Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a notorious Nazi art dealer whose secret collection included many Third Reich looted pieces, has died in Germany age 81. He passed away on the 6th May in his Munich apartment, which was used to store 1,400 valuable works of art including Picasso, Matisse and Monet masterpieces said to be worth in excess of 800 million euros. A press release sent by his spokesman, Stephan Holzinger on Tuesday afternoon stated, “With the death of Cornelius Gurlitt, the investigation also ends”.
Before his death,Gurlitt had agreed that if works were shown to have been looted by the Nazis they should be returned to the heirs of their rightful owners. Many people, particularly Jewish groups feel that the works should be liable to restitution. They were recently put online and given a limited period for claimant’s families to come forward.
Born in 1932, in Hamburg, Gurlitt survived the bombing raids during World War II. Even though his father was of Jewish origin, he was useful to the Nazis and collaborated with them, to appraise art for sale, to subsidise the war effort. He had a younger sister, Benita. “My whole family had a lot of paintings but we gave them to Cornelius’s family because he had connections and the possibility to hide them,” stated Ekkeheart Gurlitt, a cousin of Cornelius Gurlitt, in a November 2013 interview.
It is now in the hands of the authorities, as to who will assume ownership of 60 of the most important artworks, as well as additional paintings and drawings were found in his Salzburg home and in a third residence in Bad Aussee. Gurlitt had recently been hospitalised for a heart operation and was sent home to recover.