Pissarro works making news outside art world

Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning

A streetscape by Camille Pissarro brought more than $32 million earlier this month, more than four times the previous record for a work by the Danish-French impressionist.

Pissarro’s “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning,” a view of Paris painted in 1897, was sold by Sotheby’s in London.

The oil on canvas was part of industrialist Max Silberberg’s collection. Silberberg was forced by the Nazis to sell his artworks in the 1930s and later died in the Holocaust.

Silberberg’s collection also featured works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and van Gogh and was regarded as one of the best pre-war collections of 19th and 20th Century art in Germany, according to the BBC.

“Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” was returned to Silberberg’s family in 2000. It had never before been sold at auction.

The previous record for a Pissarro painting was set in 2009, when “Le Pont Boieldieu Et La Gare D’Orleans Rouen, Soleil” sold for about $7 million. A quartet of the artist’s works entitled “Les Quatre Saisons” brought more than $14 million in 2007.

The new owner of “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” requested anonymity.

Another Pissarro painting has also been in the news recently.

The ownership of “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” which Pissarro completed in 1886 and currently resides at a University of Oklahoma museum, is in dispute, with a family in France claiming the work stolen from them by the Nazis

Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep, by Camille Pissarro, 1886.

“Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” by Impressionist Camille Pissarro, 1886.

The museum is arguing that the painting was purchased in 1956 by a private collector and was eventually bequeathed to the museum in 2000.

However, Leone Meyer has filed a lawsuit in US federal court against the museum, saying that the painting belonged to her father, Raoul Meyer.

Meyer is arguing that Nazis seized the painting from her father’s collection and is asking the courts to order its return.

The university has cited a 1953 ruling in Switzerland that previously denied the Meyer family’s claim to “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep” partly because of the statute of limitations, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Officials at the museum said that it will return the work if so ordered by the federal judge.

9 thoughts on “Pissarro works making news outside art world

    • I think it’s always been out there, but it’s no longer being swept under the rug by courts and governments, as it was in the initial years after World War II. Unfortunately, most of the original owners have long since died, if they were killed in the Holocaust.

  1. It’s so sad that the new owner wishes to remain anonymous, meaning we’ll never get to see the painting again. I hope that’s not the case. Its such a wonderful painting!

  2. It’s not so much the statute of limitations and relying on bodgy laws, but recognising the moral rightness of returning a painting stolen by the Nazis. Its ownership is tainted by its history and so is the institution associated with it.

    • Agreed. It’s unfortunate that a university museum is apparently taking a hardline stance against returning the work. To come out and say that it will abide by the dictates of a federal court if it’s required to makes the museum sound petty.

  3. I like the genre of painting the streets of Paris from a height…there are some by Caillebotte that are just superb….
    I tend to think that if something was bought in good faith then that’s an end to it…

    • I like the cityscapes, as well, especially the Impressionists cityscapes. I suppose some cities lend themselves more to cityscapes than others. A cityscape of, say, El Paso, Texas, likely wouldn’t be as enticing as one of London or San Francisco.

      I’m not sure about the good-faith purchase concept being a final arbiter because too often those who have possession, it would seem, will do whatever it takes to prove they made a good-faith purchase, no matter what the real circumstances, given the amount of money under consideration. And for the individual or their heirs who had the work taken from them years before, their should be some sort of mechanism for them to recoup their loss, no matter what the time frame.

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