I realize this topic is far from our usual subject matter of California houses, their owners, their maintenance, and their stories. But we at the Eichler Network have a great appreciation for artwork, as we know our readers do. So indulge me, please, in a little bit of deviation as we watch with interest the story unfolding in Munich: Earlier this month, authorities there discovered a trove of some 1,400 paintings worth an estimated $1.4 billion, stashed in the attic of a reclusive collector. Many of the works are thought to have been looted by the Nazis, and had been considered lost forever.
The story may have come from a movie (and it may yet become one). A random tax inquiry on a train from Switzerland to Munich first made investigators aware of Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of an art dealer named Hildebrand Gurlitt, who The New York Times explains "was one of four art dealers authorized by the Nazis to trade in art during the war."
The Nazis took at least 380 of the recently discovered works from museums legally under the "degenerate art" law, prosecutors believe. "The ownership histories of another 590 works must be examined to determine whether they were acquired from Jewish owners under duress," The Times reports.
So far, Germany has been reluctant to make many of the artworks public, to the chagrin of art lovers and Jewish leaders. But on Tuesday it acquiesed and began putting the paintings, which include works from Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Otto Dix, online at the website www.lostart.de, which keeps a database of artworks looted by the Nazis. Only 25 are available so far, but Germany has said it will update the site regularly.
Unfortunately, the site is running very slowly right now as traffic floods its servers. But there's another way to view some of these works: A search for the name "Cornelius Gerlitt" on the website for photo service Getty Images reveals a number of works German police revealed at a press conference last week.
I'd encourage curious art fans to visit both Getty and lostart.de to admire some of the works that have recently reentered our cultural cache after decades presumed lost.