1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Swiss museum to sell Monet bought from Jew who fled Nazis

June 19, 2024

The Kunsthaus Zurich said the painting was sold "under duress" by Carl Sachs, a Jewish art collector who fled the Nazis. Sachs' heirs have welcomed the move.

The doorway of the Kunsthaus Zürich
The Kunsthaus Zürich is aiming to be transparent about works in its collection that were sold under duressImage: Michael Buholzer/KEYSTONE/picture alliance

One of the largest art museums in Switzerland is selling a painting by Claude Monet in order to pay back the family of the Jewish art collector who was forced to sell it during World War II.

Monet painted "L'Homme à l'ombrelle" ("Man with a Parasol") in the late 19th century. 

The Kunsthaus Zürich acquired the painting from Carl Sachs, a Jewish entrepreneur who fled to Switzerland with his wife in 1939 to escape the Nazis.

Sachs was forced to sell the painting and several others in order to make a living. He died shortly afterward in 1943.

"A swift sale was needed to provide the couple with money to live on, and he was therefore acting under duress," the Kunsthaus Zürich said in a statement on Wednesday.

"L'Homme à l'ombrelle" by Claude Monet
Monet's "L'Homme à l'ombrelle" was one of several paintings sold under duress by Carl Sachs during World War IIImage: Kunsthaus Zürich

Heirs welcome sale

The proceeds from the sale will be divided between the art gallery and Sachs' descendants. Other Monet paintings have fetched tens of millions of dollars at auction.

A lawyer for Sachs' heirs, Imke Gielen, said the family welcomed the sale as "a just and fair solution for the work."

The chair of Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, which oversees the museum, Philipp Hildebrand, has vowed to "act transparently... for any work in our collection where there are substantiated indications of duress resulting from Nazi persecution."

"Naturally, we regret that this wonderful painting will probably leave the Kunsthaus after its sale," Hildebrand said.

"At the same time, this step underlines the seriousness of our provenance strategy."     

zc/sms (AFP, dpa)