By Angelica Villa
A 1910 painting by Wassily Kandinsky is being returned by a Dutch museum to the heirs of a Jewish family from which it was seized during World War II. The decision ends a years-long legal dispute over the painting, which has been in the collection of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven since 1951.
The painting, View of Murnau with Church, will be transferred from the city-owned museum to the relatives of the Berlin-based collector Johanna Margarethe Stern-Lippmann, who was active as a collector of modern art before the war.
The move to finally return the work comes several years after a Dutch restitution committee reversed its decision from January 2018 not to return the work to Stern-Lippman’s heirs based on “insufficient facts” around the period when she lost possession of the work.
The museum acquired the work from the Hague art dealer Karl Alexander Legat, who has been linked to sales of paintings seized during World War II.
The collector’s descendants first made a claim to recover the work from the Dutch museum in 2016. The family made a second claim for the work in 2019 following the committee’s initial rejection.
The committee, which is made up of seven members, issued a new opinion this week over the disputed work, saying in a statement that the “binding” return of the work to the family was reached amid “new facts” that have emerged since the 2018 decision.
Since Stern-Lippmann was persecuted during World War II, the commission said, the loss of the work during the war period is considered involuntary under the Dutch government’s guidelines on Nazi-era restitutions.
No monetary value for the work was disclosed. Works from a similar period by Kandinsky, such as Painting with Houses (1909), which was restituted from the Stedelijk Museum in August 2021, have been estimated to be worth around $22 million.
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