Report: Late Art Collector Willed Nazi-era Trove to Swiss Museum

Cornelius Gurlitt's collection of works by Picasso, Monet and others is worth far more than the Bern museum's current art.

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Paintings by Chagall, Rodin, Matisse and others were among 1,400 artworks found at Cornelius Gurlitt's Munich home.
Paintings by Chagall, Rodin, Matisse and others were among 1,400 artworks found at Cornelius Gurlitt's Munich home. Credit: AFP
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BERLIN - Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive art collector who died Tuesday in Munich, willed his collection to the art museum in Bern, Switzerland, according to German media reports.

According to radio station NDR and newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, Gurlitt’s will named the museum as the beneficiary.

The museum, which opened in the 19th century, holds a collection of over 3,000 drawings and sculptures, as well as 48,000 prints, pictures and video clips. The museum has works by Picasso and Paul Klee in its collection.

Gurlitt, the son of an art dealer who was permitted by the Nazis to sell confiscated art even though he was deemed a quarter Jewish, had in his possession works by Picasso, Monet and many others, together worth far more than the museum’s collection.

Gurlitt’s collection, which numbered some 1,300 paintings, is in the hands of German authorities, which confiscated it from his Munich apartment in 2011.

A committee of experts is supposed to finish its provenance examination of the paintings to determine which legally belonged to him and which were confiscated from Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust era.

If Gurlitt’s will is probated as is, any paintings determined to be his will go to the Swiss museum. The remainder will go to the families of the heirs, if they can be traced.

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