Berlin will give heirs Kirchner painting

From the Associated Press

A 1913 painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner depicting a lively Berlin street scene will be returned to heirs of the Jewish family that was forced to hand it over to the Nazis before World War II, the state government said Thursday.

Kirchner's oil painting, "Berliner Strassenszene," estimated to be worth more than $12.5 million, has hung in the Bruecke Museum in the German capital since 1980. It will remain in the museum until Sunday and will then be returned to heirs of the family that originally owned the work, Berlin's state ministry for culture said in a statement.

No details of the restitution, including the identity of the original owners, or the heirs, were released.

Bernd Schultz, a modern art expert in Berlin, said he considers the painting -- which depicts a woman in red within an urban crowd dressed in blue and is characterized by its vibrant colors -- to be one of the most outstanding in Kirchner's series of street scenes.

Kirchner, born in 1880 in Aschaffenburg, Germany, was one of the most creative artists of "Die Bruecke" (the Bridge), a group of painters founded in 1905. After the Nazis seized power, they took 639 of Kirchner's paintings from museums. The artist killed himself in 1938.

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