Paris, France: A French heiress who had spent years attempting to reclaim a magnificent impressionist painting stolen by the Nazis relinquished her claim on Tuesday to the art in order to settle a legal dispute with an American institution.
Impressionist art — a 19th-century artistic movement — is characterized by fine, yet visible brush strokes, and an emphasis on accurate depiction of light in all of its changing qualities, that gained prominence under the master strokes of Van Gogh among others.
Leone Meyer, 81, spent nearly a decade attempting to reclaim ownership of Pissarro’s 1886 painting “La Bergere rentrant des moutons,” which was taken from her parents during World War II’s occupation of Paris.
After the war, the picture was moved to Switzerland before ending up in a private collection in the United States.
Meyer was recognized the lawful owner of the painting in 2016, however, the terms of the agreement she reached with the University of Oklahoma, to which the painting was left in 2000, precluded her from fulfilling her desire of donating it to the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, a temple to impressionist art.
“Mrs. Meyer has decided to put an end to her struggle to obtain restitution of this painting. UO has now obtained the full title of the painting,” her lawyer Ron Soffer confirmed Tuesday.
Meyer had pushed hard to get a stipulation in the restitution contract overturned, which required the oil-on-canvas work to be rotated between museums in Paris and Oklahoma every three years, a promise that the Musee d’Orsay had rejected as being too expensive.
Meyer said she had “no choice but to take heed of the obvious conclusion that it will be impossible to persuade the many parties to whose notice I have brought this subject” in a statement released a day before a French court was set to rule on the case.
“This is the reason why I have decided to give up all my rights and even my title to this painting, in favor of the Foundation of the University of Oklahoma,” she said.
Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep was one of Pissarro’s first pointillist paintings, in which he used minute dots of paint to create a picture.
Meyer’s parents, Raoul Meyer, who operated the Paris department store Galeries Lafayette for decades, and Yvonne Bader, the store’s founder’s daughter, were taken by the Nazis in 1941.
Several artworks seized from Jewish families by the Nazis have become the subject of current court challenges in Europe.
This is the second one that involves a Pissarro artwork.
An American couple lost their effort to maintain possession of the picture “La Cueillette” (“Picking Peas”), which was looted from a French Jewish collector during World War II, in October 2018.
When the American couple bought it at auction, they claimed they had no knowledge it had been stolen.