Discriminating Thieves: Nazi-Looted Art and Restitution

Exhibition Website

Jan 26 2019 - Jan 26 2020


“The Germans have proven all along to be discriminating thieves.” — Paul Gardner, first Director of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 1943

Works of art have often been plundered as spoils of war. During World War II, Hitler and the Nazis looted art on an unprecedented scale, stealing thousands of objects across Europe. Jewish collectors were particularly affected by this looting due to Nazi laws that forbade Jews from owning property.

After the war, Allied forces found much of the looted art and returned it to the rightful owners. But other items disappeared in the chaos of war and remain lost to this day. In light of this fact, the Nelson-Atkins researches the ownership history of its artworks.

This research revealed that the works in this exhibition were looted by the Nazis during World War II, returned to their owners after the war, and subsequently acquired legally by the Nelson-Atkins.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

Image: Emil Nolde, German (1867-1956). Masks, 1911. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 30 1/2 inches. Gift of the Friends of Art, 54-90.

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