He lost a Courbet fleeing the Nazis. His heirs are getting it back.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, May 30, 2024

He lost a Courbet fleeing the Nazis. His heirs are getting it back.
An undated photo provided by The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge shows the Fitzwilliam Museum. A panel has recommended that the British museum return a landscape painting by Gustave Courbet to heirs of a Jewish engineer who joined the French Resistance. (The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge via The New York Times)

by Julia Jacobs

NEW YORK, NY.- Shortly before the Nazi occupation of France in 1940, a Jewish engineer from a prominent family fled his Paris home with his mother, abandoning their apartment in the city’s affluent 16th arrondissement.

Among the possessions they left behind was a 19th century painting of a lush forest scene, with children playing under a canopy of trees. As the Nazis took over, the artwork — by Gustave Courbet, the French realist painter — was carried off and reserved for the collection of a top Nazi official, while the engineer, Robert Bing, joined the French Resistance, working to distribute clandestine newspapers on behalf of the movement.

A decade after it was stolen, the painting ended up at the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, where it has remained since.

Now, following a decision by a British government panel, the painting is expected to be returned to the heirs of Bing, who died in 1993. The panel’s report, released on Tuesday, determined that the artwork had been looted by Nazis, as the family had claimed, and should be transferred from the university’s collection.

“This is a deliberate seizure by the German authorities from a Jewish citizen of France with the diversion of the work of art to Nazi leaders,” the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel wrote in its decision. “We are satisfied that the heirs of the owner of the painting have a strong claim to restitution.”

The report noted that, while it was recommending the restitution, it did not fault the museum for accepting the looted Courbet, which it received through a donation in 1951 by an Anglican priest, the Rev. Eric Milner-White, who it said had also acted in good faith.

The Fitzwilliam Museum said in a statement after the announcement that “the Museum has cared for the work so that it can now be restored to the heirs of the original owners.”

The painting, listed in the museum’s collection as “La Ronde Enfantine,” and thought to have been painted around 1862, is among hundreds of thousands of pieces of art looted by the Nazis during World War II. The claim was brought to the panel in 2021 by the Mondex Corp., a Toronto-based company that assists heirs who are seeking restitutions.

According to the company’s research, after the painting was looted it was transferred to the Jeu de Paume, a Paris museum that the Germans turned into a depository for their looted art. There, it was inventoried with the title “Waldlandschaft,” which translates from German into “forest landscape.” A handwritten note with the painting indicated it had been intended for the collection of Hermann Göring, a Nazi official who was convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg trials.

The painting’s precise location in the immediate aftermath of the war had been uncertain, the panel’s report noted, until 1951, when a London art dealership acquired it from a Swiss dealer. Milner-White then purchased the work and immediately donated it to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

After leaving his home, Bing served as the assistant to Henri Frenay, a French Resistance leader who became an editor of underground newspapers that circulated in Nazi-occupied France. He was later arrested in Lyon, in 1942, and imprisoned until 1944, before the liberation of France later that year. He received the French Resistance Medal in 1945.

The heirs believe the Courbet was likely originally acquired by Robert Bing’s maternal grandmother who was an art collector and had been mentioned in correspondence by Courbet.

In deciding that Bing had been the legal owner of the work, the panel pointed to a newly discovered document, provided by the French government: a 1948 inventory of objects that listed what he said had been removed from his apartment by German authorities. In that inventory, he listed an unframed painting by Courbet that had been taken from the apartment’s living room. Although Bing did not describe the subject of the painting, the panel wrote that it believed he had been referring to “La Ronde Enfantine.”

“It is true to say that this conclusion is based, to some extent, on accepting the credibility of Robert Bing in his assertion in the inventory prepared for compensation,” the panel wrote. “Neither the Museum in this case nor our colleagues in France have advanced anything to call into question the credibility of Robert Bing.”

The report also noted that, while Bing had received more than 1.5 million francs in postwar compensation from the French government for items seized by the Germans, the painting had not been listed among them.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel was established by the U.K. government in 2000 to resolve claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era that is now held in U.K. national collections. (Spoliation refers to the act of plundering or having been plundered.)

The heirs seeking restitution include the wife and son of Robert Bing’s deceased nephew. Their representative, James Palmer, the founder of Mondex Corp., called the British government and the Fitzwilliam Museum “exemplary in their proactive, respectful and moral treatment of this restitution claim.”

The panel’s report did not place any value on the painting, and Mondex said it had not conducted a formal appraisal of its value.

If the painting is sold, the distribution of its value could become complicated.

After his death, Bing’s estate transferred it to his wife, who died months later. Forty percent of her estate was then bequeathed to her niece, the report noted, meaning that if the painting were to be sold, a portion of the revenue would legally belong to her niece’s children. The children had not responded to communications from the panel, the report said.

Palmer said the family had not yet decided whether to sell the painting.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

March 29, 2023

He lost a Courbet fleeing the Nazis. His heirs are getting it back.

The Robin Rice Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Giacomo Piussi

High end jewelry and fine art lead the way at Roland Auctions

National Gallery of Art acquires works by Beatriz Milhazes

Ernie Barnes leads Swann sale with 'Daddy'

CARBON 12 presents Amba Sayal-Bennett's third solo exhibition with the gallery

Sadie Coles opens an exhibition of works by Richard Prince

Bonhams presents an exhibition dedicated to works by Lynne Drexler in New York

Chiswick Auctions announces results of the Specialist Watches sale

'Portraits of Dogs from Gainsborough to Hockney' opens at The Wallace Collection

'Famakan Magassa: Insatiable Animal' now on view at albertz benda

MVPs in multiple pop culture categories best-sellers at Hake's Premier Auction

New Orleans Museum of Art appoints Redell Hearn as new Chief Educator

South Korean artist Jukhee Kwon's new exhibition Liberated is now open

Medals from one of the last survivors of Rorke's Drift to be sold at Noonans

Ethiopian artist Elias Sime at James Cohan this April

Milwaukee Public Museum provides first look at Thinc's designs for the future museum

53 years after Miles Davis' album, a fresh spin as 'London Brew'

Review: In 'Alma,' flamenco star Sara Baras warms up

Haring's Pop Shop and Warhol's Factory lead Heritage's April 18 Prints & Multiples Event

From Stagecoaches to monorails! Rare artifacts from Disneyland history bring in $1.8 million at Heritage

Scope Of Digital Marketing In Delhi

Game Design and Art: Why and How The Two Complement Each Other

5 Qualities of a Reliable Plastic Mold and Mould Suppliers

Low-Impact Activities To Add to Your Fitness Routine

Finding the Perfect Engagement Ring

Reasons Why You Should Get a Tobacco Heating System

Buying and selling Replica Nike shoes: An Ethics Guide

Choosing a Quality Fake Shoes Retailer: A Comprehensive Guide

Exploring the Jordan 1 Retro High White University Blue Black: A Classic Sneaker with a Fresh Twist

Ian Leaf Shares 8 Rules For Working With Clients As An Illustrator Or Book Illustrator

An Overlook Of The Feminine and Flirty Style of Cat Eye Glasses

How Franci Neely's Middle East Travels Have Shaped Her Appreciation for Islamic Culture and Art

Why you Should Hire a Cannabis Attorney

How Technology Has Changed the Way We Experience Art

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful