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April 13, 2013

German Government Agrees to Return Oskar Kokoschka's "Portrait of Tilla Durieux" to Flechtheim's Heirs

Oskar Kokoschka's "Portrait of Tilla Durieux" (1910)
Museum Ludwig/Marcus Stroetzel via Bloomberg
The ARCA Blog mentioned Alfred Flechtheim and a painting by Oskar Kokoschka in November 2010 when German forgers were suspected of using fraudulent stickers from the Dusseldorf art dealer's gallery to sell artworks falsely attributed to French and German Expressionist artists ("German Forgers May Have Used Catalogs of Jewish Art Dealer").

Alfred Flechtheim fled Nazi Germany when his business was confiscated in 1933 and died in London in 1937. Flechtheim's heirs have tried to recover more than 100 paintings by artists such as Picasso, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Vincent van Gogh from European and American museums.

Catherine Hickley reported for Bloomberg News on April 9 that the German government has agreed to return Oskar Kokoschka's "Portrait of Tilla Durieux" (1910) to Flechtheim's heirs:
“Portrait of Tilla Durieux” (1910) has been in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne since 1976. Flechtheim’s great-nephew Mike Hulton, a medical doctor based in California, filed a claim for the painting’s restitution in 2008, saying the dealer sold it under duress and didn’t get a fair price. The museum said Flechtheim was already in financial trouble before the Nazis came to power and sold the painting to pay off debts. 
“The view of the advisory commission is that this case cannot be exhaustively clarified,” the panel, led by former constitutional judge Jutta Limbach, said in a statement. “Because of an absence of concrete evidence, it is to be assumed that Alfred Flechtheim was forced to sell the disputed painting because he was persecuted.”