Museum der Bildenden Künste Leipzig (Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts)
Research into Nazi-confiscated cultural property in the museum's collection
In 1998 a member of staff was appointed to undertake research into works which entered the museum's collection between 1933 and 1945. In 2001 a meeting of all city museums led to the creation of a provenance research working party (Arbeitskreis). Soon after, the city of Leipzig promised to ensure support to the overburdened museum personnel and a number of qualified staff were appointed to undertake/assist with provenance research at the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts, the city's libraries and the Museum of Municipal History from early 2002 onwards.
From 1998 onwards the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts's research has been undertaken in three phases. The first stage, and now the most advanced, focussed on acquisitons between 1933 and 1945. The second stage focussed on works created before 1933 and acquired after 1945. The third stage concerns the graphic arts collection, and here research is still at a relatively early stage.
In the last few years, the museum has been involved in the restitution of works from the Heine, Hinrichsen, Kirstein and Sonntag collections. The Heine collection included paintings by Corot, Courbet, Hodler, Renoir and Sisley, and etchings by Rembrandt, which had been confiscated during the pogroms following Kristallnacht in November 1938 and acquired by the museum in 1942. Many works from the collection of the renowned music publisher, Henri Hinrichsen, who died in Auschwitz in 1942, were acquired by the city from 1939 onwards. Some of these works have been returned to his family but others remain in the museum's collection. 105 works by Max Klinger from the collection of the famous publisher, Gustav Kirstein, were acquired in 1939 by the City of Leipzig after Kirstein's widow committed suicide rather than face deportation. These were returned to the surviving family in 2000. The collection owned by the artist Carl Sonntag was confiscated by the Gestapo after his emigration in 1939 and sold at auction in 1941. Six works were purchased at the auction by the City of Leipzig and were returned to the family in 1994.
Another current restitution application involves a sculpture by Max Klinger confiscated from the family of Richard Moritz Meyer after they were forced out of their house in Berlin in 1936 to make way for Hitler's new building of the Reich Chancellory.
Research into cultural property missing from the museum
365 works, the greater part of the museum's collection of modernist art, were confiscated as "degenerate art" in 1937. The museum also suffered losses during the Second World War. The museum building was destroyed by bombing on 3-4 December 1943. Most of the collection was in storage and survived. Overall, the museum is missing 151 paintings and 18 sculptures from war-related causes. In 1945 110 paintings and 5 sculptures were confiscated by the Soviet Army. With a few exceptions all of these were returned in 1957 as part of agreements between the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic.
Dr. Dietulf Sander, Leiter der Abteilung Gemälde/Plastik
Museum der Bildenden Künste Leipzig
Grimmaische Str. 1-7
Tel: +49 (0) 341 216990
Fax: +49 (0) 341 9609925
Central Registry Archives , Correspondence, 14 November 2002
Eckhard Braun, 'Die Restitution des Sammlung Kirstein', Jahresheft 2000, (Leipzig: Museum der Bildenden Künste, 2000), pp 45-48
Eckhard Braun, 'Rückgabeverfahren des Museums der bildenden Künste Leipzig', in Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste (ed.), Beiträge öffentlicher Einrichtungen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland zum Umgang mit Kulturgütern aus ehemaligem jüdischen Besitz (Magdeburg: Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, 2001), pp 202-231.Text in German, summary in English
Karl-Heinz Mehnert/ Dietulf Sander, 'Bilanz ziehen jetzt- unsichere Aussichten', Jahresheft 2001, (Leipzig: Museum der Bildenden Künste, 2001), 47-50
<http://www.mdbk.de/>, accessed 4 July 2007