Nazi-looted painting found in Swiss museum

A painting looted from a Berlin Jewish family by Nazis has been found by US authorities at the Kunsthaus museum in Zurich, museum officials said on Tuesday.

Nazi-looted painting found in Swiss museum

Confirming a report by local media, the museum said that the painting was an 1887 portrait called Madame La Suire by Swiss painter Albert von Keller, who was popular in Berlin and Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century.

The painting was acquired by the Sommerguths, a rich Jewish couple from Berlin who had a substantial collection of 106 paintings, including Renaissance masterpieces as well as works by Camille Pissaro.

But after the Nazis came to power in Germany, they were forced to give up the collection, which was sold during an auction in 1939.

Alfred Sommerguth, who acquired his fortune as co-director of the German tobacco manufacturer Loeser & Wolff, managed to flee to Cuba in 1941 at the age of 82, before reaching New York where he died a destitute in 1950.

His wife Gertrude died four years later.

The painting was found by chance, during an exhibition on von Keller organised by the Zurich museum.

“We had received a heritage donation of 350 von Keller paintings from the widow of a rich Zurich collector, on condition that we organise an exhibition of the paintings,” said a museum spokesman.

In New York, the authorities charged with finding paintings stolen or confiscated from Holocaust victims noticed the portrait and sought explanations from Zurich.

It turned out that the donation to the museum was made in 2006, after the death of the widow of Oskar Mueller, a von Keller collector.

After the origins of the painting were verified, the Sommerguth heirs decided to leave the painting with the Zurich museum. However, they asked for a sign be put up to indicate its origins and the fact that it was part of Nazi spoils.

According to the museum’s spokesman, the painting is worth an estimated 10,000 francs ($10,982) today.

An investigation is ongoing regarding the origins of two other paintings from the Müller collection, said the spokesman.

It is not the first time that a painting from the Sommerguth collection was found. In 2008, another painting was found on a Sotheby’s auction catalogue.

Titled “Scene of a forest with a castle, on the water front,” by Karl Blechen, the work was then taken off the sale and returned to the family’s heirs.

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Art project shows the scope of Switzerland’s extraordinary glacier loss

An art project has shed light on the sheer scope of Switzerland’s glacier loss in recent years due to climate change.

Art project shows the scope of Switzerland’s extraordinary glacier loss
Photo: Studio Oefner/ETH Zurich

The project looks to “visualise 140 years of glacial retreat through an interactive network”. 

READ: Swiss glaciers shrink ten percent in five years 

The project is led by Swiss artist Fabian Oefner, who has reproduced the receding glaciers using neon lines which contrast with images of the glaciers as they currently stand. 

In a collaboration with with Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and Google mapped the shrinking glaciers over time. 

READ: Swiss 'glacier initiative' collects 120,000 signatures 

“Im interested in the concept of time and how change shapes the way we see reality”, Oefner says. 

Using drones equipped with LEDs, Oefner used real representations of glacial loss as the frame for the project. 

“I looked at maps where you could see the glacier in its current state and dozens of lines drawn on the map in front of it. Each of these lines represented where the glacier was in the past few decades,” Oefner said. 

“I wanted to find a way to transport the scientific data and bring it into reality”.