Feds Try to Reclaim Depression-Era Painting

Federal agents are trying to reclaim an 80-year-old painting hanging on a wall in a New Jersey man's home.

During the worst of the Great Depression, the government commissioned thousands of works of art to help keep artists from starving and to provide wall decorations for the new buildings the government was constructing. Those artworks were and remain government property, the government says. But countless paintings have since disappeared.

Federal agents said they discovered the missing painting "1934 Farmer" by John Slavin in New Jersey when they saw it being advertised on eBay. Matthew Schwartz was asking for $10,000 for it.

The government filed suit against Schwartz to get the painting back. Schwartz said he'll challenge the lawsuit, saying he spent money restoring the painting. He claims the feds don't have rights to Depression-era art anymore.

In an interview last year, the U.S. General Services Administration said all of the art does remain government property and showed News4 all of the restoration they commission to restore the paintings.

A review by the News4 I-Team shows federal agents recovered at least 53 such works of art in the past six months -- some in basements, storage rooms and attics.

Schwartz pulled “1934 Farmer” from eBay, and it remains in his living room.

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