Hildegard Bachert, an art dealer who worked at Galerie St. Etienne in New York for nearly 80 years and helped expand the reach of German and Austrian modernism, died on Thursday in Brattleboro, Vermont, at age 98.
Bachert joined the Midtown Manhattan gallery in 1940 after meeting its owner, Otto Kallir, and convincing him to hire her by offering him English lessons.
Bachert and Kallir, who had both fled war in Europe in the 1930s, championed artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka, who were far less known at the time than they are today in the United States. In addition, the gallery also spotlighted self-taught artists like Grandma Moses, staging her first-ever solo exhibition in 1940.
St. Etienne also worked closely with unrecognized women artists, including the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, who made her U.S. debut in a 1958 show at the gallery, and Käthe Kollwitz, who also hailed from Germany. Bachert collaborated with the authors of Kollwitz’s catalogues raisonnés and contributed to the catalogue for the artist’s 1992 National Gallery retrospective in Washington, D.C.
Bachert became co-director of the Galerie St. Etienne when Kallir died in 1978, and, though she moved to Vermont in 2018, she had remained connected to goings-on at the gallery.
“We don’t do pretty pictures—our art is tough,” Bachert told the New York Times of her work in 2015. “If we have people who come in saying, ‘I’m looking for a picture that works over my fireplace,’ I say, ‘I’m sorry but I can’t help you.’”
Born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1921, Bachert, who was Jewish, was sent to New York by her parents in 1936. Their home was attacked during Kristallnacht in 1938.
Bachert is survived by a niece and nephew, Carol Schnabel and Robert Schnabel, and their children. In a statement, the gallery said, “Her absence will be deeply felt by all who knew her.”