German city restitutes a Renoir to the heirs of a Jewish banker and buys it back


The city of Hagen in northern Germany has restituted a landscape by Auguste Renoir to the heirs of a Jewish banker persecuted by the Nazis and repurchased it from them so that the painting can stay in the Osthaus Museum, where it has been on display since 1989.

The repurchase of the 1910 painting, View of the Sea from Haut Cagnes, was funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the German culture ministry and the Cultural Foundation of the States. The city of Hagen said in a press statement that the painting will in future be exhibited with information about its former owner, Jakob Goldschmidt, who was forced to flee Nazi Germany.

“The heirs of Jakob Goldschmidt are happy to have reached a satisfactory agreement for both sides in this matter after more than 15 years of intensive discussions,” their lawyer, Sabine Rudolph, said in a statement. “The restitution of the painting is a recognition of the fact that their grandfather suffered great wrongs under the Nazi regime, including huge financial losses.”

Goldschmidt was one of the most influential bankers in Weimar Germany. He began collecting Impressionist art and Old Masters in the 1920s and was also a major patron of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie. He fled to Switzerland in 1933, and then emigrated to the US, where he died in 1955.

A part of his art collection remained in Berlin as collateral for a loan. The Nazis seized it, including the Renoir painting of the Cote d’Azur, in 1941. The work was sold that year at the Berlin auction house Hans W. Lange. It was again offered for sale at Galerie Nathan in Zurich in 1960, and later purchased by the first president of the BDI association of German industry, Fritz Berg. After his widow died, Berg’s collection went to the Osthaus Museum in Hagen.

In a separate, similar settlement, the German Akademie der Künste said it had restituted a sketchbook containing drawings of garden cafes in Berlin by Max Liebermann to the artists’ heirs and bought it back from them to keep it in its collection. The Akademie der Künste purchased the sketchbook in 2005 at an auction house in Munich. Liebermann, who was Jewish, was the president of the AdK’s forerunner, the Prussian Academy of Arts, but he was forced to leave the association in 1933 after the Nazis took power.

After his death in 1935, Liebermann’s widow stamped all his unsigned works with a facsimile of his signature. The sketchbook contained the stamp—proof that it was in her possession until at least 1935. Martha Liebermann’s considerable assets were confiscated by the Nazis. She committed suicide in 1943 to avoid deportation to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt. After her death, the Gestapo seized the contents of her apartment: its inventory of her possessions includes “three sketchbooks.”

“It is unclear whether this sketchbook was still in her possession at this time,” the Akademie der Künste said in a statement. “However we can assume that Martha Liebermann had to give it up between 1935 and 1943 under the pressure of Nazi persecution.”


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