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Controversial collection Swiss museum reaches agreement with Cézanne family

A picture of Philippe Cézanne

Philippe Cézanne, representing Paul Cézanne's descendants, in front of the painting in question on Tuesday


The Kunstmuseum in Bern, which owns the controversial art collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, has settled a lengthy dispute with the family of artist Paul Cézanne over one of the collection’s most valuable paintings.

The museum has agreed with Cézanne’s descendants that the painting “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire” will remain in the possession of the museum but will often be displayed in the Museum Granet in the painter’s French hometown of Aix-en-Provence.

Both sides agreed on a long-term loan contract, reported the Swiss News Agency on Tuesday.

Painted in 1897, the work of art was valued to be worth €26 million (CHF30 million). It can currently be seen in the exhibition “Gurlitt: Status Report – Nazi Art Theft and Its Consequences”, which runs until July 15.

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The painting was owned by Cornelius Gurlitt, who inherited it as part of an entire collection from his father Hildebrand, one of Hitler’s art dealers.

Gurlitt died in 2014 and bequeathed his whole collection to the art museum in Bern.

Although research has so far not brought up any evidence that the Nazis stole the Cézanne painting from its rightful owner, questions remain how it came into Gurlitt’s possession in the first place.

Cézanne’s family had originally wanted the painting back.

Both sides said they were satisfied with the solution. Cézanne’s descendants recognised the museum as the painting’s rightful owner, but they are still able to exhibit it in his hometown.

Gurlitt’s collection was discovered during a tax investigation in 2012. He had more than 1,500 works of art in his possession, stored in a Munich apartment and in a house in Salzburg.

Some of them were confiscated, dozens of them were suspected of having been looted, but it’s difficult to establish traces of this.

The art museum Bern only accepts bequeathed works of art if they are not suspected of having been looted.


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