When the art specialists of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) pilfered the homes and galleries of collectors and dealers across French territory, but more specifically in and around Paris, they came across troves of Impressionist works. One would think that almost anyone who was anyone would collect Impressionists in France, right? Wrong!
On closer look, here's what we found out.
Of the 270 owners who are currently listed in the ERR database, fewer than 10 per cent held works by Impressionists in their collections at the time of the German occupation of France in June 1940.
Let's do a survey by artist (Note: I use the word "unknown" to refer to the MA-B and UNB collections, categories created by the ERR staff to characterize mass seizures of objects from residential homes without due concern for their owners' identities):
- Pierre Bonnard: 8 known owners and at most 6 unknown.
- Eugène Boudin: 9 known owners and at most 4 unknown.
- Paul Cézanne: 2 known owners and at most 3 unknown.
- Edgar Degas: 13 known owners and at most 2 unknown.
- Paul Gauguin: 5 known owners
- Marie Laurencin: 11 known owners and at most 3 unknown.
- Edouard Manet: 7 known owners and 1 unknown.
- Henri Matisse: 4 known owners and at most 11 unknown.
- Claude Monet: 4 known owners and at most 4 unknown.
- Auguste Renoir: 16 known owners and at most 9 unknown.
- Edouard Vuillard: 7 known owners and 1 unknown.
The question is: what did people collect if they didn't gravitate towards Impressionists?