Nazi-Era Art Hoarder: I Want My Pictures Back

Cornelius Gurlitt relents, gives interview

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 17, 2013 2:24 PM CST

(Newser) – A German man caught hoarding $1.3 billion in Nazi-era art has relented to the media glare and given an interview—in which he describes himself as a sad, lonely man who had nothing but great art to keep him company. "I'm just a very quiet person," 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt tells Der Spiegel on a train ride. "All I wanted to do was live with my pictures." Now authorities say that he will receive an indictment—presumably for hoarding stolen art—but will also get some of it back. And at the moment, that's all he lives for: "They have to come back to me," he whispers with tears in his eyes.

Gurlitt defends his deceased father, art dealer and critic Hildebrand Gurlitt, saying he bought the art during the Nazi reign but always from dealers or museums, never private sellers. "I'm not as courageous as my father," he says. "He loved art and fought for it. The state prosecutor has to restore my father's reputation." With his health deteriorating and medical bills piling up, Gurlitt admits to selling an expressionist work for nearly $1 million. But when he doesn't need the dough, "there is nothing I have loved more in my life than my pictures," he says. "When I'm dead, they can do with them what they want."

A painting by Henry Matisse 'Sitzende Frau' ('Sitting Woman') among more than 1,400 artworks seized by German authorities in an apartment in Munich in February 2012.
A painting by Henry Matisse 'Sitzende Frau' ('Sitting Woman') among more than 1,400 artworks seized by German authorities in an apartment in Munich in February 2012.   (AP Photo/Staatsanwaltschaft Augsburg)
'Reiter am Strand' ('Riders at the Beach') by Max Liebermann from 1901 that was among the more than 1400 art works seized by German authorities in an apartment in Munich.
'Reiter am Strand' ('Riders at the Beach') by Max Liebermann from 1901 that was among the more than 1400 art works seized by German authorities in an apartment in Munich.   (AP Photo/Staatsanwaltschaft Augsburg)
Otto Griebel's 'Kind am Tisch' (Child at a table) that was among more than 1,400 art works seized by German authorities in Munich.
Otto Griebel's 'Kind am Tisch' (Child at a table) that was among more than 1,400 art works seized by German authorities in Munich.   (AP Photo/Staatsanwaltschaft Augsburg)
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