“Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker,” on display at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, is much more than an exhibition of artwork — it also functions as an art history lesson dealing with post-Holocaust restitution.
In extraordinary detail, the exhibit describes the legacy of the prominent Jewish art dealer from Amsterdam — one of Europe’s most important and influential dealers — whose collection was stolen by the Nazis (who also raided public museums) during World War II.
The Goudstikker family reclaimed 200 of the looted paintings from the Dutch government — one of the largest claims to Nazi-stolen art ever resolved — out of 1,400 pieces that were recorded missing. Evidence of the number is from a detailed notebook kept by Goudstikker, which also is in the exhibit.
Documentation of the search for the stolen artwork, a feature of the show, is as interesting as the works themselves. Some 45 pieces, considered the finest of the recovered 200, are included.
Though not the fault of the curator, it’s disappointing that some of the paintings tend toward the mediocre. While wall texts claim that most of the work shown in the exhibition is from the golden age of Dutch painting, the era’s giants — for example, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals — are not represented.
Yet in examining Goudstikker’s notebook, works by those masters are listed.
In spite of the absence of those masters, the exhibit does showcase an interesting variety of styles. Religious paintings are displayed next to works that focus on everyday living, a characteristic of Dutch painting of the age.
One outstanding work is a unique version of the “Last Supper” attributed to the Master of Pauw and Zas. Crowded with earthy food and drink, the painting boasts a richly colored interior and a visible landscape.
“St. Catherine,” also attributed to the same 16th-century artist, stands out for its sensuality and depth of color.
“Landscape with an Episode from the Conquest or Discovery of America” by Jan Mostart is noteworthy for its rich, detailed hues and curious modern fairy-tale look.
IF YOU GO
Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker
Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except closed Wednesdays and until 8 p.m. Thursdays; exhibit closes March 29
Tickets: $10 general, $8 seniors and students, $5 Thursdays after 5 p.m.; free for youth under 18
Contact: (415) 655-7800, www.thecjm.org
Note: Admission on Christmas Day is free, and special programs are featured.