Monday, May 12, 2014

Treasures Refound

      Long Lost Artwork by Masters Recovered

The German Cornelius Gurlitt who had horded Modern artwork in his Munich apartment stolen previously by the Nazis from Jews died this past week.


 He bequeathed his hoard of artwork to the Bern Art Museum in Switzerland. But since the actual ownership is in question they are not quick to celebrate. Heir to priceless Nazi-era art hoard dies aged 81 and German recluse leaves art amassed under Nazis to Swiss museum


The man was originally investigated in 2010 by custom officers because he was suspicious on a train traveling from Zurich to Munich with a wad of undeclared money and his father was a famous art dealer for the Nazis. Ends up he never paid his taxes or registered with the government, they didn't know he existed.

Later he would be pursued for tax evasion. Here is an account in a German paper (translated a bit awkwardly): "But after a long search, the investigators found his apartment in Munich. The old man lives alone, they shadow him. And in 2011 they get a search warrant. Hit! All rooms are cluttered, shuttered windows and balcony door. Amidst the chaos, the 1500 paintings, prints, sketches. Max Hollein, head of Frankfurt's Städel Museum told BILD:'I know of no similar wealth.' "  Nazi treasure discovered in trash apartment!

Otto Griebel’s ‘Kind am Tisch’ (Child at a table)  

How did he get all these treasures, some never seen or even known about?  The German paper goes on to explain: "His father Hildebrand Gurlitt († 1956) was an art dealer in the Third Reich. On behalf of propaganda minister Goebbels he desperate Jewish art collectors for little money, sold by the Nazis expensive abroad. But many works, he kept to himself -., And bequeathed it to his son." 

                (Here in this picture Goebbels inspects the "Degenerate Art Exhibit in 1937)

"Adolf Hitler looks at works of art at the"Schreckenskammer" ("chamber of horrors"), a forerunner of the great travelling exhibition "Entartete Kunst" ("Degenerated Art") in Dresden August 17, 1935." Hoard of looted Nazi art may lead to more

Here another work found in Gurlitt's home   

The goes on to say: According to 'Süddeutsche Zeitung' Hildebrand Gurlitt told after the war, his art camp was burned in the firestorm of Dresden" (Historical Note:The City of Dresden was repeatedly bombed by the allies and a firestorm resulted making a devastation of the city and killing a half a million people over 14 hours. The WWII Dresden Holocaust - 'A Single Column Of Flame' )

                                                             Max Liebermann

But apparently his collection wasn't destroyed and was passed down to his son who hid it in his German flat in Munich. Cornelius Gurlitt was a reclusive man who had stashed over a 1,200 works of art that his father had brokered for the Nazis as their art dealer. His work was discovered two years ago during a tax evasion investigation. He had sold individual pieces over the years to live on. Now these pieces are of uncertain ownership.Heirs Without Opportunities

                       "Femme à sa toilette" - pastel by Degas sold Cornelius Gurlitt 1988


 When they confiscated all his artwork "Cornelius sat bereft in his empty apartment." The Devil... Later he was said to feel lost without the artwork and declared all of it legally owned by him. He was to have said in an interview: "I want them back," the reclusive 80-year-old accused of hoarding a collection worth £850 million said in his first interview. Cornelius Gurlitt told Der Spiegel magazine that the paintings, including works by Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, were his only source of pleasure...

                                                              Otto Dix

'What do these people want from me? I'm just a very quiet person. All I wanted to do was live with my pictures. I won't speak with them, and I won't voluntarily give back anything, no, no,' he told the magazine. 'When I'm dead, they can do with them what they want.''They have to come back to me,' Cornelius Gurlitt demands Nazi-era art hoard back  But he did start returning some works that had sketchy backgrounds.

                                                       Liebermann self-portrait

Vanity Fair Magazine in a wonderful piece written about the discovery of this large body of work entitled: "The Devil and The Art Dealer" describes the reclusive collector and how the art was found. "Cornelius Gurlitt was a ghost. He had told the officer that he had an apartment in Munich, although his residence—where he pays taxes—was in Salzburg. But, according to newspaper reports, there was little record of his existence in Munich or anywhere in Germany. The customs and tax investigators, following up on the officer’s recommendation, discovered no state pension, no health insurance, no tax or employment records, no bank accounts—Gurlitt had apparently never had a job—and he wasn't even listed in the Munich phone book. This was truly an invisible man." The Devil and the Art Dealer

                “Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace,” circa 1937 by Henri Matisse     
(This piece was actually the first piece in works of art to be returned to their original owners by Gurlitt. This went to Anne Sinclair, a descendant of  the Paris-based art collector Paul Rosenberg who lost his art in Germany. Family, ‘Not Willing to Forget,’ Pursues Art It Lost to Nazis)                                        

                                               1921 painting Odalisque by Henri Matisse

In the article "The Devil and The Art Dealer" it goes on to say: "Then there was that name. Gurlitt. To those with knowledge of Germany’s art world during Hitler’s reign, and especially those now in the business of searching for Raubkunst—art looted by the Nazis—the name Gurlitt is significant: Hildebrand Gurlitt was a museum curator who, despite being a second-degree Mischling, a quarter Jewish, according to Nazi law, became one of the Nazis’ approved art dealers. During the Third Reich, he had amassed a large collection of Raubkunst,much of it from Jewish dealers and collectors. The investigators began to wonder: Was there a connection between Hildebrand Gurlitt and Cornelius Gurlitt? Cornelius had mentioned the art gallery on the train. Could he have been living off the quiet sale of artworks?" The Devil and The Art Dealer

                                                                Gustave Courbet 'Village Girl with Goat"

                                                             William Lachnit

                                                          Bernhard Kretzschmar (an unknown work of his, he was a Dresden resident who lost many of his work in the firestorm, 1889-1972)

The Nazis had considered much Modern work "Degenerate" and took it to try and cleanse their society from what they considered artwork done by diseased minds. These are works by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and others.  Again the article "The Devil and The Art Dealer" explains this well: "...a tragic saga, which begins in 1892 with the publication of the physician and social critic Max Nordau’s book Entartung (Degeneration). In it, he postulated that some of the new art and literature that was appearing in fin de siècle Europe was the product of diseased minds." The Devil And....

 So for us, The World, this artwork has been "set free" and we get to enjoy it, again.


Don Quichote and Sancho Panza, by Honoré Daumier



Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863)


Girl at a Table, by Wilhelm Lachnit




For further follow up on this story read this article on how in the final days of Gurlitt's life he decided to redeem his name and his father's and have the works either returned to original heirs of owners and the rest donated to a Swiss Museum: Inside the Deathbed Deal With Cornelius Gurlitt to Return Art Looted by Nazis

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