Cézanne’s La Mer – Estaque (1876), a fine Midi landscape painted when the artist was moving away from Impressionism towards the geometric approach for which he became famous, is part of the Gustav Rau Collection on show at the Musée du Luxembourg until January 4.
Paris gallery Bernheim–Jeune says the work was illegally sold after the contents of Josse Bernheim’s gallery were confiscated by the Nazis in 1941.
Gustav Rau, now 78, acquired the work at auction from Sotheby’s in 1981. According to John Rewald’s catalogue raisonné of Cézanne, the work was sold by Bernheim-Jeune to New York collector Sam Salz in 1936, and later acquired by Wildenstein. It was shown at the Metropolitan Museum in 1960, in Washington and San Francisco in 1986, and in London in 1995.
Bernheim-Jeune’s grandsons Michel and Guy-Patrice Dauberville, alerted by the Art Loss Register earlier this year, dispute Rewald’s history, claiming the picture features in the ‘repertoire de biens spoliés’ (index of goods stolen during the Nazi occupation of France during the Second World War) and was looted from Josse Bernheim’s Paris gallery, along with works by Corot (now in Switzerland), a Cézanne self-portrait (whereabouts unknown), and a Renoir (since recovered). They say they contacted the Rau Foundation before the Paris exhibition began and were “stupefied” to learn that the picture had been maintained in the exhibition.
Despite the court ruling, the picture will remain on show at the Musée du Luxembourg, accompanied by a notice saying that Dr Rau is “shocked” to learn about the picture’s alleged history and “wishes to contribute to the discovery of the truth”. Representatives of Dr Rau, Sotheby’s, Josse Bernheim’s descendants, and officials from the “looted works” section at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are to meet to “clarify the history of the painting and decide on the conclusions to be drawn”.
• The exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg features around 100 paintings from Dr Rau’s Collection, ranging from Italian primitives through the School of Paris. His entire collection of 400 paintings and 240 sculptures, currently stored in Zurich, is to be bequeathed to Unicef (the UN child agency). It is understood that some of the works may be sold off periodically to finance humanitarian projects.
• Dominique Ribeyre was re-elected President of the Paris Compagnie of auctioneers on October 26. He said his main task was to “modernize the services we propose” through the “renovation of the Hôtel Drouot and the reform of its structures”.
Paris court intervenes after claim that Cézanne was looted by Nazis
FRANCE: A Paris court has granted a temporary injunction placing a Cézanne painting currently on show at a city museum under legal supervision pending an inquiry into its ownership.