German museum exhibits Cornelius Gurlitt art trove

Cornelius Gurlitt

Included in the exhibit is Rodin’s ‘Crouching Woman’ (right). Image courtesy of Bundeskunsthalle


BONN, Germany (AP) – Some 250 art works that a reclusive collector hid from the world for decades, including pieces likely looted from Jewish owners under Nazi rule, are going on show at a German museum.

The paintings being shown at Bonn’s Bundeskunsthalle – including works by Albrecht Duerer, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro – are from the huge art collection hoarded by late collector Cornelius Gurlitt.

Authorities first stumbled on the art, stored in Gurlitt’s Munich home, while investigating a tax case in 2012.

The exhibition focuses on works of art believed to have been taken from their mostly Jewish owners as part of Nazi persecution and on works whose provenance hasn’t yet been established.

The Bonn show is part of a double exhibition titled “Gurlitt: Status Report.” A parallel show in the Swiss capital Bern features some 200 works from the collector’s trove, mostly from artists who were defamed by the Nazis as “degenerate.”

The art on display in Bern includes Expressionist works by artists such as Otto Dix and Franz Marc.

It is the first chance for the public to view any of the paintings and other works from the 1,500-piece collection that belonged to the estate of Gurlitt’s father, the Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt.

The Bonn show, subtitled “Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences,” aims to put the works into their historical context. It tries to shed light on Hildebrand Gurlitt’s life and also focuses on the fate of Jewish artists, collectors and art dealers who fell victim to the Nazi regime.

The works cover a broad time span, from Lucas Cranach via Carl Spitzweg and Edgar Degas to Max Beckmann.
Among the highlights are Monet’s Waterloo Bridge and the marble sculpture Crouching Woman by Auguste Rodin.

Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014, had squirreled away more than 1,200 works in his Munich apartment and a further 250 or so at a property in Salzburg, Austria.

His will bequeathed the works to the museum in Bern. A German government-backed foundation is working with it to ensure that any pieces looted from Jewish owners are returned to their heirs.

That has been a slow and painstaking task. So far, experts have identified six works as definitely having been looted by the Nazis – the latest of them last month, when researchers determined that the Portrait of a Seated Young Woman by Thomas Couture belonged to Georges Mandel.

Mandel, a Jewish French politician, was murdered in 1944. That piece is among those on show in Bonn.

The curator of the Bonn exhibit said that a lot of work still remains to be done regarding the provenance of much of the collection.

“The origin of more than 50 percent of the art pieces has not yet been solved,” Agnieszka Lulinska told the German news agency dpa.

The Bonn exhibition runs until March 11. The Bern exhibition runs until March 4.

By CHRISTOPH NOELTING and KIRSTEN GRIESHABER, Associated Press; Grieshaber reported from Berlin.

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