Berlin museum restitutes—and then buys back—Nazi-looted Pissarro painting

The Art Newspaper 18 October 2021
By Catherine Hickley

The work was bought by Armand Dorville, a Jewish lawyer, but his heirs were forced to sell it at an auction in France

Camille Pissarro, painting, A Square in La Roche-Guyon (1867)

Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie has restituted and bought back a painting by Camille Pissarro that the heirs of Armand Dorville, a Jewish lawyer, were forced to auction in France in 1942.

Dorville acquired the 1867 painting, A Square in La Roche-Guyon, in Paris in 1928. His collection comprised around 450 works, including paintings by Renoir, Bonnard, Vuillard, Delacroix and Manet. After the German army occupied Paris in 1940, Dorville fled to the south of France, taking some of his collection with him. He died in July 1941, leaving his estate to his three siblings and four nieces, who were also persecuted as Jews in Vichy France.

His heirs sold the remainder of his collection in June 1942 at an auction in Nice, but they were denied access to the proceeds, which were overseen by the Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives. Several of Dorville’s family members were later deported and murdered at Auschwitz.

Pissarro visited an artist friend in La Roche-Guyon, north of Paris, in 1867 and painted there with Paul Guillemet and Paul Cézanne. Berlin’s National Gallery bought the work in 1961 at a London art gallery. It will remain on display in the Alte Nationalgalerie after the family agreed to sell it back to the Berlin museum.

“This Pissarro painting is an important work for our collection because it marks a significant step towards Impressionist art, which is one of the core holdings of the Alte Nationalgalerie,” says Ralph Gleis, the museum’s director. “I thank Armand Dorville’s heirs for the trust in this institution shown by this acquisition.”
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