Stories are everywhere. Although sometimes you have to be a detective to uncover them. I am interested in artists who disappear from history, not because they were not talented, but because they were not famous. I am especially interested in female artists, who face even bigger hurdles than male artists when it comes to being exhibited. That’s why I have been a member for many years of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., which we visited last summer. On this visit, we went not only to see the exhibits but to do some research in their library-archive. Bill, Natalie and I spent an afternoon going through huge portfolio-sized folders that contained sketches, photographs and various correspondence of the artist Edna Reindel. She appears as a character in the novel I am writing and I wanted to learn more about her. Above is a painting of hers that is a part of a series she pitched to Life Magazine. The series she painted for the magazine focused on women who built planes and ships during World War II. I hope that by including her in my story, interest in her work will be revived.
I posted a story on Facebook a few weeks ago about the father-daughter artists Paul and Nadine Landowski. Paul was a highly successful and esteemed artist living in France. You will discover many monumental sculptures around the city of Paris that are his, including this one “Monument to the Glory of the French Armies of 1914-1918” that Natalie and I are studying here, along with our friends Andy and Mary Jo.
If you have been watching any of the World Cup, you will probably recognize his huge Christ the Redeemer statue (1931) that overlooks Rio de Janeiro.
I didn’t know until a few weeks ago that Paul had a daughter who was an artist. It is challenging to find records of her work, but I learned that she designed a stage production in 1941 and also designed book covers. The only photograph I could find of her work was an in-progress restoration of five frescoes she painted in 1942-43 in the Church of St. Pierre du Brusc, France.
She died in 1943 at the age of 35 and I was unable to learn how she died. Natalie is determined to uncover more about Nadine’s life and work and will be doing some additional research this summer.
So, now I come to a personal story about an artist. My great-great aunt Zita Blenthal was an artist. She was born in Ohio in 1900 and moved as a young woman to Los Angeles, where she established her studio in Hollywood. She was active in the artist community and had her work exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute and LACMA, but little is known about her. Once a year or so, I’ll google her name to see if there is anything more to discover about Zita. Last year’s search uncovered a notice that an art auction house had sold her “Still Life with White Magnolias.” I phoned the auction house to confirm the sale and got a surly woman on the phone, who decided to tell me just before hanging up (I had not told her that I was related to Zita) that the painting had been her favorite in the sale.
During the same google search, I found two questions posted on a discussion board, including this one: I have two works of Zita Blenthal. I bought them at a garage sale about a decade ago. The guy said he had inherited them from his great aunt who had lived in Beverly Hills. I adore one of them especially…white roses painted in green tones.
Three weeks ago, I did my annual google search and I found an ebay listing for one of Zita’s paintings, with only 36 hours remaining in the bid time. Here is what the listing said:
“Here is a gorgeous original vintage floral oil on canvas painting, signed by the original artist “Zita Blenthal” who was an accomplished artist from Ohio who had her own studio in Los Angeles, near Hollywood and Beverly Hills. This belonged to my grandmother who lived in Beverly Hills from 1942-1991 and she purchased it direct from “Zita’s” studio back in the day. It adorned the walls of her Beverly Hills home ever since. We are the original owners. It is simply gorgeous and a real collectors piece.”
The starting bid was $299.
Bill had to give me an ebay lesson, as I had never purchased anything on ebay, and then I made my bid. I decided that if I won the bid, the painting would become Natalie’s, who has inherited Zita’s drawing and painting genes.
Well, here is the rest of the story: