Cornelius Gurlitt to return art to their original owners

Claude Monet's "Waterloo Bridge", which according to the BBC has not been seen in 75 years
Claude Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge”, which according to the BBC has not been seen in 75 years

Back in November, Germany’s Focus magazine reported that German tax officials had discovered a trove of hundreds of works of art by Matisse, Chagall, Picasso, Renoir and others. They were found in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of an art dealer during the Nazi-era named Hildebrand Gurlitt. Well now it seems the inevitable decision has been made by Gurlitt to return the works of art to rightful owners. This seemed the inevitable result, it was just a matter of whether court action would be necessary to compel the return of many of these objects. And it may still, but for now Gurlitt appears to be making fast efforts to settle claims over these works.

The New York Times reports:

Mr. Gurlitt’s lawyers are in talks to return “Seated Woman/Woman Sitting in Armchair” to the descendants of Paul Rosenberg, a French art dealer whose family recognized the work when it was made public last year.

“The agreement is not yet signed, but it will certainly happen,” Mr. Gurlitt’s spokesman, Stephan Holzinger, said.

Christoph Edel, a lawyer appointed by a Munich court to handle Mr. Gurlitt’s health, financial and legal affairs, told the German broadcaster ARD that more deals were coming. Mr. Gurlitt, 81, who has heart problems, underwent surgery recently and has been slow to recover, leading the court to appoint a legal guardian.

But it is also true that the amount of art Gurlitt has in his possession keeps growing larger. Bloomberg Businessweek reports:

In February, another 60 works of art were found in a house in Salzburg, Austria. A preliminary assessment has found no evidence that the pieces in Austria were stolen or looted by the Nazis, Holzinger said at the time.

The Salzburg portion of Gurlitt’s collection is bigger than was initially apparent and contains 238 art objects, including 39 oil paintings, according to the statement released by Holzinger yesterday.

Of the 39 paintings, seven are attributed landscape painter Louis Gurlitt, who died in 1897 and was the grandfather of Cornelius Gurlitt. Among the other paintings and watercolors are works by Claude Monet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Eduard Manet, Gustave Courbet, Camille Pissaro, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Max Liebermann, Paul Cezanne and Emile Nolde, according to the statement.

Stephen Evans for the BBC has a video with access to the undisclosed location where much of this art is being stored.

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