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Son of Nazi Art Dealer Who Hoarded Paintings Dies

A reclusive German whose long-secret hoard of well over 1,000 works of art looted by Nazis dies at 81.
Image: A painting by French artist Matisse is beamed to a wall at an Augsburg courtroom
A painting by French artist Henri Matisse 'Sitting Woman' is beamed to a wall November 5, 2013, at an Augsburg courtroom during a news conference of state prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz and expert art historian Meike Hoffmann from the Berlin Free University. A Jewish group accused Germany on Monday of moral complicity in concealment of stolen paintings after it emerged authorities failed for two years to report discovery of a trove of modern art seized by the Nazis, including works by Picasso and Matisse. Customs officials' chance discovery of 1,500 artworks in a Munich flat owned by Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive elderly son of war-time art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was authorized by Hitler’s propagandist minister Joseph Goebbels to sell art the Nazis stole, was revealed in a report by news magazine Focus over the weekend. The art works missing for more than 70 years could be worth well over one billion euros.Reuters
/ Source: Associated Press

BERLIN – Cornelius Gurlitt, a reclusive German collector whose long-secret hoard of well over 1,000 artworks triggered an international uproar over the fate of art looted by the Nazis, died Tuesday. He was 81.

Gurlitt had inherited the collection of paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer who traded in works confiscated by the Nazis and who died in 1956.

Cornelius Gurlitt's spokesman, Stephan Holzinger, said that the collector died at his apartment in Munich, where he had asked to return after being hospitalized for major heart surgery. He was "in nursing care and taken care of in recent weeks around the clock," Holzinger said.

German artist Max Beckman's "Lion Tamer," a 1930 gouache and pastel work on paper was sold by Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of Hildebrandt Gurlitt, an art dealer who in the run-up to the Second World War was in charge of gathering so-called "degenerate art" for the Nazis.

Gurlitt was thrust into the public spotlight in November when authorities, following a report by German magazine Focus, disclosed that they had seized 1,280 works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall from the Munich apartment more than a year earlier.

They had discovered the works while investigating a tax case after Gurlitt aroused their suspicions during a routine customs check on a Zurich-Munich train in September 2010.

Some of the pieces, by Matisse, Chagall and Otto Dix, were previously unknown, not listed in the detailed inventories compiled by art scholars.

Hildebrand Gurlitt
The photo dated 1925 and provided by Kunstsammlungen Zwickau museum shows art historian Hildebrand Gurlitt who was the first director of the museum. His son Cornelius Gurlitt told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Nov. 17, 2013 that he wanted to protect the collection, built up by his late father Hildebrand and has hidden for half a century says he did so because he "loved" them.AP FILE

German authorities, facing criticism from Jewish groups and art experts for keeping the hoard secret for so long, quickly moved to publicize details of paintings online and put together a task force to speed their identification; they said at least 458 of the works may have been stolen from their owners by the Nazis.

Separately, representatives for Gurlitt later secured a further 238 artworks at a dilapidated house he owned in Salzburg, Austria. Gurlitt was never under investigation in Austria and those works weren't seized by authorities.

- The Associated Press