14 February 2015

Schleiertanz (Veil Dance) 1920, by Paul Klee

Schleiertanz, 1920, Paul Klee
by Marc Masurovsky 

Paul Klee produced the watercolor known as “Schleiertanz”, the Veil Dance, in 1920. It was exhibited in Munich at the Neue Kunst Hans Goltz until June 1920. Thereafter, Harry Fuld, Sr., a Jewish businessman from Frankfurt am Main, acquired the Klee watercolor and kept it in the family until his death in 1932. His eleven-year old son, Peter “Harry” Fuld, Jr., and his non-Jewish mother, Ida, inherited the Klee together with the rest of Harry’s considerable art collection, businesses and real property. Peter became a millionaire. However, Hitler’s ascent to power in late January 1933 changed all of that. Due to Nazi persecutions, Peter “Harry” Fuld, Jr. left for England shortly before the outbreak of WWII. Before his departure, the Klee was placed in storage with the shipping firm of Gustav Knauer in 1937 as well as other objects and property belonging to the Fuld family. In 1941, the Reich overrode Fuld’s ownership of items stored at Knauer’s and any real, financial and commercial property still owned by the Fulds in Germany since Harry—his father--was a Jew, Peter, although a “half-Jew”—his mother was not Jewish—was still treated as though he were Jewish. All Jews living in Germany who had “abandoned” their property to go into self-imposed exile, lost whatever assets they still held to the Reich, an act that the victorious Allied powers deemed illegal after their victory over the Third Reich in May 1945.

Some of the objects in the Fuld crates left with Knauer were placed in museums in Frankfurt, where Fuld’s family came from. It could be that all the crates packed by the Fuld family had been deposited with Knauer in Frankfurt instead of Berlin, which some researchers believe to be the case. At some point, perhaps in 1943 or 1944, the ERR, the Nazi plundering agency, designated “Schleiertanz” as a Neuwied item, an indication that it might have been stored at a customs warehouse in Neuwied which served as a central repository for items seized from Jews in Belgium and Holland.

Schloss Kogl
The absence of a “Neuwied number” for “Schleiertanz” makes it more likely that the Klee was sent to ERR headquarters at Bellevuestrasse in Berlin, a way station for confiscated "modern" works of art, from which it was transferred in a crate with other “Neuwied” items to the ERR depot of Kogl in Austria, a main recipient of loot from Western Europe, including items whose owners were “unknown”, like those marked Neuwied. It could be that the Klee was reclassified as a Neuwied item then. In 1945, the Americans found it in a crate stamped “Neuwied" and so designated it as well.
In 1940, the British authorities interned the young Peter Fuld as an “enemy alien” and shipped him to Canada where he remained until the end of WWII. He was released in 1941 and went to school at the University of Toronto where he sought both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor in Law. He took Canadian citizenship in 1946 at the time of his graduation from the University of Toronto. Fuld had also fallen in love with Ivy Lawrence, a “woman of color” from Trinidad and a fellow student who was a year ahead of him.  Their unorthodox interracial romance shook things up on the Toronto campus. 
Ivy Lawrence and Peter "Harry" Fuld in Canada
Although the Nazis would have treated Peter a “mischling” or “halbjude,” still, in Canada, he had a difficult time fitting in anywhere not being born of a Jewish mother, being a native of Germany, and involved romantically with a woman from Trinidad. Ironic that he suffered similar discrimination thousands of miles away from Nazi Germany, free of racial persecution, but not free of discrimination.

In the spring of 1945, American troops liberated Schloss Kogl, one of the ERR’s depots in the Attergau in Austria, and carted off everything it contained including the Klee to the Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP) in Munich, the administrative center of the US zone of occupation of Germany, where it arrived in 1946. Three years later, in 1949, the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO) received Fuld’s Klee as heirless property from the American repatriation authorities in Munich as well as hundreds of other cultural and artistic items. Together with all other heirless properties it had gathered in the Allied occupation zones in Germany and Austria, the JRSO ceded these cultural assets to the Bezalel National Museum in the newly minted State of Israel. Bezalel preceded the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. “Schleiertanz” was transferred in 1950 and incorporated into the permanent collection of the Israel Museum until its restitution in September 2010.

After WWII ended, Fuld returned to England before eventually settling in Germany. He sought out his mother, Ida, with whom he had lost touch upon going into exile as a young man and initiated proceedings to obtain restitution of his family’s lost assets which the Nazis had misappropriated. Ivy joined him in London but , once found, his mother threatened to commit suicide should he ever marry Ivy. That threat caused the breakup between Peter Fuld and Ivy and resulted in tremendous emotional harm to Peter. He required regular care at the hands of a psychiatrist. After returning to Germany, Peter died of brain cancer in March 1962. At his death, Fuld had somehow complicated matters with his estate since he had left a will to which were attached four codicils which resulted in a number of legal proceedings challenging one or more of the codicils. Some had been drafted in England, others in Germany. The messiness of inheritance especially as it affects looted and misappropriated property, cultural, financial, and immovable, was fueled by his bitter mother and the psychiatrist who had cared for Peter through his erratic emotional upheavals.
According to an article that appeared in the magazine “Ebony”, the trial over Peter Fuld’s estate produced transcripts totaling 3 million words and kept Ivy in the witness box for days. 18 million dollars (1962 value) were at stake as well as his looted assets which he had labored to recover from Germany. One third of the “residuary estate” went to Fuld’s aging mother. Another part of the estate went to Ivy with a proviso that she use 10 per cent of it for educational betterment in the West Indies. The rest went to Gita Gisela Martin, his housekeeper.

The late German lawyer and restitution specialist, Dr. Jost von Trott zu Solz, garnered the historical evidence to prove that “Schleiertanz” had once rightfully belonged to the Fuld family which had lost it at the hands of the Nazis. In 2010, the Israel Museum’s leadership accepted the evidence and agreed to restitute the Klee to Gita Gisela Martin who donated it to the Magen David Adom UK, the Israeli equivalent to the Red Cross organization, to which she had donated other “holdings” from the Peter Fuld estate

In turn, Magen David sold the Klee in New York through Sotheby’s as Lot Nr. 342 on November 3, 2010. It garnered $326,500.

As usual, beware of mis-written provenances. The Sotheby’s provenance for “Schleiertanz” misinterprets the historical material regarding the Neuwied phase of the Klee’s travails and does not acknowledge the fact that the Israel Museum returned the Klee to the Fuld heir who then donated it to Magen David, the consignor! It’s all in the details.