"View" painting © Estate of Morris Hirshfield (Robert Dennis Rentzer, Executor). This painting will be shown in NYC at Galerie St. Etienne.
Morris Hirshfield, the great self-taught painter, was born in 1872 in a small town of 1000 inhabitants in "Russia-Poland" near the German border. He came to America at age 18 and worked as a tailor and a manufacturer of ladies slippers. In 1941, only four years after taking up painting at age 65, Hirshfield had a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. He completed 76 oil paintings before he died in 1946.
In 1945, Hirshfield was commissioned to paint a cover for a popular arts and literature magazine called "View" (shown above). The artist gave the original oil of "View" to his grandson Dennis to make up for an earlier painting called "Dog and Pups".
The five year old had asked him to paint a picture of "Sultan"(the family dog), but was upset and disappointed by the result. "Dog and Pups" had three dogs in it and the dogs looked nothing like his dog or any other dog he had ever seen. The paisley coats painted on the dogs were a stylistic flourish of Hirshfield's, influenced by his former career as a tailor. The “View", by contrast, featured one of the painter's trademark nudes and his grandson really liked this gift, but Hirshfield explained to Dennis that, although the "View" painting was now his, he had to put it away for him until he was older because it was a "naked lady".
Morris Hirshfield and his grandson Dennis - Photo courtesy of the Rentzer family
"Sultan", the family dog- Photo courtesy of the Rentzer family
"Dog and Pups" painting © Estate of Morris HIrshfield (Robert Dennis Rentzer, Executor)
At age 16, Dennis foolishly sold “Dog and Pups” for a car, a decision he lived to regret. He spent the next forty years tracking down the painting, and finally succeeded in getting the owner to sell it back to him. Having reclaimed his grandfather’s original gift (inscribed to him), Dennis is now able to part with “View,” which was discovered in Hirshfield’s basement many years after the artist’s death.
From January 7 through March 14, 2009, “View” will be featured in the exhibition “THEY TAUGHT THEMSELVES: American Self-Taught Painters Between the World Wars” at the Galerie St. Etienne in NYC. For pricing or other information, please contact email@example.com. The Galerie St. Etienne is located at 24 West 57th Street in New York City; Tel. 212-245-6734
Morris Hirshfield's works hang in famous museums all over the world including the Galerie Maeght (Paris, France), the Guggenheim, The American Folk Art Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I want to thank Dennis, Morris Hirshfield's grandson, for contributing facts and photos to this article. Dennis, who is actually Robert Dennis Rentzer, is now an attorney practicing in California: www.lawcal.com