National Museum of Modern Art


On Monday, 18 September 2023, the National Museum of Modern Art, by the decision of the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb, handed over two paintings to Andrew Reichsmann. This marked the conclusion of a three-generation-long process of returning the paintings Still Life with a Bottle by André Derain and Landscape by the Water by Maurice de Vlaminck to their owners. These paintings were once owned by entrepreneur Dane Reichsmann, the father of Danica Ann Reichsmann Svoboda and the grandfather of Andrew Reichsmann. The fate of these paintings reflects the tragic and complex history of the Reichsmann family, the Jewish community, but also the quandaries of the Croatian society. In 1946, the Ministry of Science and Culture, on behalf of the State as the owner of the paintings, handed the paintings over to the Museum after they were acquired from Marijan Polić by the post-war Commission for the Collection and Preservation of Cultural Monuments and Antiquities. Marijan Polić had received the paintings for safekeeping from the Reichsmann family after their property was confiscated by the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The Reichsmann spouses were tragically killed in Auschwitz.
At that time, the museum administration, guided by civic conscience and professional ethics, did not inventory the paintings into the museum’s collection but rather into a Storage Book. This significantly facilitated the legal process of returning the artworks at the request of the family. Unfortunately, the entire process lasted for over 70 years. The National Museum of Modern Art (NMMU) adheres to applicable regulations and laws and, on this occasion, emphasises the importance of the legal framework for the restitution of artworks unjustly seized during World War II and the post-war period as a fundamental civilizational, ethical, and professional obligation. To bring this process to a conclusion, museums throughout Croatia, in collaboration with numerous related heritage institutions and with the crucial support of the Ministry of Culture and Media, are now actively engaged in researching provenance, that is, determining the ownership of artworks for which there is reasonable suspicion that they were unjustly taken during World War II and its aftermath.

Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Images: (left) Maurice de Vlaminck, Landscape by the Water, undated, oil on canvas; 550 x 595 mm / (right) André Derain, Still Life with a Bottle, undated, oil on canvas; 595 x 725 mm Photo: From the National Museum of Modern Art's archives

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