Nazi-seized Cubist works finally on show

Three paintings by Fédor Löwenstein go on display in the city where the Third Reich first sequestered them
Composition (c. 1940) by Fédor Lowenstein
Composition (c. 1940) by Fédor Lowenstein

Does the influence of Nazism still hang over art history? We all know about the Third Reich’s failed attempts to reorder 20th century art according to its own prejudices. Yet, what about the good, lesser-known works that have gone unviewed, thanks to the Axis powers?

The Musée des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux has just put three paintings by the Czech artist Fédor Löwenstein on display. Löwenstein, whom the gallery describes as a cubist and abstract painter, studied in Germany, and worked in Paris, before relocating to southeastern France after the capital fell to the Germans. Löwenstein’s paintings were seized at the port of Bordeaux en route to an American gallery. Deemed degenerate by the Axis powers, the works, Poplars, Trees, and Composition, were consigned to the store room for condemned art, the Salles des Martyrs at the Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris.


The Salles des Martyrs at the Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris.
The Salles des Martyrs at the Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts says that these works were only identified as Löwenstein’s lost trove in 2010, and the current show, which opened last Thursday and runs until 24 August, is the first time that the paintings have been put on show.

While these works don’t appear to be of earth-shattering significance, it’s tempting to think who else might have bought them, seen them and been influenced by them, had Löwenstein’s paintings made it across the Atlantic.


Self portrait by Fédor Löwenstein
Self portrait by Fédor Löwenstein

For more on this, go here. For a more heartening story of art historical triumph in the face of Nazism, do consider our forthcoming book, Émigrés, a comprehensive analysis of the illustrated publishing industry in Britain between the two World Wars and in the decade following World War II, with detailed histories of the Phaidon and Thames & Hudson publishing houses.

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