Germany’s commission on Nazi-looted art has declared that Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s watercolor Marsh Landscape with Red Windmill, 1922, which is currently owned by the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, should be returned to the heirs of Max Rüdenberg, a Jewish businessman and art collector who perished in the Holocaust, writes Catherine Hickley of the Art Newspaper.
Rüdenberg was an arts benefactor and owned a major collection of German Expressionist works. In 1939, he made sure his grandchildren were safely transported to England, though he and his wife, Margarethe, stayed in Hanover. Their home was annexed by the Nazis in 1941 and declared a “Jew house”—the Rüdenbergs were only allowed to live in two rooms. They were soon imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where Rüdenberg died in 1942 and his wife in 1943.
The city of Hanover argued that there wasn’t enough evidence that the watercolor belonged to Rüdenberg before World War II, as the piece came into the museum’s collection through a donation from Bernhard Sprengel, a German chocolate manufacturer. Though proof of purchase by Rüdenberg does not exist, an inventory card from the Sprengel collection, along with a catalogue entry, states that Rüdenberg once owned the work. The restitution panel said that these items were proof enough for the watercolor’s return.