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Stedelijk Museum Announces Return Of Matisse Painting To Heirs Of Albert Stern

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam will return a Henry Matisse painting to the heirs of the person who sold it during Nazi persecution.

Titled Odalisque, the work was painted by Henry Matisse sometime during 1920-21. It was eventually acquired by Albert Stern, a successful textile industrialist in Germany. His wife Marie, who studied art before marriage, was the one who acquired the work on her husband’s behalf.

Commission for Looted Art In Europe, the organization which represented the Stern heirs, later released a statement saying “[our investigation] conclusively demonstrated that the family was subjected to persecution from 1933 onwards, first in Germany where they lived and then from 1937 in the Netherlands where they had fled and where they were gradually stripped of their possessions and their livelihood. They made several unsuccessful efforts to escape and eventually were forced to sell their remaining possessions to try to survive.”

Albert Stern and his wife fled to the Netherlands during 1936-37 but continued facing persecution. The Matisse painting was sold to the Stedelijk Museum in an attempt to move out of Europe. They were unsuccessful in this. Stern died in 1945 in Laufen while his wife survived the war and moved to the United Kingdom.

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The Dutch Restitutions Committee announced its verdict on June 25th, stating: “It is sufficiently plausible that the sale of the painting was connected to the measures taken by the occupying forces against Jewish members of the population and arose from a desire for self-preservation.” The heirs of Albert Stern were happy with the decision of ‘symbolic justice’, and said: “The return of the Matisse is a moving and overwhelming moment for us all.”