German art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt’s collection of 1,400 paintings in Munich valued at some $1.6 billion, may be less significant than the 60 or so pieces by Renoir, Monet and other French impressionists recently discovered in his Austrian home, according to an interview with his lawyer, Hannes Hartung, published by the BBC on Friday.
Hartung told the BBC that no decision had been taken yet about publishing photos of the newly found artworks, whose discovery was announced on Monday, or giving fuller details about them.
“They are very prominent works,” said Hartung told the BBC. “A wonderful Seine scene by Pissarro, a wonderful bridge picture by Monet and a sailing boat sea scape by Manet. Then there are also many other works by Renoir, and by Liebermann. They are in general artistically outstandingly good pieces, which are of more significance than the collection from Schwabing [the Munich district of Gurlitt’s apartment].”
Gurlitt inherited the massive collection from his father, Hildebrant Gurlitt, who, during World War II, was tasked with selling art regarded by the Nazis as un-German or “degenerate.” After the war, he told authorities that all the paintings had been destroyed in the bombing of Dresden. But, a huge cache of artwork was discovered last year in the apartment of his son, an 81-year old recluse, from whom authorities confiscated the collection, and are now trying to match the paintings with their original owners, many of whom are expected to be Jewish.
In November, Gurlitt told Germany’s Der Spiegel the paintings came from German museums or art dealers, adding that his father only cooperated with the Nazis because he wanted to save the paintings from being burned.
“It’s possible that my father may have been offered something privately, but he certainly didn’t accept it. He would have found that unsavory,” Gurlitt told Der Spiegel.
Hildebrand Gurlitt was described by the Holocaust Claims Conference, in a statement, as “one of the four art dealers commissioned by Hitler to handle stolen art,” the BBC reported.