Oklahoma University, Frenchwoman in tug-of-art stolen by Nazis

Thu Feb 20, 2014 7:02pm EST
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By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A 128-year-old French impressionist painting plundered by the Nazis during World War Two has become a political football in Oklahoma, with lawmakers calling for its immediate return and the state's pre-eminent university looking to keep the work.

A Frenchwoman who says the art was stolen from her family has filed a lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma (OU), where its art museum now possesses the painting, "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep" by Camille Pissarro.

Paul Wesselhoft, a Republican representative for Oklahoma City, is sponsoring a resolution he hopes to steer through the House next week calling for the painting to be returned. He said keeping it on display would be embarrassing for the state and the school.

"It is the right and moral thing to do for OU to return this painting to the Jewish family from which the Nazis plundered it," Wesselhoft said on Thursday. "Keeping this painting is an embarrassment. I'm ashamed that it's in the museum."

There is general agreement that the Pissarro painting was one of the numerous artworks stolen by the Nazis.

When Paris fell in World War Two, German troops looted museums, galleries and personal collections across France, including artwork owned by Parisian businessman Raoul Meyer, who had a large collection of French impressionist paintings.

His daughter, Leone Meyer, said it was time for the painting to come home and last year filed a lawsuit in federal court against the university and its foundation and art galleries.

The lawsuit states that the painting, which measures 18-1/4 inches by 15 inches (46.4 cms by 38 cms), was registered as a plundered artwork that once belonged to the family and entered the United States without the family's knowledge in 1956.   Continued...