Wiegmann and the Gallery John Becker, N.Y.C. (English version)


Today my original blog contribution Zwischen Stilleben und Landschaft – Taschenalbum 1932 (link) received a short commentary. That was an impulse to translate the essential of it into English and add the translation of an related article:  Amerika! – John Becker, 520 Madison Avenue N.Y.C. (link).        The translations come without the illustrations!


Between Still Life and Landscape – Pocket Album 1932

A small pocket album of 4,3 inch width and 2,4 inch height and bound in red artificial leather, still contains today sixteen photographic reproductions of Wiegmann’s pictures from the beginning of the thirties. The strong glossy photographs from 2,4 x 2,2 inch to 3,2 x 2,2 inch stick on light gray or green paper in cellophane bags.
We look at them as if we did from some distance. Miniatures in powerful black and white . One suspects more than one sees. Details disappear, but that does not matter. They are Icons!
Was this pocket album for his luggage, was it an artistic ‚business card’? …. For me these sixteen prints form a unity. The album was after F. Zgainsky’s information (1996) in possession of “Tüni”.



Amerika! – John Becker, 520 Madison Avenue N.Y.C.
(20. März 2017 | dvg)

Two documents prove Wiegmann’s contact with the American art market for the year 1932, and perspectives for 1933. He noted in his “CurriculumVitae” under “Exhibitions of my pictures”: “1931 and 1932 in the gallery John Becker, Madison Avenue NY City, and by this gallery in the world exhibition Chicago too”.
Let’s start with the later document, a letter to Fritz he got together with a check from John, the head of John Becker’s gallery in New York.

Letter 12. Nov.1932    –  A Facsimile is on the website (link) !
Dear Wieg I am enclosing a check no. 7897 for $ 87.50, which covers the sale of the oil which was sold to a woman from the west.
Will you send us enough watercolors and oils to make a good exhibition. Please don’t send the things framed, because we have to pay duty on the frames, and when you send them be sure to make out a correct consular invoice as before. If Edwin is in Berlin, get him to write an introduction to your catalog and provide us with biographical information. Show him the enclosed catalogues.
We shall need about 20 pictures and the attached photos that we probably want to show. Please do that soon and send it as inexpensively as possible. Yours John

(handwritten addition, deciphered by me)
Look, Wieg, I am busy. I hope you are well. We all like all your pictures, but we like the still-lives best. Better not send any new in glass unless you want to awfully. See bucks(?) 8 photographs. Please return photos + new photos. Love John

Back side of the flyer: ‘AN EXHIBITION OF SIX YOUNG EUROPEANS MARCH 15 TO APRIL 10 . It ranked the artists alphabetically.
Wiegmann is presented as follows: FIVE PAINTINGS BY FRITZ WEIGMANN: German, born in 1903. Lives in Berlin. Wiegmann is a passionate admirer of Braque, Gris and Picasso. His abstract compositions are often painted behind glass which has an undulated surface that lends mobility to the painting. Wiegmann has never before exhibited in America.
The year is not specified, but the last two sentences (“glass”, “never before”) and the small number of exhibits speak for March 1932. But artist-info.com prefers1931.

What did it mean: “John Becker, 520 Madison Avenue New York“?

Wieg had got the appreciation of one of the first addresses for contemporary art in New York.
In Nicholas Fox Weber‘s „Patron Saints“, Yale Univ.Press 1992, 1995, on the involvement of the Harvard Society of Contemporary Art, John Becker is mentioned in six passages:
On p.60 as one of New York’s most pioneering commercial galleries – Valentine, Kraushaar, Downtown, Reinhardt, John Becker, and Weye – which delighted the young folks of rich home as future collectors.
As the second site of Harvard Society’s “First Bauhaus Show Ever Held in America in December 1930 and January 1931”, “pivotal in introducing the American public to art and ideas that have since penetrated our society”. (p.118)
At the end of May 1931, collector Chick Austin lent from John Becker’s gallery in New York for his exhibition “a group of Picasso drawings”. The same collector featured a show in November titled “Newer Super-Realism, This Was the First Surrealist Show in America.” (p. 159)
Twice John Becker appears in a list of New York galleries with “regular shows – mostly of drawings and gouaches” by Picasso with his “curvilinear Cubism of the 1920s”. (pp. 231, 234)
With Walker Evans, the new photography and with Alexander Calder the mobile emerged as art forms at John Becker. You were in the lead. Back then a Braque travelled to New York for the opening of his first exhibition with John Becker. For the surrealism, John wrote an article in the “Fifth Floor Window” Febr. 1932, (M5050_X0031_DES_P03211932003.pdf), a second author wrote on “Dadaism and Super-Realism”, a third on “Lewis Carroll and the Moderns”. At that time, the American Art World, including women like Peggy Guggenheim, were looking to Paris, seeking contact with the European avant-garde.

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