The story of the Gurlitt hoard has received a great deal of attention. And yet each passing day brings new information and new finds of art works hidden in houses previously unknown. Gurlitt himself has retreated to hospital while a team of lawyers represents his affairs.
It will surely take a very long time to learn the actual holdings Gurlitt amassed and to see them conveyed to their next owners (whomever they may turn out to be.)
In the meantime, we have Alex Shoumatoff’s lengthy recap of what’s known to date appearing Vanity Fair (a few brief excerpts below:)
“Everyone in the know had heard that Gurlitt had a big collection of looted art,” the husband of a modern-art-gallery owner told me. […]
“He must not be a happy man, having lived a lie for so many years,” Nana Dix, the granddaughter of the Degenerate artist Otto Dix, said to me about Cornelius. Nana is herself an artist, and we spent three hours in her studio in Schwabing, about half a mile from Cornelius’s apartment, looking at reproductions of her grandfather’s work and tracing his remarkable career—how he had transcendently documented the horrors he had lived through on the front lines of both wars, at one point being forbidden by the Gestapo to paint or even buy art materials. Dix, who came from humble origins (his father worked in an iron foundry in Gera), was one of the great under-recognized artists of the 20th century. Only Picasso expressed himself as masterfully in so many styles: Expressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Impressionism, abstract, grotesque hyper-realism. Dix’s powerful, searingly honest images reflect—as Hildebrand Gurlitt described the unsettling modern art he collected—“the struggle to come to terms with who we are.” According to Nana Dix, 200 of his major works are still missing. […]
He was like a character in a Russian novel—intense, obsessed, isolated, and increasingly out of touch with reality.
Tonight 60 Minutes will explore the topic, including the perspective of some of the claimants:
In the apartment, the task force found a drawing she says her grandfather owned that she has filed a claim for. She doesn’t think she will be seeing the drawing anytime soon. “I don’t believe in my lifetime, because I think this is going to be a long, long battle.” One thing that could further complicate restitution is the fact that Gurritt is 81 and has just been treated for a serious heart condition. He recently drew up a will in the hospital but his lawyers say they don’t know what’s in it.