Museum vows to return ‘lost’ painting

Museum vows to return 'lost' painting
Blumengarten, Emil Nolde, 1917
Sweden's Moderna Museet has come under pressure from the heirs of Jewish businessman Otto Nathan Deutsch to return a painting by German expressionist Emil Nolde. Deutsch fled Germany for the Netherlands in 1939.

At the time of his move to Amsterdam, Deutsch made arrangements for the painting – Blumengarten (1917) – to be sent on from Frankfurt. But the artwork, like many of his other possessions, never arrived at his new home.

When the family of Otto Nathan Deutsch made inquiries about his possession’s after the Second World War, they were told that everything had been destroyed during bomb raids.

This however turned out not to be the case and Moderna Museet acquired the painting from a Swiss auction house in 1967. According to the museum, the artwork was bought in good faith and the heirs had already been fully compensated for their loss by German authorities in 1962.

“A few years back we got this claim from the heirs. But we are not authorized to remove anything from the museum without asking the government’s permission,” museum spokeswoman Lovisa Lönnebo told The Local.

Instead, Moderna Museet referred the matter to the Ministry of Culture. Last week, the ministry assigned the museum with the task of reaching a settlement with the family of Otto Nathan Deutsch in line with the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets.

“Our lawyers and their lawyers are currently trying to work something out. But they will get the painting back.

“There is no point in hanging on to it if we know that we are going to have to return it at some point,” said Lovisa Lönnebo.