PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A South Jersey art dealer is in a battle with the US Government over a painting he restored after it was discarded over 25 years ago.

Matthew Schwartz said the General Services Administration is demanding he return ‘1934 Farmer’ by John Slavin despite the time and effort he put into repairing a work of art that was so mutilated that it was thrown away by the Chrysler Museum of Art in Virginia in 1990.

Schwartz told Rich Zeoli on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT that fixing the damage was painstaking ordeal.

“I spent thousands of dollars restoring it…The process is you patch the painting back together. This is an extremely large painting. In paint where paint is missing. In paint over where the damage was and then completely clean the painting…This was an exceptionally big project.”

He claims the Federal Government is now demanding he hand over Slavin’s piece, despite his assertion that it was trash before his restoration project.

“I received a call from a special agent in Manhattan requesting the painting back. His technique was extremely galling, just demanding the painting back because it was a (Works Progress Administration) painting. I went back and forth with the investigator. He must’ve called 50 times, visited the house with other people flashing badges, maybe four or five times. I told them, flat out, they could not have the painting. The painting was a piece of junk, discarded by the US Government and I’m the one that added the value to that painting. If it wasn’t for my work, they wouldn’t want the painting and the painting would not exist.”

He compares his situation with ranchers who staged a standoff with authorities over use of federal lands earlier this year.

“It’s a reach by the government and I just see it as a seizure of private property similar to those seizures of the western ranchers who, for 100 years, develop a piece of property, make it something good, and then the government wants to seize it.”

UPDATE:

The Chrysler Museum of Art issued a statement following the publication of this story denying Mr Schwartz’s claim that the painting was damaged and that when sold in a public auction in 1991, the painting was listed in ‘very good’ condition.