An Amsterdam museum returns a 'matisse' to the Jewish household who needed to promote it throughout World War II | Culture | EUROtoday

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'Odalisca' (1920-21), by Henri Matisse.
'Odalisca' (1920-21), by Henri Matisse.Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

The canvas Odalisque, painted by French artist Henri Matisse in 1920, is to be returned to the descendants of the household of German Jewish textile businessman Albert Stern, who needed to promote it throughout World War II. The portray was acquired in 1941 by the Amsterdam museum of contemporary and up to date artwork -Stedelijk- and its administration confirmed this Tuesday the return to the heirs following the recommendation of the Restitution Committee. It is an advisory physique to the Government and considers it believable that the work served to pay for the Sterns' tried escape from Nazi persecution. It matches into the “involuntary loss” contemplated for this kind of returns.

The arrival of the portray to the Stedelijk museum is documented and the vendor was the Dutch consultant of Albert Stern's textile firm. The latter escaped to the Netherlands in 1937 collectively along with his spouse, Marie Ebstein, from Berlin. He was of Jewish origin and was fleeing the harassment of the racist insurance policies of National Socialist Germany, however the tranquility didn’t final lengthy. German troops invaded the Netherlands in May 1940 and occupied it all through the conflict, till 1945. Needing cash to keep away from a brand new persecution, Stern put Odalisque on the market and the Stedelijk purchased it for about 5,000 guilders on the time; about 39,000 euros on the present alternate price. The escape try was unsuccessful and the Stern couple had been deported: he died in 1945; she survived and emigrated to the United Kingdom. They had a son and a daughter.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and the model Zita, in 1928 in Nice.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and the mannequin Zita, in 1928 in Nice.Alamy Stock Photo

The work has been a part of the artwork room's assortment since 1941, and doubts about its origin have been fixed since 2013. That yr, the museum itself printed an investigation into the origin of the items that arrived through the Second World War. Although Matisse painted different odalisques between 1917 and 1930, this was one of many claims of the Stedelijk, which now admits “the sad story it represents due to his subsequent relationship with the unspeakable suffering caused to this family.” These are the phrases of Rein Wolfs, his director, who has described as a “step forward” the actual fact of getting been in a position to deliver “together with the heirs, this case before the Restitution Committee.” This physique, created in 2001, follows the so-called Washington Principles on Nazi-confiscated artwork adopted in 1998 by 44 international locations. Although they aren’t binding, they assist deliver collectively the completely different nationwide authorized techniques in circumstances like this.

Amsterdam City Council is the proprietor of the Stedelijk assortment, and Touria Melani, Councilor for Art and Culture, recalled that “returning works of art such as the Odalisque It can mean a lot to the victims.” “As a city we have a responsibility and a role to play in this.” In 2009, the Dutch Museum Association requested its members to research the place to begin of their collections to compile a list of works with suspicious circumstances from 1933 till the tip of the Second World War. It focuses solely on Jewish artwork and ritual objects in nationwide museums and the outcomes have been printed since 2013 on a selected web site that permits you to seek the advice of the historical past of every piece. In its database there are presently 172 objects thought-about suspected of getting been stolen, confiscated or bought by power. Of the almost 15,000 recordsdata of works misplaced in these circumstances obtained by the Association, 470 have been returned, in keeping with this web site.

'Painting with Houses' by Wassily Kandinsky (1909), which was returned to the Lewenstein family.
'Painting with Houses' by Wassily Kandinsky (1909), which was returned to the Lewenstein household.

Not all objects obtain the eye of Matisse's portray. Or from one other, titled Painting with homes (1909) and signed by the Russian expressionist Vasili Kandinsky. Also hanging within the everlasting assortment of the Stedelijk museum, it was returned in 2022 to the heirs of the Dutch collector Emmanuel Lewenstein, whose son, Robert, needed to escape from the Nazis in 1940 to France. His father was a stitching machine producer, of Jewish origin, who had purchased the work in 1923 for 500 florins. The Amsterdam City Council acquired it in 1940, at public sale, for 160 florins when the Lewensteins had already fled. This case took a number of turns earlier than its decision for the reason that involuntary lack of the work by its proprietor couldn’t be confirmed. The Restitution Committee declared in 2018 that the household was already in bother earlier than the world conflict and the descendants “have not demonstrated an emotional bond with the painting.” On the opposite, the work was “essential for the museum” and didn’t must be returned. In 2020, the heirs sued the Consistory and the Stedelijk, and misplaced the case.

That identical yr, the so-called Kohnstamm Commission, charged with investigating the Netherlands' strategy to the issue of artwork looted by the Nazis, concluded that some 3,800 items within the possession of the State had their origin within the state of affairs created through the conflict and downplayed the pursuits of museums. The City Council endorsed these arguments, and in 2021 it was agreed to return the Kandinsky portray. Delivered in 2022 to the descendants of the Lewenstein household, in February 2023, the Dutch newspaper NRC introduced that it had been bought by a non-public collector for 60 million euros. He mediated an public sale home operation.

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