The Discovery of Nazi-Confiscated Artwork in Munich

by Aileen Mitchell 14. January 2014 15:00

Historic Discovery

The art world was recently sent into sent into a state of excitable apoplexy when a collection of 1,500 artworks, originally confiscated by the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s, were discovered in Munich. The horde of artistic treasures is believed to include works by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse.

The pieces were originally banned and confiscated by the Nazis on the grounds that they were "degenerate", and others were stolen, or their Jewish art collectors forced to sell them for practically nothing at all.

It could be one of the biggest and most important discoveries of recovered looted art, with investigators placing an initial estimate and value on the art works at about one billion Euros (£846m; $1.35bn).

The pieces were originally found by pure happenstance in early 2011 during a routine tax investigation of Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of a Munich art dealer, suspected of tax evasion. Gurlitt Jnr had kept the stash of art works in a darkened room, occasionally selling some of them when he needed extra money.

A Treasure Trove Of Art

The Nazis were, in fact, not fans of practically every piece of modern art, labelling it as degenerate and banning it for being either un-German, or being the products of Jewish artists.  The works were either confiscated or destroyed and others sold off to collectors for a pittance.

They particularly hated Picasso, whose piece Guernica showed a German bombing during the Spanish Civil War. Art dealer Paul Rosenberg - who represented both Matisse and Picasso - had no choice to leave his collection behind when he was forced to flee France in 1940.

It’s reported that there are warrants for at least 200 of the artworks – one including a portrait of a woman by Matisse.  For the time being, this treasure trove of historical art is being kept under lock and key at a secure warehouse in Munich.

It’s estimated by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum that the Nazis seized approximately 16,000 works of art.  

Tags:

Art History | Artists | The Art World

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