French heir gives Nazi-stolen Pissarro to University of Oklahoma
A Jewish family whose relatives saw their artwork looted by the Nazis said Tuesday they were waiving their claim for a Pissarro painting and transferring ownership to the University of Oklahoma, where they had been on display until 2017.
Léone Meyer, whose family collection was looted by the Nazis, said she was renouncing her long-standing efforts to donate the painting to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris where it has been on display in recent years. The title of the work, “The Shepherdess” or “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” would instead go to the University of Oklahoma under an agreement that would ensure the painting continues to be on display in both countries.
“I have now regained my freedom at a price that I fully accept,” said Dr Meyer in a statement about her painting project, which she discovered in 2012 in the collection of the university of the ‘Oklahoma, to which it was donated in 2000. It was then transferred to the Paris museum.
The announcement appeared to end the dispute over the board, which had resulted in legal action in France and the United States and had already been the subject of a previously negotiated settlement. In 2016, Dr Meyer and the University of Oklahoma agreed that the painting would be returned to him but would be on display in a museum in France for five years, then rotate every three years between the university and one or more. French institutions. As part of the plan, Dr Meyer, 82, said the title of the painting, which Pissarro completed in 1886, would eventually be transferred to an artistic institution in France.
But a legal standoff began again after Holocaust survivor Dr Meyer refused to return the painting, as planned, to Oklahoma next month and sought to change the deal to keep the painting. in France permanently.
A Paris court was due to rule on its efforts to keep the painting in France on Wednesday, after two previous rulings from French courts opposed it and the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors ruled in favor of the university. fight to maintain the settlement.
Dr Meyer had hoped to donate the work to the Musée d’Orsay, but said the museum refused because it did not want to shoulder the costs and risks involved.
Under the terms of the original agreement, the University of Oklahoma paid the shipping and insurance charges for the painting in transit, while Dr. Meyer took responsibility for the work in France. By accepting the revised regulations, it will no longer have to assume this responsibility.
The university will now undertake the work of finding French institutions to accept the painting for its three-year rotating public exhibition, and to find a long-term home for the painting in France.
In a statement, the University of Oklahoma said it would honor the future rotation agreement that would see the artwork move between the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and France. Referring to the founding of the University of Oklahoma, she said she did not “intend for the OU foundation to retain the title of the painting for the long term” and said the painting could eventually find a house in another French public institution or as part of the American Art in Embassies program. by the State Department.
Dr. Meyer and the University of Oklahoma and the OU Foundation “reaffirmed and confirmed the original 2016 settlement agreement with a mutually agreed upon modification in order to achieve its goals,” the university said in the statement. He said that Dr Meyer had “transferred the title, interest and all permanent links with Pissarro’s painting to the OU Foundation.” In turn, the OU parties have committed to identify and transfer ownership to a French public institution or the U.S. Embassy Art Program, subject to the parties’ original three-year rotating public presentation agreement. .
Until 1941, the painting belonged to the parents of Dr Meyer, Raoul Meyer, a businessman, and his wife, Yvonne.
Over the years of negotiations, the university has never denied that the painting was stolen by the Nazis from the family during the occupation of France.
But she said in the previous court proceedings that she objected to the return of the work because of the procedural rules and the limitation period.
She also produced evidence that the former owners, members of the Weitzenhoffer family, who bequeathed her to the university in 2000, acted in good faith, having bought her from a New York gallery.
Dr. Meyer’s statement indicated that she understood that not everyone would be happy with what she decided. “Some will regret this perpetual rotation,” she says, “and others will, but students at the University of Oklahoma will remember that this work belonged to Yvonne and Raoul Meyer and that it was looted by the Nazis in France in 1941.. “