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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Nazi Loot: Achenbach Painting Returned, 139 Stolen Artworks Found in Dutch Museums

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On Tuesday, Cologne-based auction house Van Ham reported the return of Andreas Achenbach’s “Scandinavian Landscape” (1837, pictured) to his heirs of Canadian-German art dealer Max Stern. On behalf of the three benefactors of the estate — Concordia University, McGill University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem — Canadian ambassador to Berlin Marie Gervais Vidricaire unveiled the painting, whose location was unknown for over 75 years.

In 1937, “Scandinavian Landscape” was forcibly sold out of Stern’s possession in a Lempertz auction in Cologne (no. 392). When the piece came up for auction again last year through Van Ham, the Lost Art Internet Database flagged it as having been listed by Interpol as part of the missing Stern estate. From there, the Max Stern Art Restitution Project by proxy of the Holocaust Claims Processing Office began negotiations with Van Ham in order to ensure the painting’s return to the estate.

“We are grateful to Van Ham and the HCPO for facilitating the return of this painting,” Concordia president Alan Shepard said in a statement posted on the University’s website. “Our close ties with European and American restitution agencies, together with sustained diplomatic efforts, continue to demonstrate that international collaboration is vital to addressing looted art claims.”

Meanwhile, the Dutch Museum Association announced the results of a four-year-long study, which discovered 139 artworks in their collections that are likely to have been looted by the Nazis or forcibly sold in the lead up to the Second World War. Topping the list of now-dubious artworks is “Odalisque” (1921), a nude by Henri Matisse, which currently hangs in the Stedelijk Museum. Others include several works by Wassily Kandinsky, a Moritz Calische from the Rijks Museum, and a Jan Toorop also from the Stekelijk.

The museum association has assembled documentation and images of all the works in question online (an English-language website is planned for early 2014) in the hopes that the works’ original owners or the families of those owners will step forward and arrange an appropriate solution for their return.

BLOUIN ARTINFO Germany

(Image: Andreas Achenbach’s “Scandinavian Landscape” (1837), courtesy Concordia University.)

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