German Collector Wants to Return Art Looted by Nazis

One piece, "Sitting woman" by Henri Matisse, will soon be returned to the descendants of French-Jewish collector.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Some of the more than 1,000 artworks found at properties belonging to the son of a notorious Nazi art dealer.
Some of the more than 1,000 artworks found at properties belonging to the son of a notorious Nazi art dealer. Credit: Reuters
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The lawyer of the German collector in whose possession police found Nazi-looted paintings announced that his client wishes to return all the artwork "stolen from their Jewish owners."

German authorities found more than 1,400 works of art at Cornelius Gurlitt's Munich apartment in 2012 while investigating a tax case. Gurlitt is the son of the famous German art collector Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was active during the Nazi period and died in 1956.

Gurlitt's lawyer was cited by the Suddeutsche Zeitung as saying that negotiations were currently held between Gurlitt and six plaintiffs about six stolen artworks in his collection. The lawyer told the paper that he was certain the negotiations will end soon.

Gurlitt's art collection includes hundreds of works suspected of having been stolen from Jewish owners by Nazis. However, Gurlitt's representatives claim only "between 40 and 50" artworks out of the 1,500 were possibly stolen.

In the next few days Gurlitt is expected to return one piece, "Sitting woman" by Henri Matisse, to the descendants of Paul Rosenberg, the famous French-Jewish art collector, the Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.

The Matisse was stolen in 1941 from a safe near the city of Bordeaux in southern France, where Rosenberg kept 162 pieces. From there it fell in the hands of Hermann Goering, Hitler's deputy, who as an avid art collector was behind the Nazis' great art looting of Europe. Next, the piece wound up with the Gurlitt family, who, on the orders of Adolf Hitler, bought and sold works of "degenerate art" from museums and Jewish collectors.

The Matisse, alongside 1,280 other artwork from the Gurlitt collection, is currently in the possession of Augsburg authorities after they were confiscated.

However, Gurlitt has another collection in his house in Salzburg, Austria with 238 pieces, among them 39 by artists such as Monet, Renuar, Courbet, Gaugin, Max Liebermann, Pissarro and Toulouse Lautrec.

Henri Matisse's "Sitting Woman."Credit: AP

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