Wassily Kandinsky, Das Bunte Leben (Colorful Life), 1907.

Descendants of Jewish Family Sue for Return of Kandinsky Painting

The heirs of Robert Gotschalk Lewenstein and his sister Wilhelmine Helena Lewenstein have filed a lawsuit against a Munich bank, claiming ownership of a Wassily Kandinsky painting that was allegedly stolen from a Netherlands museum during World War II, Colin Moynihan and Alison Smale of the New York Times reports.

While it isn’t certain that Colorful Life, 1907, was looted by the Nazis, the complaint states that the Lewensteins left the work with the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in the 1930s for safekeeping but never saw it again. Dutch dealer Jacques Goudstikker took possession of the canvas and in 1940 auctioned off the work, which was then purchased by S.B.S. Slijper. Slijper’s wife sold the painting to Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB), a Munich-based bank, after his death.

A statement issued by BayernLB notes that it is currently reviewing the lawsuit and that it bought the work legally from Slijper’s widow in 1972. It added that bank officials had contacted the heirs last year and offered to enlist the Limbach Commission to review the case, but they never responded. The painting has been on display at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus for the past forty years.

The heirs said they did not see a point in involving the commission because the bank declared that the painting would stay at the museum no matter the outcome of the ownership dispute. Their lawsuit argues that since the acquisition of the painting was handled by the Lenbachhaus, the institution should have determined that it was most likely Nazi loot.