A drawing of the interior of a Gothic church by Adolph Menzel and a painting by Camille Pissarro, hidden for decades in Cornelius Gurlitt’s collection, have returned to the heirs of the original Jewish owners, the Kunstmuseum in Bern and German government announced.
German Culture Minister Monika Grütters returned the Menzel drawing on 20 February to the heirs of Elsa Helen Cohen, who sold it in 1938 to the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius’s father, to fund her escape to the US. Pissarro’s View of the Seine from the Pont-Neuf was returned to the heirs of the French-Jewish businessman Max Heilbronn a few days earlier, according to the Kunstmuseum.
“Germany must do everything to clarify the personal fates of persecuted people like Elsa Cohen, who saw themselves forced into selling artworks at that time, and return them to the heirs with no ifs or buts,” Grütters said in a press release.
The two restitutions bring the total number of artworks returned to the heirs from the Gurlitt collection to four. Research by a German government team so far indicates a further 91 are strongly suspected of being looted or sold under duress, including works by Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Max Beckmann, Albrecht Dürer, Edvard Munch, Max Liebermann, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas.
The Kunstmuseum, which inherited Gurlitt’s collection, and the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn plan to exhibit a selection of works from the trove in two shows opening in November.