Van Gogh Painting Seized by Nazis Expected to Pull in at Least $20M at New York Auction

A painting by Vincent van Gogh that was seized by Nazis during World War II is expected to be auctioned off in November for $20 million or more, the Associated Press reported. The auction will take place November 11 at Christie's in New York City, where other pieces from the collection of Edwin L. Cox, a Texas oilman who died last year at the age of 99, will also be up for bid.

The van Gogh piece expected to fetch $20 million is his 1888 watercolor work, Wheatstacks, which shows three tall haystacks in a field next to harvest workers on a bright summer day. Multiple buildings can be seen in the backdrop and a sky imbued with multiple shades of blue.

While Wheatstacks is not among the Dutch painter's most famous pieces, it was painted during the prolific final years of van Gogh's life. Giovanna Bertazzoni, Christie's vice chairman of 20th and 21st century art, described the piece in a statement as "tour de force of exceptional quality."

The auction house also said that the piece could set a new record in auction prices for a van Gogh work on paper. The current record holder is La Moisson en Provence, which sold for about $14.7 million in 1997, according to The New York Times.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Vincent van Gogh
A painting by Vincent van Gogh that was seized by Nazis during World War II is expected to be auctioned off in November for $20 million or more. Above, visitors look at Vincent van Gogh's self-portraits at the Vincent van Gogh museum on November 25, 2014, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Christie's became able to auction Wheatstacks after facilitating negotiations between the Texas oilman's heirs who own it now and the heirs of two Jewish art collectors who owned it at different times before it was looted by the Nazis. Details of the settlement are confidential, a Christie's spokesperson said.

It was purchased in 1913 by industrialist Max Meirowsky, who fled Germany for Amsterdam in 1938 fearing Nazi persecution.

Meirowsky entrusted Wheatstacks to a Paris-based art dealer, who sold it to Alexandrine de Rothschild, a member of the renowned Jewish banking family.

Rothschild fled to Switzerland at the onset of World War II and her art collection, including the van Gogh watercolor, was confiscated by the Nazis during the Occupation.

It is unclear where the artwork was between the end of the war and the 1970s, but Cox bought it at the Wildenstein gallery in New York in 1979.

Bertazzoni, the vice chair of 20th and 21st century art at Christie's, called the artwork one of the most powerful works on paper by van Gogh ever to appear on the open market.

"Everything is breathtaking: the iconic subject, the perfect condition of the gouache, the intensity of the ink in the trademark cross-hatchings and twirls defining the landscape, the ambitious scale of the composition," she said in the statement.

Prior to the auction, the watercolor will be on view at Christie's in London from Oct, 17 to Oct. 21, marking the first time that it has been publicly exhibited since a 1905 van Gogh retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Van Gogh Self Portrait
Vincent van Gogh's 1888 work "Wheatstacks" will be up for auction on November 11 at Christie’s in New York City. Above, a visitor looks at a painting at the Vincent van Gogh museum on November 25, 2014, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Jasper Juinen/Getty Images