Israel Museum to display art looted during World War II

Landmark exhibition seeks to trace rightful owners and draw attention to restitution of stolen artwork.

charlotte 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
charlotte 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a landmark exhibition, more than 50 paintings and drawings stolen from France by the Germans during World War II will go on display at the Israel Museum in February, in an effort to trace the works' owners, the museum announced Sunday. The exhibition, organized by the French Foreign Affairs and Culture and Communications Ministries, features the work of major European artists, including Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Claude Monet and Georges Seurat. It is scheduled to open February 19 and run through June 3. About 60,000 pieces of art taken from France and brought to Germany during WWII, either looted or sold, were repatriated to France after the war. Of these, 2,000 objects that could not be restituted due to a lack of clear ownership history were handed over to French national museums and are stored or exhibited in museums throughout France, including the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay and Centre Georges-Pompido. "There has been much misunderstanding about the history of works taken during World War II and the efforts relating to their recovery following the war," said James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. "This is an unprecedented opportunity to present the history... for our audience in Israel, together with the ongoing research that has been done to help advance the process of restitution in France." The exhibition, entitled "Looking for Owners: Custody, Research, and Restitution of Art Stolen in France during World War II," includes works looted from unknown owners, works stolen from Jewish families that were returned following the war and subsequently purchased by the state, and works bought in the French art market by German museums and private individuals during the war. An on-line list of the unclaimed French collection was posted in November 1996 by the Museums Department of the French Culture and Communication Ministry (, while a catalogue of the paintings was published in France in 2004. A separate exhibition of more than 50 of the 1,200 unclaimed works of looted art from the Holocaust held by the Israel Museum, which were stolen during the war and later brought to Israel, will be concomitantly displayed at the museum.