Three paintings seized by the Nazis from a Viennese Jewish family in the 1930s are set to net a London-based eyesight charity half a million pounds, after lawyers worked for free to reclaim them.
Irma Lowenstein and her husband Oscar had the artwork by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller seized from their apartment in the Austrian capital before they fled to London in 1938, where they ran a liberal newspaper.
Oscar died shortly a few years later but Irma, who remarried and became Irma Austin, fought for the paintings’ return for years after they were seized under the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws, until her death in 1976 aged 86.
That quest was initially thwarted by geopolitics, after the Soviet Union – part of a multinational post-war peacekeeping force in Vienna – vetoed their return.
Irma died with no heirs and left her estate to the Greater London Fund for the Blind, which became the Vision Foundation. Today it helps more than 200,000 people living with sight loss in and around the British capital.
In 2018 a German genealogist alerted the charity to the fact that the three Waldmüller paintings, which were held by the German state and on loan to various museums around the country, actually belonged to the foundation.
Working pro bono, lawyers at Charles Russell Speechlys helped the charity assume ownership. The first two sold in November for around £360,000, while the third is expected to sell soon for around £180,000.
Tamsin Baxter, a director at Vision Foundation, said: “After everything Irma went through in her life, it is truly remarkable that almost 50 years since her death she is still supporting a cause that appears to have meant so much to her during her life.”
The three paintings – ‘Preparing the Celebration of the Wine Harvest,’ ‘The Grandparents’ Visit’ and ‘The Good Natured-Child (The Beggar)’ – had been due to become part of Hitler’s Führer Museum in Linz.
We are forever thankful to the kind and generous individuals who support our cause – and in this case decide to remember us in their will. A remarkable and powerful story. https://t.co/SBzUZT3Hd6
— Vision Foundation (@Vision_Fdn) January 4, 2021
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