French Holocaust survivor gives up fight over Pissarro painting taken by Nazis

La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons (Shepherdess Bringing Sheep in) by Camille Pissarro is currently on view at Paris' Musée d'Orsay. File Image courtesy of the University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
"La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons (Shepherdess Bringing Sheep in)" by Camille Pissarro is currently on view at Paris' Musée d'Orsay. File Image courtesy of the University of Oklahoma's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

June 3 (UPI) -- The descendant of a French art collector whose collection was confiscated by Nazis during World War II has dropped her legal attempt to permanently recover a Camille Pissarro painting.

Léone-Noëlle Meyer, 81, said Tuesday that she had "no choice" but to drop the case because she was threatened with large fines if she continued to try to keep the painting La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons (Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep) permanently in France.


It ends a years-long battle between the Holocaust survivor and the University of Oklahoma, which had possession of the painting for decades.

"After all these years, I have no other choice but to take heed of the inescapable conclusion that it will be impossible to persuade the different parties to whose attention I have brought this matter," she said in a statement. "I was heard but not listened to."

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The Pissarro artwork was owned by Léone-Noëlle Meyer's parents, Raoul Meyer and Yvonne Meyer, who adopted her at the age of 7 from a Paris orphanage after her birth family died during the Holocaust.

The Meyers hid their art collection in a French bank vault when they fled Paris during the Nazi occupation, but the invading force seized the contents. The Pissarro painting ended up in the hands of a Swiss art dealer before ultimately landing in the collection of OU's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Jones, a philanthropist, purchased the painting in the 1950s and it became the crown jewel of the museum's collection.

Léone-Noëlle Meyer filed a lawsuit against the school in 2014 to reclaim the painting. The two parties agreed to a deal in 2016 that Léone-Noëlle Meyer would receive possession of the painting, but it would be displayed on rotation between OU and at a museum in France. The painting's title ultimately would be held in the hands of a French museum.

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Léone-Noëlle Meyer, though, sought to change the terms of the agreement in recent months so that it would stay permanently in France. It's currently on display at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and is due to return to Oklahoma later this year. Léone-Noëlle Meyer hoped to keep the painting at the Paris institution.

The University of Oklahoma said it plans to honor the 2016 agreement to rotate the painting between its museum and a French institution every three years.

Léone-Noëlle Meyer "transferred title, interests and all standing connections with the Pissarro painting to the OU foundation," the school said, according to The New York Times. "In turn, the OU parties have committed to identifying and transferring ownership to a French public institution or the U.S. Art in embassies program, subject to the parties original rotating three-year public display agreement."

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