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Ten years later: Oppenheimer's portrait returned to the heirs

Ten years later: Oppenheimer's portrait returned to the heirs

On Tuesday, the Viennese MOMOK Museum returned Max Oppenheimer's portrait of Rosa Kraus, Karl Kraus's sister-in-law, to the rightful heirs.

The situation is similar with the recently sold at auction Klimt's painting “Fräulein Lieser”: it is not known exactly where the painting was after its owner had to flee from the Nazis. After all, the owner of the “Fräulein Lieser” was unable to do so, and was killed. But Rosa Kraus managed to escape in 1939. Her husband Alfred, the owner of a paper and ultramarine factory, died in 1938, and he was Karl Kraus's brother.

In 1909 he commissioned Max Oppenheimer to paint a complete portrait of his wife. She stayed in the apartment designed by Adolf Loos at Mohsgasse 2. In 2014, the Property Restitution Advisory Board assumed that “the picture must have been lost due to persecution” and recommended that the property be returned. The picture was now at MOMOK, where it arrived in 1988 through a donation from the Friends of Fine Arts. It was sold at auction in London two years ago. This Tuesday, ten years after the return recommendation, the painting was handed over to the heirs. What took all this time? Much longer than the picture “Fräulein Lieser”? According to the ministry, “four generations of succession had to be studied, taking into account multiple marriages and different nationalities,” and then they had to reach an agreement. In addition, the pandemic has slowed the process even further.

Kraus v. Oppenheimer

The image, which was last shown at MOMOK in 2004, was not on view in the major Oppenheimer retrospective at the Leopold Museum. It is also historically interesting: Oppenheimer himself had to flee from the Nazis; His art was considered “degenerate.” He died poor in New York in 1954. Rosa Krause, née Hirsch, had died two years earlier. The relationship is interesting because Oppenheimer was Oskar Kokoschka's favorite enemy. Kokoshka depicts Rosa's brother and sister-in-law. In addition, Karl Kraus, his closest supporter, spoke on his behalf for Oppenheimer, who also painted in an early Expressionist style. Attempts were made to denounce him and call him an “impostor.” (Charity)

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