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Swedish museum faces pressure over painting stolen in Nazi Germany

The painting by Oskar Kokoschka is called ”Marquis Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac”. Daniel Birnbaum is the director of Moderna Museet.
The painting by Oskar Kokoschka is called ”Marquis Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac”. Daniel Birnbaum is the director of Moderna Museet. Foto: Bertil Ericson/TT

Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden’s most prominent museum of modern and contemporary art, is involved in a dispute centred around an artwork obtained in Nazi Germany. The painting by Oskar Kokoschka originates from a Jewish art dealer and art collector. His heirs now demand that the painting will be returned.

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Many Jewish families lost valuable art collections in 1930's Germany. The Nazi art plunder took many different forms, including extortion, confiscation and forced donations. The looted items would eventually appear at museums and in private collections around the world. In recent decades, extensive efforts have been made to return stolen artworks to their rightful owners.

Sweden has hitherto only restored one item, a painting by Emil Nolde that Moderna Museet returned to a Jewish family in 2009. Moderna Museet fought a long battle to keep the Nolde painting, and the museum's actions raised criticism both in Sweden and internationally.

The Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm.

Foto: Moderna museet Bild 1 av 3

The German-Jewish art dealer and collector Alfred Flechtheim were early on used as an archetype for typical jewish appearance by the Nazis. The German historian Axel Drecoll says to Svenska Dagbladet that his picture even was used on the covers of Nazi propaganda.

Bild 2 av 3

Alfred Flechtheim’s portrait painted by the Bulgarian artist Jules Pascin. It belongs to Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris. Flechtheim fled the Nazis and died alone and broke in London 1937.

Foto: Jules Pascin/Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris Bild 3 av 3
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