Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Banks of the Oise, Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône (1876)
oil on canvas, 21.65 x 25.59 in. (55 x 65 cm)
Painted by Camille Pissarro in 1876, Banks of the Oise, Saint-Ouen-l'Aumône was owned by David Friedmann, a wealthy Jewish industrialist from the city of Breslau — then, in the German region of Silesia, now Wrocław, Poland. Having mainly built his wealth in sugar, he had also run a brick-manufacturing company with his brother Siegmund. He owned four country estates that grew sugar beet, with one including a sugar refinery and distillery. By the 1930s, Breslau was the fifth-largest city in Germany, and had a large Jewish population of 23,000, the third largest after Berlin and Frankfurt. The wealthy Jewish families of the city often had impressive art collections which they would lend to museums for exhibition, and frequently made large financial contributions to them as well. David Friedmann was among them, and owned works by Gustave Courbet, Lovis Corinth, Max Liebermann, as well as an impressive collection of faience pottery and watches.
Potentially due to its large Jewish population, Breslau also had one of the most active, local chapters of the Nazi party. Jewish families were targeted, rich and poor alike, and David Friedmann did not escape the authorities' notice. An inventory of his collection was made on January 24, 1940, “by order of the District President of Breslau." An inventory from the late 1930s valued the collection at 10,785 Reichsmarks, an incredibly low estimate that should have been ten or even fifteen times that amount. The confiscation of the collection did not immediately follow the inventory, but the list was shown to the executive director of the Silesian Museum of Fine Arts in Breslau, Cornelius Müller-Hofstede. Müller-Hofstede sympathized with the Nazi party and had no qualms with exploiting the Jewish people who had previously endowed so much to his museum.
The exact details of when and how the paintings were taken are not known. What is known is that David Friedmann was forced to leave his home in March 1941, and that he later died on February 15, 1942, of natural causes. His entire estate was confiscated by the Regional Financial Office of Lower Silesia in an act of “Aryanization.” His home and art were put to auction, with all proceeds “forfeited to the Reich.” Müller-Hofstede received several paintings, including two by Max Liebermann, which he sold to Hildebrand Gurlitt, former museum director turned art dealer with strong Nazi ties. By this time, Friedmann was dead, and his daughter Charlotte, who should have inherited everything, had been deported to Ravensbrück
concentration camp before being murdered at Auschwitz on October 9, 1942.
In 2012, one of Friedmann’s paintings was found in the Munich home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of Hildebrand. In what became known as the “Munich Art Hoard,” Max Liebermann’s Two Riders on the Beach was discovered and returned to the Friedmann heirs in 2015. The Pissarro painting has not been seen since it was confiscated from David Friedmann’s home in Breslau.