German collector to return Nazi-looted art

German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt has reached an agreement to surrender any works in a valuable cache of some 1,400 works discovered last fall that were stolen by the Nazis.

The agreement allows the German government to research the provenance of all the works in his collection. Those deemed not to have been robbed or confiscated from Jewish collectors or museums by the Nazis would be returned to Gurlitt.

According to a report April 7 by the German news service Deutsche Welle, the investigation should be completed within a year.

This week’s announcement came from the state of Bavaria, the federal culture minister’s office and Gurlitt’s attorneys. The cost of the research is to be borne by the German federal government and the state of Bavaria.

Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, was an art dealer who worked for the Nazis. He died in 1956 in an accident; his son inherited the collection. In 2012, customs agents investigating Cornelius Gurlitt for tax evasion confiscated his Munich stash of artwork.

The existence of the collection — which includes works by artists such as Picasso, Dürer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beckmann and Matisse — was kept under wraps until Focus magazine broke the story last fall.

Gurlitt, 81, has maintained that his collection is legitimate. Earlier this year, his attorneys publicized a new website where possible heirs could contact him. — jta