Britain may be forced to return a £1 million John Constable masterpiece to its ‘rightful’ owner after claims it was stolen by Nazi art thieves.
A secretive group of Government art experts is to announce the fate of the painting Beaching A Boat, Brighton, owned by Tate Britain, in the next few weeks.
The work of the group has been compared to the film The Monuments Men, starring George Clooney, in which a team of experts are sent to Germany at the end of the Second World War to recover art stolen by Hitler.
The Tate may be forced to give Constable's Beaching A Boat, Brighton, pictured, following claims it was stolen by Nazis
Neither the Tate nor Government officials would yesterday name the art work in question – nor who is making the ownership claim.
But The Mail on Sunday has established it is Constable’s Beaching A Boat, Brighton.
It was owned by a French collector in 1908 – but turned up in a Cotswolds gallery in the 1960s where it appears to have been bought by a British woman called Mrs Rainsford who gave it to the Tate.
The arcanely titled Government-run Spoliation Advisory Panel is to rule on whether the Tate must give up the 1824 oil painting.
George Clooney and Hugh Bonneville in film The Monuments Men - which some have compared to the Constable case. In the film, experts are tasked with finding art stolen by Hitler
While less well known than Constable works such as The Hay Wain, it has been in the possession of the Tate since 1986. Its whereabouts during the German invasion of France in the war is unknown.
One art expert said: ‘Often, the original owners are no longer alive and it is not easy to track down their descendants. It’s not as glamorous as the George Clooney film.’
A Tate spokesman said: ‘The Spoliation Advisory Panel is currently considering a claim for the return of a painting at Tate. It will publish its findings in the next few weeks.’