The recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Pasadena (USA) ends 20 years of litigation over the painting’s ownership. Landscape “Rue Saint-Honoré. Noon. Rain”, written by Camille Pissarro in 1897, after many decades of litigation, will remain within the walls of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. The final decision was made by the court.
According to the case file, in 1939, the owner of the painting, Lilly Cassirer, was forced to sell it. She did it to pay for the family’s safe exit from Germany. After World War II, Pissarro’s work changed several owners. And in 1976, Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza bought the landscape from New York’s Hahn Gallery. In 1993, the Baron’s collection was bought by the state and formed the basis of the Thyssen-Bornemisza State Museum in Madrid.
And now, 20 years after Lilly Cassirer’s grandson accidentally saw the painting in the museum, the landscape is finally recognized as a full-fledged part of the museum collection and can participate in exhibitions without restrictions. It is difficult to call the case of the ownership of Pissarro’s work a standard restorative process.
Firstly, the very fact of selling Pissarro’s painting under pressure has never been denied, and in 1958 Lilly Cassirer already received compensation for this work from the German government.
Secondly, since 1976 (more than 20 years at the time of filing the first claim), the painting has been in the public domain in the museum’s exposition (first private and later public), participated in exhibitions, and was published in catalogs. That is, they were not looking for it purposefully.
And third, with a tenacity worthy of perhaps a better application, the heirs of Cassirer filed lawsuits exclusively in the US courts, not wanting to take into account that their country’s legislation did not fully apply to other countries of the world (for example, Spain).
Finally, on August 17, 2020, following several similar judgments by courts of other jurisdictions, the Pasadena Court of Appeals, California, USA, ruled that after a full trial on the merits of the case, the owner of the painting is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation. The painting will remain in the public domain in the museum’s exposition, as it has been since 1992. Museum lawyer Thaddeus Stauber said they were satisfied that the court of appeal unanimously confirmed the foundation’s ownership of the Pissarro painting.