Paul Cézanne’s La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, 1897. Photo: Kunstmuseum Bern.

Cézanne Heirs Settle Ownership Dispute over Work from Gurlitt Trove

The heirs of Paul Cézanne have reached a historic agreement with the Kunstmuseum Bern over the artist’s 1897 painting La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper reports. The artist’s descendants announced that the Swiss museum can claim ownership of the artwork, and in exchange, they want to be granted the right to exhibit the piece at the Musée Granet in Cézanne’s hometown of Aix-en-Provence on a regular basis.

Philippe Cézanne, the artist’s grandson, said that the solution was “in the spirit of the Swiss-French friendship.” He added that the settlement allows “two great museums to show a masterpiece for the benefit and enjoyment of a great audience.”

The painting, which was in the possession of the Cézanne family until 1940, somehow ended up in the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, who inherited the piece, along with works by Claude Monet, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix, and Gustave Courbet, from his father, the Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. After Cornelius’s death in 2014, his more-than-1,500-work collection was bequeathed to the Kuntsmuseum Bern. The gift raised significant questions regarding the provenance of the works, and the museum pledged to continue researching their origins. However, extensive research into the history of La Montagne Sainte-Victoire did not turn up any new information.

“From our knowledge today, the work was not Nazi looted art, the work was confiscated by Nazis in Paris, but subsequently returned to the owners,” said Nina Zimmer, the director of the Kunstmuseum Bern. “There was no Nazi persecution of the owners.”

The piece will be on view for the first time since before World War II in the exhibition “Gurlitt: Status Report; Part 2 Nazi At Theft and Its Consequences,” which runs through July 15.