The artist, a fierce critic of the Nazis, fled Germany in 1933 as he was facing death threats, according to David J. Rowland, lawyer for the Grosz heirs. The three disputed works — two paintings and a watercolor — were left behind with the artist’s Berlin dealer, Alfred Flechtheim, but he too was soon forced to flee Germany due to Nazi persecution, and died in London in 1937. Grosz, meanwhile, moved to New York, and by 1938, the Nazi government had ordered his property seized and his German citizenship revoked.
Although the three works — Portrait of the Poet Max Herrmann-Neisse, Self-Portrait with Model, and Republican Automatons — each entered the MoMA collection through different means, the Grosz heirs dispute the legitimacy of the museum’s ownership in each case. The heirs also claim that they tried to negotiate with the museum but that the negotiations broke down and the museum refused attempts at mediation, which led to the suit, filed on April 10 in federal court in New York.
“We are very respectful of the MoMA, one of the leading modern art museums in the world. Unfortunately they were not willing to apply the principles of the Washington Conference and reach a ‘fair and just solution’ in this case,” said Marty Grosz. “MoMA left us with no alternative but to file suit. We were quite willing to resolve the matter amicably, but they refused.”
The author of this article bears no relation to George Grosz or his heirs.