NORMAN — In 1940, after Paris fell under Nazi control, German troops began looting thousands of artworks from museums, galleries and personal collections across France.
Today, one of those paintings hangs in the University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Now, the daughter of its former owner wants the painting back.
The painting is “Shepherdess Bringing In Sheep,” an 1886 work by French impressionist artist Camille Pissarro. It was stolen from Raoul Meyer, a Jewish businessman in Paris, during the Nazi occupation of France.
Meyer's daughter, Leone Meyer, is suing OU in hopes of recovering the painting. But OU officials are refusing to return the work, citing a previous court ruling in Switzerland that denied the family's claim based on its timing. The fact that the Nazis stole the painting is not in dispute.
Nazis seized artwork
Before the German invasion of France, the Meyer family was part owner of Groupe Galeries Lafayette, an upscale French department store. Raoul Meyer amassed a large collection of French impressionist paintings.
But with the fall of France, the family was removed from management of the department store, and the business was placed under the control of the Nazi-backed Vichy government.
Raoul Meyer's art collection was seized during the Nazi occupation.
After the war, Meyer, who survived the occupation, spent years trying to track down the artwork that had been stolen. Meanwhile, “Shepherdess Bringing In Sheep” changed hands several times.
The painting's history after it was seized is recounted in Leone Meyer's complaint.
In 1953, Meyer sued Christoph Bernoulli, a Swiss art dealer who had bought the painting, to try to recover it.
But a Swiss judge dismissed the suit, saying Meyer filed his complaint after a five-year window for such lawsuits had passed.
Over the years, the painting made its way to an art gallery in New York. Norman oilman Aaron Weitzenhoffer and his wife, Clara, bought the painting from the gallery in 1956.