Paintings Connected to Nazi Plunder Draws Global Bidders  

Paintings Connected to Nazi Plunder Draws Global Bidders

Gabriel Cornelius von Max; leslie hindman

On Friday, November 6, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers sold 536 works of art, fine antique furniture and important decorative objects, generating almost $400,000 in total prices realized.  The highlights of the sale were two paintings by the German artist Gabriel Cornelius von Max, which achieved respective prices of $106,000 and $75,000.  A grayscale composition by Frank Weston Beson, Bluebills in Flight, was another strong lot, generating a price of $23,000.  The sale also saw significant prices realized for Wisconsin artists such as Tom Uttech, Aaron Bohrod, Robert von Neumann and Schomer Lichtner.


The two von Max works were highly sought after by international bidders, namely collectors from the artists’ native Germany.  The works not only received attention for their unique subject matter (one depicts an outfitted monkey inspecting a fish, the other two monkeys reading) but also for their historically significant provenance.  The paintings were originally purchased in Munich in the 1920s by Osker Grunhut.  The works were a highlight in his notable collection of European, namely German, works of art.

The Grunhut family lived with the collection until Second World War, when Munich came under Nazi control.  The Third Reich was highly concerned with the imposition of a national artistic style, pillaging private collections for the sake of state acquisitions, or the annihilation of works not in accordance with Hitler’s purification German culture.  At some point during the war, the Grunhut collection met this unfortunate fate.


After the conclusion of the war, Osker Grunhut’s son, Fred Gruen, set out to find and restore his family’s collection of fine art. By that point, Fred was a Milwaukee resident, and enlisted the help of the U.S State Department in his search. Nearly a full decade after the war, the von Max paintings were located and returned, and eventually passed down to Mr. Gruen’s grandson, who consigned them to Leslie Hindman Auctioneers for sale at auction. A combined nineteen bidders participated via telephone from all over the world, and competed with interest both online and on the Milwaukee auction floor.


The auction house offers complimentary appraisals at their Milwaukee location, 525 East Chicago Street. They can be reached to schedule an appointment at the number below. The next Milwaukee sale is scheduled for May 2016. The Chicago schedule is available at


Image Captions

400_242          Gabriel Cornelius von Max, (German, 1840-1915), Salome, sold for $106,250

400_243          Gabriel Cornelius von Max, (German, 1840-1915), Bad Times (Schlechte Zeiten), sold for $75,000



Sara Mulloy | 414.220.9200 |

Gabriel Cornelius von Max; leslie hindman
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