Span­ish mu­seum, fam­ily in court over art

Porterville Recorder - - RECORD - By JOHN ROGERS

LOS AN­GE­LES — The great-grand­son of a Jewish woman who sur­ren­dered her price­less Camille Pis­sarro paint­ing to es­cape the Holo­caust watched Tues­day as his lawyer re­lent­lessly grilled of­fi­cials of the Span­ish mu­seum where it now hangs, ex­press­ing in­credulity that they didn't know it was Nazi looted art.

Mem­bers of the mu­seum's le­gal and re­search team, in­clud­ing some who were there when the paint­ing "Rue St.-honore, Apres-midi, Ef­fet de Pluie" was ac­quired in 1992, in­sisted due dili­gence was done. They added they had no idea it was stolen un­til Lilly Cas­sirer's grand­son, Claude, dis­cov­ered it in 1999.

For nearly 20 years, the fam­ily has been bat­tling to get it back. The mu­seum main­tains the work, val­ued at more than $30 mil­lion, was ac­quired in good faith and it should be al­lowed to keep it.

"I'm de­lighted we fi­nally had our day in court. I'm cau­tiously op­ti­mistic," David Cas­sirer, whose great-grand­mother sur­ren­dered the paint­ing, said out­side court. He has con­tin­ued the le­gal fight for the paint­ing since his fa­ther died.

Dur­ing more than five hours of tes­ti­mony Tues­day, at­tor­ney David Boies pressed of­fi­cials rep­re­sent­ing Madrid's Thyssen-borne­misza mu­seum, of­ten ex­press­ing doubt they seemed to know so lit­tle about the paint­ing's his­tory when it was pur­chased in 1992.

The paint­ing was one of hun­dreds that Spain and a non­profit foun­da­tion ac­quired from Baron Hans-hein­rich Thyssen-borne­misza to cre­ate the mu­seum that now bears the Ger­man in­dus­tri­al­ist's name.

The stun­ning oil-on­can­vass work, whose ti­tle trans­lates in English to "Rue Saint-honoré in the Af­ter­noon, Ef­fect of Rain," was painted in 1897. It shows a rainy Paris street scene the artist ob­served from his ho­tel win­dow.

Lilly Cas­sirer's fa­therin-law bought it di­rectly from Pis­sarro's art dealer and left it to her and her hus­band when he died. She traded it to the Nazis in 1939 in ex­change for exit visas for her­self, her hus­band and her grand­son.

The post-world War II Ger­man gov­ern­ment, think­ing the work was lost, paid her $13,000 in repa­ra­tions in 1958.

In truth it had been sold and resold in Ger­many be­fore ar­riv­ing in the United States some­time af­ter 1943. Thyssen-borne­misza bought it from New York gallery owner Stephan Hahn in 1976.

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