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‘Two Riders’ was part of recently recovered trove of paintings

Three years after German authorities uncovered a vast collection of one of Adolf Hitler’s main art dealers, the first artwork restituted from the trove will head to auction next month.
On June 24, Sotheby’s in London will ask between $540,000 and $850,000 for Max Liebermann’s “Two Riders on a Beach,” a 1901 scene of two elegantly dressed men riding chestnut-colored horses beside a surf.
The work isn’t expected to break Liebermann’s $3.4 million auction record, but it could beat expectations if collectors are intrigued by its war-torn history and subsequent role in the saga of Cornelius Gurlitt.
German tax investigators found the painting three years ago hanging in the Munich home of Mr. Gurlitt, the son of a dealer who helped amass art for a museum that Hitler unsuccessfully planned to build in Austria.
Mr. Gurlitt was never charged with a tax crime, but the discovery of his 1,200-work trove sparked an international furor and stoked a broader debate about restitution of Nazi art loot.
Only a pair of paintings including the Liebermann, which belongs to David Toren, a 90-year-old retired patent lawyer in New York, and several relatives, have been returned. Mr. Toren’s great-uncle David Friedmann originally owned “Two Riders” before the Nazis looted it in the run-up to World War II.
Liebermann, who lived from 1847 to 1935, was a major German painter of impressionism who gained a reputation in the early 1900s for painting German’s wealthy elite. A friend of French artists like Edouard Manet, The artist is known for painting beach scenes like “Two Riders” along with views of his garden and several dozen self-portraits, according to Sotheby’s expert Helena Newman.
Because the artist was Jewish, he endured Nazi persecution in his later years; his wife, Martha, committed suicide in 1943 after she learned she was set to be deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Mr. Toren said his great-uncle was also a well-known art collector who owned works by Camille Pissarro, Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Raffaëlli. But it was the Liebermann that Mr. Toren remembers best, with good reason.
Mr. Toren said he never gave up looking for his family’s art collection, and he said he is pleased to be reunited with “Two Riders,” albeit briefly. Because he is one of several heirs, Mr. Toren said the family decided to offer it up for sale so they can divvy the proceeds.

He hopes to use his share to buy a house in Snowmass, Colo., where he can spend more time with his grandchildren. “I have to keep living,” he said.
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