Art Review: "Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker"

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Through March 29 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission (at Third St.), S.F. $8-$10; 655-7800 or www.thecjm.org.

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In the spring of 1940, Nazi Commander Hermann Goering walked up the steps of Amsterdam's Goudstikker Gallery and arranged to steal all the paintings inside, which numbered around 1,000 and belonged to a prominent Jewish dealer and collector who'd fled the German invasion. After World War II, a portion of the art was returned to the Dutch government, which refused to hand it back to Jacques Goudstikker's family until it was forced to by fiat in 2006. The collection on display is what the Nazis so badly coveted. Dutch landscapes from the 17th century hang alongside 13th-century paintings of biblical themes and a mishmash of other notable works, including a 17th-century portrait of royalty by Rembrandt disciple Ferdinand Bol that looks as if it were done by Rembrandt himself; and a 16th-century depiction by Dutch painter Jan Mostaert of native Americans running from European soldiers, reported to be the first painted representation of the New World. (The natives are white-skinned, not dark.) Goudstikker's story is as interesting as the art. He died days after escaping Amsterdam. Only his family's resolve rescued these paintings from a cruel oblivion — one of many twists that make this exhibit so eye-opening.

 
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