Holocaust Survivor Sues for Return of Looted Camille Pissarro Painting

Camille Pissarro, Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep. Photo: courtesy the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.
Camille Pissarro, Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep (1886). Photo: courtesy the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.

A French Holocaust survivor, Leone Meyer, is suing the University of Oklahoma for the return of a Camille Pissarro painting that Nazis stole from her father, Raoul Meyer, during World War II. The 1886 canvas, Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep, is currently on display at the university’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

After Raoul fled to the US during the war, his large collection of Impressionist art was looted by Nazi troops during their occupation of France. Upon returning to Europe in 1945, Raoul was able to to recover much of his collection. However, by the time he tracked down the Shepherdess in Geneva in 1951, the statute of limitations had run out, and a Swiss court ruled in favor of the work’s post-war owners.

The Pissarro canvas made its way to Oklahoma in 1956, when it was purchased by local oil man Aaron Weitzenhoffer and his wife, Clara, from a New York gallery. Clara bequeathed some 33 paintings, collectively worth US$50 million, among them the Shepherdess, to the university at her death in 2000.

According to the Oaklahoman, four lawmakers have introduced a non-binding resolution to the state House of Representatives calling upon the school to return the painting. The University Herald indicates that the university will only return the painting to Leone under a court order.


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