The University of Oklahoma have agreed terms and settled a lawsuit over ownership of a painting by Camille Pissarro stolen from a French Jewish family during World War II by the Nazis. The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) had been criticised by the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) over their lack of action in the ongoing restitution dispute over a Camille Pissarro painting held by the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, in the United States. Both the WJRO and Republican state representative Mike Reynolds have sent letters to AAM president Ford W. Bell questioning his unwillingness to investigate the Fred Jones Jr. Museum’s accreditation status.
According to her attorney, Leona Meyer the French, heir to the family who originally owned Camille Pissarro’s painting “Shepherdess Bringing in the Sheep” before it was stolen by the Nazis, will now secure title to the painting, which is currently in possession of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Oklahoma..
Critics of OU previous opposed the painting’s restitution to the family but under ethical provisions honored by museums in the United States and around the world, curators and staff promised to make clear the origins of an art work, “if credible evidence of unlawful appropriation without subsequent restitution is discovered.”
Wesselhoft’s resolution encouraged action by OU President David Boren and the member of the Board of Regents: “If it is determined from provenance research that an object in its collection was unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution, the House of Representatives hereby directs the University of Oklahoma and the Fred Jones, Jr., Museum of Art to resolve the matter in an equitable, appropriate, and mutually agreeable manner, including restitution.”
The outcome is a victory for worldwide advocates who have called for restoration to family heirs of art works methodically stolen from European Jewish families during the reign of terror the National Socialist (“Nazi”) party exercised 1933-45 in Germany and across much of Europe.
The institution had been sued by France’s Léone Meyer in an attempt to return the painting, which was looted from her family by the Nazi regime. However, some argued that a technicality regarding whether or not an Oklahoma defendant could be sued in New York courts; and a Swiss ruling from 1953, had allowed the museum to retain the work until now.