THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Amsterdam municipality says it will return a valuable painting by Wassily Kandinsky to the heirs of a Jewish family that originally owned it, ending years of legal wrangling over the work that was sold at auction in 1940.
FILE – In this file photo dated Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, visitors queue to enter the modern and contemporary art museum, Stedelijk Museum, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Amsterdam municipality said Friday Aug. 27, 2021, it will return the valuable “Painting With Houses” artwork by Wassily Kandinsky to the heirs of a Jewish family that originally owned it, ending years of legal wrangling over the work that was sold at auction in 1940.
“This is a historic injustice that is being put right,” Simon van der Sluijs, a lawyer who has represented the heirs, said Friday.
Amsterdam municipality said in a statement that it will return the 1909 work, “Painting With Houses,” without a new ruling by the Dutch restitution committee that deals with claims of looted art due to “the long duration of the process and the importance of correcting wrongs of the past.”
Van der Sluijs said the heirs welcomed Amsterdam’s decision to return the painting that currently hangs in the city’s Stedelijk Museum.
“The family is happy,” he said.
A court in Amsterdam last year upheld a 2018 ruling by the restitution committee that the artwork, which Amsterdam municipality bought at an auction in 1940, did not have to be returned to the heirs of the Lewenstein family that owned it before the brutal Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II.
The 2018 ruling said the painting was not stolen or confiscated before it was auctioned, but also stated that the sale “cannot on the one hand be considered in isolation from the Nazi regime, but on the other hand has to have been caused to an extent by the deteriorating financial circumstances” of the original owners before Nazi Germany invaded and occupied the Netherlands.