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Maven with Moxie: Galka Scheyer at the Norton Simon

 A Maven with Moxie

Galka Scheyer

 By

Leticia Marie Sanchez

Imagine a world with no Lorenzo Medici, Sylvia Beach, or Joseph Duveen. Sylvia Beach published the work of James Joyce, encouraged Ernest Hemingway, and helped to advance the works of American expatriate writers living in Paris between World War I and World War II. Lorenzo Medici’s Renaissance court advanced the works of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticceli, and other premier artists.  The sales of savvy art dealer Joseph Duveen now line many collections including, the Frick Collection, the National Gallery of Art, the Huntington and the Norton Simon.

In this coterie of prominent patrons and dealers belongs Galka Scheyer, a formidable art dealer who stopped at nothing to promote the works of “Blue Four”—German Expressionist artists Lyonel Feininger, Alexei Jawlensky, Paul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky. Their vivid works are currently on view at the Norton Simon.

Scheyer was a dealer without a gallery. In the era before powerpoint (the 1920′s) she often lugged impossibly heavy suitcases filled with glass slides of the art work as she headed to lecture sites around the United States in an attempt to shed light on these artists.

Norton Simon Curator Gloria Williams Sander described the tenacious art dealer during a recent lecture at the museum. The resourceful Scheyer picked up a phone book and found the names of university administrators and museum dealers, writing hundreds of letters, hoping to get a bite.

Scheyer got along famously with artists. She once boldly went to the apartment of Diego Rivera, forged a friendship with him, and convinced him to help her get an exposition for the Blue Four artists in Mexico. In addition to her bravado, she had a soft side. She let composer John Cage pay for Jawlensky in installments, for the first of which he handed her a dollar bill. Williams Sander noted, “Rather than the art of the deal, Galka Scheyer relished in connecting people with art.”

Scheyer’s passion for her profession arose after she saw a painting done by Jawlensky. It was, according to Willams Sander, a “Conversion Moment.” She abandoned her own ambitions as an artist and found her path as an art dealer. She truly loved her calling although it certainly did not pay her bills. In order to supplement her income, Scheyer gave lectures as well as taught art to children for two decades.

In fact, it was Jawlensky who gave Emmy Scheyer the nickname “Galka”, meaning jackdaw, a gregarious, intelligent crow. The exhibit contains a letter in which Jawlensky told Scheyer that the nickname came to him in a dream. The vast exhibit contains not only works by the Blue Four but also paintings from Scheyer’s own person collection.

One of the most humorous anecdotes about Scheyer is that after purchasing a plot of land in the Hollywood Hills for $150, she petitioned the city to make her address 1880 Blue Heights Drive.  (1 for Myself, 8 for Two Times the Blue Four, and 0 for Nothing).

There on Blue Heights Drive, Scheyer lived on her on astral plane and converted many to become devotees of the Blue Four.

Maven of Modernism: Galka Scheyer in California

Norton Simon Museum of Art

April 7- September 25

Galka ScheyerEmil Nolde (German, 1867-1956),

Head in Profile, 1919, Watercolor and India ink on tan wove paper,

14-1/2 x 11-1/8 in. (36.8 x 28.3 cm),

Norton Simon Museum,

The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection,

© Nolde Stiftung Seebüll, Germany

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by on May 1st, 2017

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