1921 painting "Odalisque" by Henri Matisse from Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

 

Posted on Nov 1 2013 – 11:00am by Randy Gener

In a shocking revelation, Dutch museums say that about 139 major works of art, including dozens of paintings by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky, all presently hanging in their buildings may have been Nazi loot, all of it likely having been taken forcibly from Jewish owners.

 

The revelation is the result of a major in-house investigations of Dutch art acquisitions since 1933, a review that focused explicitly on pieces for which there was any gap in their ownership record during the years that Germany’s Nazi regime was appropriating works from Jews, either by forced sale or outright seizure.

 

Critics are wondering why it has taken the museums nearly 70 years to examine their collections in a systematic way after World War II.

 

“These objects are either thought or known to have been looted, confiscated or sold under duress,” said Siebe Weide, director of the Netherlands Museums Association. He said returning them is “both a moral obligation and one that we have taken upon ourselves.”

 

The tainted art involved 69 paintings, including French artist Henri Matisse’s 1921 “Odalisque” painting of a half-nude reclining woman, which hangs at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, one of the country’s top tourist draws.

 

All Dutch museums that hold art from before the war participated in the review. They have identified names of 20 definite looting victims and linked them with 61 of the works. The museums said they are in the process of contacting or seeking the heirs, including those of Jewish art dealer Albert Stern, the deceased owner of the Matisse.

 

The museum had purchased the Matisse painting from Lieuwe Bangma, Stern’s Dutch representative, in 1941. But Stern was its owner before the war and the Bangma family is known to have given aid to his granddaughters during the war.

 

The Dutch are not the first to undertake such a review in the wake of a 1998 international conference on looted art in Washington, D.C. that found previous attempts to return looted art didn’t go far enough. Attendees from 44 nations proclaimed the Washington Principles, declaring that “every effort should be made to publicize art that is found to have been confiscated by the Nazis” and have it returned.

 

Many American and British museums have already conducted thorough investigations that have led to the return of looted art, though nothing has been done on a nationwide basis. In Germany, a government-led, nationwide investigation is underway.

 

The main association of Dutch museums is also launching a website to help explain the existence of art of dubious provenance in their collections and assisting heirs in claims. Visit the website on the Internet here.

Click here for riginal article.

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