Egon Schiele Works Seized From U.S. Museums

Egon Schiele Works Have Been Seized From Different U.S. Museums by Investigators, Possibly Stolen During WW2.

Sep 15, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Egon Schiele
The Art Institute of Chicago. Via Chris Richard


Egon Schiele works remained in three US museums after the war. There is a Russian War Prisoner (1916) at the Art Institute of Chicago, Portrait of a Man (1917) at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and Girl With Black Hair (1911) at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. The investigators concluded they were looted, and the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg seized them.


Egon Schiele Works Worth Up to $1.5M.

Egon Schiele, Russian War Prisoner (1916).
Egon Schiele, Russian War Prisoner (1916). Via Artnet


As concluded, the works belonged to Jewish collector and cabaret performer Fritz Grünbaum. During the World War II, Nazis stole the drawings. District attorney’s team obtained subpoenas for previously mentioned institutions. For now, the drawings will remain at museum’s. Each work has estimated value between $1 million and $1.5 million each.


The descendants of Grünbaum are trying to retreive roughly a dozen Schiele pieces, including the two watercolours and a pencil sketch. They submitted many civil lawsuits that are still lasting. Plaintiffs in these instances are Timothy Reif and David Fraenkel. Both of them are Grünbaum’s property co-trustees. There is also Milos Vavra. Reif and Fraenkel said the Nazis coerced Grünbaum into executing an unauthorised authority of lawyer.




Everything took place in 1938. At that time, Nazis held Jewish collector at the Dachau concentration camp, Germany. They managed to retrieve two Schiele watercolors—Woman in a Black Pinafore (1911) and Woman Hiding Her Face (1912). The works were part of Richard Nagy’s (London-based art dealer) collection.

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The Bragg Department Refused to Respond

Allen Memorial Art Museum
Allen Memorial Art Museum. Via the AMAM


The drawings sold at Christie’s auction house for $500,000 and $2.5 million. The descendants also started lawsuits against the Morgan Library and Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Bragg became interested in the present allegations because the Schiele works were smuggled across New York at a certain time. The museums are not facing any additional fees.


The Bragg department refused to respond, claiming an “ongoing investigation”. “Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has a deep committment to our mission of preserving the resources of art and science by acting in accordance with ethical, legal, and professional requirements and norms. We will of course cooperate fully with inquiries from the relevant authorities”, the institution said.


jewish alsatian museum
The Jewish Alsatian Museum in Bouxwiller, via Visit Alsace


The Art Institute also added: “We are confident in our legal acquisition and lawful possession of this work. The piece is the subject of civil litigation in federal court, where this dispute is being properly litigated and where we are also defending our legal ownership”.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.