Painting stolen by Nazis may rise £7m for its owners

The Telegraph 11 April 2003
Will Bennett

A painting by the Austrian artist Egon Schiele which was looted by the Nazis is expected to fetch up to £7 million at Sotheby's in London in June.

After half a century in an museum in Austria, Landscape at Krumau was recently returned to the heirs of the Jewish collectors from whom it was stolen.

The painting's history came to light after research by Lucian Simmons, head of a Sotheby's department specialising in art looted during the Second World War, and Andrea Jungmann, who runs the auction house's Austrian office.

They worked with the Jewish community in Vienna to return the painting to its rightful owners.

The painting, which dates from 1916, was bought by an Austrian textile magnate, Willy Hellmann, from Schiele, who was a friend. It hung in his home in Vienna until October 1938 when it was seized by the Nazis and sold.

It was bought by Wolfgang Gurlitt, a dealer, who sold it to the Neue Galerie in the Austrian city of Linz in 1953. It remained there until it was returned to Mr Hellmann's descendants this year.

"We are very happy that we have succeeded in returning this painting," said Erika Jakubovits, executive director of the presidency of the Jewish community in Vienna.

"It is important to recognise the enduring rights of victims and their heirs."

Mr Hellmann's heirs will sell the painting at Sotheby's on 23 June. It was "one of the great townscapes from the last years of Schiele's career", said Melanie Clore, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe.
Schiele, who died in 1918 aged 28, had close links with Krumau, on the banks of the Moldau river in Bohemia. It was his mother's birthplace and a place of refuge for him.
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