Owner's son gets Klee artwork stolen by Nazis back

Japan Times 27 January 2001

KYOTO (Kyodo) A painting by famed artist Paul Klee in a Kyoto museum's possession was found to have been stolen by the Nazis in the late 1930s in Germany and will soon be sold to the original owner's son, according to the head of the museum.

Masayuki Murata, head of Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum, which possesses the 1921 abstract painting by Klee (1879-1940), said it was originally owned by a Jewish-Russian couple and will be sold to their son, Jen Lissitzky, who will visit Japan to pick up the painting Monday.

According to Murata, the painting, "Verlassener Platz Einer Exotishen Stadt," was taken by the Nazis in 1937 from a museum in Hanover, Germany, while on loan by the couple to the museum together with several other paintings by Klee.

The Kyoto museum bought the painting four years ago, and asked the Paul Klee foundation in Switzerland for authentication for a planned exhibition of the Klee paintings at the museum.

The museum decided to sell the painting to Lissitzky after he learned it was in the museum's possession, notified the facility in mid-January that the picture was among the art objects confiscated by the Nazis before and during World War II, and asked for it to be returned.

"For Mr. Lissitzky, the painting must be a precious personal effect of his parents. We hope he will treasure it very much," said Murata, while declining to reveal the selling price of the painting, saying Lissitzky had asked that the figure not be disclosed.

The Nazis seized paintings and other works of art from the areas they conquered during the war. Works that did not suit the tastes of Adolf Hitler were reportedly sold on the black market to raise funds for the German war chest.

Klee's painting will remain on display at the museum in Kyoto's Higashiyama Ward until noon Monday, according to museum officials.
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