Looted art: Gurlitt 'wants his paintings back'

Max Beckmann’s The Lion Tamer had already been sold by the time German police discovered Gurlitt's haul

Max Beckmann’s The Lion Tamer had already been sold by the time German police discovered Gurlitt's haul

The reclusive German pensioner accused of hoarding more than 1,400 pieces of art thought to have been looted by the Nazis has said he wants to keep the collection.

Cornelius Gurlitt said he "loved" the paintings and wanted authorities to conclude their investigation so "I can finally have my pictures back".

The collection was discovered at the 80-year-old's Munich flat two years ago, but details only emerged publicly for the first time earlier this month.

Mr Gurlitt's father, Hildebrand, was an art dealer in the 1930s and was hired by the Nazis to collect artwork regarded as "degenerate" by the Third Reich.

Cornelius Gurlitt's whereabouts had not been known for the past fortnight, but German magazine Der Spiegel interviewed him last week.

He said he would not co-operate with authorities investigating the history of the paintings, and said he would refuse to allow the collection to be passed to museums.

Mr Gurlitt said: "I've never committed a crime, and even if I had, it would fall under the statute of limitations. If I were guilty, they would put me in prison.

"They have it all wrong. I won't voluntarily give back anything, no, no. The public prosecutor has enough that exonerates me."

Der Spiegel reported details of the recluse's life in the Munich apartment, where he had no television, did not use the internet, and rarely ventured outdoors.

Referring to the attention he has faced since the discovery of the works, Mr Gurlitt said: "I'm not Boris Becker. What do these people want from me?

"I'm just a very quiet person. All I wanted to do was live with my pictures. Why are they photographing me for these newspapers, which normally only feature photos of shady characters?"

He said he had never loved another person, only the paintings.

"Saying goodbye to my pictures was the most painful of all," he said. "I hope everything will be cleared up quickly, so I can finally have my pictures back."

Mr Gurlitt, who suffers from heart problems, described his father as courageous, and appeared to deny that any of the artworks had originally belonged to German Jews.

Last updated: 9:57am, November 18 2013