“Bergère rentrant des moutons (Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep)”

Léone Meyer is suing OU for the painting “Bergère rentrant des moutons (Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep)” by French impressionist Camille Pissarro. Before World War II, Meyer’s family owned the painting. During the war it was stolen by Nazis. Now the painting hangs in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, where it was donated by its last owners Aaron and Clara Weitzenhoffer. OU won’t give the painting back to Meyer until the matter’s been decided in court.

Dear Ms. Harkins, Ms. Buchanan and Ms. Robinson,

I was both dismayed and saddened by the articles “OU museum houses forty pieces with Nazi connections from WWII” in the November 6 print edition and “OU museum holds 40 pieces of art looted by Nazis during WWII” in the November 6 digital edition of The Oklahoma Daily. Both headlines and a portion of each the articles are erroneous and misleading. The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art does not have “40 pieces of art with Nazi provenance” or “40 pieces of art with Nazi connections” as the articles suggest. As Ms. Harkins rightly states later in each article, the 40 works of art from the museum collection are listed on the Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal; however, neither the 40 from the FJJMA collection nor the over 29,000 works of art listed by other museums necessarily have any established connection to the Nazis and unlawful looting during WWII. The database is a catchall that is designed to include works of art that were created prior to 1946, that originated in Europe and that changed hands during a period of time from 1932-46. This does not imply that any of the works have Nazi connections or that any of the pieces were looted. The portal is a database where those questions of provenance can be explored and further researched and a means of investigating what was looted by the Nazis and what was not. The headline and the article conveyed a false impression.

In addition, a federal court in New York recently ruled in favor of the university’s position in regard to the case. The claimant has appealed to the circuit court.

As President Boren has previously indicated, the museum will continue to work to appropriately honor both families in the labeling and cataloging of the painting. Several years ago, Yale University reached a solution related to looted art, which can serve as a model. We continue to reach out to the claimant in an effort to reach a morally appropriate solution.

We ask that you publish this letter in The Oklahoma Daily in the near future.

Sincerely,

Mark White, Ph.D.

Interim Director

Eugene B. Adkins Senior Curator

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