Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie Returned a Nazi-Looted Pissarro Painting—and Then Bought It Back

The painting will remain on display at the museum, which bought the work in 1961.

Camille Pissarro. Courtesy the National Museums of Berlin. Photographer: Jörg P. Anders

A museum has restituted, and bought back, a painting by Camille Pissarro that was once owned by Jewish lawyer Armand Dorville, whose relatives were forced to auction off his collection under the Nazi regime in 1942.

On October 18, representatives from the Dorville estate came to the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin to receive the 1867 painting Une Place à la Roche-Guyon and then sell the painting back to the museum where it will remain on display. 

“I am very grateful to Armand Dorville’s heirs for making it possible for us to purchase the work for the Alte Nationalgalerie and for coming to Berlin especially for this purpose,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Foundation. “We will continue to work with all our might to come to terms with the past, to return works to their rightful owners, and not to let the injustice that happened be forgotten,” he added.

The work, which was painted while Pissarro was on a trip with Paul Cézanne and Paul Guillemet, was purchased by the German National Gallery from a London gallery in 1961.

“This painting by Pissarro is of great importance for our collection, as it marks an important step towards Impressionist art, which is a core holding of the Alte Nationalgalerie,” said Ralph Gleis, director of the museum, in a statement.

Born in 1875 in Paris, Dorville was a lawyer, journalist, and public figure. He managed to flee his home city and the German army in 1940, bringing some of his collection of around 450 works that included paintings by Delacroix, Manet, Bonnard, Renoir, and Pissarro with him to the south of France. He died a year later, leaving his three siblings and their children to deal with his estate.

Dorville’s relatives planned to auction off his art collection in 1942, including Pissarro’s Une Place à la Roche-Guyon at the M. Terris auction house in Nice but the estate was immediately placed under investigation by France’s anti-Jewish commissariat-general for Jewish affairs, meaning that all proceeds from the sale were transferred to the state. Several members of the family were later murdered at Auschwitz.

“On behalf of Armand Dorville’s heirs, we thank the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation for its trusting and constructive cooperation and its commitment to finding a fair and just solution together,” said Antoine Djikpa of ADD & Associés, lawyers for Dorville’s estate. 

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