Matisse in Norwegian museum was once Nazi loot

2013-04-07T00:00:00Z Matisse in Norwegian museum was once Nazi lootThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

OSLO, Norway - The family of a prominent Parisian art dealer is demanding that a Norwegian museum return an Henri Matisse painting seized by Nazis under the direction of Hermann Goering, in the latest dispute over art stolen from Jews during World War II.

The painting at the center of the dispute, Matisse's 1937 "Blue Dress in a Yellow Armchair," depicts a woman sitting in a living room. It has been among the highlights of the Henie-Onstad Art Centre near Oslo since the museum was established in 1968 through a donation by wealthy art collector Niels Onstad and his wife, Olympic figure-skating champion Sonja Henie.

Museum Director Tone Hansen said it had been unaware the painting was stolen by the Nazis until it was notified in 2012 by the London-based Art Loss Register, which tracks lost and stolen paintings.

She said Onstad bought the painting in "good faith" from the Galerie Henri Benezit in Paris in 1950. The Benezit gallery "has no record of collaborating with the Nazis, as many galleries did," she said in an interview.

Although the war ended almost 70 years ago, disputes over looted art have become common in recent years, in part because many records were lost, and in part because an international accord on returning such art was only struck in 1998.

The case of the Matisse is somewhat different than most in that its former owner, Paul Rosenberg, was one of the most prominent art dealers in Paris before the war, which he survived by fleeing to New York. Art Loss Register Director Chris Marinello said the records in this case are unusually clear.

A granddaughter, American lawyer Marianne Rosenberg, said Friday she hoped that the museum would realize it is wrong in every sense of the term.

According to a biography published by New York's Museum of Modern Art, Paul Rosenberg was friends with Picasso and Matisse.

Art Registry documents show he purchased "Blue Dress" directly from the painter, having noted the purchase in 1937 and put it on display in the same year, Marinello said. After the war, Rosenberg re-established his business and sought to recover the looted art.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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