State Rep. Mike Reynolds said Wednesday he’s concerned a pending lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma over a piece of Nazi-looted art could lead to more claims over other OU paintings with questionable backgrounds.
Speaking at a House Government and Modernization committee meeting Wednesday, Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said there are eight or nine other paintings in the OU collection at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art that have also been identified as possibly stolen or taken in Nazi looting.
The university is facing a lawsuit from Leone Meyer, a woman in Paris who is seeking to recover the painting “Shepherdess Bringing In Sheep.” The 1886 work is by French impressionist artist Camille Pissarro. Meyer alleges the painting was stolen from her father, a Jewish businessman in Paris, during the Nazi occupation of France.
OU officials have refused to return the work, citing a previous court ruling in Switzerland that denied the family's claim to the painting. The university doesn’t dispute the fact that the painting was looted from the family during World War II.
Unless they have reason to question Meyer’s claim to the painting, Reynolds said he’d like to see university officials return it.
“If they have any hard evidence, they need to present it,” he said.
The museum received the painting in 2000 as a part of a collection left to the museum by Clara Weitzenhoffer, wife of Oklahoma oil man Aaron Weitzenhoffer. At the time, university officials said the gift was one of the most important collections of French impressionist paintings given to an American public university.