The Nazis hated Modernist art. Modernist works, like those by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Klee, were purged by the Nazis from museums and collections as "degenerate," or un-German. Other works were taken from Jewish collectors. But now, according to a German media report, police may have uncovered about 1,500 confiscated works long thought to be lost. They were sitting in the apartment of an 80-year-old son of a German art collector. The found pieces reportedly come from two major art confiscation programs run by the Nazis: the "degenerate" museum and collection purges, and the forced sale and seizure of works held by Jewish collectors.
Cornelius Gurlitt, son of German collector Hildebrand Gurlitt, reportedly inherited his collection from his father. The elder Gurlitt was half-Jewish, but later commissioned by the Nazis anyway to sell the modernist works for a profit, explains Focus, the weekly German magazine that first reported the story. That's apparently how he was able to amass such an important collection. But Cornelius Gurlitt was a loner, and kept the works "amid juice cartons and tins of food on homemade shelves in a darkened room," according to the Guardian. He occasionally sold the masterpieces when he needed an infusion of funds, until his collection was seized in 2011 during a raid on his home as part of a tax evasion investigation. Since then, the collection's been reportedly kept under wraps as historian Meike Hoffmann assesses their origins and value. Hoffmann promised a comment on the story to the Guardian on Monday. Focus said the collection was worth over $1 billion.