Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ch. 3 - Has Anybody Seen My Picasso - "The Twelve Russians"

Aphrodite Mandrake was not her real name it turns out. I did some research at city hall downtown the next day and found out a few things about her. She was born Anastasia Dobrinsky in a small Russian village of Jewish parents, Pavel and Kateskya Dobrinsky, who lived with Pavel's mother, born Chaytsil Andreievskaya. Anastasia's sister Nina would later marry Wassily Kandinsky. I thought I knew that name and I was right. Kandinsky was a Russian artist who lived in Germany for a while and later France. After that I went to visit an art professor friend of mine, Dr. Hans Schreiber, a well known authority. He was an interesting guy. A WWI veteran, he had survived the worst trench warfare the world had ever known. It gave him an appreciation of the civilizing aspects of life: fine art, music, literature, and good liquor. He chose the study of art afterwards at the university. He had helped me on a case a couple of years ago. But that's a tale for another day. He offered me a drink and I took it. All this searching had made me thirsty. After some small talk and a few sips, I asked him about the Nazi theft of art during the 1930's. I also asked him about Russian art and Kandinsky in particular. He confirmed much of what Aphrodite had told me about the Nazis. My conversation with him also revealed that during the Russian Revolution, the abstract artists of the day were idealists for the most part and bought into the revolutionary fervor and vision and were happy to have their art utilized to further the cause. And the communists obliged by ridding the country of the czarist art influences and replacing it with the constructivists, neo-primitivitists, suprematists, and futurists. Among them were the twelve Russians: Brodsky, Alexander Samokhvalov, Boris Ioganson, Aleksandr Laktionov, Yuri Neprintsev and Moscow and Leningrad painters including artist Aleksandr Gerasimov, and suprematists like Malevich and those from other schools such as Aleksandra Ekster, Vladimir Tatlin, Wassily Kandinsky, David Burliuk, Alexander Archipenko found themselves in favor until the mid 1920's when Socialist Realism became the state preference. No longer serving the ends of the revolution, these and other abstract artists fell from state favor. From 1918 to 1921, Kandinsky, for example, navigated the cultural politics of Russia and collaborated in art education and museum reform. He painted little during this period, and devoted his time to teaching with a program based on form and color analysis; he also helped organize the Institute of Artistic Culture in Moscow. In 1916 he met Nina Andreievskaya, whom he married the following year. His spiritual, expressionistic view of art was rejected by the radical dialectical materialist members of the Institute as too individualistic and bourgeois. In 1921, Kandinsky was invited back to Germany to attend the Bauhaus of Weimar by its founder, architect Walter Gropius. He would leave Germany in 1933 to settle in France until he died in 1944. I thanked the professor for his time and the information. * * * * * By now my head was reeling with all this, but Nina's marriage to Kandinsky was a good starting point except that I'd have to go to Paris......I'd always wanted to go to Paris and now I was. I decided to get tickets the next day. * * * * * * It was dark now so I headed home to my apartment which was directly above my office. I had to walk the four flights up because the elevator was still not working. I took a small breather on the third floor, lit a cigarette, and headed up the last flight of stairs. The carpet was worn. It was red wool with green and mauve floral patterns that was threadbare in places where thousands of feet had trod but still plush at the edges. It still had that sense of past elegance -- like many people I know holding on to their dignity like the women clutch their purses on the street below. I looked up and I noticed my apartment door was ajar. I know, I know, that's an old joke.....when is a door not a door? When it is ajar. I always liked that joke. I used to tell that to my kid when he was young. He never got tired of that. I hadn't seen him in a few months, though, and felt bad about that. I put my hand on my roscoe just in case and carefully walked up the stairs. I approached the door quietly, pushed it open, and noted it was dark inside. I opened it and stepped in. I drew my piece and inched my way forward. The place looked like it had been tossed, but it usually did so I couldn't tell by that. I noticed the bedroom door was partially closed. That was different. It was usually open. I slowly opened the door, pointed my roscoe into the room, and saw her asleep on the bed, her bare back and leg barely visible in the dim red light flashing through the window from the bar across the street.


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