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Feb 21, 2014 08:01 AM EST

French Woman Sues OU to Recover 128-Year-Old Artwork

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Leone Meyer, a French woman, has filed a lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma, OU, in an attempt to recover a 128-year-old piece of artwork that was taken away from her family by the Nazis during World War II.

The impressionist painting, titled 'Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep' by Camille Pissarro, is currently displayed in OU's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

During the WWII, German troops seized the artwork from Meyer's father, local businessman Raoul Meyer, who possessed a collection of French impressionist paintings. The lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that the painting had been listed as stolen artwork and entered the United States without the knowledge of their family 1956.

The painting was purchased by oil executive Aaron Weitzenhoffer from a New York art gallery 1956. The artwork was donated to the university after Weitzenhoffer's wife death 2000.

"Oklahoma, as most U.S. jurisdictions, has accepted the common law rule that no one, not even a good faith purchaser for value, can obtain good title to stolen property," according to court documents, Reuters reports.

In its defence, the university said that it has not returned the painting to the plaintiff after a Swiss judge dismissed a suit filed by Raoul 1953. The judge permitted the painting to stay behind in the United States.

"The highly regarded Jewish family from Oklahoma who gave the painting to us also had friends and family members endangered at the time of the Holocaust. They are deeply opposed, as is the University, to the theft of art by the Nazis," University President David Boren said.

The University said that the paintings will be returned only on the orders by the court.

Paul Wesselhoft, a Republican legislator from Oklahoma City, is urging the university officials to return the painting by saying that keeping the painting even after the disclosure of its rightful owners causes humiliation for the state and the school.

"It is the right and moral thing to do for OU to return this painting to the Jewish family from which the Nazis plundered it," Wesselhoft said. "Keeping this painting is an embarrassment. I'm ashamed that it's in the museum."

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