The Kunstmuseum Bern has released a preliminary list that begins to itemise some of the works in their controversial Gurlitt collection. The Swiss museum has said that the prompt publication of the list was made “in the interest of transparency,” and that the institution will update the list as more information about the works is progressively unearthed.
The release comes hot on the heels of the Kunstmuseum Bern’s acceptance of artworks from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt’s 1,300 works that had been bequeathed to the museum by German collector. Christoph Schaeublin of the Bern Art Museum told a news conference in Berlin that the museum would accept parts of the artworks bequeathed by Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in May at the age of 81.
Since the collection of almost 1,300 artworks was discovered in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in March 2012, there has been mounting speculation in both the international media and art world as to the scope of the holdings.
Many artist’s names were rumoured, including Claude Monet, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, and many of others considered as “degenerate artists” by the Nazis. But the true dimensions of the Gurlitt collection is now finally beginning to see the light of day; and they are certainly not disappointing. Althought the list is still in progress it is safe to say said that it is a truly exceptional collection.
One of the earliest paintings in the collection is an oil on canvas landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder. Other oil on canvas works of interest include a landscape by Paul Cézanne, entitled Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1897), several works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and also pieces by Monet, Édouard Manet, and Paul Gauguin.
There are also small works, like a half-length nude by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The collection of works on paper is nothing short of breathtaking, and features a Paul Klee aquarelle, a group of George Grosz aquarelle and ink drawings, nudes by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a pastel drawing of three dancers by Edgar Degas, and a superb ink and watercolour drawing by Wassily Kandinsky.
The collection has been known colloquially as the “Munich Art Trove,” and collated by Cornelius Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt. Gurlitt senior was one of four art dealers entrusted with selling so-called degenerate art during the Nazi regime’s rule. The collection includes a number high-value works from the period by Henri Matisse, Max Liebermann, Otto Dix, and Marc Chagall, among others. Originally estimated at the value of nearly £700 million – the value has dropped significantly as many pieces are believed to have been looted from Jewish families by the Nazis.
Only yesterday a Bern patron pledged a “seven-figure sum” to help the Kunstmuseum Bern create a research unit dedicated to the study and documentation of Cornelius Gurlitt’s controversial bequest that could result in further restitution of the ‘Munich Art Trove’.
Upon announcing the acceptance of the collection on Monday, Kunstmuseum Bern’s president Christoph Schäublin stated that Nazi looted artworks would not be permitted in the museum. The Swiss institution also said that it would make every effort to return any looted artworks to their rightful heirs.