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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ownership Of Another Kokoschka Contested

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - For the second time this week, Dr. Claudia Seger-Thomschitz has been sued by someone who seeks to quiet title to an Oskar Kokoschka painting, insisting it was not acquired by "forced sale" due to Nazi persecution. Sarah Blodgett Dunbar says she is sole heir of the legal owner of Kokoschka's "Portrait of a Youth," which has a legal record of sale, a long history of public display, and a known provenance since it was painted in 1910.

Dunbar insists that, Seger-Thomschitz's claims to the contrary, the painting was not ever looted or subjected to forced sale because of Nazi persecution, but was sold by one Jewish art dealer to another.

Dunbar claims Viennese Jewish art dealers Dr. Oskar Reichel and his brother, Hans Reichel, owned the painting from 1910 to 1939.

In 1939, the Reichels sold it and four other Kokoschkas to Otto Kallir-Nirenstein, whom they had known since 1924, the complaint states.

In 1946, it states, Kallir's gallery sold the paining to the plaintiff's mother, "Mrs. (Sarah Reed) Blodgett-Platt." It has been displayed on loan to the New Orleans Museum of Art since the 1970s.

"Now, for the first time in the Subject Painting's history - more than 10 years after the death of the last Reichel family member and over 60 years since the Subject Painting was lawfully acquired by Mrs. Blodgett-Platt - the Defendant has asserted an adverse ownership claim to the Subject Painting," the complaint states.

"The Defendant claims to be the sole heir of the late Raimund Reichel whose father, Dr. Oskar Reichel, and brother, Hans Reichel, sold the Subject Painting over 60 years ago," the complaint states. "Raimund Reichel died in Vienna, Austria in 1997. The Defendant is not related to the Reichels," it states.

Dunbar contests Seger-Thomschitz's claims in strong terms. Seger-Thomschitz, of Vienna, is an Austrian citizen.

"The Defendant is unrelated to the Reichels yet claims to have inherited whatever rights or claims that late Raimund Reichel (the last member of the Reichel family) may have had in the Subject Painting upon his death in 1997," the complaint states. "Upon information and belief, the Defendant first met Raimund Reichel in a Vienna art gallery during the 1980s or 1990s. ... (T)he Defendant alleges that in a handwritten or holographic will, Raimund Reichel named the Defendant his sole heir. The alleged will, however, does not mention the Subject Painting."

See complaint.

Here is Courthouse News' Wednesday story about another Kokoscha painting, involving some of the same parties as the New Orleans lawsuit.

Boston Museum Of Fine Arts Denies It Got

Kokoschka Painting From Nazi Looting

BOSTON (CN) - The Boston Museum of Fine Arts sued Dr. Claudia Seger-Thomschitz to quiet title to an Oskar Kokoschka painting, "Two Nudes (Lovers)," claiming the museum did not obtain the art as a result of Nazi persecution, as Seger-Thomschitz claims.

The museum claims Dr. Oskar Reichel, a Jewish doctor and art collector in Vienna, voluntarily sold the painting to art dealer Otto Kallir in 1939. Kallir, formerly of Vienna, had moved to Paris when he bought the painting, the complaint states. "The painting was never confiscated by the Nazis, was never sold by force as a result of Nazi persecution, and was not otherwise taken from Dr. Reichel," the museum insists.

Kallir moved from Paris to New York, opened another gallery and sold the painting to a third dealer, who sold it to Sarah Blodgett in 1947 or 1948, the museum says. She bequeathed it to the museum on her death.

Reichel died "of natural causes" in Vienna in 1943. The museum claims that "more than 68 years after the sale of the painting by Dr. Reichel, Defendant - as the purported heir of Dr. Reichel's sons - demanded that the museum turn over the painting to her."

The museum says it investigated her claim and rejects it.

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