Against a background of controversy over the possibility that works of art owned by American collectors may have originally been stolen by the Nazis from Jews later killed in the holocaust, the story of one work of art ""Landscape with Smokestacks"" by Degas captured the headlines. As told by the media, the story is straightforward. The landscape, owned by Jewish banker in the Netherlands, was sent to Paris in 1939. The Nazis occupied France and stole the Landscape. The Jewish banker and his wife were killed in the Holocaust. Their heirs searched for the landscape but did not locate it until, half a century later, it was found in the possession of an art collector in Chicago. The heirs sued to recover the work. But the real story is far more complicated than that told by the media. Had the landscape been sent to Paris for safekeeping or to be sold? Was the work stolen by the nazis or sold to an art dealer during the war? During the litigation a mass of documents was produced that shed light on the fate of the landscape. But because the suit was settled before trial, the story under the surface of the media headlines has not been publicly presented. Trienens, a lawyer for the defendant collector, tells the story of this Degas work's travels rom its prewar home in the Netherlands to the Art Institute of Chicago where it is now on display. This book demonstrates the unpredictable complexity of Holocaust-related restitution cases, and challenges the performance of the media in their superficial tratment of this emotionally charged story.
Howard J. Trienens served a law clerk to Supreme Court chief justice Frederick M. Vinson from 1950 to 1952 before permanently joining the law firm of Sidley & Austin, where he became a partner in 1956. He has been a senior vice president and the general counsel for AT&T and a director of R. R. Donnelley & Sons and G. D. Searle and is currently a member of the Northwestern University Board of Trustees. He lives in Glencoe, Illinois.