U.S. museum exhibits Old Master art looted by Nazis

NEW YORK Tue Mar 10, 2009 7:05pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly 50 paintings by the Dutch Old Masters seized by the Nazis during World War Two will go on display at the Jewish Museum in New York on Sunday.

The paintings once belonged to Jacques Goudstikker, a Jewish art dealer in Amsterdam who died in 1940 fleeing the Nazi invasion of Holland. The exhibit marks the first time since the war they have been displayed as his collection.

After Goudstikker's death, 800 paintings in his collection were appropriated by Adolf Hitler's second-in-command, Hermann Goering, some for his private collection as well as some that he gave to Hitler, according to the Jewish Museum.

In 2006, the Dutch government returned 200 of the paintings to Goudstikker's daughter-in-law and sole heir, Marei von Saher, after a legal battle that lasted nearly 10 years.

"The wrong was finally put right," said von Saher at a preview of the exhibit. "This has to be one of the happiest days of my life. The long, long fight has been worthwhile."

Goudstikker was one of the most important art dealers in Europe between the first and second world wars, according to Karen Levitov, the associate curator at the Jewish Museum.

He sold to major museums and collectors in both Europe and the United States and at the time of his death, his collection numbered about 1,400 paintings.

Goudstikker's collection included works from the Italian Renaissance, early German and Dutch art, seventeenth century Dutch Old Masters, French and Italian Rococo, and nineteenth century French and Northern European paintings.

Some highlights of the exhibit include Jan Steen's "Sacrifice of Iphigenia," a winter landscape by Jan van Goyen, two river landscapes by Salomon van Ruysdael, as well as an early marine painting by Ruysdael's nephew Jacob van Ruisdael.

Ten of the paintings on view are being exhibited in North America for the first time.

One of the items in the exhibit is a small black notebook which contained a typed inventory of his collection at the time he fled Holland. The notebook was later key in proving Goudstikker's ownership of the items.

Although 200 paintings were returned to von Saher, the majority of Goudstikker's collection remains at large, said Lawrence Kaye, von Saher's lawyer.

The exhibit "Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker" will open on March 15 and run through August 2. After appearing at the Jewish Museum, the Goudstikker collection will travel to San Antonio, Texas, Palm Beach, Florida and San Francisco.

(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede, editing by Anthony Boadle)

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