V&A releases record of art confiscated by the Nazis

By Rosa Doherty, January 23, 2014
Confiscated: Paul Klee’s painting Around the Fish was removed from a gallery in Dresden in 1937

Confiscated: Paul Klee’s painting Around the Fish was removed from a gallery in Dresden in 1937

The Victoria and Albert museum is to make public a definitive list of “degenerate” art confiscated by the Nazis.

The inventory contains details of 16,558 works taken by the regime from museums and art galleries in Germany during 1937 and 1938.

The Nazis prohibited modernist paintings by Jewish artists such as Chagall, as well as works by non-Jewish painters such Picasso, Klee and Kadinsky, regarding them as “un-German”.

The V&A list is the only remaining record of the confiscated works. It will be published online for the first time this month.

Dr Heike Zech, restitution liaison officer for the V&A, said: “The fact it has been digitised is a big thing. It means it is easier for researchers to look up information.

“You no longer have to come to the museum and trawl through physical pages. The difference now is that, online, it gives people an idea of what it looks like on the page.”

The list was donated to the V&A in 1996 by the widow of Austrian-born art dealer Heinrich Robert, as part of a larger collection of publications on German art. Mr Robert fled the Nazis and came to Britain in 1938, before serving in the British army during the Second World War.

V&A director Martin Roth said the inventory was a “significant” document for researchers and museum and gallery staff tracing the provenance of the works.

Kandinsky’s Drei freie Krieise (Three Free Circles)

Kandinsky’s Drei freie Krieise (Three Free Circles)

However, publication is not expected to spark new restitution claims from private individuals who owned paintings taken by the Nazis.

Dr Zech said: “We’re not expecting private cases of restitution to occur because these pieces came from publicly owned institutions.”

Last year over 1,400 modern artworks confiscated by the Nazis were found in a Munich apartment. The works had been acquired by the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. His name appears several times in the V&A inventory.

Dr Zech said: “The Gurlitt case in Germany has really hammered home the point that this type of list needs to be out now. It is because of his case that people are interested.”

Last updated: 4:45pm, January 23 2014