Dutch museum returns Kandinsky painting to Jewish heirs

Wassily Kandinsky, Bild mit Häusern, 1909, oil on canvas.
Mondex Corp.

Monday, painting Picture with Häusern by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky was transferred from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to the heirs of the former Jewish owners. The painting was the subject of a long dispute between the municipality of Amsterdam and the heirs.

A Jewish couple, Robert Lewenstein and Irma Klein, had sold the work as they tried to flee the Netherlands after the Nazi invasion during World War II.

The couple’s heirs filed for restitution of the painting in 2013, and five years later the city’s restitutions committee ruled in a binding opinion that the municipality was not required to return. After the establishment of a new framework, in 2021, the municipality decided to enter into consultation with the heirs in order to reach a transactional agreement which would lead to the return of the painting. Picture with Häusern is now given to the heirs.

“As a city, we bear a great responsibility in dealing with the untold suffering and injustice inflicted on the Jewish population during World War II,” Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani said in a statement. “To the extent that something can be restored, we as a society have a moral duty to act accordingly. This certainly applies to the many works of art that were in the possession of Jewish citizens and were looted by the Nazis or were otherwise lost to the owners.”

The expressionist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was an important pioneer of abstraction in the visual arts. His painting Picture with Häusern, made in 1909, shows a figure in a colorful and abstract landscape. Acquired in 1940, the work was part of the permanent collection exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum.

“The Municipality and the Heirs agree that the Restitution does justice to the principle of returning works of art that were involuntarily removed from possession during World War II due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime to the heirs of the then owners when possible,” reads a statement from the museum.

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Lewenstein family’s journey to achieve the justice, dignity and respect they have rightly sought for so many years,” said James Palmer of Mondex Corporation. , who assisted with restitution, adding: “The Netherlands can be proud that the new restitution guidelines from their Kohnstamm Committee have established a viable and exemplary framework for finding fair and equitable solutions for claimants and can serve as a an example to which other countries can aspire to achieve.”

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