Tate Will Restitute a Constable Stolen During World War II

John Constable, Beaching a Boat, Brighton (1824).

The Tate is expected to return a John Constable painting stolen during World War II to the heirs of a Hungarian collector. But, for once, it wasn’t the Nazis who did the looting, reports the Art Newspaper. (See artnet News reports on contested paintings at the University of Oklahoma, Switzerland’s Musée des Beaux-Arts La Chaux-de-Fonds, and in the Dutch national collection, the French national collection, and the Cornelius Gurlitt collection, to name a few recent examples.)

Instead, Beaching a Boat, Brighton (1824), which belonged to Hungarian Baron Ferenc Hatvany—who had a Jewish background—was most likely stolen from a bank vault by the Red Army as it entered Budapest in February 1945.

Hatvany’s heirs asked the UK’s Spoliation Advisory Panel to review the painting in April 2013, after they discovered the missing painting in the Tate collection. The panel found that the museum did not conduct a sufficiently thorough examination of the piece’s provenance when it was donated in 1986. The Hungarian government included the work in a official 1998 list of looted artwork from the late-1940s.

Based on the panel’s findings that Beaching a Boat should be returned to the family, the Tate has promised to recommend such a course of action at the upcoming May meeting of the museum’s trustees.

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