Return of 1939 World Fair art demanded

A relation of the Polish painter Tadeusz Pruszkowski, who died in 1942, has asked Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, to hand over seven Polish paintings and four tapestries, but the Jesuit Institution says the objects properly belong to it


New York

The paintings of Polish history were created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and were jointly executed by “The Brotherhood of St Luke,” a group of eleven Polish painters organised by Pruszkowski.

The Art Newspaper was told by Inga Barnello, social sciences reference librarian at the college (to whom the president’s office directed inquiries) that the objects were brought to the college by Stefan de Ropp, a Swiss scholar and professional fair organiser in Poland who was head of the polish Commission for the 1939 World Fair entry. After escorting the paintings to New York for the fair he stayed when war broke out, later becoming a professor at the college. He presented the paintings to it, Ms Barnello says, after he was given them by the Polish premier in exile, in lieu of salary for his nine years’ work on the Polish pavilion.

But Krzysztof Pruszkowski, grandson of the painter’s brother, claims that the Polish Commission did not own the paintings and could not give them to de Ropp.

Ms Barnello said that according to secondary sources the paintings were paid for by the Polish Commission, meaning it did own them. She declined, however, to forward The Art Newspaper the article in question. “The art of Poland”, by Irina Piotrowska, published in 1945, refers to the Brotherhood’s “commission” to do the paintings.

Mr Pruszkowski “has submitted no proof that he owns the paintings”, Ms Bernello stated, “only letters averring that he represents the families of the artists, who believe they own the artwork” and want it back. “The president’s office doesn’t feel it has to prove we own them. If he has a claim, he can come forward and show us his proof.”


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