City of Krems Restituted Two Paintings by Kremser Schmidt

Jewish News from Austria 25 December 2007

The paintings were returned to the heirs of the former owner living in the U.S. – They will be restored before being sent overseas.

Krems – Today the City of Krems has restituted two paintings by Kremser Schmidt from the Richard Neumann collection. “A great moment for the City of Krems,” said Mayor Franz Hölzl on Wednesday while handing over the paintings to the grandson, Tom Selldorff (79) living in the U.S.

Tom Selldorff was accompanied by his wife Carolyn and one of his two sons. According to information released by the City of Krems, the paintings will be brought to Vienna for restoration. Then, they will be sent by air to the United States and hung in the houses of the two sons in memory of Richard Neumann.

The case remained open for a long time. The Neumann heirs had asked that the paintings, seized during the NS era, be returned. The City refused, pointing to Neumann’s waiver of further claims in 1952 and to a recommendation by the Council on Art Restitution adopted in 2005.

At the beginning of the year, Hölzl commissioned an expert’s opinion on the matter. Robert Holzbauer, head of Provenance Research and of the Archive of Vienna’s Leopold Museum, recommended to the Museum of the City of Krems that the paintings be restituted. This spring, the City Council followed the advice of the historian that the paintings be returned.

Regarding the chronology: In 1998 Hölzl requested an expert to research the museum’s holdings thought to be related to ‘looting by the Nazis.’ One discovered two paintings by the Barock painter, Martin Johann Schmidt – “Hl. Florian” and “Hl. Josef von Calasanz” - which were sent in 1938 by the Collection Office Responsible for Seizure of Jewish Art Objects connected to the Art History Museum of Vienna (KHM) to the City of Vienna.  As a result, the City of Vienna contacted the Federal Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and the Commission for Provenance Research and tried also via ads in the newspaper in search of possible heirs. In October 2002, the law office of Freimüller/Noll and Partner named Thomas Selldorff as legal heir.

Richard Neuman was a manufacturer of textiles and owned a well-known art collection, which after the “Anschluß” was expropriated by the National Socialists. Neumann, himself, managed to flee to France, then Spain and on to Cuba. As Honorary Professor of the University of Havanna, he dedicated himself for many years to founding his own art museum and finally laid the foundation for the Palacio de Bellas Artes. He died in 1961 at the age of eighty-two in New York.
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