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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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Düsseldorf remembers art dealer Max Stern

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This 19th-century Wilhelm Schadow self portrait has been restituted to the Max Stern estate but will remain on public view in Düsseldorf. From left are Hans-Georg Lohe, the city’s chief of culture; Canadian Ambassador Marie Gervais-Vidricaire; Concordia University’s Clarence Epstein; and Susanne Anna, director of Düsseldorf City Museum. Photo by Göttert/Courtesy City of Düsseldorf

MONTREAL — A 12th Nazi-looted painting has been restituted to the university heirs of the late German Jewish art dealer Max Stern, who owned the Dominion Gallery in Montreal for many years.

A rare self portrait of the 19th-century German painter Wilhelm Schadow was formally returned on April 7 to Concordia University, McGill University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by the City of Düsseldorf.

This act of restitution has special significance because Düsseldorf was Stern’s native city and where he ran an art gallery until the Nazi regime forced him to close and forcibly sell off his collection.

Clarence Epstein, who has headed Concordia’s Max Stern Restitution Project since its launch in 2002, was present at the ceremony at city hall to reclaim the artwork on behalf of the heirs, along with the Canadian ambassador to Germany, Marie Gervais-Vidricaire.

Under an agreement with the Stern estate, the painting will be loaned to the Düsseldorf City Museum, where it has been on display for several decades, for the public to continue to view.

At the same time, Düsseldorf Lord Mayor Dirk Elbers announced a project for international scholarly collaboration on the matter of art restitution. Concordia will be one of the lead partners.

Schadow (1788-1862) was director of the Düsseldorf Academy of the Arts, an art school attended by students who went on to become some of Germany’s greatest artists.

“We are very pleased that an unprecedented number of German institutions have finally recognized and acted on our claims,” said Concordia president Alan Shepard.

“Adding to the recoveries of paintings from Stuttgart and Cologne in the last year, Düsseldorf and its museum are demonstrating the kind of leadership needed in addressing looted art matters.”

The museum is home to a series of drawings by Jewish children and teens from the Nazi era that was the subject of a recent project. An exhibition on Jewish life in Düsseldorf is planned for next year.

A major exhibition is scheduled for 2018 dedicated to Max Stern to be held in the Galerie Stern. The gallery was founded by his father in 1913 and was a landmark of the city’s main Königsallee until its forced closure.

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