Gurlitt Case :

Hildebrand Gurlitt: Allied Documents, Interrogation and Collection List 1945-1950

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The art collection of Hildebrand Gurlitt was seized by the Allies at the Neue Residenz, Bamberg, Aschbach, in 1945.  On 8-10 June 1945 Hildebrand Gurlitt was interrogated at Aschbach by Lieutenant Dwight McKay of the US Third Army about his activities as a Nazi art dealer. The statement resulting from that interrogation, in which, inter alia, he denied ever handling seized art in France, and in which he lists some of the sources of acquisition of the works in the collection, is available here.

The Gurlitt Collection was taken from Aschbach to the Wiesbaden Collecting Point where it was stored pending a decision on what should happen to it. In November 1950 Gurlitt contacted the Collecting Point asking how he could achieve its return. He submitted various documents in support of his application, including testimonies from the director of the Chemnitz Museum, his secretary and  a Hamburg lawyer, all attesting to his anti-Nazi beliefs and willingness to help Jews. Also included is a statement by Gurlitt of 18 June 1948. On 13 December 1950 he was asked to provide proof of ownership for all the works in the collection. He submitted an annotated list, circles beside 71 works indicating that they had been in his family's collection in Dresden since before 1933, a cross next to the 68 Expressionist works to indicate that none were from Jewish collections and had mostly been acquired from the artist.  The Americans accepted his application and on 15 December 1950 the collection was returned to him with the exception of two paintings by Picasso and Chagall, which were returned to him on 25 January 1951.

The collection that was found by the Allies consisted of 117 paintings, 19 drawings and 72 decorative objects, all of which are listed with titles and descriptions. The works include Max Liebermann's 'Two Riders on the Beach' and the Otto Dix 'Self-Portrait', both presented by Dr Meike Hoffmann at the Augsburg press conference on 5 November 2013. Also on the list is the Max Beckmann 'Lion Tamer', sold by Cornelius Gurlitt at Lempertz Cologne in 2011. Other major artists represented are Macke (three paintings), Pechstein (one painting), George Grosz (one painting and one drawing), Degas (one painting and one drawing) and two further paintings by Max Beckmann. The Chagall is the gouache 'Allegorical Scene with Three Moons', presented by Dr Hoffmann. The Picasso is 'Portrait of a Woman with Two Noses'. Both these works were to be returned to France until Gurlitt produced a letter from the painter Karl Ballmer of Lugano who stated that both works had been given by him to Gurlitt as a present in Switzerland in 1943. In the 1945 Statement, available above, Gurlitt had stated that the Chagall "was an old possession of my sister" and the Picasso was "bought from the artist, Paris 1942".

To view the list of works in the Gurlitt Collection returned to Gurlitt, click here. To view the documents provided by Gurlitt in support of his application for their return, as well as the related Allied documentation including correspondence, click here. To view the annotated list from Gurlitt setting out the origins of the works in the collection, click here.

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