Investigation into the provenance of museum collections in connection with the theft, confiscation and sale of objects under duress between 1933 and 1945.

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Van Abbemuseum

Bilderdijklaan 10 5611 NH Eindhoven www.vanabbemuseum.nl

Investigation results

This museum has 2 objects with a potentially problematic provenance.

Result of this investigation

The museum reports that after setting aside all postwar works and those bought directly from the artist or the artist’s family, 77 items remained to be investigated further. Investigators checked the museum’s collection archive, including old inventory cards, restoration reports and correspondence regarding purchases, in addition to the RKD pictorial database. In some cases they decided to investigate further, examining external archives (RKD, National Archive, NIOD and in one case, archives abroad) and publications (biographies, oeuvre catalogues and exhibition catalogues). The museum reports that some artworks have incomplete provenance.

In some cases the investigation produced greater clarity regarding the history of the object. A painting by Kokoschka turned out to have been acquired by Staatliche Gemäldegalerie in Dresden in 1920. It was labelled entartete, and the museum was required to deaccession the work in 1937. This painting was eventually sold together with many other prohibited works in Lucerne in 1939. Van Abbe Museum acquired it after the war.

Two paintings by Georg Hering and Ferenz von Bölcskey drew particular attention since they had been donated in 1939 by their owners, named Wolf and Waterman, who left Eindhoven that year for Wassenaar and Australia respectively. These appear to have been regular gifts, presumably made without any duress three years after the museum’s foundation at a time when many leading figures in Eindhoven were donating to the institution. In one case, evidence points to possibly problematic provenance:

  • El Lissitzky’s Proun P23, no. 6, which once belonged to Bildungsinstitut Hellerau. It is unclear who owned the work when Alois Schardt took it to the United States.
  • The museum bought Wassily Kandinsky’s Blick auf Murnau mit Kirche in 1951 at Légat art gallery in The Hague. It had previously been owned by 'A. Kaufmann'. Given the close connection between Légat and Kajetan Mühlmann, the Jewish name ‘Kaufmann’ and the work’s entartete character, this seems to be a potentially problematic work. In January 2018 the Restitutions Committee has issued a binding opinion about the application for restitution of this painting.  Wassily Kandinsky, currently in the possession of Eindhoven City Council. The Committee takes the view that the Eindhoven City Council, the current owner, is not obliged to restitute the work. Read more:  http://www.restitutiecommissie.nl/en/recommendations/recommendation_rc_3162.html

Investigators also note that while Edy de Wilde was director of the museum, fifty paintings were acquired on loan from SNK. Three were later returned to their owners. The rest were given back to the government department in 1965 and 1971 and are no longer part of the museum collection.

About this museum and its collection

Van Abbe Museum was founded in 1936 by cigar manufacturer Henri van Abbe and boasts a major collection of modern and contemporary art, including painting, sculpture and video art of the twentieth and twenty-first century.

Objects

Blick auf Murnau mit Kirche

Blick auf Murnau mit Kirche

Artist/ Creator
Wassily Kandinsky
Title
Blick auf Murnau mit Kirche
Year
1910
Technique
Oil on canvas
Size
110,6 x 120 cm
Inventorynumber
183
Category
Paintings
Museum
Van Abbemuseum

Investigation results

Conclusion

When and from whom Légat art gallery acquired this painting is no longer known. Who the former owner ‘A. Kaufmann’ was and how the painting was lost...

more information

Proun P23, no. 6

Proun P23, no. 6

Artist/ Creator
El Lissitzky
Title
Proun P23, no. 6
Year
1919
Technique
Tempera on canvas
Size
65,9 x 80,9 cm
Inventorynumber
TMS 2311
Category
Paintings
Museum
Van Abbemuseum

Investigation results

Conclusion

The identity of the owner of this work when it was sold in the United States is no longer known, as is the way it came to be in the Bildingsinstitut Hellerau...

more information