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Repatriated Austrian art allows family to pay it forward in Canada

New gift from Georges Jorisch’s descendants to establish artist residency in Austria for Concordia students
November 21, 2016
By Marta Samuel

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It took 70 years and considerable perseverance for a Montreal family’s paintings to be returned after being looted by Nazis in the Second World War.

When the stolen artworks were finally returned to their rightful heir, the late Georges Jorisch had reclaimed part of his family’s heritage.

Jorisch family members Pictured are Georges Jorisch's daughter Natalie (centre), son Stéphane and granddaughter Édith. | Photo: Concordia University

Celebrating the Jorisch Family Artist Residency

Jorisch’s arduous efforts paid off by granting his family justice.

Four years after his death, his family has carried on with his passion for the arts by establishing an international artist residency for students in Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

“Our family has always been connected to the arts in some way or another and now we’re following through with our father’s wishes,” says Stéphane Jorisch, one of Georges Jorisch’s four children.

“History has come around and it feels good to give back to the arts.”

Georges Jorisch Pictured here in 2011, Georges Jorisch was passionate about the arts and was an avid painter. | Both photos courtesy of Stéphane Jorisch

The Jorisch Family Artist Residency, launched in the presence of Georges Jorisch’s descendants at Concordia on November 21, 2016, will provide support for one graduate student annually to experience life and learning in Salzburg, Austria.

Every year, one selected student will complete an artist residency at the Amalie Redlich Tower of the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg.

“We are grateful to the Jorisch family for creating this unique opportunity at the Museum der Moderne where our Fine Arts students will benefit from what is sure to be a transformative experience,” says Concordia President Alan Shepard.

In memory of his grandmother and to foster increased artist residencies, Georges Jorisch had previously donated money to restore the Amalie Redlich Tower at the Museum der Moderne.

As part of his original agreement, he had requested that a Canadian artist take residency at the museum one month of each year.

Thanks to his family’s $250,000 gift to Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Georges Jorisch’s original vision is now a reality. “Concordia made it easy,” says Stéphane Jorisch. “The university has one of the largest and most comprehensive fine arts faculties in Canada — it just made sense to us.”

A legacy of continued learning

A young Georges Jorisch in Brussels. He and his father made Belgium their new home after fleeing the Nazi invasion of Austria during the Second World War.

Following restitution of Georges Jorisch’s paintings, his main vocation was to ensure his grandchildren and future generations could attend a university of their choice.

"The Concordia community takes great pride in being selected as custodians of the Jorisch Family Artist Residency program,” says Bram Freedman, Concordia's vice-president of Advancement and External Relations. “We are thankful for this residency that will grant students an opportunity to experiment boldly.”

“This generous gift has created an important and lasting bond between our students, the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg and members of the Jorisch family,” says Rebecca Duclos, dean of Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “The residency illustrates precisely what Concordia feels most strongly about: working in partnership with others to enrich our students’ lives through immersive experiences both here and abroad.”

Georges Jorisch’s granddaughter, Édith, followed his quest for the restitution of the final Klimt painting in her documentary, L’héritier, which debuts in fall 2016. Her film chronicles her grandfather’s story — from his Second World War childhood to his lifelong hunt for his family’s missing paintings. “My grandfather never gave up. I will always admire his courage and determination,” she says.

  • L’héritier airs on Télé-Québec on Monday, November 21, at 9 p.m.

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