Suffolk: Tate ordered to return John Constable painting ‘looted’ by the Nazis from Hungary in Second World War

John Constable (1776-1837): Beaching a Boat, Brighton (1824). Picture: TATE GALLERY. John Constable (1776-1837): Beaching a Boat, Brighton (1824). Picture: TATE GALLERY.

Friday, March 28, 2014
11:09 AM

The Tate has agreed to return an oil painting by John Constable after it emerged it was probably stolen from its owner by the Nazis and smuggled out of war-time Hungary.

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A committee of government-appointed experts said the “likelihood” was the 1824 work, called Beaching A Boat, Brighton, has been “looted by the Germans in 1944 or early 1945”.

Their report found the Tate had “a moral obligation” to return the painting to the family of the original owner who died in 1958 having fled the Communist takeover of his country.

It said the man, who it did not name, was “a well-known Hungarian artist and connoisseur” from a Jewish background and described how he fled the 1944 Nazi invasion and “went into hiding”.

The panel said: “His properties were confiscated, and contemporary witness accounts noted German military trucks being loaded with effects from the castle and being driven away.”

The painting turned up in London in 1962 and went through several hands before being donated to the Tate in 1986.

A Tate spokeswoman said: “Following the publication of a report of the Spoliation Advisory Panel in respect of an oil painting by John Constable, Beaching A Boat, Brighton 1824, in the Tate collection, Tate can confirm that the Panel has recommended that this painting should be returned by Tate to the claimants.

“Tate acknowledged the claim and welcomed the suggestion that the case should be presented for consideration by the Spoliation Advisory Panel as the body that was established by Government to advise on the merits of such claims. Tate is grateful for the care with which the Panel has examined the evidence and is pleased to follow the conclusions of the report. Tate will therefore recommend to its trustees, when they next meet in May, that the work be returned to the claimants. Tate will continue to respect the wishes of the claimants to remain anonymous.”

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