MONTREAL — A Nazi-looted Gustav Klimt painting restituted to a Montreal man sold for $40.4 million (US) at auction in New York last week.
The 1915 landscape Litzlberg on the Attersee by the Austrian master was returned to Georges Jorisch, 83, this past July by the state-owned Museum of Modern Art in Salzburg, Austria.
He’s the sole heir of the wealthy Viennese Jewish family that originally owned the painting.
Although the terms weren’t disclosed, Jorisch agreed to split the proceeds from the sale with the museum, which will build a wing named in honour of Jorisch’s maternal grandmother, Amalie Redlich. The Gestapo seized the painting from her during World War II.
She and his mother, Mathilde, were deported in 1941 to the Lodz Ghetto and did not survive the Holocaust.
The buyer was Zurich dealer David Lachenmann, bidding on behalf of a client. Despite the cost, bids came in from around the world, and it was a prolonged process.
It was the second Klimt masterpiece restitituted to Jorisch in as many years from the same family collection, originally owned by his great-uncle, Viktor Zuckerkandl, a steel magnate, and his wife, Paula. It’s believed they bought the two works directly from Klimt.
The 1913 Church in Cassone was restored last year to Jorisch by a European possessor whose identity was never revealed. It was subsequently sold at auction in London for $45.4 million. Those proceeds were also divided between Jorisch and the other party.
The Vienna-born Jorisch has lived modestly and obscurely in Montreal since immigrating here in 1956 from Belgium, where he and his father fled in 1938 when the Nazis entered Austria.
When the Zuckerkandls died childless in the 1920s, their home and its contents were passed to Viktor’s sister, Redlich. She entrusted the collection to a shipping company in 1938, but Jorisch and his father found the crates empty after the war.
According to a statement from the Salzburg museum, Litzlberg on the Attersee was bought by a local art collector after World War II and was later in the possession of the Landesgalerie Salzburg before being acquired by the Museum of Modern Art.
Jorisch, a retired photography store owner, began looking into the whereabouts of the vanished collection about 15 years ago, when changes to the law in Europe and the United States made recovery of art despoiled during the Nazi era more feasible.