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 Berlin to return 1913 Kirchner oil painting



A 1913 oil painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner depicting a lively Berlin street has been returned to heirs of the Jew­ish family that was forced to hand it over to the Nazis be­fore World War II.

 Kirchner's oil painting, "Berliner Strassenszene," with an estimated value of over US$12.59 million, has hung in the Bruecke   Mu­seum in the German capital since 1980. It was returned to heirs of the family that originally owned the work last Sunday, Berlin 's state ministry for culture said in a statement.

No details of the restitution, including the identity of the original owners, or the heirs, were released.

Bernd Schultz, a modern art expert for the Berlin­based auction house Villa Grisebach, said he considers the oil painting to be one of the most outstanding in Kirchner's series of street scenes.

Kirchner, born in 1880 in the western German town of Aschaffenburg , was one of the most creative artists of "Die Bruecke," or The Bridge," a group of German painters that he co-founded in 1905. After the Nazis seized power, they confiscated 639 of Kirchner's paintings, from museums and, in despair, he took his own life in 1938.

The oil painting ‘Berliner Strassenszene,’ which de­picts a woman in red within an urban crowd dressed in blue, is characterized by its vibrant colors. In 1933, the painting was taken to Switzerland by its Jewish owners as part of an art collection, where it was exhibited in Basel and Zurich , the ministry said

Three years later, the Jewish owners sent seven oil paintings, including Kirchner's "Berliner Strassenszene," painting to the Art Association of Co­logne. An art collector then bought the paintings, but it is uncertain whether the Jewish owners ever saw any of this money, the ministry said.

After World War 11, the new owners donated the oil painting to the Staedel art museum in Frankfurt . It was then acquired by the state and of Berlin in 1980, "in good faith," the ministry said.