Correction to This Article
The headline on earlier versions of this story incorrectly said the National Gallery lost its suit over the painting by expressionist Chaim Soutine. The suit was settled. This version has been corrected.

National Gallery Settles Suit Over Soutine Painting

Chaim Soutine's
Chaim Soutine's "Piece of Beef," in the National Gallery's collection since 2004, will remain there, but on loan. (Pr Newswire)
  Enlarge Photo    
Associated Press
Friday, May 22, 2009

NEW YORK, May 21 -- A court settlement has transferred ownership of a painting by expressionist Chaim Soutine from the National Gallery of Art to the estate of a Canadian woman who had sued the Washington, D.C., museum.

"Piece of Beef," a vividly realistic depiction of a side of raw beef, had been in the gallery's permanent collection since the museum acquired it in 2004.

Last May, the museum and two Soutine experts, Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, were sued by the estate of Lorette Jolles Shefner of Montreal, who died in 2007. The estate accused the experts of tricking her into selling the 1923 painting for $1 million -- below market value -- and then reselling it for twice the amount to the museum in 2004.

The museum was accused of failing to investigate how the two men came to own the artwork. They were described in court papers as Manhattan art dealers, scholars and authors of several books on Soutine, including a compilation of all his known works.

"Piece of Beef" is the last in a series of 10 beef carcass paintings by Soutine.

The settlement last Friday returns ownership of the painting to the estate, which in turn has agreed to lend it to the museum for seven years or until the estate decides to sell it. The National Gallery received about $2 million under the settlement, the amount it paid for the painting.

Soutine was born in Russia and moved to Paris in 1913 where he associated with such great artists as Amadeo Modigliani and Marc Chagall. Often unsatisfied with his own work, he was known to have destroyed many of his pieces.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company