Schiele Drawing Questions in Chicago

January 12 2024

Image of Schiele Drawing Questions in Chicago

Picture: The Art Institute of Chicago

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News from Chicago that the city's Art Institute will be defending its ownership of a valuable drawing by Egon Schiele later in April. A claim has been made by the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, a performer and songwriter who perished at Dachau in 1941. His heirs claim that Grünbaum was forced to hand over his art collection under duress, a collection which included this drawing amongst several others by Schiele. Two have already been returned, however, the Russian War Prisoner (pictured) remains at the museum.

According to reports:

A spokesperson for the museum said in a statement that it had done “extensive research” on the provenance of the work and that officials were “confident” in their lawful ownership of the piece.

“Fritz Grünbaum’s sister-in-law, Mathilde Lukacs, inherited Egon Schiele’s ‘Russian War Prisoner’ and subsequently sold it in 1956,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also pointed to a yearslong federal court case involving another piece of Schiele’s artwork that ultimately went against Grünbaum’s heirs in 2012 and raised questions as to whether his collection was actually stolen.

Similar arguments were made in court by an attorney representing an art dealer in a case involving two of Schiele’s works in New York in 2018. The judge dismissed the contention that Grünbaum voluntarily relinquished his collection in the first place and ordered the works returned to his heirs.

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