Jewish Artist’s Heirs Pressure Museums on Nazi-Era Losses
The great-granddaughters of the German-Jewish painter Max Liebermann are growing impatient with Berlin museum authorities about two drawings from his collection they say were lost as a result of Nazi persecution.
The drawings by Adolph Menzel in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin are among thousands of works that Liebermann’s heirs are trying to recover. Liebermann was not only one of the most famous German Impressionists; he was also a great collector. Works by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir adorned his imposing home next to the Brandenburg Gate.
German artist Max Liebermann. The Hamburg auction house Hauswedell & Nolte sold a Liebermann sketch that was in the artist’s possession at his death in 1935, dismissing his heirs’ warnings that the drawing was probably seized by the Nazis or sold under duress. Source: Max Liebermann Stiftung via Bloomberg
Forced to resign as honorary president of the Prussian Academy of Arts after the Nazis took power, Liebermann died isolated and embittered in 1935, leaving his estate to his widow. She sold some artworks to pay the rent and buy food and medicine before committing suicide in 1943.
“For the heirs, it’s difficult to understand why public institutions are so hesitant,” said Georg Castell of Heinichen Laudien von Nottbeck Rechtsanwaelte in Berlin, the lawyer representing the great-granddaughters. “Without cooperation from the museums, we can’t get very far.”
Impoverished by the Nazis’ punitive financial demands, Martha Liebermann took poison at the age of 85 to escape deportation to a concentration camp. The art that remained in her apartment after her death was seized by the Gestapo.