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GURLITT

‘Nazi-looted’ Gurlitt painting to be returned

Experts have established that a Camille Pissarro painting from the Cornelius Gurlitt art trove bequeathed to a Bern museum was looted by the Nazis and should be returned to the heirs of its rightful owners, the German culture ministry says.

'Nazi-looted' Gurlitt painting to be returned
Detail of Pissarro's painting. Photo: Public domain

The oil painting from 1902 entitled "La Seine vue du Pont-Neuf, au fond le Louvre" (The Seine seen from the Pont Neuf) is "absolutely certain" to have been looted by Hitler's regime, the ministry said on Wednesday.
   
"For the restitution, we are already in contact with the heiress of the former owner," Culture Minister Monika Grütters said in a statement, without identifying the family.
   
Gurlitt, who died in May aged 81, had hoarded more than 1,000 paintings, drawings and sketches, including masterpieces by the likes of Picasso and Chagall, in his Munich flat for decades.
   
The Pissarro piece was discovered among more works uncovered at his Salzburg, Austria home.
   
The artworks were acquired by his powerful father Hildebrand Gurlitt who was tasked by the Nazis with selling artwork stolen from Jewish families in the 1930s and 1940s.
   
Research by a German government-appointed task force has already established that the artworks "Seated Woman" by Henri Matisse and "Two Riders on the Beach", painted by Max Liebermann, should be returned to the heirs of their rightful owners.
   
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland, agreed in November to accept the controversial art trove left behind by Cornelius Gurlitt.
   
It agreed as part of an accord with the German government over the inheritance that it would return any works found to have been stolen by the Nazis.

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ART

Nazi era art to arrive in June and go on display in Bern

Artworks belonging to the controversial Nazi-era Gurlitt collection will soon be arriving at their new home in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Nazi era art to arrive in June and go on display in Bern
The works will go on display later this year. Photo: AFP?Fabrice Coffrini

The city’s Museum of Fine Arts, or Kunstmuseum Bern, said the first pieces would begin arriving in June, according to news agencies.

A museum spokesperson, Maria-Teresa Cano, was quoted as saying 200 pieces would be in the consignment delivered from storage in Germany. Many were in poor condition.

“We will not receive any works suspected of having being looted,” Cano said, addressing concerns that many of the works had been stolen from their Nazi-era owners.

The gallery plans to exhibit the works in November, in a joint exhibition with the Bundeskunsthalle federal art museum in Bonn.

The Bernese museum director Nina Zimmer said the pieces included good examples of classic, modern painting, including original expressionist paintings of the Bridge and Blue Rider schools.

The works are mainly drawings, watercolours, and prints, with very few paintings.

Following a lengthy legal battle, the Bernese art gallery was finally recognized last year as the legal owner of the art hoard it inherited from German collector Cornelius Gurlitt.

Gurlitt died in 2014, leaving behind more than 1,500 artworks, including valuable paintings and sketches by Picasso, Monet, Chagall and other masters.

His father was an art dealer tasked by Adolf Hitler with helping to plunder great works from museums and Jewish collectors – many of whom died in the gas chambers.

It came as a surprise when Gurlitt bequeathed his entire collection to the Bernese art gallery.

The museum accepted the collection in 2014, but left some 500 works of dubious provenance in Germany to allow a government-appointed task force to identify the heirs.

The task force concluded that one percent of the artworks could be shown without doubt to have been stolen from Jewish families under the Third Reich or sold under duress.

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