Monday, March 4, 2024

His work usually has to be nude to be this notorious


     Paul Gauguin abandoned his family in France and sailed around the world seeking paradise in Polynesia. He married a 13-year-old Tahitian girl. "Are you not afraid of me?" he asked.
     That type of thing is frowned upon today, and the placard next to one of Gauguin's paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago dispatches the issue thus: "Gauguin's predatory behavior toward young girls was a well-documented and integral aspect of his self-fashioned artistic persona."
     OK then. Gauguin's paintings are still on display, as they should be. Qualms over the personal lives of artists are so random. The Medicis were bad guys, too.
     Yet time mediates their excesses. As does fame. No matter how badly Picasso treated his mistresses, his big rusty baboon — made of the same COR-TEN steel as the building behind it — will still be on display at the heart of Chicago.
     Art is a window into the past, and the past is often a terrible place. The Art Institute is being vigorously reminded of this over a small pencil drawing — 17 inches by 12 — tinted with watercolors, "Russian War Prisoner." An undistinguished sketch by Austrian artist Egon Schiele, possessing none of the raw sexuality for which he was infamous.
     Schiele died at 28 of the Spanish flu, and the drawing came into the possession of Jewish cabaret star Fritz Grünbaum, whose art collection was mostly snatched by the Nazis after he was shipped to Dachau concentration camp.
     Except this drawing, the Art Institute insists. The Nazis missed this one. Maybe they were careless.
     His heirs disagree, and have been suing to get the collection back. Nine of 10 works have been returned. My colleague, Emmanuel Camarillo has been documenting the lawsuit, accusing the museum of "willful blindness."

To continue reading, click here.


  1. The Art Institute of Chicago has a long, long history of outright anti-Semitism, especially with the board members over the years. Several major collections of privately owned paintings from rich Chicago area Jews went elsewhere due to that.
    So this criminal action of theirs doesn't surprise me in the least, because it would mean giving the painting back to the heirs of a Jew, which is a no-no to several members of the AIC's board!

  2. Thanks...fascinating! The art world is so weird and fetishy

  3. Fascinating piece; similar problem today with many American Indian artifacts in museums; should they be returned to the tribes for proper burial? The morality of an artist shouldn't prohibit our enjoyment of his/her work. Think Picasso.

  4. I couldn't agree more. People that bleat stuff like, "You can't separate the art from the artist!" are just virtue signalers who are obsessed with winning the gold in the Purity Olympics. We heard a lot of this during MeToo, constant lecturing about how we were not allowed to enjoy the music of any artists known or suspected of being sex criminals (a considerable list). I remember Bill Maher quipping at the time that if we were to be consistent in upholding this standard, we would only be allowed to listen to polka music.

  5. Thought Oberlin College handled it pretty well when faced with the same question…
    “Oberlin invested significant resources researching the history of its sale and purchase and concluded it had been lawfully acquired,’’ the college said.

    “The Manhattan District Attorneys Office, through its ongoing investigation, nonetheless has raised questions about the ownership of ‘Girl with Black Hair,’ the college said. “As a result, Oberlin College is voluntarily returning the drawing. We hope this will provide some measure of closure to the family of Fritz Grünbaum.”


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.