A German man wanted to do the right thing before he died — find the rightful owners of a 19th-century oil painting his father stole from occupied France during World War II at the behest of his superiors. The untitled work by French painter Nicolas Rousseau is being exhibited at the World Centre for Peace, Liberty and Human Rights in Verdun, a small city in northeast France. Next to it hangs a sign: “If you recognize the landscape or have any information about this painting, we would be grateful if you would let us know.” The Verdun center receives about 60,000 visitors a year and organizers hope one of them will recognize the landscape of a stream pushing its way through a tree-lined field.
As the story goes, in spring 1944, Alfred Forner, an officer in the German Luftwaffe, was stationed in France. He was asked by a superior to bring the Rousseau painting to Berlin during his leave. But when he arrived at the Berlin address, the building was in ruins. He went home and left the painting there before leaving for the front again. He died in combat a few months later. His family displayed the painting in their home for seven decades. In January 2019, his son Peter Forner, who was in declining health and since died at age 80, contacted the French embassy in Berlin wanting to find the painting’s owner.
Organizations like the New York-based Art Loss Register let owners report missing or stolen pieces to an international database used by art dealers, museums, collectors and experts in smuggling or Nazi looting.
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The site of this painting, would have changed tremendously after all these years. May be there is a condo sitting now.