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Lawsuit filed by heirs to reclaim Nazi-looted Pissarro painting

The heirs of a prominent art collector couple have filed a lawsuit for the return of a Pissarro painting, looted by the Nazis.

According to the New York Times, the lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court of Atlanta. The lawsuit concerns a 1903 painting by Camille Pissarro, titled The Anse des Pilotes, Le Havre. The plaintiffs include grandchildren and great-grandchildren of famous German collector Ludwig Kainer. It also includes the descendants of Kainer’s wife Margaret, through her cousin. The Kainer couple once owned more than 400 artworks. The claimants come from all over the world, including Florida, Massachusetts, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and Bolivia.

Margaret, wife of Ludwig Kainer

The painting has a long history behind it. It was painted by Pissarro in 1903, few months before his demise. In 1904, Pissarro’s son sold it to Ludwig Kainer. In 1932, the couple travelled abroad due to health issues but decided to never return to Germany due to the rapid rise of the Nazi Party. Shortly after, the Nazis seized the Kainer collection and auctioned most of it, including the Pissarro painting in 1935. After World War II, the Kainers requested the French government for reparations, but nothing came of it. The couple died in 1967 and 1968 respectively, without any direct heirs.

It is claimed that Gerald D. Horowitz and/or his wife Perlann Horowitz bought the painting in 1995, despite knowing of its Nazi past. The work was last publicly displayed in 2014 at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The lawsuit claims that when requested by the heirs to return to stolen art, the couple refused to acknowledge it.
In the past, a Swiss family foundation (founded by Margaret’s brother in 1927) had received proceeds from the previous sale of other Kainer collection artworks. However, the heirs have previously denounced the foundation, calling it a “sham”.