A New York man has gone to court for the return of several Nazi-looted artworks from the controversial collection of Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich.
David Toren, 88, whose father and uncle were art collectors in the prewar German city of Breslau, sued in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. His suit demands the return of the 1901 paintings “Two Riders on the Beach” and “Basket Weavers” by the German-Jewish artist Max Liebermann.
Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, purchased the “Riders” painting in 1942 while working for the Nazis, according to news reports. Documents show the painting was among those confiscated by the Nazis from Toren’s great-uncle David Friedmann in Breslau — today Wroclaw, Poland — in 1939. Toren, an attorney, is Friedmann’s only surviving heir.
While the younger Gurlitt still possesses the “Riders” painting, he sold “Basket Weavers” at auction to an unnamed Israeli collector in 2000 for about $92,300, Haaretz reported.
Toren, a native of Germany, also is suing Germany and the state of Bavaria for having failed to inform his family of the find after they confiscated more than 1,400 works from Gurlitt in 2012 in the course of an investigation for tax evasion.
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Toren was 14 years old in August 1939 when his parents sent him to safety in Sweden. His entire family, except for one aunt and one brother, were murdered in the Holocaust. — jta