During the years 1933–1945, the Nazis conducted the largest confiscation of cultural property known in history. Although many works of art were returned to their original owners after World War II, many entered the art market and new collections. The Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects during the Nazi era, issued by the American Association of Museums (AAM), urge museums to review the provenance (ownership history) of works of art in their collection. By doing so, museums are trying to ensure that they do not house works that were looted by the Nazis and not subsequently returned to original previous owners, their heirs, or the country from which they were taken.
Most of the Taft Museum of Art’s collection was bequeathed by Charles and Anna Taft in 1931, before the period in question. However, the Taft has accepted a limited number of gifts to its collection since 1932. The Taft has conducted a critical review of the provenance of works of art in its collection acquired after 1932. The Taft then identified ten paintings that were either in Europe between 1932 and 1946, or that have gaps in provenance during this time. The inclusion of a painting on the Taft’s list does not signify that it was subject to Nazi looting; it merely identifies it as a work of art with a gap in its history of ownership.
By making this information available to the public, the Taft is working to fulfill its mission of responsible stewardship of its collections, and to participate in the worldwide effort of identifying works of art looted during World War II. The Museum will continue to add new information to this list as further research is completed.
If you have information or wish to inquire about any of the works on the Taft’s current list of European artworks acquired after 1932, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To search the AAM’s registry of objects in U.S. museum collections that changed hands in Continental Europe during the Nazi era (1933-1945), visit the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal Project.