JERUSALEM – A Swiss artist's drawing seized by the Nazis during World War II has completed a 73-year journey from the hands of its original German-Jewish owner to the collection of a Jewish charity in Britain, Israel's national museum said Wednesday.
The convoluted passage of Paul Klee's drawing, from its seizure to the present destination, reflects an ongoing quest by Jewish organizations to restore artwork stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners.
Klee's 1920 drawing, "Veil Dance," was part of the private collection of Harry Fuld Jr., a Jewish telephone maker who fled Nazi persecution in Germany in 1937.
Fuld had left his art collection with a shipping company, expecting it would follow him to his new home in England, but the collection never left. In 1941, under a law seizing the property of Jewish citizens who had left Germany, it fell into Nazi hands.
After the war, a Jewish organization that seeks out Jewish-owned art seized by the Nazis found the painting and — unaware who it belonged to — handed it in 1950 with about 1,200 other works to Israel's national museum for safekeeping.
And there it remained for 60 years — often displayed in exhibitions — until earlier this month.
Fuld died in 1963, willing his estate to his housekeeper, Gita Gisela Martin, who donated it in 1992 to the U.K. branch of Magen David Adom, the British fundraising arm of Israel's emergency service. Neither knew where the drawing was.
Meanwhile, further research was done in Israel on the drawing's provenance. When the identity of its owner and heirs was established, the Israel Museum agreed to give it up.
Museum director James Snyder said Wednesday that although the drawing was an important part of the museum's 18-piece Klee collection, he was "gratified" to see it go to a charitable cause.
Over the years, the museum has returned some 20 such pieces claimed by heirs, including Edgar Degas' charcoal drawing "Four Nude Female Dancers Resting" in 2005, which belonged to a Dutch art dealer who died while fleeing the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands.
Klee's style was influenced by expressionism, cubism and surrealism. Along with his friend and colleague, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, he taught at the German Bauhaus school whose work the Nazis denounced as "degenerate art" and shut down in 1933.