French heir donated Pissarro, stolen by the Nazis, to the University of Oklahoma

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A Jewish family, whose relatives were kidnapped by the Nazis, said Tuesday that it is giving up their rights to the Pissarro painting and transferring ownership to the University of Oklahoma, where it exhibited until 2017.

Leone Meyer, whose family collection was plundered by the Nazis, said she was giving it up. long effort donate the painting to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where it has been exhibited in recent years. The title of the work, “La Bergere,” or “Shepherdess Bringing the Sheep,” would instead pass to the University of Oklahoma under an agreement that would ensure the painting’s continued exhibitions in both countries.

“Now I’m free again at a price I fully accept,” said Dr. Meyer in a statement about her plan for a painting she discovered in 2012 in a collection at the University of Oklahoma, to which it was donated in 2000. Later donated to the museum in Paris.

The announcement appears to have ended the controversy over the painting that spawned court cases in both France and the United States, and has already been the subject of a previously agreed settlement. In 2016, Dr. Meyer and the University of Oklahoma agreed that the painting would be returned to her, but would be exhibited in a museum in France for five years, and then changed every three years between the university and one or more French institutions. As part of the plan, 82-year-old Dr. Meyer said that ownership of the painting, which Pissarro completed in 1886, would eventually be transferred to an art institution in France.

But the legal tug-of-war began anew after Dr. Meyer, a Holocaust survivor, refused to return the painting as planned to Oklahoma next month and tried to amend the agreement to leave the painting in France for good.

A Paris court was scheduled to rule Wednesday over her attempts to preserve the painting in France after two previous French court decisions went against her and the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors rallied in support of university policy. fight for the preservation of the settlement.

Dr. Meyer had hoped to donate the work to the Musée d’Orsay, but she said the museum refused because it did not want to take on the associated costs and risks.

Under the terms of the original agreement, the University of Oklahoma paid for the transportation and insurance of the painting en route, and Dr. Meyer took charge of the work in France. By agreeing to the revised settlement, she no longer has to bear this responsibility.

The university will now take over the job of finding French institutions that will accept the painting for its three-year rotation of the public exhibition, and looking for a long-term home for the painting in France.

In a statement, the University of Oklahoma said it would abide by a future rotation agreement that would move artwork between Fred Jones Jr. Art Museum and France. Referring to the University of Oklahoma Foundation, he stated that he “does not intend for the OU Foundation to retain ownership of the painting for a long time,” and said the painting may end up finding a home in another French government agency, or US art in embassies program administered by the Department of State.

Dr. Meyer, the University of Oklahoma and the OU Foundation have “reaffirmed and reaffirmed the original 2016 settlement agreement with mutually agreed changes to achieve their goals,” the university said in a statement. It stated that Dr. Meyer “transferred ownership, interests and all ongoing ties to the Pissarro painting to the OU Foundation. In return, the OU parties have undertaken to identify and transfer ownership to the French government agency or the US Art in Embassy program, subject to the parties’ initial three-year public display agreement. ”

Until 1941, the painting was in the possession of Dr. Meyer’s parents, Raoul Meyer, a businessman, and his wife Yvonne. Dr. Meyer’s father was the longtime chairman of the department store chain Galeries Lafayette, of which she later also served as chairman for several years.

During the years of negotiations, the university has never denied that the painting was stolen from the family by the Nazis during the occupation of France.

But this said in a previous trial that he objects to the return of the work due to procedural rules and statute of limitations.

He also provided evidence that the previous owners, members of the Weitzenhofer family, who bequeathed it to the university in 2000, acted in good faith by purchasing it from a gallery in New York.

Under the agreement, Dr. Meyer, a retired pediatrician, is contributing $ 500,000 to ensure that the cost of the rotation is covered. For its part, the university agreed to withdraw the claim for legal costs.

Dr. Meyer’s statement indicates that she understands that not everyone will like what she decided. “Some will regret this constant rotation,” she said, “and others will note it, but University of Oklahoma students will remember that this work belonged to Yvonne and Raoul Meyer and was plundered by the Nazis in France in 1941. … “

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