Site plan

Orientierungsplan, der den Standort des Werk Rembrandts der Tour Provenienzforschung in der Ausstellung KunsthalleKarlsruhe@ZKM anzeigt
Provenance-Tour (3/4) Escape and distress sale Station details
A morning or evening sky can be seen in the painting by the artist Dahl.

Cloud study

Johan Christian Clausen Dahl

H 22.9cm W 14.8cm
around 1825

Provenance Study


Escape and distress sale

This small Study of Clouds by the Norwegian painter Johan Christian Clausen Dahl was purchased by the Society for the promotion of the Kunsthalle in 2017. It’s always a requirement now when the museum or its sponsors purchase works of art that their provenance history is investigated first. The outcome in this case was that Dahls oil sketch once belonged to the collection of Julius Freund in Berlin.

Etching by the artist Willi Münch-Khe, showing a portrait of Julius Freund.

This businessman from Cottbus, his portrait is on your screen now, had made his fortune in textiles. As a successful entrepreneur and committed patriot he had assumed that he would be safe from the hostilities of the national socialists. But although he and his family were not practising Jews they did not escape Nazi persecution.

After the seizure of power on the 30th of January 1933 the family and their property were violently torn apart. Freunds children Hans and Gisela, she would later become a well known photographer under the name of Gisèle Freund, left Germany in that same year. Julius Freund and his wife immigrated to England six years later.

Julius Freud had intended originally to bequeath his art collection to a German museum but the altered circumstances – as he wrote – made this impossible. In 1933 he transferred about half of his 700 or so artworks to Switzerland out of harm’s way. Dahls Cloud Study was among them. To find the means to pay the right flight tax and the Jewish property levy Julius Freund was obliged to sell many of his artworks that remained in Germany. He was virtually penniless when he arrived in England. He died soon after in 1940 in a poor law Infirmary.

In 1942 his widow and the two children decided to auction the works that had been stored in Switzerland. It was a so-called distress sale. Accordingly Dahls Cloud Study was not classified as Nazi looted art but as flight assets. In other words art property that emigres forced to flee had taken with them and which in this case was being sold out of acute financial hardship.

The little painting was bought by a Swiss couple who were art collectors. Their heirs knew about the distress sale of 1942 and when they themselves wanted to sell the work in 2016 they searched in advance for a just and fair solution. They wanted to give a share of the proceeds to the heirs of Julius Freund and these heirs did indeed receive 25% of the sale price with the rest going to the sellers.

Although private individuals are not obliged according to the Washington principles to make restitution of Nazi confiscated cultural property the sellers in this case nevertheless chose to make this conciliatory gesture and so the wish that Gisèle Freund had expressed in the catalogue to the auction of 1942 was fullfilled

I hope with all my heart – she wrote – that one or other of the future owners may think now and again of Julius Freund for whom it once belonged.

Dates and facts