Paris, 20 April 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).
The descendants of Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), a Parisian art dealer who actively supported avant-garde artists (Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, etc.) and discovered Van Gogh, officially registered a complaint against Serbia.
According to the complaint registered by the descendants’ lawyers and detailed by the Reuters agency, the National Museum of Belgrade has 429 ill-gotten works, seized by the Yugoslavian Government in 1949. These works had been entrusted by Vollard, before he died in a car crash in 1939, to a friend in Belgrade called Erih Slomovic. Being Jewish, he was sent to a concentration camp and died there in 1943. Still according to the complaint, the Serbian government then seized the works.
These proceedings are based on court judgments pronounced in France in 1996 and in favour of Vollard’s descendants. These court judgments are about the 190 paintings left in Paris by Slomovic. According to François Honnorat, the French lawyer summoned by Reuters, these works’ situation has been known for decades; no museum or curator owning them could be ignorant of it.
Ambroise Vollard, born in Saint-Denis-de-la-Réunion in 1866, was a recognized art dealer, notably portrayed by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He commissioned the Suite Vollard, a series of a hundred of Pablo Picasso’s most famous engravings. Picasso had not finished it when Vollard died and so gave his name to the series. About fifty pastels by Edgar Degas, lithographs by Paul Cézanne and Mary Cassat, and works by Renoir and impressionist painters are among the 429 works concerned by the complaint.