NEW YORK, NY.-
The Jewish Museum
presents an exhibition of rarely-seen Old Master paintings entitled Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker from March 15 through August 2, 2009. Reclaimed reveals the extraordinary legacy of Jacques Goudstikker, a preeminent art dealer in Amsterdam, whose vast collection of masterpieces fell victim, and was almost lost forever, to the Nazi practice of looting cultural properties.
In 2006, after years of working with a team of art historians and legal experts, Goudstikkers family successfully reclaimed 200 of his paintings from the Dutch government one of the largest claims to Nazi-looted art ever resolved. Featuring 40 of the finest examples of the recovered art, along with original documents and photographs, the exhibition reveals Goudstikkers influence as a collector, art dealer, tastemaker and impresario; and celebrates the historic restitution of the artworks to the rightful heir. Ten of the paintings on view have never been exhibited in North America before. Also included are 20 original documents and photographs relating to Goudstikkers life most significantly, a notebook inventorying his gallerys holdings.
Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940) was one of the most important and influential art dealers in Europe during the period between the First and Second World Wars. The Goudstikker Gallery, located in a grand house on one of Amsterdams prominent canals, dealt primarily in Dutch Old Masters from the Golden Age, yet also offered other Northern European and Italian paintings. Goudstikker sold paintings to leading collectors and museums in Europe and the United States, mounted groundbreaking exhibitions and had a profound influence on collecting patterns. His impressive and historically important collection rose to international acclaim.
As prominent members of society, Goudstikker and his wife, Dési, led luxurious and exuberant lives, but the world they inhabited would soon be lost. Due to the rising threat of the Third Reich and because he was Jewish, Goudstikker was forced to flee the Netherlands with his wife and their year-old son, Eduard (nicknamed Edo), in May 1940 shortly after the Nazi invasion. Jacques died in a tragic accident on board ship while escaping by sea.
Goudstikker left behind his collection of approximately 1,400 works of art, the bulk of which were taken to Germany after the looting of the Goudstikker Gallery by Herman Göring, Hitlers second in command and a rapacious art collector. Görings henchman, Alois Miedl, ran the gallery throughout the war under the Goudstikker name, profiting from its remaining stock of artworks and respected reputation.
When World War II ended, over 200 Goudstikker paintings were located by the Allies in Germany and returned to the Netherlands with the expectation that they would be restituted to the rightful owner. Despite Désis efforts to recover them, the Dutch government kept the works in its national collections. Eventually, Dési and her second husband, A.E. D. von Saher, who adopted Edo, left the United States, where they had settled, to return to the Netherlands, where she died in 1996. Edo survived her by only a few months.
Edos widow, Marei von Saher, initiated the claims process for restitution in 1997 at a time of renewed interest in restituting Nazi-looted artworks in the Netherlands and after new information about the fate of the Goudstikker collection became available to her. The small black notebook Jacques Goudstikker had used meticulously to inventory his collection was found with him at the time of his death and later became a crucial piece of evidence in the battle to reclaim his art. Finally, after a nearly decade-long battle, the Dutch government agreed on February 6, 2006 to restitute 200 of the paintings looted by the Nazis.
Jacques Goudstikkers inventory included Italian Renaissance works, early German and Netherlandish paintings, seventeenth-century Dutch Old Masters, French and Italian Rococo artworks, and nineteenth-century French and Northern European paintings. Although his offerings became increasingly diverse he can be credited with expanding the Dutch art market as well as collectors tastes his specialty remained Northern Baroque art. He catered to the leading collectors of his day, selling paintings not only to Dutch museums (such as the Mauritshuis in The Hague, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam) but also to The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and to Andrew Mellon for the then-fledgling National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. A natural impresario, Goudstikker delighted in organizing national as well as international art fairs, festivals, and exhibitions, some of which had enduring significance for the history of art. He was responsible for what was at the time the largest exhibition of Peter Paul Rubenss art in the Netherlands, and the only show ever of the landscapes of Salomon van Ruysdael, among others.
Highlights in the exhibition include Jan Steens dramatic Sacrifice of Iphigenia of 1671, two splendid river landscapes by Salomon van Ruysdael, a rare early marine painting by Salomons nephew Jacob van Ruisdael, an atmospheric View of Dordrecht by Jan van Goyen, and Jan van der Heydens View of Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht the country estate that Goudstikker himself owned and opened to the public each summer in the 1930s. On view are also Pieter Lastmans 1619 David Gives Uriah a Letter for Joab as well as excellent still life paintings and portraits such as Hieronymus Galles Still Life with Flowers in a Vase, and Ferdinand Bols Louise-Marie Gonzaga de Nevers.
In addition to viewing fine paintings, museum visitors will be offered an opportunity to reflect on the inequities of war, the looting of cultural property during the Holocaust, and ongoing efforts to recover artworks stolen during World War II.
Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker was organized by Peter C. Sutton, Executive Director and CEO of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, who also wrote the accompanying catalogue. Karen Levitov, Associate Curator at The Jewish Museum, has served as managing curator for the New York City version of this exhibition.