Wilhelm von Schadow

This oil on canvas self-portrait of Wilhelm Schadow is returning to the Max Stern Estate, though will remain on display (on loan) in Dusseldorf. (Concordia University/Max Stern Art Restitution Project)

The heirs of Max Stern are officially reclaiming a rare self-portrait of 19th century German painter Wilhelm Schadow, now the 12th Nazi-looted painting restored to the German-Canadian art dealer's estate.

Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, Canadian ambassador to Germany, and Dusseldorf Mayor Dirk Elbers are among the officials taking part in an art restitution ceremony today in Dusseldorf.

Born in Berlin, Schadow was a 19th-century, Romantic-era painter but was perhaps best known as a director of the Dusseldorf Academy of the Arts, the esteemed art school attended by major German artists. Under Schadow's leadership, the academy became internationally known.

Through an agreement with the Stern estate, the painting will be placed on loan to the Dusseldorf City Museum (where it has been displayed for several decades) so as to remain viewable by the public.

Since 2002, the Max Stern Art Restitution Project (a joint effort by Canada's Concordia University and McGill University as well as Hebrew University in Jerusalem) has worked to track down and reclaim Stern's Nazi-looted art collection.

"We are very pleased that an unprecedented number of German institutions have finally recognized and acted on our claims," Concordia University president Alan Shepard said in a statement.

"Adding to the recoveries of paintings from Stuttgart and Cologne in the last year, Dusseldorf and its museum are demonstrating the kind of leadership needed in addressing looted art matters."

The Dusseldorf museum has announced plans for two upcoming art exhibitions: one exploring Jewish life in the Germany city after 1945 and another focusing on the famed gallery founded by Stern's father in 1913 and forced to close by the Nazis.

Well-known art dealer, collector and historian

The Wilhelm Schadow self-portrait is one of more than 400 paintings the Nazis either confiscated or forced Stern — the son of a prestigious art dealer and a well-known art historian, dealer and collector himself — to sell at greatly reduced prices at the Lempertz auction house in the years ahead of the Second World War. He never received the revenue from the sales.

Stern fled Germany and, eventually, settled in Canada in the 1940s. Through his landmark Dominion Gallery in Montreal, he championed the work of Canadian artists during their lifetimes, including Emily Carr and Lawren Harris.

He died in 1987 and left his estate to Concordia, McGill and Hebrew Universities, which formed the team now recovering his plundered collection.