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Kandinsky portray that spent many years in Dutch museum sells at public sale for $44.9 million

A portray by Wassily Kandinsky that spent many years in a Dutch museum after its Jewish proprietor was murdered within the Holocaust has bought at public sale for $44.9 million.

“Murnau mit Kirche II” (“Murnau with Church II”) set a file worth for the Russian artist in a sale at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday night. Completed in 1910, the brightly coloured panorama of a Bavarian village foreshadows the daring summary imagery of Kandinsky’s later work.

The Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven returned the portray final yr to the descendants of German Jewish artwork collectors Johanna Margarete Stern and Siegbert Samuel Stern.

Siegbert Stern died in 1935, and Johanna fled Nazi Germany for Amsterdam, the place she was pressured to promote a lot of her assortment. She was arrested after the Nazis occupied the Netherlands and died within the Auschwitz focus camp in 1944.


Sotheby’s mentioned proceeds from the sale can be shared between 13 surviving Stern heirs and also will fund additional analysis into the destiny of the household’s assortment.

In 2013, Dutch museums recognized 139 artworks as Nazi loot, together with work from masters comparable to Kandinsky, Henri Matisse and Paul Klee.

In 2021, the municipality of Amsterdam agreed to return one other Kandinsky work, “Painting With Houses,” to the heirs of the Jewish household that initially owned it. The metropolis purchased it at public sale in 1940 and it had hung within the Stedelijk Museum.

The painting "Murnau with Church II" by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky is on display during a media preview of Sotheby's auction, in London on Feb. 22, 2023. The piece sold for $44.9 million at the auction on March 1, 2023. 

The portray “Murnau with Church II” by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky is on show throughout a media preview of Sotheby’s public sale, in London on Feb. 22, 2023. The piece bought for $44.9 million on the public sale on March 1, 2023.  (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)


Lucian Simmons, Sotheby’s worldwide head of restitution, famous that this yr marks the twenty fifth anniversary of a 1998 worldwide convention on looted artwork in Washington that discovered earlier makes an attempt to return looted artwork didn’t go far sufficient.

“Since then, Sotheby’s restitution division has labored with many heirs and households to reunite them with their stolen property and, on the similar time, to assist retell their tales and rejoice their lives,” Simmons mentioned.

Another restituted work, Edvard Munch’s “Dance on the Beach,” bought on the similar Sotheby’s public sale for $20.5 million.


The huge portray, one in every of a number of designed for theater impresario Max Reinhardt, was purchased within the Thirties by Norwegian ship proprietor Thomas Olsen after its Jewish proprietor, Curt Glaser, was pressured to flee Nazi Germany.

Olsen hid his giant assortment of Munch works — together with a model of his most well-known portray, “The Scream” — through the Nazi occupation of Norway throughout World War II.

Sotheby’s mentioned the portray had been bought “topic to an settlement” between the Olsen and Glaser households.

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