The Online Otto Dix Project

A German Artist and Print Maker

Wyeth’s Chadd’s Ford Studio Now Available To The Public

Cher's World, a homage to Andrew Wyeth

Cher’s World, a homage to Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth spent his summers in Cushing, Maine and his winters in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. His iconic masterpiece, Christina’s World, was painted in Cushing. The subject was Christina Olson, a Cushing neighbor who lived near Wyeth. He was inspired to paint her when he saw her crawling past his window. A degenerative disease left her unable to walk.

Featured prominently in the background is the Olson House, an 18th Century ship captain’s house which was in great disrepair by 1948. Its weather-beaten exterior provides the painting with its gothic feel and serves as Christina’s final destination.

Last fall we did the Farnsworth double-bill. We toured the Olson house then drove north for a Wyeth exhibition at the Rockland museum. In 2011, the Olson House was designated a National Historic Landmark. It has been open to the public for several years now. We started with the house then viewed the paintings at the Farnsworth. It seemed best to first connect with the space then view Wyeth’s interpretation at the Farnsworth.

Now, as the Washington Post reports, Wyeth fans in the mid-Atlantic have a similar chance to connect with the artist. Wyeth’s Chadds Ford studio is now open to the public. And just like in Maine, the studio tour is associated with an art museum. From the Brandywine River Museum, you can catch a shuttle to and from the studio, then you can view a permanent collection of Wyeth’s paintings on display at the Brandywine.

Beer And The Graphic Artist

D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. was nailed with a copyright infringement suit in Pennsyvania on Wednesday. The nation’s fourth largest brewer is in a dispute with Adam D’Addario, a New Jersey graphic artist who helped shape the brewer’s corporate identity. D’Addario has designed logos and labels that uniquely identify the nation’s oldest brewery.

For more than twenty years, D’Addario had a good working relationship with Yuengling. During that time the Pottsville brewer rose to become the largest American-owned brewery. The dispute between the brewer and the artist began when Yuengling rejected D’Addario’s design for its new Oktoberfest beer. Although it was well-received by the marketing department, the design was rejected by CEO Dick Yuengling Jr.

After that rejection, the relationship began to sour. D’Addario was asked to train an in-house person to do graphic design. After training was completed, the Voorhees graphic artist was essentially cut off from Yuengling, according to his lawyer. Now it seems, the in-house artist borrowed D’Addario’s 2010 design elements for Yuengling’s 2012 product design.

According to D’Addario, the design on Yuengling’s Oktoberfest labels and tap handles is essentially the one he proposed two years ago. For at least a year, he has requested compensation from the brewer but his invoices have not been processed. The New Jersey artist estimates the design is now on about $14 million dollars worth of beer.

According to the lawsuit, D’Addario is seeking:

  • At least $80,000 in lost compensation.
  • An order barring Yuengling’s use of the design without compensation.
  • Statutory damages of up to $150,000.
  • Attorney fees and reimbursement for the cost of filing the suit.

[Scranton Times-Tribune | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

UPDATE: Philly Metro has pictures of D’Addario’s 2010 design proposal.

The Piss Christ

In 1987, the photographer Andres Serrano made international headlines with a photograph of the crucifixion in yellowy light. A series of bubbles suggest it’s submerged in some kind of amber liquid. A shaft of light illuminates the cross against a dark background. Overall, the effect is quite pleasant. There is little about the photograph to suggest controversy until we learn the name of the piece. It is The Piss Christ.

That amber gaseous liquid? The plastic crucifix, we learn, is submerged in a glass of the artist’s own urine. The initial controversy was quite vocal but it finally reached crescendo two years later in the United States.

In 1989, it was revealed that Serrano received $15,000.00 in grant money from the tax-payer funded National Endowment for the Arts. The artist was inundated with hate mail and deaths threats. Law makers convened hearings and went to great length to top one another with outrage. Congressional offices were flooded with angry phone calls. Serrano was stripped of pending grant money and after a good dose of self-congratulatory outrage, the controversy subsided.

But religious zealotry has a long memory.

Twenty-two years after the US fury, Piss Christ was damaged beyond repair during an exhibition in Avignon. Vandals smashed it with a hammer. These Prince of Peace disciples also used that tool to smash another Serrano photograph and threaten a guard.

The exhibition continues albeit in a different context. The smashed pieces were kept on display “so the public can appreciate for themselves the violence of the acts.”

Four young men from a right wing group called “Renouveau Français” have been charged with the crime. They are also being sued by Serrano and the Lambert Collection for $486,000.00 in damages.

The four were scheduled to be tried in Avignon in July but a judge just granted more time to prepare their defense. According to the defense attorney, the charges were vague. Four  men were charged yet there was only one hammer, she said, did they swing it with four hands?

The trial is now scheduled to begin on November 19th.

An Amateurish Forgery In Caracas

Remember that stolen Matisse? Since 1981, its home was the Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas. In late 2002, museum staff noticed the painting was a fake. The original was replaced by an amateurish forgery.

The New York Times provides new insight into the caper. The original painting, Odalisque in Red Pants, was pulled from its frame and replaced with a forgery. The fake was exhibited at the museum for quite some time.

The above images show the original (left) and its fake (right). Despite the amateurish reproduction, the forgery went undetected for at least two years. Marianela Balbi, a journalist who documented the theft, unearthed a photograph from 2000 in which Hugo Chavez visited the museum. The forgery is visible in the background.

One month after that photograph was taken, rumors swirled that someone was attempting to sell Odalisque in Red Pants on the black market. The rumor turned out to be true, but nobody in Caracas followed up on the lead.

Venezuala is awash in oil revenues but institutions such as the Contemporary Art Museum are notoriously underfunded. According to the Times, their budgets suffer thanks to Mr. Chavez’s attitudes toward this type of art. According to one observer, he equates artists like Matisse with “bourgeois values.”

You’d like to think the painting was returned to its appreciative owners but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Stolen Dali Express Mailed To Its Owner

The Checkered Bandit

The Checkered Bandit

It didn’t take long for Adam Lindemann to recover Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio, the Salvador Dali work that was stolen from the wall of his Upper East Side gallery.

The New York Post broke the details.

Four days after it was stolen, Lindemann received an email message that read, “Cartel on its way back to you already.” Included in the message was a tracking number.

Using that information, the NYPD notified postal inspectors who intercepted the painting at JFK Airport. The package was addressed to the gallery. It had a return address which was illegible and probably non-existent.

By all indications, the painting arrived in excellent condition.

Mr. Lindemann described the experience in fitting language. It was, he told the NY Times, “quite surreal.”

UPDATE: According to Le Figaro, the Dali was mailed from Athens.

The First World War and the 20th Century

Vera Brittain and her brother

Vera Brittain and her brother Edward who was killed on the Asiago plateau in Italy during the First World War.

As Paul Fussell reminds us, centuries don’t begin on time; the Twentieth didn’t start promptly on January 1, 1900; it began in the trenches of France. Whole forests have been cut down to supply paper for books on the origins of the Great War. I never spent much time on the matter. For whatever reason men took to arms in 1914, the cause was changed by the Battle of the Somme.

The First World War was truly a global conflict. And the ranks of soldiers were filled with people from all over the world. As the war took its toll on the belligerent nations, the Great Powers drew men and supplies from all over the world. Each group of replacements had its own reason for replenishing the ranks – reasons which didn’t account for a dead arch duke.

Colonials arrived in France to fight for independence back home. African-Americans enlisted to demonstrate Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that all men are created equal – theirs was a fight for equality, not the defeat of a Kaiser. Women supplied labor for the armaments industry with no plans to return quietly to the kitchen; theirs was a fight for independence of a different kind.

And as the world was ripped asunder, so were traditional ideas about Western art. The seeds of modernism had been planted in the twilight of empire, but the pace accelerated after the war. As Reed Johnson notes in his excellent Los Angeles Times piece about post-war art, the “Great War of 1914-18 tilted culture on its axis.”

The blundered strategies of politicians and the outdated tactics of generals had its most profound affect on the men in the lines. And as a result, the cultural narrative switched from the wealthy elite to the common man. And as Reed notes, the war’s most enduring legacy was its “emphasis on the personal stories of the nontitled individuals who actually fought and died in it.”

Read More:
Reed Johnson: Art Forever Changed By World War I
Paul Fussell: The Great War And Modern Memory
Modris Eksteins: Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age



Herbert Vogel, Collector and Benefactor

Herb & Dorothy Vogel

Herb and Dorothy Vogel in their modest, rent controlled West Side apartment

He was the son of a Russian garment worker who attended high school in Harlem. He never graduated. She was the daughter of an Orthodox Jewish stationary merchant from Elmira. She held a masters degree from the University of Denver.

During the 1950s, Herb Vogel took painting classes and drank in taverns frequented by artists. Dorothy Hoffman returned to New York and took a job with the Brooklyn Public Library. They met at a New York City reunion for a popular Poconos vacation resort. Two years later they married in January 1962.

The couple honeymooned in Washington, D.C. where they viewed the impressive collection at the National Gallery of Art. It inspired them to amass a collection of their own.

Herb sorted mail for the United States Postal Service and Dorothy was a librarian. They were hardly wealthy individuals. Despite meager resources, the Vogels amassed one of the most important collections of late 20th Century art.

They lived off Dorothy’s income and used Herb’s for collecting. Their focus was conceptual and minimalist art. New York was their shopping ground at a time when its art scene was incredibly vibrant. They bargained directly with artists. They paid in barter, cash and installments. A Christo collage was acquired in exchange for cat-sitting his pet.

The Vogels acquired nearly 5000 works that they stored in a small, rent-controlled, one-bedroom apartment. They were collectors in the purest sense of the word. The couple never sold their art even though it could have made them a fortune. It was never appraised and they were always reluctant to discuss its monetary value.

When it came time to consider posterity the couple remained true to their roots. They were government workers and they presented the entire collection to the National Gallery of Art. It was actually too large for the NGA to assimilate. Pieces of the Vogel collection have found their way to all fifty states.

On July 22, 2012, Herbert Vogel died in a New York City nursing home. He was 89.

Missing Matisse

Odalisque is the French form of the Turkish odalık. It refers to a low status female harem slave, a girl kept far from the sultan’s sight. Rather than interact with royalty, an odalisque’s job was to assist his wives and concubines. An extraordinary beauty or a gifted dancer could rise from the level of odalisque and become a concubine. If selected she would train to service the sultan. Only after this type of sexual contact did she rise in status.

French artists have long held interest in the notion of odalisques. The neo-classical artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres painted many of them. So did François Boucher, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, Eugune Delacroix and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In the 1920s, Henri Matisse adopted the theme. He painted several of them.

In 1925, Matisse painted Odalisque in Red Pants with oriental flare and vibrant colors. To Susan Burns’ undoubted chagrin, the odalisque is bare chested, clad only in red pants. The painting was originally purchased by a private collector whose estate sold it to New York’s Marlborough Gallery. In 1981, the Caracas Contemporary Art Museum acquired it for $400,000.00.

In 2002, the museum staff recognized the painting as a fake. Since it’s provenance was impeccable, it was clear the original was swapped out for a forgery. Its disappearance set off an international search led by law enforcement agencies throughout the globe. Museum directors were convinced it was an inside job. How do you swap the original with a forgery without inside assistance?

After nearly a decade in hiding, Odalisque in Red Pants has surfaced in Miami. Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami, FL, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, negotiated its sale to under cover agents. The asking price? A mere $740,000.

Show Us Your Klimt

Guest: Mr. Melon, your wife was just showing us her Klimt.
Thornton Melon: You too, huh? She’s shown it to everybody.
Guest: Well, she’s very proud of it.
Melon: I’m proud of mine too. I don’t wave it around at parties.
Guest: It’s an exceptional painting.
Melon: Oh, the painting.

Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Gustav Klimt’s birthday, we have a report from Austria in which a lost painting by the artist was discovered in a garage.

Trumpeting Putto once adorned the ceiling of Klimt’s Vienna studio where he lived with his brother Ernst in the late 1880s. The painting depicts a cherub in a red scarf blowing his trumpet against the background of a bright blue sky. It disappeared in the 1980s after an elevator was installed in the building.

The discovery was made known by Josef Renz who is noted — in some circles — as an expert on Klimt. Renz purchased the painting from a family in the Linz suburbs. With the initial announcement, Renz claimed the painting was executed by the brothers together if not Gustav alone.

Generally when assertions of authenticity raise eyebrows, skeptics respond with questions rather than pronouncements. “If it’s a Klimt, then why does it blah blah blah …” and that sort of thing. Scholars are often afraid to provide sweeping denunciations for fear of lawsuits. After all, their declarations can cost the owner millions. That type of loss is never appreciated.

Alfred Weidinger doesn’t care about your stinkin’ lawsuit.  He is a Klimt specialist and curator of the Schlossmuseum Belvedere in Vienna.  Last Sunday, he just stone-cold shot Renz’s claim to shreds. Weidinger told Reuters the work was familiar; he studied it, previously. It was an early, historicist piece by Ernst Klimt who died in 1892. Not only is it a lesser Klimt, but it’s a weak lesser Klimt.

“It’s definitely not an important painting, even for Ernst Klimt,” said Weidinger.

Who’s Screaming Now?

Last spring Sotheby’s auctioned Edvard Munch’s angst-filled masterpiece The Scream. The 1895 pastel went for a record-setting $119,922,500. It topped Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust which sold for $106 million in 2010.

Bidding began at $50 million and lasted fifteen minutes. Three people in the room drove the price but in the end it went to an unnamed telephone bidder. When the gavel sounded, the auction room exploded with applause and speculation began.

People wanted to know the identity of the unnamed bidder. Was it Qatar? A Russian oligarch? A wealthy Chinese national? For a couple months, it was one of the art world’s most closely guarded secrets. One reporter immediately set to work.

WSJ’s Kelly Crow pursued the matter rather relentlessly. According to several of her sources, the Scream was purchased by billionaire Leon Black, a New York financier who sits on the boards of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

Given the fact that Mr. Black sits astride two of the country’s most powerful art institutions, the real fun has only just begun. We know who bought The Scream, but we don’t know where it will finally reside. One thing is certain, Mr. Black has the full attention of two different institutions.