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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘art’

First Jewish Members Appointed to Germany’s Nazi Looted Art Panel

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Gary Smith, former director of the American Academy in Berlin, and Raphael Gross, director of the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture in Leipzig, have been appointed by German Culture Minister Monika Grütters as the first Jewish members of the Limbach Commission, established in 2003 to mediate in Nazi-looted art ownership disputes, The Art Newspaper reported.

The commission surprised the art world in 2014 when it concluded that the sale of the $250 million Guelph Treasure, a 40-piece trove of Medieval goldsmith works, which had been forced out of several German-Jewish art dealers from Frankfurt by Prime Minister Hermann Göring, “was not a compulsory sale due to persecution.”

And last March, Grütters faced shocked protests after telling the New York Times that if a Jew is appointed to the commission his “would be the only voice who would be prejudiced.” Needless to say, it didn’t play so good in New York City.

Minister Grütters is also introducing an increase in transparency to the workings of the commission, including a promise to publish its schedule and the reasons for its decisions. She also instituted a ten-year limit on members’ terms in office, and she plans to authorize the generation of provenance reports when necessary, paid for by the government. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the reforms last week.

“I expect all German museums without exception to be willing to subject disputes to the Advisory Commission as a matter of course,” Grütters said. Unlike its Dutch and Austrian equivalents, the German Nazi Loot commission can only be called if both sides of a dispute agree.

David Israel

German Frozen Pizza Maker Reveals Nazi Art Loot in Company Collection

Monday, October 31st, 2016

Dr. Oetker, a German outfit that produces baking powder, cake mixes, yogurts, frozen pizza, pudding, cake decoration, and cornflakes, announced it had discovered four works in the company art collection that have been stolen from Jews by the Nazis, The Art Newspaper reported Monday. Dr. Oetker said it had contacted the heirs of the original Jewish owners to discuss a settlement.

According to an official statement, the Dr. Oetker collection includes several hundred paintings, silver and porcelain, mostly acquired in the 1950s by billionaire Rudolf-August Oetker, owner of the private food company Oetker-Gruppe, who died in 2007. Back in 2015, the company assigned a provenance researcher to investigate its art collection, following a study of Dr. Oetker’s history during the Third Reich.

The company was founded by Doctor August Oetker in 1891, to produce “Backin” baking powder. Rudolf-August Oetker was the grandson of Dr. August Oetker. He ran the company from 1944 to 1981.

“The goal is to check whether works in the collection were originally owned by people who were persecuted by the Nazis,” Dr Oetker said in an October 26 statement, adding that if any of the works is identified as Nazi loot, a settlement would be reached with the heirs of the original owners.

Four works have already been identified as looted by the Nazis, but a spokesman for Dr. Oetker did not identify them, due to confidentiality agreements with the heirs. The spokesman also would not discuss the private collection, which rarely loans works to museums or galleries.

JNi.Media

The Art Of Sukkot

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Sukkot is a holiday that readily lends itself to broad artistic expression, with particular focus on the special mitzvot so intimately associated with the yom tov – beginning, of course, with the sukkah and the arba minim and ending with hoshanot and Simchat Torah. Many of our greatest artists have produced striking graphic works on these subjects; what follows is a selection of original artwork from my Sukkot collection.

 

front-page-011416-rabanExhibited here is an original sketch by Zev Raban portraying hoshanot in the synagogue, as worshippers march around the bimah holding their lulavim and etrogim.

Raban (1890-1970) was one of the most important artists and designers in pre-state Eretz Yisrael. Recognizing that the traditional European style did not fit newly emerging Jewish art, he integrated European techniques with specifically Jewish themes. Drawing freely from a variety of styles, including Classical and Art Nouveau, he developed a unique representation of Jewish themes with ornamental calligraphic script and other decorative designs that ultimately came to be characterized as the “Bezalel style.”

Raban’s work, which closely follows the historical events of the building of the Jewish state, reflected his desire to strengthen the identity of Medinat Yisrael through the revival of symbolic Jewish mystical art. He was actively involved in the culture of the emerging nation, encouraging tourism through posters, illustrating primers for teaching Hebrew, and designing attractive functional objects to instill Jewish content into Jewish homes.

He became renowned for his portrayals of beautiful Israeli landscapes, holy places, biblical tales, and people, principally Yemenites, whom he adopted as a model for the biblical figure. His prominent works include sculptures for the YMCA building in Jerusalem (1934); the brass doors for the Nathan Strauss Health House (1928); various pieces for the Bezalel Building, Bikur Cholim Hospital, and the National Bank; and the ceramic tiles that decorate many buildings in Tel Aviv.

Raban was educated in a Polish cheder before studying art, first in his hometown of Lodz and later in Munich, Paris, and Brussels. Upon his arrival in Lodz in 1911, he heard about a Bezalel School arts and crafts exhibition there and met with several new olim, whose enthusiasm for Eretz Yisrael proved contagious. He met Boris Schatz in Paris and accepted his invitation to teach at Bezalel, arriving in Eretz Yisrael in 1912. Initially appointed director of the brass and copper repousse department (1914), he ultimately became interim director of the school.

Sadly, at the end of his very productive life Raban became blind and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

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Joseph Budko (1880-1840), who leaned first toward art nouveau and later toward expressionism, created a whole new Jewish iconography ranging from Zionist symbols to representations of the shtetl of his youth. Developing a unique style that integrated Jewish tradition with a modern artistic approach, he was among an influential group of graphic Jewish artists who embraced the revival of the woodcut. Like his teacher and mentor, Hermann Struck (see below), he used etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs to revive the use of graphic and book illustration in the Jewish art world.

With its unique combination of line and form, Budko’s work reflected the emergence of early twentieth century Expressionism, which used the sharp contrast of black and white and hard, dramatic cuts as an expressive style. He is credited with reviving the spirit of Jewish book illustration and elevating it to modern design.

Budko’s works include woodcarvings illustrating biblical events; decorations for the books of Agnon, Bialik, and others; and numerous etchings and lithographs. In 1923 he published the first modern Hebrew haggadah with woodcuts and the first book in which the Hebrew letters are presented in traditional yet newly developed ornamentation.

He developed his famous “Budko” script in response to a request from a Bezalel committee for a modernization of Hebrew script for teaching in grade schools.

Exhibited here is an original Budko miniature etching, Simchat Torah (1919). The central design is an open Torah scroll, within which a number of white-bearded elderly Jews hold Torah scrolls, presumably during the hakafot ceremony. The four corner banners, beginning with the banner at the upper right and continuing counterclockwise, contains the verse “sisu vsimchu bSimchat Torah” – “rejoice and be happy on Simchat Torah.”

Born in Plonsk, Poland, Budko was educated in a cheder there and entered art school in Vilna in 1902 before moving to Berlin at age 22 to study with Herman Struck. He eventually fled Germany, immigrated to Eretz Yisrael, and was appointed the first head of the reopened Bezalel School of Arts in Jerusalem two years later (a position he held until his death), where he took advantage of the talent of the many new European immigrants to Eretz Yisrael and succeeded in revitalizing the school. His aliyah and his great love for Eretz Yisrael impelled creation of a new and independent Jewish artistic expression.

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Alphonse Levy (1843-1918), affectionately called “the Millet of the Jews,” was struck by the beauty and majesty of Jewish worship and tradition, which formed the core of the subject matter of his works and which he infused with a rare combination of whimsy and love.

Born into a family of strictly observant Jews, he grew up in a rural village in Alsace and, though he moved to Paris at age 17, his best known works remain the exaggerated yet affectionate depictions of the rural Jewish community of his childhood. Much like Rembrandt, who often painted the Jews of Amsterdam and whom he studied and admired, Levy sought his subjects from Jewish people of modest means, such as the pious ones of his family’s villages in Alsace and Lorraine:

 

When I was a child, I was not rocked by the song of the nightingale, but I was struck by the beauty and magic of the worship of the religion to which I belong. I was only looking for my models among the little people among the native and pious villages…. my models have not crossed the limits of their villages of Alsace and Lorraine, where my family lives…

Saul Jay Singer

Soul Talk – The Art of Living in the Now! [audio]

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Time is one of those factors that we are all aware of as a reality in our life, but how much do we really understand it? Is time real or a perception? Why is it that sometimes that time seems to pass so quickly, at other times so slowly? How does the Torah explain the concept of time? Finally, within my day to day life, how can I more fully live in the now instead of getting stuck in the past or thinking to much about the future? Join Rabbi David Aaron and Leora Mandel on Soul Talk to get learn the art of living in the NOW! We welcome your questions and e-mails: soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com

Israel News Talk Radio

Talk About Art, Change Your Life

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

“I wandered for a time looking for what was always right there” – Astrid Daley

 

Do you notice the things around you?

Do you really see the homes, stores, and buildings that you pass every day?

How well do you truly see?

Art Historian Amy Herman’s new book Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life argues that most of us do not notice the things around us. We do not really see the homes, stores, and buildings we pass every day. And we do not truly see well.

For many years, Herman has been teaching a workshop at the Frick Museum in New York City entitled “The Art of Perception.” The workshop began when she brought a course created by a dermatology professor at Yale University to New York medical schools. This course taught students to analyze works of art in order to improve their patient observation skills. In other words, students looked at works of art and described the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the object. Shockingly, a clinical study found that students who took the “The Art of Perception” course had diagnostic skills that were 56 percent better than students who did not take the course. The presumably unrelated skill of observing art correlated with the skill of diagnosing patient illness.

Herman’s work poses and then answers the questions: “How can looking at Monet’s water lily paintings help save your company millions? How can noticing people’s footwear foil a terrorist attack? How can your choice of adjective win an argument, calm your children, or catch a thief?”

In reality, we all see just fine, but what Herman teaches and refines is visual intelligence – a set of skills that we are born with but do not know how to use effectively. Looking at art and describing what we see, helps sharpen our visual intelligence and communicate more effectively.

Over the last two decades, Herman has trained police officers, business executives, medical professionals, and customer service representatives in the art of perception. Of course, Herman understands the skepticism involved in using works of art to train people to do their jobs in very different fields. “Looking at old painting and sculptures is definitely not the first thing most people think of when I tell them we’re going to get their neurons firing and increase their brain-processing speed. They picture engaging in cutting-edge 3D computerized training or at least wearing Google glasses while walking down a busy street, not strolling through a museum viewing objects that have sat still for hundreds of years. But that’s exactly the point: art doesn’t walk away. If you want to study human behavior, you can park yourself somewhere public and people watch: guess at who they are, why they’re dressed that way, where they’re going…until they leave. And you’ll never know if you’re right or wrong. Or you could analyze words of art that we have the answers to: the who, what, where, when, and why. Art historian David Joselit describes art as ‘exorbitant stockpiles of experience and information.’ It contains everything we need to hone our observation, perception, and communication expertise.”

Looking at art forces us to engage in an entirely new thought process. Research shows that people learn best when they are in a slightly stressful situation (which novel experiences like looking at art can create). Therefore, perhaps the best way to reevaluate and reassess something we always do – the way we parent, the way we interact with others, the way we do our jobs, or the way we view the world around us – is “to step outside of ourselves, and outside of our comfort zone.”

Rifka Schonfeld

Report: Germany Returned Nazi-Looted Art to the Nazis who Looted It

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Germany returned Nazi-looted art to the high-ranking Nazi families who stole it rather than to the families from whom it had been taken, according to a report by the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), which says it has recently discovered this remarkable scandal that has been covered up by Germany for decades.

The family of the late Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus of Vienna, represented by CLAE, who are still trying to recover their 160 looted paintings, had good reason to think two of their paintings would be in the state-owned museum in Munich, the Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen (Bavarian State Paintings Collections). Records show they were handed over to Bavaria by the US government in 1952 for the purpose of restitution. To their shock, they found the paintings had instead been given by the Bavarian State in the early 1960s to Henriette Hoffmann-von Schirach, daughter of Hitler’s close friend and photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, and wife of the notorious Gauleiter of Vienna, Baldur von Schirach. Von Schirach was condemned at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity for the deportation of 60,000 Austrian Jews.

Bavarian State Paintings Collections

Bavarian State Paintings Collections

Gottlieb Kraus (1867-1952) and his wife Mathilde Kraus (1873-1954) were prominent members of Viennese society. Gottlieb Kraus was a businessman and honorary consul for Czechoslovakia in Austria. Beginning in the early years of the 20th century, he and his wife assembled a notable art collection of over 160 paintings, and their apartment was opened as a public museum to display it in 1923.

Gottlieb and Mathilde, together with their daughter Marie, fled Vienna soon after the Nazis took power in March 1938. Their flight took them via Prague, Brussels, England and Canada, before they were eventually able to settle in Washington DC. They discovered after the war that their entire collection left in Vienna had been seized by the Nazis in 1941, some selected for Hitler’s Linz Museum. Their daughter Marie made unsuccessful efforts over decades with both Germany and Austria to find and recover their possessions, but was blocked at every turn. These efforts were continued after her death in 1997 by the several grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Gottlieb and Mathilde.

The Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), is an international, expert and non-profit representative body which negotiates policies and procedures with governments and cultural institutions and promotes the identification of looted cultural property and the tracing of its rightful owners. It represents families from all over the world, acting on their behalf to locate and recover their looted artworks. It has been instrumental in the return to its rightful owners of over 3,500 items of looted property since it was set up in 1999. It also provides a Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 at www.lootedart.com to fulfil Washington Principle VI which called for the creation of such a repository of information.

Anne Webber, Co-Chair of CLAE, said CLAE’s research shows that in the 1950s and 1960s Henriette Hoffmann-von Schirach recovered scores of paintings from Bavaria. It seems that Bavaria thought restitution meant restitution to the Nazis rather than to their victims.

Among the high ranking Nazi families negotiating to get back art, some of it looted, were the Goering, Hoffmann, Bormann, von Schirach, Frank and Streicher families. In many cases they negotiated directly with the Director of the Bavarian State Museums and Ministers in the Bavarian government. While their demands were dealt with promptly and efficiently and with little requirement to prove their claims of ownership, the looted families had their claims thrown out or impossible hurdles were created to prevent them recovering their artworks. The families are still experiencing the same barriers to recovery of their looted works of art today.

One of the two Old Master paintings handed over to Mrs Hoffmann-von Schirach in 1962 in exchange for the paltry sum of 300 Deutsch Marks, was sold by her the following year for 16,100 Deutsch Marks to the Catholic Cathedral Association of Xanten in Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia.

In July 2011, on behalf of the Kraus family, CLAE made a claim to Xanten for the painting, providing extensive proofs of its shocking history: looted by the Gestapo in Vienna in 1941 from the collection of Gottlieb and Mathilde Kraus; acquired in Vienna with other paintings from the Kraus collection by Heinrich Hoffman through the good offices of his son-in-law Baldur von Schirach; found by the Allies at the end of the war; returned to Bavaria by the US with the restitution obligation; and then returned to Mrs Hoffmann-von Schirach in 1962 on the flimsiest of grounds.

Despite the Cathedral of Xanten publicly proclaiming its proud ‘anti-Nazi’ past, it seems this attitude does not extend to property stolen from Jewish families. In the five years that CLAE has been trying to achieve an amicable settlement, the Cathedral Association, of which the local Bishop is part, has not once acknowledged the historical injustice perpetrated on this family or the persecution it has suffered. It has provided no documentation of any kind, nor a single proof of evidence of a good faith purchase. It has locked away the painting and only and repeatedly denied settlement of the claim on the grounds that it must have “an index linked return on its investment” of 1963. The last settlement offer by CLAE was made in September 2015 when the family stated their wish that their claim be resolved by the end of October 2015. Anne Webber said there has only been silence from Xanten in the nine months since.

CLAE’s several requests for an explanation of the post-war ‘return-sales’ to the Nazi families, made to the Bavarian State Museums, the Bavarian State government and the German Foreign Ministry, met with equal lack of success, as did its requests for documentation. CLAE was told that there were only four documents consisting of five pages in total. CLAE embarked on its own research, uncovering hundreds of pages of records and the details of this scandalous history.

JNi.Media

‘Woman in Gold’ Helen Mirren Testifies for Holocaust Art Restitution Bill

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

British actress Helen Mirren testified in Congress Tuesday in support of a bill to make restitution easier for American heirs of Holocaust era victims, The Art Newspaper reported. Mirren starred in the 2015 British drama “Woman in Gold,” about Austrian-born Jewish American Maria Altmann’s court fight to recover her family’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” by Gustav Klimt (her late aunt modeled for the picture), which had been stolen by the Nazis.

Mirren told two Senate judiciary subcommittees in a joint hearing on the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act that “the very act of Nazi expropriation was not only unjust but it was inhumane.” She added, “Greed, cruelty, self-interest and domination will always be with us, it’s an easy option. Justice is so much more difficult, so much more complex. But we all dream of justice. We are incapable of changing the past, but fortunately we have the ability to make change today.”

“Restitution is so much more, much more than … reclaiming a material good,” Mirren said. “It gives Jewish people and other victims of the Nazi terror the opportunity to reclaim their history, their culture, their memories and, most importantly, their families.”

The legislation is sponsored by Republican senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Other supporters of the bipartisan bill included president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald S. Lauder, and senators Al Franken (D, Minnesota), Chuck Grassley, (R, Iowa) and Orrin Hatch, (R, Utah).

Lauder, who purchased the Klimt painting after Altmann had sued the Austrian government to give it back, and won, told the Senators, “What makes this particular crime even more despicable is that this art theft, probably the greatest in history, was continued by governments, museums and many knowing collectors in the decades following the war.”

Today the Klimt painting is part of the permanent collection of the Neue Galerie, a museum of German and Austrian art Lauder co-founded in New York.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/woman-in-gold-helen-mirren-testifies-for-holocaust-art-restitution-bill/2016/06/09/

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