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Rep. Paul Wesselhoft presses for inspection of ‘Shepherdess’ painting

State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft
State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft

Staff Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft, R-Moore, said this week that the University of Oklahoma should allow an inspection of the back of ‘Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep.’

The painting, which was stolen by the Nazis in France, is hanging in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma. Leone Meyer is legally fighting to recover her father’s painting from the university

This spring, the Oklahoma state House unanimously approved a resolution calling upon OU officials to investigate the “provenance”.

Numerous supporters of OU have called upon the state’s best-known institution of higher education to return the paining to the Meyer family.

Wayne Greene, editorial editor for The Tulsa World, penned a memorable commentary on
Wesselhöft’s push for accountability. It appeared in the state’s second largest newspaper on Friday, August 7.

President David Boren, however, has defended the museum’s steps to hold on to the work of art.

Wesselhöft said, in a press release, that he has a copy of a declassified Nazi document from the German Federal Archives, which originally accompanied the painting in 1942. He says it documents the following:

The painting was the 13th such painting confiscated by the SS from the Meyer family. It was painted by Camille Pissarro and the document also gives the dimensions of the painting. It was transferred from Paris to The Third Reich by the Nazi Alfred Rosenberg Taskforce (ERR).

Wesselhöft also has a declassified copy of a photo of the back of the painting showing the Nazi ERR stamp.

“There are two equally intriguing possibilities here,” said Wesselhöft, R-Moore. “Either the Nazi ERR stamp is on the back of the painting or it is not. In either case, there appears to be skullduggery involved.

“If the Nazi ERR stamp is not there, then there has been a cover up of a federal crime by someone in the chain of ownership, which would either be The Findlay Gallery in New York City where the painting was purchased, or removed by someone in the Weitzenhoffer family who bought and donated the painting to the University of Oklahoma, or O.U.’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art removed the Nazi ERR stamp.

If the Nazi ERR stamp is, in fact, on the back of the painting, then those two museums and President Boren must have or should have known that this painting was, indeed, stolen by the Nazis.”

Wesselhöft said that he has written a letter to President David Boren asking him for permission to inspect the back of the painting, “but unlike other private letters I sent him, he did not respond to my letter and request.” The letter was mailed on July 7, Wesselhöft said.

“President Boren should allow me or a reporter from The Oklahoman or The Tulsa World to view the back of the frame of the painting and the back of the canvas of the painting to resolve the mystery behind Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” Wesselhöft said.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this story.

“Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” by Camille Pissarro
“Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” by Camille Pissarro

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