Gurlitt Task Force to return work to Friedmann heir

Posted on: August 18, 2014 by

The task force made up of provenance experts dealing with the works found in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt in 2012 has recommended that a painting by impressionist artist Max Liebermann be restituted.

The fourteen-member task force, often referred to as the “Schwabing Art Trove” Task Force was established in November 2013 by the German federal government and the Bavarian state government. The task force has concluded that Liebermann’s Two Riders on a Beach should be returned to David Toren, an American citizen who is the nephew and heir to David Friedmann, a wealthy Jewish art collector who died in 1942 after his collection had been looted by the Nazis.

The painting then turned up some 70 years later in the Munich appartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Nazi-approved art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. Not long after the publicisation of the contents of the Gurlitt trove, Toren, 88 years old and blind, instituted an action before the District of Columbia courts against Germany and Bavaria for the return of the painting, alleging breach of bailment and wrongful possession. Even after the task force’s announcement today, the action will apparently not be dropped until the painting has been effectively handed over to Toren.

It should be noted that Two Riders on a Beach was one of the paintings that had been recovered by the Monuments Men in 1945, recorded, assessed, then returned to Hildebrand Gurlitt in 1950. For more on the overlap between the works uncovered by the Monuments Men and those found in Gurlitt’s apartment, see my article ‘Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Monuments Men and the Discovery of the Munich Art Trove’ in the April 2014 edition of Art Antiquity and Law.