Paul Cezanne, French,1839-1906
Self PortraitOil on canvas Musee d'Orsay, Paris
It's art in limbo. Masterpieces by, Manet, Degas, Chagall, Delacroix, Monet, Max Liebermann, Cézanne, Pieter de Hooch and others are casualties of war, lost to their original owners through looting, forced sales or some, ordered taken by Hitler himself during WWII. The Soviet Red Army alone is reputed to have stolen two and a half million art objects, from Germany at the end of the war. Claimed as reparations by Stalin for the terrible damage and loss of life inflicted by the Nazis on the Soviet Union, these trophies more often than not, were stolen from the victims of the Third Reich. With each new disclosure, slowly, but surely these last prisoners of war are coming home.
As reported by the New York Times there is currently cooperation between the Israeli government and France to restore some of the paintings to their rightful owners. Such action has involved intensive negotiations and the passage of a law by the Israeli Parliament. The Israel Museum has opened an exhibition of important art looted by the Nazis from France and then returned after the war. But some works were never reclaimed, most likely because the owners were killed in the Holocaust.
The French exhibition is titled “Looking for Owners: Custody, Research and Restitution of Art Stolen in France During World War II.” The 53 French-held paintings are among some 2,000 works still not restored to their owners or descendants and maintained by French museums. The Israeli collection is smaller and less distinguished but includes an important Schiele cityscape of his mother’s birthplace, “Krumau — Crescent of Houses (The Small City V),” whose splayed arrangement of the houses carries an implicit sexual power.
Not all of this "trophy art" is good, but much of it is. Learn more about these victims of war by visiting: http://www.lootedart.com/ and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem where you can search a database of stolen art. --Ruth Mitchell