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Chronology of the Cornelius Gurlitt Estate
Following a customs inspection on a train from Zurich to Munich, the Bavarian public prosecutor opened an investigation into Cornelius Gurlitt on suspicion of tax evasion.
February / March 2012
The Augsburg public prosecutor’s office searched Cornelius Gurlitt’s Munich apartment and seized works of art found there.
November 3, 2013
The “Schwabinger Kunstfund” (Schwabing Art Trove) was made public through an article in the German magazine “Focus.” Many works were suspected of being looted during the Nazi period.
The “Schwabing Art Trove Taskforce,” an international team of experts established by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Free State of Bavaria, began research on the provenance of the works. During the following weeks, the confiscated works were published in the Lost Art Database.
A court-appointed supervisor and lawyers became Cornelius Gurlitt’s representatives. They announced that further works of art had been found in Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg.
Cornelius Gurlitt entered into agreement with the Free State of Bavaria and the Federal Republic of Germany regarding the future administration of works of art in his possession. He agreed to the “Schwabing Art Trove Taskforce” conducting research on the collection and to the restitution of all works found to be looted art to the rightful owners or their heirs.
May 6, 2014
Cornelius Gurlitt died, aged 81, in Munich. The following day, the Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation learned that Gurlitt had named the museum in his will as sole beneficiary.
November 21, 2014
Relatives of Cornelius Gurlitt challenged the will.
November 24, 2014
After a six-month period of consideration, the Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation decided to accept the bequest.
March / April 2015
The Munich “Nachlassgericht” (probate court) ruled that Cornelius Gurlitt’s will was valid. Some of the family appealed the decision.
The restitution of two works from the estate occurred: the heirs of David Friedmann (1857–1942) received Max Liebermann’s painting Reiter am Strand (Riders on the Beach, 1901); and the painting Femme à l'éventail (Woman with a Fan, 1923) by Henri Matisse was restored to the heirs of Paul Rosenberg (1881–1959).
January 14, 2016
The “Schwabing Art Trove Taskforce” presented its final report. The “Gurlitt Provenance Research Project” at the German Lost Art Foundation assumed responsibility for research.
December 15, 2016
The Munich “Oberlandesgericht” (higher regional court) rejected the appeal challenging Gurlitt’s will, confirming the Kunstmuseum Bern as rightful beneficiary.
Adolph von Menzel’s drawing Interior of a Gothic Church (1874) was restored to the heirs of Elsa Helene Cohen (1874–1947).
The painting Le Louvre, matin (The Louvre, Morning, 1902) by Camille Pissarro was restored to the heirs of Max Heilbronn (1902–1998).
Kunstmuseum Bern and Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn became the first institutions to exhibit works of art from the Cornelius Gurlitt Estate.
The “Gurlitt Provenance Research Project” was concluded. Starting in January 2018, the German Lost Art Foundation assumed responsibility for the followup project “Reviews, Dokumentation und anlassbezogene Forschungsarbeiten zum Kunstfund Gurlitt” (reviews, documentation, and research work as required on the Gurlitt Trove).
Kunstmuseum Bern presented the exhibition Gurlitt Status Report: Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences.
The Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation reached agreement with Paul Cézanne’s heirs regarding the ownership rights of the painting La Montagne Sainte-Victoire (Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1897). Cézanne’s heirs recognized the Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation as rightful owner of the painting. In return, the Kunstmuseum Bern arranged with Musée Granet for it to be regularly exhibited in Aix-en-Provence.
The Gropius Bau in Berlin presented the exhibition Gurlitt Status Report: An Art Dealer in Nazi Germany.
The project “Reviews, Dokumentation und anlassbezogene Forschungsarbeiten zum Kunstfund Gurlitt” at the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste was completed.
The painting Portrait of a Seated Young Woman (1850–1855) by Thomas Couture was restored to the heirs of Georges Mandel (1885–1944). A final research project, “Publikation und Ergebnisdokumentation zum Kunstfund Gurlitt” (publication and documentation of the results concerning the Gurlitt Trove), was begun at the German Lost Art Foundation.
The painting Quai de Clichy. Temps gris (Clichy Dock. Gray Weather, 1887) by Paul Signac was restored to the heirs of Gaston Prosper Lévy (1893–1977). In collaboration with the “Forschungsstelle ‘Entartete Kunst’” (research center for ‘degenerate art’) at Hamburg University, Kunstmuseum Bern began provenance research into so-called “degenerate art” contained in the Gurlitt Estate.
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem presented the exhibition Fateful Choices: Art from the Gurlitt Trove.
The Kunstmuseum Bern sold the painting Marine, Temps d’orage (Ships at Sea in Stormy Weather, 1873) by Édouard Manet to the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Proceeds from the sale were used to pay off the debts accrued to date by Kunstmuseum Bern in relation to the Cornelius Gurlitt bequest.
The project “Publikation und Ergebnisdokumentation zum Kunstfund Gurlitt” at the German Lost Art Foundation was completed.
The watercolor Woman in White (1880) and the oil painting Woman in Profile (1881) by Jean-Louis Forain were restored to the heirs of Armand Isaac Dorville (1875–1941). Three works from the Gurlitt bequest were ceded to the Free State of Bavaria to settle inheritance taxes. They are now housed in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Pinakothek der Moderne and Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich.
The pencil drawing Das Klavierspiel (Playing the Piano, around 1840) by Carl Spitzweg was restored to the heirs of Henri Hinrichsen (1868–1942).
After spending several years researching the Cornelius Gurlitt bequest and following extensive investigations and considerations in collaboration with independent international experts, the Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation has reached several decisions concerning their approach to works of uncertain provenance.
The Kunstmuseum Bern Foundation decided that two works by Otto Dix, Dompteuse (Female Animal Trainer, 1922) and Dame in der Loge (Lady in a Theatre Box, 1922), should be transferred jointly to the heirs of Dr Ismar Littmann and the heirs of Dr Paul Schaefer.
December 10, 2021
Kunstmuseum Bern published the works in the Cornelius Gurlitt bequest in the online database THE GURLITT ESTATE: www.gurlitt.kunstmuseumbern.ch
Five works of uncertain provenance, which the Kunstmuseum has ceded ownership of, were transferred to the Federal Republic of Germany. They are now in the collection of the Federal Arts Administration.
The watercolors Dompteuse (1922) and Dame in der Loge (1922) by Otto Dix, in accordance with the agreement reached with the heirs of Dr. Ismar Littmann and the heirs of Dr. Paul Schaefer, were auctioned in favor of the heirs.