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May 7, 2014

Gurlitt Art Collection: Cornelius Gurlitt, 81, dies following convalescing from heart surgery; legal counsel announces end of investigation

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Today legal counsel for Cornelius Gurlitt announced the death of their client -- and the end of the investigation -- on the website created a few months ago in defense of allegations that paintings belonging to the 81-year-old had been stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis. According to, Herr Gurlitt had been in the care of a doctor following heart surgery when he requested that he be able to return to his apartment in Schwabing:
With the death of Cornelius Gurlitt end both the court-ordered care, as well as the investigation. Our sympathy goes to the family of the deceased.
Berlin's Focus Magazine reported in early November that two years ago Bavarian customs (Bayerische Zollfahnder) discovered 1,500 works by artists such as Picasso, Chagall and Matisse -- believed to have been confiscated during the Third Reich -- amongst the trash in the apartment of 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of art historian and dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt (images of the article can be found here and here). The granddaughter of Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg told CNN she had just heard about the discovering of reputedly stolen art. The New York Times reported on the 'uproar in the art world.' Holocaust-looted art restitution experts were interviewed as to the significance of the discovery. Prosecutors held a press conference to explain the case. published information obtained when Hildebrand Gurlitt was interviewed by the Allies after WWII. NPR did a segment on the questions raised by the Gurlitt art collection. Reuters described Cornelius Gurlitt as a tragic figure. Germany published some of the art collection online, set up a committee to investigate claims, and agreed to publicize the works. Cornelius Gurlitt, described as a mysterious recluse, is found shopping near his apartment. Curlitt's art collection, flagged because of the association with Hildebrand Gurlitt, is classified under an art fund named after the neighborhood in which the art was discovered in Munich. Gurlitt's artworks are posted on the Lost Art Internet Database. De Spiegel describes the 'Phantom Collector'. Cornelius Gurlitt has first interview. A 1955 essay by Hildebrand Gurlitt on his art collection is dug up. Maybe art will be returned to Cornelius Gurlitt. About that empathy. 'Dirty little secret'. Legal counsel retained. Restitution plans. Cornelius agrees to provenance research and his collection is returned.