Contemporary ArtJewish History
Oct 29, 2010–Mar 29, 2011
Reclaimed commemorates a remarkable story of post-Holocaust restitution and the extraordinary life and legacy of Jacques Goudstikker (1897–1940), a preeminent art dealer in Amsterdam. Goudstikker’s vast collection of Old Master paintings was almost lost forever to the Nazi practice of looting cultural properties. Explore the richness of this collection while learning about the plundering of the works and the efforts by Goudstikker’s family that led to the successful recovery of over 200 of the looted works.
Between the two World Wars, Goudstikker’s impressive and historically important collection—comprising primarily works by Dutch Old Masters along with other Northern European and Italian paintings—rose to international acclaim. Prominent members of society, Jacques Goudstikker and his wife Dési entertained lavishly in their villa outside Amsterdam and at their castle in the countryside. But, this luxurious and exuberant life would soon be a lost moment in time. Because he was Jewish, Goudstikker was forced to flee the Netherlands with his family in May 1940, immediately after the Nazi invasion. Jacques died in a tragic accident while escaping. He left behind in his gallery approximately 1,400 works of art, the bulk of which were looted by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. After the war, part of Goudstikker’s collection was found by the Allies in Germany and returned to the Netherlands to be restituted to the rightful owner. However, despite Dési’s efforts, these paintings were not returned to her. Most were held in the custody of the Dutch government and incorporated into the national collection.
In February 2006, Goudstikker’s family successfully reclaimed 200 artworks from the Dutch government in one of the largest restitutions of Nazi-looted art. This exhibition presents a selection of the returned masterpieces alongside photographs and documents relating to Goudstikker’s life, providing an intimate perspective on historic events. Highlights include Jan Wellens de Cock’s Temptation of Saint Anthony, a splendid river landscape by Salomon van Ruysdael, a rare early marine painting by Salomon’s nephew Jacob van Ruisdael, an atmospheric Winter Landscape with Skaters by Jan van Goyen, and Jan van der Heyden’s View of Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht—the country estate that Goudstikker himself owned and opened to the public each summer in the 1930s. Also on view are excellent still life paintings and portraits such as Hieronymus Galle’s Still Life with Flowers in a Vase and Ferdinand Bol’s 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.
Hear the fascinating story of Jacques Goudstikker from his heir, Marei von Saher; granddaughter, Charlène von Saher; and Lawrence M. Kaye, an attorney who represents the family, as they sit down with "art detective" Clemens Toussaint and The CJM's Director of Public Programs, Dan Schifrin, for a panel discussion and Q&A with the audience.
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 Amsterdam’s prominent canals, dealt primarily in Dutch Old Masters from the Golden Age, yet also offered other Northern European and Italian paintings. Goudstikker catered to 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 of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and to Andrew Mellon for the then-fledgling National Gallery of Art, 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 and a profound influence on collecting patterns. He was responsible for what was, at the time, the largest exhibition of Peter Paul Rubens’s art in the Netherlands, and the only show ever of the landscapes of Salomon van Ruysdael, among others.
As prominent members of society, Jacques and his wife Dési entertained lavishly in their villa outside the city and at their country estate, Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht River. Yet this luxurious and exuberant life would soon be a lost moment in time. 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.
Left behind was Goudstikker’s 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, Hitler’s second in command and a rapacious art collector. Göring’s 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 Dési’s 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.
Edo’s 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 Goudstikker’s inventory included Italian Renaissance works, early German and Netherlandish paintings, 17th-century Dutch Old Masters, French and Italian Rococo artworks, and 19th-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.
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 catalog. The lavishly illustrated 257-page catalog is published by the Bruce Museum and The Jewish Museum in association with Yale University Press.
Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker was created by the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut. The traveling exhibition was organized by The Jewish Museum, New York. Made possible by Thomas S. Kaplan; the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany; and Herrick, Feinstein LLP.
The San Francisco presentation is generously supported by U.S. Trust / Bank of America Merrill Lynch with additional support from Judy and Harry Cohn.
The Koret and Taube Foundations are the lead supporters of the 2010–11 exhibition season.