Cornelius Gurlitt
Some 60 paintings were found at the house of art collector Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich, Germany. Reuters

Reclusive German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt, who had previously been found hiding more than 1,400 paintings in his Munich apartment, has died according to local media.

Gurlitt, 81, made the headlines last year after tax inspectors chanced upon the artworks - a priceless collection of Picasso, Chagall and Matisse - behind a stack of tinned beans at Gurlitt's flat in the Munich suburb of Schwabing.

Gurlitt's father Hildebrand was an art historian when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and operated as a Nazi-approved art dealer during the Third Reich.

He was one of the few dealers commissioned to handle artworks confiscated by the regime and he allegedly acquired hundreds of artworks sold for a pittance by Jews who were trying to escape Germany.

Gurlitt inherited the stock on his father's death in 1956.

He claimed that all the paintings had been bought legally from museums and other dealers. Jewish groups have called for the collection to be revealed in order to help ascertain if some are stolen art.

Gurlitt had been seriously ill following major heart surgery.