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January 17, 2023 11:52 am

Munch Painting Hid From Nazis in Norwegian Forest to Be Auctioned by Sothebys in Restitution Settlement


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A partial view of Edvard Munch’s “Dance on the Beach.” Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A famous painting by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch that was hidden from the Nazis in a barn in a Norwegian forest will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s London later this year as part of a restitution settlement with the Jewish family of its previous owner, who was forced to sell the work in Berlin in 1934 as he fled the Nazis.

Dance on the Beach — which in the foreground shows two of Munch’s lovers, Tulla Larsen and Millie Thaulow — is expected to be sold for $15-25 million at the Sotheby’s auction on March 1, the auction house said on Monday. Before being sold, the painting will be displayed to the public for the first time since 1979 with an exhibition in London, and digital installations in Hong Kong and New York. The artwork hasn’t been on the market for 89 years.

“This exceptional painting is made all the more special due to its extraordinary provenance, a history that has unfolded since it was painted 115 years ago,” said Lucian Simmons, vice chairman and Sotheby’s worldwide head of restitution. “Intertwined in the story of this painting are two families – both leading patrons of Munch … We are proud to play a part in the painting’s next chapter, whilst celebrating the legacy of the patrons who were integral in supporting the vision of such a great artist.”

Dance on the Beach was originally commissioned in 1906 by world-famous film and theater director Max Reinhardt, who asked Munch to create a frieze, a painted decoration placed on a wall, for his theater in Berlin. The painting was placed on the upper level of the theater and was the largest artwork as part of the frieze as well as the only one signed in full, according to Sotheby’s. It is also the only part of the frieze privately owned while nine other pieces are on view at Berlin’s National Gallery, one in the Hamburg Kunsthalle and one in Essen’s Folkwang Museum.

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The frieze was divided when the theater was refurbished in 1912 and Dance on the Beach was acquired by leading Jewish art historian, curator and collector Professor Curt Glaser. He was a friend and biographer of the artist and also director of the Berlin State Art Library. Persecuted by the Nazis for being Jewish, Glaser fled Germany in 1933 and was forced to sell Dance on the Beach along with other works.

Dance on the Beach was later auctioned in Oslo, Norway, in 1934 and was purchased by Thomas Olsen, Munch’s neighbor and friend. Olsen hung the painting in the first class lounge of his cruise liner, the MS Black Watch, from January to September 1939. After Britain declared war on Germany, he hid his treasured paintings, including Dance on the Beach and Munch’s The Scream, in a barn in the Norwegian forest. The paintings were recovered after the war and the Olsen family has retained ownership of Dance on the Beach since then.

The terms of Sotheby’s restitution settlement with Glaser’s heirs are not being revealed to the public, including details of who will receive proceeds from the auction in March, a spokesperson from Sotheby’s told The Algemeiner.

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