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Lecture to discuss challenges of Nazi looted art

January  10, 2017

"Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer" by Gustav Klimt

Dr. Jonathan Petropoulos will discuss the history of Nazi art looting and attempts to restore works to their owners in this year's Stone Lecture in Judaism. 

The free lecture, "The “Real” (and Reel) Monuments Men, the Gurlitt Cache, and the Continuing Challenges of Nazi Looted Art," will begin at 2 p.m. March 26 in the Brunner Theatre Center at Augustana. A reception will be held after the lecture.

The Augustana Center for the Study of Judaism and Jewish Culture and The Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities are co-sponsors.

Recent developments

Recovering the property the Nazis stole and returning it to the rightful owners continues more than 70 years after the end of World War II. A number of recent developments have drawn public attention to the on-going restitution work.

These includes George Clooney’s feature film "The Monuments Men," and also the film "Woman in Gold," which treats the theft and restitution of masterpieces by Gustav Klimt.

Then there was the recent discovery of the Gurlitt cache, some 1,300 pictures concealed in the Munich apartment of the son of a well-known art dealer.  

Dr. Petropoulos will discuss what we can learn from these films and the revelation of the Gurlitt pictures. He then will relate these observations to the present-day restitution work undertaken by national governments, by museums around the world, by collectors and by victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.

He is the John V. Croul Professor of European History at Claremont McKenna College in California. In 1990, he received a Ph.D. from Harvard University where he began working on the subject of Nazi art looting and restitution in 1983. 

He is the author of "Art as Politics in the Third Reich," "The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany," "Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany," and "Artists Under Hitler: The Seduction of Power and the Fate of Modernism in Nazi Germany (forthcoming from Yale University Press).  

 He also has appeared in more than a dozen documentary films, including "Rape of Europa" and helped organize art exhibitions, including "Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany," which opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1991.

From 1998 to 2000, he served as Research Director for Art and Cultural Property on the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. He has served as an expert witness in a number of cases in which Holocaust victims have tried to recover lost artworks. This includes Altmann v. Austria, which involved five paintings by Gustav Klimt claimed by Maria Altmann and other family members, including the “Golden Adele,” which is exhibited in New York’s Neue Galerie.

The Stone Lectureship in Judaism was established in 1983 by family and friends of Dr. and Mrs. Alex B. Stone. The purpose of the endowment is to provide a yearly lecture and an expanded program in Judaic studies at Augustana College.

The lectures began in 1984 with Herbert Weinberg of Hebrew University. The 2015-2016 lecturer was Rabbi Elliot Dorff of American Jewish University. Here is a list of lecturers.

Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833
samschlouch@augustana.edu