Looted Art by André Derain to be Returned to Jewish Collector’s Family

Three paintings by André Derain were taken by the Nazis during World War II. The looted art pieces will now be returned to Jewish art dealer René Gimpel’s heirs.

Oct 1, 2020By Charlotte Davis, BA Art History
Pinède à Cassis by André Derain, 1907, in the Cantini Museum, Marseille (left); with Portrait of René Gimpel, via the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington D.C.

On Wednesday, a Paris appeals court ruled that three pieces of Nazi-looted art taken during World War II are to be returned to the family of Jewish art dealer René Gimpel, who was killed during the Holocaust at Neuengamme concentration camp in 1945. The three paintings by André Derain were taken as spoils during the Gimpel’s arrest and deportation by the Nazis in 1944.


The ruling has overturned a 2019 court decision denying the return of the André Derain paintings to Gimpel’s heirs. The denial was made on the basis of insufficient evidence of a ‘forced sale’ under duress, which is considered by French law to be illegal plundering. The court had also previously cited that there were doubts concerning the authenticity of the André Derain artworks, because of inconsistencies with stock references to their sizes and titles. 


However, the family attorney stated that the André Derain pieces were renamed and the canvases relined for marketing purposes before they were taken. Additionally, the 2020 court stated that there were “accurate, serious and consistent indications” that the looted art pieces were the same ones in Gimpel’s possession during World War II.  


The French newspaper Le Figaro also states that Gimpel’s family members are attempting to reclaim other lost or looted art pieces during World War II.


René Gimpel: Rightful Owner Of The André Derain Paintings

Portrait of René Gimpel, 1916, via the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington D.C.


René Gimpel was a prominent art dealer in France who held galleries in New York and Paris. He kept contacts with other artists, collectors and creatives, including Mary Cassatt, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Marcel Proust. His journal entitled Journal d’un collectionneur: marchand de tableaux (In English, Diary of an Art Dealer) was published after his death, and is considered a reputable source for the mid-20th-century European art market and collecting between the two World Wars. 

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The Looted Art Pieces Are In French Museums

The three pieces of looted art were all completed by André Derain between 1907 and 1910 Gimpel at the Hôtel Drouot auction house in Paris in 1921. They are titled Paysage à Cassis, La Chapelle-sous-Crecy and Pinède à Cassis. All the paintings have been held in Frech cultural institutions; two have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in Troyes and the other at the Cantini Museum in Marseille. 


André Derain: Co-founder Of Fauvism

Arbres à Collioure by André Derain, 1905, via Sotheby’s


André Derain was a French painter and co-founder of the Fauvism movement, which is known for its bright colors and rough, unblended quality. The group of French artists gained their name Les Fauves meaning ‘wild beasts’ after a comment by an art critic at one of their early exhibitions. André Derain met fellow artist Henri Matisse at an art class, and the pair co-founded the Fauvism movement, spending lots of time together experimenting with painting in the south of France.


He was later associated with the Cubism movement, shifting into the use of more muted colors and influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne. André Derain also experimented with Primitivism and Expressionism, eventually reflecting the influence of classicism and the Old Masters in his painting. 


André Derain is remembered as a very important artistic figure of the early 20th-century. His auction record for artwork is for a landscape painted in 1905 entitled Arbres à Collioure, which sold for £16.3 million ($24 million) at a Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in London in 2005. André Derain’s other works Barques au Port de Collioure (1905) and Bateaux à Collioure (1905) sold for $14.1 million in 2009 and £10.1 million ($13 million) in 2018 at Sotheby’s auctions, respectively. Several of his works have also sold for above $5 million at auction.

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By Charlotte DavisBA Art HistoryCharlotte is a contributing writer from Portland, Oregon now based in London, England. I’m an art historian with extensive knowledge in art history, classics, ancient art and archaeology.