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Contemporary Jewish Museum to Show Rarely Seen Old Master Paintings
Jan Mostaert (c.1474–1552/53), Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest of America or Discovery of America, early to mid-16th century, oil on panel. Marei von Saher, the heir of Jacques Goudstikker.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Contemporary Jewish Museum presents an exhibition of rarely seen Old Master paintings entitled Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker. Reclaimed reveals the extraordinary legacy of Jacques Goudstikker, a preeminent art dealer in Amsterdam, whose vast collection of masterpieces fell victim, and was almost lost forever, to the Nazi practice of looting cultural properties during World War II.

In 2006, after years of working with a team of art historians and legal experts, Goudstikker’s family successfully reclaimed 200 of his paintings from the Dutch government – one of the largest claims to Nazi-looted art ever resolved. Featuring nearly 45 of the finest examples of the recovered art, along with original documents and photographs, the exhibition reveals Goudstikker’s influence as a collector, art dealer, tastemaker and impresario; and celebrates the historic restitution of the artworks to the rightful heir. Also included are 20 original documents and photographs relating to Goudstikker’s life. The Museum will have on view an interactive touchscreen computer version of Goudstikker’s notebook, which inventoried the bulk of his gallery’s holdings at the time he fled the Netherlands. Visitors will be able to see each page of this extraordinary document while viewing images of the paintings that Goudstikker referred to in the notebook.

The exhibition was created by the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut. The traveling exhibition was organized by The Jewish Museum, New York. Following the New York showing in spring/summer 2009, the exhibition traveled to the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas and the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is the only West Coast venue for the exhibition and will be its final showing (currently planned).

Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940) was one of the most important and influential art dealers in Europe during the period between the First and Second World Wars. The Goudstikker Gallery, located in a grand house on one of Amsterdam’s prominent canals, dealt primarily in Dutch Old Masters from the Golden Age, yet also offered other Northern European and Italian paintings. Goudstikker catered to leading collectors of his day, selling paintings not only to Dutch museums (such as the Mauritshuis in The Hague, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), but also to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and to Andrew Mellon for the then-fledgling National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. A natural impresario, Goudstikker delighted in organizing national as well as international art fairs, festivals, and exhibitions, some of which had enduring significance for the history of art and a profound influence on collecting patterns. He was responsible for what was, at the time, the largest exhibition of Peter Paul Rubens’s art in the Netherlands, and the only show ever of the landscapes of Salomon van Ruysdael, among others.

As prominent members of society, Jacques and his wife Dési entertained lavishly in their villa outside the city and at their country estate, Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht River. Yet this luxurious and exuberant life would soon be a lost moment in time. Due to the rising threat of the Third Reich and because he was Jewish, Goudstikker was forced to flee the Netherlands with his wife and their year-old son, Eduard (nicknamed “Edo”), in May 1940 shortly after the Nazi invasion. Jacques died in a tragic accident on board ship while escaping by sea.

Left behind was Goudstikker’s collection of approximately 1,400 works of art, the bulk of which were taken to Germany after the looting of the Goudstikker Gallery by Herman Göring, Hitler’s second in command and a rapacious art collector. Göring’s henchman, Alois Miedl, ran the gallery throughout the war under the Goudstikker name, profiting from its remaining stock of artworks and respected reputation.

When World War II ended, over 200 Goudstikker paintings were located by the Allies in Germany and returned to the Netherlands with the expectation that they would be restituted to the rightful owner. Despite Dési’s efforts to recover them, the Dutch government kept the works in its national collections. Eventually, Dési and her second husband, A.E. D. von Saher, who adopted Edo, left the United States, where they had settled, to return to the Netherlands, where she died in 1996. Edo survived her by only a few months.

Edo’s widow, Marei von Saher, initiated the claims process for restitution in 1997 at a time of renewed interest in restituting Nazi-looted artworks in the Netherlands and after new information about the fate of the Goudstikker collection became available to her. The small black notebook Jacques Goudstikker had used meticulously to inventory his collection was found with him at the time of his death and later became a crucial piece of evidence in the battle to reclaim his art. Finally, after a nearly decade-long battle, the Dutch government agreed on February 6, 2006 to restitute 200 of the paintings looted by the Nazis.

Jacques Goudstikker’s inventory included Italian Renaissance works, early German and Netherlandish paintings, 17th-century Dutch Old Masters, French and Italian Rococo artworks, and 19th-century French and Northern European paintings. Although his offerings became increasingly diverse – he can be credited with expanding the Dutch art market as well as collectors’ tastes – his specialty remained Northern Baroque art.

Highlights in the exhibition include Jan Wellens de Cock’s Temptation of Saint Anthony, a splendid river landscape by Salomon van Ruysdael, a rare early marine painting by Salomon’s nephew Jacob van Ruisdael, an atmospheric Winter Landscape with Skaters by Jan van Goyen, and Jan van der Heyden’s View of Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht – the country estate that Goudstikker himself owned and opened to the public each summer in the 1930s. Also on view are excellent still life paintings and portraits such as Hieronymus Galle’s Still Life with Flowers in a Vase and Ferdinand Bol’s Louise-Marie Gonzaga de Nevers.

In addition to viewing fine paintings, museum visitors will be offered an opportunity to reflect on the inequities of war, the looting of cultural property during the Holocaust, and ongoing efforts to recover artworks stolen during World War II. “This is a rare chance to tell the extraordinary story of restitution,” says Connie Wolf, Executive Director of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. “It’s a poignant story and one that resonates today as looting of artworks continues in conflicts around the world. We are thrilled to have these remarkable masterpieces on view for Bay Area audiences to see and experience.”

The Contemporary Jewish Museum | Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker | The Bruce Museum |


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