Art taken by Nazis found in Munich home

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Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,908
Hercynian Forest
A very interesting case - who would have thought what a treasure trove can be found in such a hideous postwar building!



I think it is good news for all lovers of art, although one can as well be infuriated that the artworks have not been found earlier.

Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old owner of the neglected, littered Munich apartment, is the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895-1956), one of only four art dealers who were allowed to deal with what the Nazis considered degenerate art. Hildebrand Gurlitt himself was of partially Jewish origin and very interested in avantgardist artworks. The painting he collected were in part removed from German museums, in part sold under more or less pressure by enemies of the Nazi regime, especially persons of Jewish origin in Germany and France. Of course, he also bought art under normal conditions, and it will be difficult to find out what was normal and what was not.

After the war ended, Hildebrand Gurlitt claimed that the artworks had been destroyed in his Dresden apartment, which obviously was a lie. His son Cornelius was approximately 12 years old when the war ended, so he did not commit any crime in this regard. It will be difficult to clarify the provenance of each single painting; artworks of such value usually attract vultures who smell a profitable business, and it will be difficult to distinguish between those vultures and those who have a legitimate claim. Also, it is not possible under the rule of law to just remove the paintings from the current owner; it is well possible that he has a legitimate claim to some of them.
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,477
South of the barcodes
Since some of the paintings have been mentioned to be unknown and unlisted though by famous artisists its unlikely ownership could be proved anyway.

At best they would be returned to the German state since.

the curious one is if the man was offered 10% of its sale value and then used the money to flee the country then he has legitimately been paid for it even if it was a bad deal. Its unlikely the family would be able to get it back unless the government was feeling guilty.

On the other hand if it was classed as 'degenerate art' and seized without compensation by the nazis then the family must be able to claim and considering some of the names being mentioned theres going to be serious money involved.
 
Jun 2013
808
West Palm Beach, Fl
When I heard the story I thought that some of them or all are forgeries. I remember the story of Goering buying forgeries thinking they were real. The fact that a number of these pieces of famous artists were unknown shows that they could be forgeries. I Know the art experts have been studying them for a few years, but those forgers are pretty good.
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,908
Hercynian Forest
So the artwork ends up the property of the German state after all, quite ironic.
Germany adheres to the so-called Washington Principles that give a frame of how to handle art looted by the Nazis. This is why it is very likely that artworks whose provenance can be established will of course be restituted to the rightful owner.

However, not all artworks in that apartment have been looted. And even those which have been may well have been taken out of German museums.

Washington Principles:
Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art 3 December 1998

In contrast, much of the art looted from Germany after WWII by the victorious powers has not been given back. So if somebody wants to see autographs of Beethoven or prehistoric archeological treasures, he in many cases should not go to the rightful owners - museums in Berlin - but better to institutions in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg) or Poland (Cracow).

See for example my old thread on the topic:
http://historum.com/european-history/58927-german-art-looted-during-after-world-war-ii.html
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,181
Italy, Lago Maggiore
The curious aspect of this is that many of those artworks were disliked by Nazis [Hitler and company preferred romantic art, they hated expressionism and similar]. They even organized an exhibition to put together this "negative art".

I wonder why, if these artworks were so negative, they didn't destroy them like they destroyed "negative" books ... may be those artworks valued a bit more than books ...

Money won, ideology lost ...
 

Grimald

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
5,908
Hercynian Forest
The curious aspect of this is that many of those artworks were disliked by Nazis [Hitler and company preferred romantic art, they hated expressionism and similar]. They even organized an exhibition to put together this "negative art".

I wonder why, if these artworks were so negative, they didn't destroy them like they destroyed "negative" books ... may be those artworks valued a bit more than books ...

Money won, ideology lost ...
I think that was the job of people like Gurlitt - to sell off the artworks deemed "degenerate" and make money. Of course, much of the looted art comprises "non-degenerate" artworks, which the Nazis stole and collected for their own purposes. This is also true for the current treasure trove in Munich; next to modern artworks (e.g. Picasso, Chagall, Marc, Nolde, Renoir, Liebermann, Beckmann, Matisse), there also older ones (e.g. Spitzweg and even Dürer).

The case is complicated, and the authorities have not yet made public all they know. Obviousy, at least a part of the collection was requisitioned by the Allies after WWII - and then restituted to Hildebrand Gurlitt, the father of the current "owner".

It is often difficult to tell who has claim to an artwork. For example, The Museum Ludwig in Cologne is about to restitute a painting by Oskar Kokoschka (Portrait Tilla Durieux, 1910) to the heirs of the Jewish arts dealer Flechtheim. The Cologne Museum bought the artwork in good faith in 1946, that is after WWII. However, the previous owner bought it in 1934 from Flechtheim. Now, in 1934, the Nazis were already in power; however, this does not necessarily mean that the price for the painting was incorrect. Given that Flechtheim already had been in financial trouble well before 1933 and had started selling off artworks, I think the claim of the heirs is indeed doubtful. There are of course always lawyers who are happy to accept such cases.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,181
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I think that was the job of people like Gurlitt - to sell off the artworks deemed "degenerate" and make money. Of course, much of the looted art comprises "non-degenerate" artworks, which the Nazis stole and collected for their own purposes. This is also true for the current treasure trove in Munich; next to modern artworks (e.g. Picasso, Chagall, Marc, Nolde, Renoir, Liebermann, Beckmann, Matisse), there also older ones (e.g. Spitzweg and even Dürer).

The case is complicated, and the authorities have not yet made public all they know. Obviousy, at least a part of the collection was requisitioned by the Allies after WWII - and then restituted to Hildebrand Gurlitt, the father of the current "owner".

It is often difficult to tell who has claim to an artwork. For example, The Museum Ludwig in Cologne is about to restitute a painting by Oskar Kokoschka (Portrait Tilla Durieux, 1910) to the heirs of the Jewish arts dealer Flechtheim. The Cologne Museum bought the artwork in good faith in 1946, that is after WWII. However, the previous owner bought it in 1934 from Flechtheim. Now, in 1934, the Nazis were already in power; however, this does not necessarily mean that the price for the painting was incorrect. Given that Flechtheim already had been in financial trouble well before 1933 and had started selling off artworks, I think the claim of the heirs is indeed doubtful. There are of course always lawyers who are happy to accept such cases.
Well, according to my right studies [Italian right of course], possession is not equal to property. So regarding those artworks we should know, object by object, how the possession passed to the last possessor and if the modality can invalidate any property transfer.

The example you make is interesting [and questionable in both the senses] since it falls under the circumstances of "unfair sale", that is to say when a subject in conditions of power, the buyer, takes advantage from this imposing a low price to the seller. Usually in a trial the "context" influences the judgment [the meaning of "unfair" can be extended to anyway defend the "weak part" in the contract]. This is why, I guess, the Museum is going to give back the artwork: before of a court the passage of possession couldn't be considered also a transfer of property. And probably also "diplomatic" considerations about the image of the institution are suggesting something.

At the end, it's a really complicated matter which requires an analysis for any single object. Avoiding to consider the "treasure" as a whole collection in an unitary way.
 
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