Hitler signs an order authorizing the Degenerate Art Exhibition, and Joseph Goebbels accordindgly creates a commission to oversee the confiscation from museums and private art collections any remaining artworks that are deemed modern, subversive, or otherwise contrary to the German spirit. This is an extension of Nazi policy to persecute Jews and incite hatred of the “perverse Jewish spirit” among German citizens.
Over 5,000 works are seized, including 1,052 by Emil Nolde, 639 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and 508 by Max Beckmann, as well as smaller numbers of works by artists like Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.
Can you imagine having 1,052, or 508 of your life’s work taken away? That is devastating.
In an interview, Richard Diebenkorn (one of my favorite artists ever) describes reworking an old watercolor while he was in the Marines during WWII, stationed in Hawaii. He says he vowed he “was going to get it even if he had to make the black white and the white black”.
The exhibition And or Versus: Adventures in Images, which is the 15th anniversary exhibition of the opening of the contemporary/modern Yokohama Museum of Art in Yokohama, Japan, closes. It features work by artists as varied as Salvador Dali, Richard Long, Yayoi Kusama, and Andy Warhol.
He was in traction and he was completely berserk. They had to set his collarbone but when he got back up he discovered that his right arm was completely awful. I guess the nerves of the right arm had gotten messed up somehow, and his arm was semiparalyzed. He couldn’t lift it. So he saw this blackest despair. The nurses all said he was impossible: ‘You’ll have to take him home,’ they said… He won’t let us do anything to him.’ They wanted to give him an enema. He refused… Gorky couldn’t take it – this state. He couldn’t bear being in traction with a colostomy…”
Julien Levy’s wife, Muriel, would later say about Gorky, and this is what I think too:
To go through the path life took him, with all its pain, ordeals and nightmares… you’d have to be a saint to survive those things.”
Serial art attacker Hans-Joachim Bohlmann pours lighter fluid on the painting Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard in Celebration of the Peace of Münster (1648) by Bartholomeus van der Helst and sets fire to it. Luckily, most damage occurs in the varnish layer, where it’s easier to treat. Bohlmann is sentenced to three years for this particular crime, though it’s not his first prison sentence for damaging works of art, since he’s been at it since 1977. This is thought to be his last attack though: he dies of cancer about six months after being released from prison.
Soyuz, a Soviet spacecraft, brings 154 screenprints by Victor Vasarely into space, on the way to space station Salyut 7. I don’t know why in the world this happened; there’s certainly no room to look at them in there.
Vincent Van Gogh writes a letter to Emile Bernard, and references the painting above.
What I’ve been doing looks very ugly – a drawing of a seated Zouave [pronounced zoo-AHV, a soldier in the French Army, based in North Africa, with a distinct uniform], a painted sketch of the Zouave against a completely white wall, and finally his portrait against a green door and some orange bricks in a wall. It is harsh, and taking it all in all, ugly and unsuccessful. Yet, because I was tackling a real difficulty with it, it may pave the way for the future.
Nearly all the figures I do look abominable in my own eyes, let alone the eyes of others.
Bonus: Van Gogh also refers to Louis XIV as a “killjoy”. Tee hee.
Monet writes a letter excoriating his eye surgeon, Dr. Charles Coutela, who had performed a cataract operation on Monet’s right eye in January, when Monet was 82.
I might have finished the Décorations which I have to deliver in April and I’m certain now that I won’t be able to finish them as I’d have liked. That’s the greatest blow I could have had and it makes me sorry that I ever decided to go ahead with that fatal operation. Excuse me for being so frank and allow me to say that I think it’s criminal to have placed me in such a predicament.”
If it sounds like Monet isn’t a very good patient–well, he isn’t. Immediately after the surgery, he refuses to rest his eyes, saying that it would interfere with his work. He tries to rip off his bandages, and after stewing for six months, he finally lashes out at his doctor with this letter.
Kiki Smith’s exhibition, Night, closes at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. The show explores the natural world after the sun’s gone down, and features works in black glass, bronze, and other media, including animal scat.
John Henry Twachtman writes in a letter that he’s rented a studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he’s about to spend his third summer. He will die in less than three months of a brain aneurysm, but the paintings he creates in Gloucester in the last three summers of his life are some of his most complex and engaging landscapes.
The Chicago Tribune discloses that the late sculptor Louise Nevelson’s son and her personal assistant (and perhaps closeted lover) are locked in a legal battle over her estate.
And it gets messy. Mike Nevelson takes 35 sculptures from Diana MacKown which she says were a gift from Louise, and he says don’t belong to her. In fact, he says they never belonged to his mother either, but to a corporation he founded, called Sculptotek, in 1978 to provide tax benefits and to manage his mother’s finances. Mike also begins eviction proceedings against MacKown, keeping her from the Manhattan home she and Nevelson shared for 26 years.
The morning after overhearing an unflattering conversation between Gorky and his dealer about the role of an artist’s wife, Gorky’s wife arranges for a babysitter for their children and leaves home for two days, during which time she has an affair with the artist Matta.
Agnes (nicknamed Mougouch) wrote later:
After I left I rang up Matta. It was perhaps the worst thing I ever did, but I did it. The affair with Matta ruined my life in one zip. But if I’d stayed, Gorky’s violence would probably have driven me away anyhow, as he got worse and worse.
I got into my car and drove down to the village. I rang up Matta and said: “Do you really want to meet me somewhere? I’m going to be on the Saw Mill River Parkway at such and such a mileage.” And he was there. I went away with Matta for two days and came back and felt completely reborn…”