“Cornelius Gurlitt”

Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel Defends Effort to Trace Owners from Nazi-Looted Art

On 25 November 2015, Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, the head of the German task force set up to determine the provenance of Cornelius Gurlitt’s art collection, defended the group’s slow progress by announcing the origins of a drawing by Menzel. The group has been accused of failing in its mission to provide swift answers through a transparent process. However Ms. Berggreen-Merkel defended the task force’s progress by the announcement that it had established that the drawing, Church in Hofgastein, by Adolph von Menzel had been sold by its Jewish owners in 1938 to help pay for their escape from the Nazis. The drawing is the fifth in the collection of about 1,200 paintings and drawings to have its provenance known in the two years since the group of experts was convened. The information on the Menzel drawing’s history comes just weeks before the task force is scheduled to issue its final report and be dissolved. “The work of the Gurlitt task force has been shrouded in secrecy, which is no way to conduct meaningful restitution research,” said Gregory Schneider, executive vice president of the Jewish Claims Conference. Ms. Berggreen-Merkel warned that despite the continued efforts, “There will be many works whose provenance will not be able to be definitively...

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Sotheby’s offers first painting from Cornelius Gurlitt’s trove of art

Sotheby’s has announced that the first painting from the Cornelius Gurlitt art trove will be put up for sale in its Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in London on 24 June. The painting, Zwei Reiter am Strand nach links (Two Riders on a Beach) (1901), by Max Liebermann, was found in good condition in Gurlitt’s possession, and is estimated to fetch between $540,000 and 850,000. David Friedmann, a Jewish art collector from Breslau, owned the painting until 1938, when he was forced to hand over his estate to Nazi authorities. The painting was bought in July 1942, four months after David Freidmann’s death, and then sold on to Hildebrandt Gurlitt. The painting was seized by the allies’ ‘Monument Men’ in 1945, but since the Nazis had destroyed most of its documentation, it could not be traced to its original owner, and it was returned to Hildebrandt Gurlitt. It was only returned to Friedmann’s heirs in May 2015, after it was found in 2012 in the possession of Hildebrandt Gurlitt’s son, Cornelius Gurlitt, alongside more than 1,400 other works, by artists such as by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, and Emil Nolde. David Toren, the only living heir to have seen the painting before it was seized by Nazis in 1938, commented: “I am ninety years old now and blind, so while the return of the painting after so many years is of huge personal significance, I can no longer appreciate the painting as I did all those years ago in my great uncle’s home. Though I am the only living heir to have seen the painting in my great uncle’s home, I am one of a number of heirs and we have decided to sell. The painting can now pass into a new phase of its...

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Pissaro painting confirmed as Nazi pillage

The Camille Pissaro painting La Seine vue du Pont-Neuf, au fond le Louvre (1902), from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt (1932-2014) has been confirmed as one of the works seized during Nazi pillages in the Second World War. The work’s origins were determined in 2014, however it is only recently that specialists have been able to confirm this theory. The piece is the fourth in a series of important artworks (by the likes of Matisse, Liebermann, and Spitzweg) discovered to have been stolen by the Nazis. The authorities have released a number of documents found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s Salzburg home that prove that he wilfully ignored information pertaining to the works’ origins. The process of restitution has already begun for the Matisse and Lieberman works, and will soon commence for the Spitzweg. Some of the heirs have complained about the slow progress of the...

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Munich Court declares Kunstmuseum Bern ‘rightful inheritor’ of Gurlitt collections

A Munich court has ruled that the Kunstmuseum Bern is the rightful inheritor of the Gurlitt collection, which allegedly includes hundreds of Nazi-looted artworks, the DPA has reported. The court rejected a challenge to Gurlitt’s will lodged by his cousin Ute Werner, claiming that Gurlitt was mentally unfit to write his will, in which he bequeathed the collection to the museum. Shortly before he passed away, Gurlitt had struck a deal with German authorities, allowing them to research whether Nazi-looted artworks were in his trove. So far, the German government has only identified three artworks as Nazi-looted, and has returned one. Ute Werner has repeatedly criticised the lengthy process in the media, and has decided to leak documents found in Gurlitt’s possession — which he had inherited from his father, Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt — for transparency. Cornelius Gurlitt, an art hoarder born in 1933 and the son of Adolf Hitler’s art dealer, passed away in May of last year aged 81. More than 1,400 works were found in his Munich apartment, including pieces by Picasso and...

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Kunstmuseum Bern risks onslaught of lawsuits related to the Gurlitt collection

Ronald Lauder, President of Jewish World Congress, has warned that the Kunstmuseum Bern would open itself up to an onslaught of lawsuits if the institution were to accept the 1,300-piece collection of late German collector Cornelius Gurlitt. Around 600 works from the collection are suspected to potentially be Nazi loot; Lauder told German newspaper Der Spiegel that to accept the collection would be to “open a Pandora’s box” with the probability of an influx of claims from Jewish heirs and German museums trying to reclaim works that belong to them. As previously reported, Kunstmuseum has claimed that it will not accept any work which is currently under restitution claims or is suspected to have been looted by the Nazis. Furthermore, Neue Zürcher Zeitung has acknowledged that it must be remembered that if the collection does not go to Kunstmuseum, it will probably end up in the hands of Gurlitt’s relatives, rendering restitution claims even more...

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