Over 70 years after its confiscation by the Nazi authorities, the present pastel by Berthe Morisot was returned to the beneficiaries David and Flora David-Weill on April the 27th 2016, ratifying the resolution adopted by the Salzburg Landesregierung in Austria on April 8th 2015.
Kept until then in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, doubts were expressed as to the work’s provenance in 2009 and the conditions in which it entered the museum’s collections. Research undertaken conjointly by Elizabeth Royer-Grimblat and Suzanne Rolinek showed that it was one of the works looted in France from the David-Weill family by the Nazi authorities on July 21st 1943 and whose localisation was not identified. This research was thus able to establish that this pastel, which seemed to have disappeared for over three decades, had in fact reappeared in 1977 in an auction in Vienna at the Dorotheum where it was purchased by Friedrich Welz for 46 144 shillings for the account of the Moderne Galerie und Graphische Sammlung Rupertinum. Since 2003, the work has been a part of the collections of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg.
This delicate pastel drawing is a moving testimony to the art of Berthe Morisot, one of the rare women to integrate the circle of impressionist painters and to have participated in almost all the group’s exhibitions from 1874. Here she has depicted her niece, Jeanne Pontillon, who was a model for several of her works. It is characterised by the lightness and spontaneity of the facture which marks all her works as well as the quality of its graphic line, praised by Renoir and Degas. The present portrait, depicted in fresh tones, seems to have been caught in action and radiates with light. As Gustave Geffroy describes “the artist has found a means of fixing the shimmering of light produced by things and the air that surrounds them … pink, pale green, vaguely golden light, singing with an indescribable harmony. Nobody represents impressionism with a more refined talent, with more authority than Madame Morisot” (in “L’exposition des artistes indépendants”, La Justice, April 19th 1881).
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