The Missing Art of World War Two

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When the news broke in November 2013 that an enormous collection of 20th century art had been found in a small, dirty flat in Munich, the art world buzzed with excitement that some of the most significant lost pieces might be found unharmed.
A total of 1500 artworks lost since 1939 were uncovered, believed to be a proportion of those confiscated by Hitler and the Nazis in the countries occupied during the war. It is believed by art historians that as many as 200,000 works went missing during the years of the war, when Hitler used force, coercion, theft and purchasing power to try and populate his Fuerhrermusem with the best examples of art. Around 30,000 of these missing items are still being searched for and many people are hoping that some of the 1500 recovered items might be part of this list of missing greats.

1. ‘Portrait of a Young Man’ by Raphael, 1513/1514

painting 231x300 The Missing Art of World War Two

Generally held by most art historians to be the most famous lost artwork taken from Poland during the Second World War, it was removed from a wealthy family’s private collection by Hitler in 1939. No one could locate it at the end of Hitler’s reign, though unsubstantiated rumours abounded in 2012 that it had been found hidden in a bank vault in Switzerland. The most valuable item on the list of lost artworks, if this painting were to be part of the haul found in Munich the art world would breathe a deep sigh of relief that it had finally been recovered.

2. ‘The Painter on the Road to Tarascon’ by Vincent van Gogh, 1888

Historical reports say that this was one of the pieces most cherished by Vincent van Gogh, depicting as it does a walking figure with whom all artists can identify. It has been believed for many years that the painting was destroyed in the allied bombing of Magdeburg, when the museum in which the painting was displayed burnt down, but some historians remain hopeful that it might be part of the Munich art cache and will be restored to public viewing.

3. ‘Madonna with Child’ by Giovanni Bellini, c.1430

Evacuated from its museum location in Berlin in the early years of the war, ‘Madonna with Child’ was taken to a flak tower where it was thought it would be better protected. This flak tower, found in Berlin-Friedrichshain, was under the control of the Russians at that time. After the war, the majority of precious items held there were stolen by looters or presumed to have been destroyed, including this valuable work by Bellini. Companies such as Jackson’s Art Supplies have long sold books exploring the mysteries of the looted art pieces and it is still hoped that the Bellini might be recovered.

4. ‘Portrait of Trude Steiner’ by Gustav Klimt, 1900

An intimate portrait of the daughter of a renowned collector in Vienna, the Nazi party seized the painting after the art collector in question fled the country in 1938. In 1941, the piece was sold to an unknown individual. It has not been seen since and its location is unknown.


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