NORMAN, Okla. – An Oklahoma Representative is asking the University of Oklahoma to clarify their position regarding the alleged stolen art piece hanging in the Fred Jones Museum.
74-year-old Leone Meyer has government documentation confirming Nazis stole an 1886 Camille Pissarro oil painting from her family during WWII.
Meyer’s family hid in order to avoid concentration camps, but Germans stole all their belongings, included the precious Camille Pissarro painting, Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep.
In the Registry of Looted Assets, the painting, Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep, is listed as Nazi plunder that once belonged to the Meyer family.
Museums around the world are familiar with the list, which makes ownership obvious.
“The university has gaping holes in its due diligence process about the painting’s history,” said State Representative Mike Reynolds. “That is clear from its own records, which clearly show the university’s flawed research in the painting’s past.”
Earlier this year, OU President David Boren stated, “…the challenge to the University, as the current custodian of the painting, is to avoid setting a bad precedent that the University will automatically give away other people’s gifts to us to anyone who claims them.”
The university obtained the artwork through the Weitzenhoffer family.
After the war, the painting went to a dealer in the Netherlands. Then to an art dealer in New York. That’s where Clara Weitzenhoffer bought the painting. She brought it back to her home in Oklahoma. In 2000, the Weitzenhoffers donated their entire collection to OU’s campus museum.
Although OU released records of the painting’s purchase, Reynolds believes the university is handling the case poorly.
“To make matters worse, for four long years, OU did nothing to approach a known possible owner of the painting when its own documents detail serious questions about ownership,” said Reynolds.
Representative Reynolds wrote OU a letter wanting to know:
- The university’s adherence to provenance research guidelines by its professional oversight organizations, including the American Association of Museums and the American Association of Museum Directors;
- The university’s choice to hire private legal counsel, rather than utilizing Oklahoma’s Attorney General, as well as an estimate of the legal costs of private counsel;
- The university’s legal strategy, which appears to rely entirely – according to Reynolds – on technical defenses, even though the painting’s ownership is not in dispute;
- The presence of other paintings with suspicious provenance at the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum, and whether or not the museum contacted other potential claimants about those other paintings.
“The painting at present is on public display as part of the Clara Weitzenhoffer bequest at the Fred Jones Museum,” said Reynolds. “Madame Meyer wants it back. For her, the painting is a symbol both of her adoptive father and her birth family, whom perished at Auschwitz.”
As NewsChannel 4 reported previously, people and lawmakers alike have stepped up in support of Meyer.