977) 1923-1976 AR 6400 / MF 712
Processed by LBI Staff and Dianne Ritchey
© 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from HugoPerls.xml

Revision Statements

  • May 2012.: Description of Series II, Subseries 1 edited.
  • December 10, 2012 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.
  • August 25, 2015:: Box 7 (Series III, Subseries 5) added.
  • May 2016:: dao links added to Box 7 by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States