Gustave Courbet Painting Donated to Yale University Art Gallery

The Yale University Art Gallery is pleased to announce that it has recently received the generous gift of a major landscape work by the artist Gustave Courbet titled Le Grand Pont (1864). This important work by Courbet has been on loan to Yale since 1981 from the collection of Dr. Herbert and Monika Schaefer. The painting has been on public display in the galleries and has been included in major special exhibitions, including Courbet und Deutschland, Hamburg and Frankfurt, 1978-79 and Saints, Sinners and Scenery, European Genre and Landscape Paintings from the Collection of Herbert & Monika Schaefer, New Haven, 1988.

The confirmed history of Le Grand Pont is that it belonged to the Marczell de Nemes collection until 1913, but by the 1920s was held in Breslau, first in the collection of Leo Lewin and then Max Silberberg. It remained in the Silberberg collection until 1935, from which it was sold at auction by Paul Graupe of Berlin. There is no known record of the purchaser of the work from that sale. Dr. Schaefer and Silberberg’s son settled an ownership claim for the painting out of court in Germany in the 1970s.

The painting had been the subject of a recent ownership claim asserted by Mr. Eric Weinmann of Washington, D.C. After Yale University notified Dr. Schaefer of Mr. Weinmann’s claim, Dr. Schaefer agreed that the painting would remain on loan to Yale while further historical research into the painting’s provenance during and after World War II was completed.

The Yale Art Gallery commissioned extensive research into the painting’s provenance, the results of which were inconclusive. Mr. Weinmann offered to withdraw his restitution claim with the understanding that the painting would be given to Yale so that it can remain on public display with a teaching institution. The parties also agreed that the painting would be placed on loan to Mr. Weinmann from Yale for a period of ten years, subject to recall during that time to Yale for inclusion in public exhibitions. After the term of the loan, the painting will be permanently returned to Yale.

Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, summarized the settlement as, “setting a new precedent for Museums in the resolution of Nazi restitution claims. All parties are pleased that the inquiry resulted in an extensive researching of the history of the painting and that Courbet’s Le Grand Pont will remain a resource for the education and enjoyment of the public. We are grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Schaefer for their generous gift to Yale and to Mr. and Mrs. Weinmann for their willingness to reach an amicable settlement.”

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