French Heir Turns Over Stolen Art to US Museum

Pissarro painting was stolen by Nazis in 1941
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2021 7:20 PM CDT
French Heir Turns Over Stolen Art to US Museum
A visitor to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman takes a photo of "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep" in 2014.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

The University of Oklahoma never disputed the fact that a Pissarro painting it's displayed since 2000 was stolen from a Jewish family in France by Nazis during World War II. But when Léone Meyer tracked down Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep in 2012, the university wouldn't give the painting up, citing rules, the statute of limitations, and evidence that the family that donated the artwork had bought it at a New York gallery and acted in good faith. Meyer, whose parents owned the impressionist painting until it was seized in 1941 during the German occupation, and the university have been negotiating and wrangling in court since, the New York Times reports. One settlement fell apart when Meyer didn't keep up her end of the deal. On Tuesday, the university and the family announced a revised settlement, a day ahead of a Paris court's scheduled ruling in the case.

Meyer, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who's a former pediatrician, wanted ownership to go to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the painting to move between the two countries for display. The university supported a rotation, but the two sides couldn't agree on all the costs and provisions. Now, Meyer will abandon any claim to the painting, which the university will rotate every three years between France and its Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. In the meantime, Oklahoma will work toward turning over ownership to a French public institution or the US Art in Embassies program. A plaque will be displayed with the artwork, explaining the Camille Pissarro painting's history with Meyer's family, per the BBC. Meyer, who said she was "heard but not listened to" during the dispute, said she fully accepts the settlement, though she knows it won't please everyone. "But the students of the University of Oklahoma will remember that this work belonged to Yvonne and Raoul Meyer and that it was pillaged by the Nazis in France in 1941," she said in a statement. (More art museum stories.)

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