Controversial painting arrives in France from University of Oklahoma

Controversial painting arrives in France from University of Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO) - A painting with a controversial history has arrived in a French museum after a settlement between its original owner's family and the University of Oklahoma.

Camille Pissarro‘s 1886 painting La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons (Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep) has been displayed at the University of Oklahoma since it was donated to the school in 2000 by Clara Weitzenhoffer. The painting was stolen by the Nazis during World War II, a fact which was discovered several years ago.

Léone Meyer, the adopted daughter of the original owner, reached a settlement with OU in late 2015 which returned official ownership of the painting to Meyer. As part of the settlement, the painting will stay at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris on display for five years and then return to the university for an ongoing rotation between the University of Oklahoma and France.

After the original discovery of the painting's history, the artwork has been embroiled in a lengthy legal dispute, even causing the Oklahoma legislature to issue a non-binding proclamation calling for OU to review all of its artwork and take appropriate actions if any compromised pieces are found.

After the university announced the painting had been returned to France, Representative Mike Ritze (R – District 80) released the following statement.

"It is absurd that the University of Oklahoma would act as if they have done a noble thing by returning a piece of stolen art to France. From the moment that the University of Oklahoma discovered the painting was stolen, university administration, led by President David Boren, has fought tooth and nail to prevent this painting from returning to its rightful owner. In order to accommodate a wealthy donor, President Boren went as far as spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the art away from its rightful owner – a family that was nearly destroyed during one of the darkest periods of humanity."

University of Oklahoma President David Boren also released a statement concerning the settlement and return of the artwork to France.

"The process of reaching a mutual agreement for the public display of Camille Pissarro's "La Bergere reentrant des mountons" has been very complex. Decisions made on behalf of the university throughout this detailed process have maintained great sensitivity to the history behind the painting as well as the families involved.

The university acknowledges the unique past of this painting and believes a fair and just resolution among all parties has been reached. We are particularly glad that both fine families involved in the case are being appropriately recognized, the Meyers who tragically lost the painting to Nazi theft and the Weitzenhoffer family who bought the painting in good faith and generously sought to share it with the people of Oklahoma. It is by mutual agreement that the artwork will remain on display in Paris for the next five years before returning to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art to begin its ongoing three-year rotation between the University of Oklahoma and France. The history of the Pissarro painting and the families involve will continue to be honored, and the painting will remain accessible for the benefit of the public. This resolution of a difficult issue should be the cause of positive comment from all of those involved. The university has done its best to meet its obligations as a steward of the artwork and the gift."

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.