Nearly 1,500 paintings by artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Marc Chagall, have been uncovered in a Munich apartment, the Guardian reported on Monday.
The massive collection of paintings had been confiscated by the Nazi’s during World War II and were stashed in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, an 80-year-old German man who had been hiding the paintings behind a wall of canned food. The paintings were inherited from Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was one of four senior Modern Art dealers in Germany appointed in March of 1938 to the Nazi’s Confiscation Committee. Hitler and Herrmann Goering ordered the committee to confiscate and sell what they considered to be “degenerate art” for foreign currency, but they did not have much luck with their sales. Some of the paintings were put on display in the Haus der Kunst in Munich where Nazi leaders invited the public to come and mock the paintings, others were burned in fire in Berlin in 1939.
After Hildebrand passed away, all of the remaining artwork was passed down to Cornelius, somehow evading the knowledge of authorities. Many of the paintings had been the subject of international warrants, but were not uncovered until 2011 when custom officials and tax authorities began investigating Cornelius and his family’s history. The raid has not been made public knowledge until now as customs placed a ban on any information about it for over two years.
Some are questioning why information about the extraordinary finding of so many paintings was not revealed until now, two years after the fact. A Jewish group has accused Germany of “moral complicity” in concealment of information about the stolen paintings. A press conference will be held on Tuesday to publicly discuss the issue further.