U.S. Feds seize looted Polish paintings in New York 17.12.2010 17:25
Two paintings by celebrated artist Julian Falat (1853-1929), looted by the Nazis from Warsaw during WW II, have been removed from New York auction houses, following authorization from the U.S. district court in Manhattan. The two canvases, Off to the Hunt and The Hunt, were stolen from the National Museum in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation of Poland, when there was systematic looting of national heirlooms when German SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Benno Von Arent, also bearer of the title “"Reichsbeauftragter für die Mode" (Reich Agent For Fashion), took charge of the collections in August 1944. The Polish government raised the matter in 2006, when it emerged that New York auction houses had come into possession of the paintings. This week’s seizure is the result of an investigation carried out by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Homeland Security Investigations.
Although the case is still to run its full course, U.S. authorities have expressed the hope that the paintings will be returned to Poland. The two auction houses involved, Christie’s and Doyle New York, have yet to release full statements regarding this week’s developments.
The discovery comes after another Nazi looted painting, the Jewish Woman with Oranges by Aleksander Gierymski, turned up at a small auction house in Hamburg last month.
Julian Fałat, (30 July 1853 in Tuligłowy near Lwów - 9 July 1929 in Bystra Śląska) was one of the most prolific Polish painters of watercolor and one of the country's foremost landscape painters as well as one of the leading Polish impressionists. Fałat first studied under Władysław Łuszczkiewicz at the Kraków School of Fine Arts, and then at the Art Academy of Munich. After several trips throughout Europe and Asia in 1885, Fałat compiled a collection of studies from his voyages which would become useful later in the development of his artwork. Themes typical of Fałat's painting are Polish landscapes, hunting scenes, portraits, and studies from his voyages. In 1886, Fałat accepted an invitation from future German Emperor Wilhelm II to serve as court painter in Berlin. Fałat died in Bystra Śląska on July 9, 1929. A museum in Poland, called Fałatówka, is devoted to him. Out of his three children, Kazimierz (Togo) (1904-1981) continued to paint in watercolour. Some works, having been looted under German occupation, very occasionally reappear in sales-rooms. Later works, produced after he settled in England, are largely in the hands of his later family.
Fałat used to say: "Polish art ought to convey our history and our beliefs, our qualities as well as our defects; it must be the quintessence of our soil, our sky, and our ideals."