The state recovers drawings sold illegally (1945-)

The Koenigs Collection, or at least the bulk of it (around 80%) has been in Museum Boijmans uninterruptedly since 1935. After the war ended, 178 missing drawings were returned by various routes and restored to the collection under international agreements, among them the Joint Declaration (Inter-Allied Declaration against Acts of Dispossession Committed in Territories under Enemy Occupation and Control) of 1943. >MORE They are all loans from the State of the Netherlands, since Museum Boijmans is not the owner. As a result of Van Beuningen’s illegal sale, the state became the owner of all the recovered drawings under the above legislation. It gives the recovered drawings on permanent loan to the museum through the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency (formerly the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage), which administers the state-owned collections. The restitution of 33 missing drawings from Dresden and Leipzig in January 1987 by the government of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) turned the spotlight once again on the at that time virtually unknown Koenigs Collection. The State of the Netherlands then decided to renew its old claims to the remaining missing drawings from the Koenigs Collection, and in 1989 published a research catalogue to that end: Missing Old Master Drawings from the Franz Koenigs Collection claimed by the State of The Netherlands.. [Koenigscat1989voorw.pdf] That publication [ill.] was distributed worldwide among diplomatic missions, museums, art galleries, auction houses and art-historical libraries and documentation centres. It was followed by an article titled ‘Lost Treasures’ in the periodical ARTnews [ill.], which gave details of the claim and examined allegations that most of the missing drawings were in Moscow. [Koenigs 1990.pdf]

L: The ‘Koenigs catalogue’ of 1989 [Koenigscat1989voorw.pdf]
R: Article in the periodical ARTnews, February 1990 
[Koenigs 1990.pdf]

In 1992 the Russian Ministry of Culture announced that many of the missing Koenigs drawings had been found in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. A Netherlands-Russian bilateral working group on the restitution of the Koenigs Collection was formed by both governments, and in November 1993 Dutch experts carried out an inspection during an official visit to Moscow that established the size of the group of rediscovered drawings: 307 out of the 528 sheets. In 1995 those drawings were exhibited in the Pushkin Museum as its own property, accompanied by the illustrated catalogueFive Centuries of European Drawings. The Former Collection of Franz Koenigs [ill.]. The Netherlands government simultaneously organised its own exhibition Counterparts of Koenigs drawings from Museum Boijmans, elsewhere in Moscow, in order to draw attention to the Netherlands claim [ill.]. The restitution of those drawings demanded by the Netherlands government has been the subject of ongoing diplomatic consultations ever since.

L: Pushkin Museum exhibition catalogue, 1995
R: Catalogue of the Counterparts exhibition, Moscow 1995 

In 2004 the government of Ukraine returned 139 missing drawings (and three prints) from the Koenigs Collection to the Netherlands government in acknowledgement of the Dutch claims [ill.].[NvW_artikel_Osteuropa.pdf] In the summer of that year they were officially handed over at the opening of the exhibitionGerman Master Drawings from the Koenigs Collection. Return of a Lost Treasure in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen [ill.] in the presence of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima, the prime minister and the state secretary for Cultural Affairs, the President of Ukraine and Mr W.O. Koenigs, a son of the collector [ill.]. [FKcat2004.pdf]  The drawings and prints were then reunited with the Koenigs Collection on permanent loan to the museum from the State of the Netherlands. In addition to the 307 drawings that have not yet been returned from Moscow there are a further 44 sheets that are still missing. They are described in the 2004 catalogue (pp. 149-155). [FKcat2004missing.pdf]

L: Rediscovered Koenigs drawings, Kiev 2004
M: Exhibition catalogue, Rotterdam 2004
R: W.O. Koenigs (left) at the opening of the exhibition Return of a Lost Treasure with the Netherlands Prime Minister Dr J.P. Balkenende, Princess Maxima and Crown Prince Willem-Alexander Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 9 July 2004

The second collection inherited by Koenigs’s descendants

Koenigs continued collecting after the fiduciary transfer of ownership of his collection in 1931, which was renewed in 1935, but now more unobtrusively and on a more modest scale. He regarded his first collection, which went to Museum Boijmans on loan in 1935, as a self-contained whole. He then started on a new collection of drawings and prints (by Rembrandt, above all), and in 1937 he acquired dozens of works from Frits Lugt. He kept the better sheets in the Cassirer gallery in Amsterdam and the less important ones in his Berlin apartment, where they were discovered after the war and inventoried by Dr Helmuth Lütjens. After the death of Koenigs’s widow in 1946 the collection of some 200 drawings and prints and a few paintings was divided among the five surviving children. These drawings and prints do not have Franz Koenigs’s collector’s mark.

Parts of this dispersed second collection were later disposed of by the various heirs. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen had the inheritance of Mrs C. van der Waals-Koenigs (1915-1995), the collector’s eldest daughter, on loan from 1976/1982 until 2000. It consisted of three paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 41 drawings by various artists and 46 prints, most of them lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec. The loan was terminated by her heirs at the end of 2000, >MORE / >MORE and the works were auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York on 23 January 2001. >MORE Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen was unsuccessful at the auction itself, >MORE, but later it did manage to acquire The Twelve Months, a series of drawings of 1580-1581 by Hans Bol for 2.1m euro. >MORE In 2001 another daughter donated 21 drawings from her share of the inheritance to Teylers Museum in Haarlem. >MORE Six Old Master drawings from the inheritance of Franz Koenigs, son of the collector, were auctioned at Christie’s in New York on 25 January 2007. Several drawings and prints from the same source, among them watercolours by Cézanne and Manet, were then sold at Christie’s in London on 6-7 February and 28 March 2007. Back in 1994 Edouard Manet’s oil sketch for his famous painting Bar at the Folies Bergère, which had been on loan to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam since 1938, had been auctioned in London, as had Elles, the ten-part suite of prints by Toulouse-Lautrec. An important painting by Cézanne from the inheritance of Mrs A.K.M. Boerlage-Koenigs, which was on the list of protected works of art drawn up under the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Preservation Act and risked being exported for sale in New York, was preserved for the nation (and as a loan for the Rotterdam museum) when a private individual bought it at the very last minute in 1998 and transferred to it to the Willem van der Vorm Foundation, which continued the long term loan to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. >MORE

Next: Claim of ownership by a granddaughter of the collector