Museum Clings Onto ‘Degenerate’ Klee Artwork Stolen By Nazis

Nazi Germany

Munich museum refuses to return Paul Klee painting, seized from family by Nazis to be displayed in 1937 ‘degenerate art’ exhibition

The descendents of a German art historian have filed a legal claim against the city of Munich demanding the return of a Paul Klee painting that was apparently stolen from their family by the Nazis.

The artwork ‘Sumpflegende’, or Swamp Legend, is currently on display in the Munich Lenbachhaus museum. But now three grandchildren of Sophie Lissitzky-Kueppers are seeking its return to the family. They say that Lissitzky-Kueppers inherited the work in 1922, and loaned it to the Hanover Provinzialmuseum in 1926, just before she emigrated to Germany. In 1937, however, the painting was taken from the museum by the Nazistobe displayed in the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Munich. There, it was mocked as the ‘confusion’ and ‘disorder’ of a ‘mentally ill person’. Other artists represented at the exhibition included Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, and Wassily Kandinsky.

The family have sought the return of the painting since 1992, but the city of Munich has ‘rejected returning the Klee painting with constantly changing reasons since 1992’, says their spokesperson; and ‘All attempts by the heirs to reach an agreement have been brusquely brushed aside.’ The family have now filed suit for its return at the Bavarian regional court.

Munich Mayor Christian Ude believes that the city is under no obligation to return the artwork to the family, and says that he is grateful that the issure will now be resolved in the courts: ‘The city of Munich welcomes the fact that after years of fighting an extra-judicial campaign there will now be legal clarification on the restitution claim by Lissitzky-Kueppers’ grandchildren’: ‘The city of Munich can in no way be connected to the National Socialist seizure of ‘Sumpflegende’ – it has also not profited in any way from the Nazi confiscation operation.’

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