Thursday, September 17, 2009

Restitution: Settlement on Emil Nolde Work in Swedish Museum

Restitution: Settlement on Emil Nolde Work in Swedish Museum

The Web magazines ArtKnowledgeNews, and other media report that the dispute over ownership of a flower painting by German expressionist Emil Nolde, was been settled in Sweden where the Moderna Museet of Stokholm has agreed to return to Blumengarten (Utenwarf) (Flower Garden (Utenwarf)) to the heirs of Otto Nathan Deutsch, a German Jew who escaped to the Netherlands in the late 1930s.

The painting was stolen by the Nazis 70 years ago from the Deutsch collection, and in 1967 surfaced and was sold to Moderna Museet. Negotiations between the art museum and the heirs - two of whom themselves are Holocaust survivors - began in 2002. The work has now been sold on behalf of the heirs to an unidentified private collector who has agreed to loan it to the Moderna Museet for five years, and then will loan a series of other, undisclosed painting for another five years.

No media reports that I have read have commented on the irony of this situation - that Nolde in his lifetime was known for his expressions of anti-Semitism, or at least of his dislike of leading Jewish luminaries in Berlin and European art world. He had special dislike for Max Lieberman, leader of the Berlin Secession, and Paul Cassirer leading modern art dealer and arbiter of modern taste.

The ownership dispute was settled under the principles of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles, guidelines adopted by 44 countries that outline, among other things, procedures for dealing with art restitution claims. In June, the Jewish Claims Conference, listed Sweden with countries “that do not appear to have made significant progress.” The Claims Conference estimates that the Nazis stole around 650,000 works of art of all types.

The Deutsch heirs continue to search for other artworks which were lost during the Nazi period. A list can be found at the German Government website

1 comment:

Hels said...

I had been following the Swedish case very closely over the last few years and find the results both gratifying and troubling. The public response has largely been "why should those greedy Jewish children, who weren't even born in 1939, profit from Swedish decency? Sweden should give the painting back when the Jew Madoff gives his millions back and when Gaza is rebuilt by the Israelis".

But I am an art historian, not a student of politics, and I have another problem. Nolde is starting to sound like a German hero, struggling against the oppression that all modernists faced. You were quite right to point out the irony here.

Thanks for the link
Art and Architecture, mainly