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Bristol council to keep Renoir painting sold at Nazi-organised auction

A Renoir painting sold at a Nazi-organised auction does not have to be returned to the heirs of its previous owners, a report by a government advisory panel has found.
The Spoliation Advisory Panel, which considers claims over cultural objects lost during the Nazi era of 1933-1935 but are now held by a UK museum or gallery, has rejected a claim on behalf of former owners of fine art and jewellery dealership over a painting on the grounds that it believes the artwork was sold due to bank debt rather than persecution by the Nazis.
Leopold Moller fled Hamburg from the Gestapo and later left the painting to the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery on his death in 1999, according to the report. The item was then given to the council and remains on display in the French collection of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Bristol city council is not being made to pay compensation.
Moller’s story of persecution by the Nazis and his escape with the painting is being used to explain its background, although the council said it was unaware of its previous history.
The report concludes: “In all the circumstances, the panel finds that the moral strength of Margraf’s claim is insufficient to justify a recommendation that the painting be transferred or that an ex-gratia payment be made.
“Its acquisition by Mr Moller before he was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1939 also forms part of that fabric and, without any obligation on the council, the panel considers it would be fitting to incorporate into the painting’s narrative history when displayed, the Oppenheimers’ connection with the painting such that it serves their memory as well as Mr Moller’s.”

A Bristol city council spokesman said: “We have received the report of the Spoliation Advisory Panel and respect their recommendation.”
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