Maven of Modernism: Galka Scheyer in California
The Norton Simon Museum presents Maven of Modernism: Galka Scheyer in California, an exhibition that delves into the life of Galka Scheyer, the enterprising dealer responsible for the art phenomenon the “Blue Four”—Lyonel Feininger, Alexei Jawlensky, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. In California, through the troubling decades of the Great Depression and the Second World War, German-born Scheyer (1889–1945) single-handedly cultivated a taste for their brand of European modernism by arranging exhibitions, lectures and publications on their work, and negotiating sales on their behalf. Maven of Modernism presents exceptional examples from Scheyer’s personal collection by the Blue Four artists, as well as works by artists including Alexander Archipenko, László Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera, which was given to the Pasadena Art Institute in the early 1950s. All together, these works and related ephemera tell the fascinating story of this trailblazing impresario, who helped shape California’s reputation as a burgeoning center for modern art.
Galka Scheyer was born Emilie Esther Scheyer in Braunschweig, Germany, in 1889, to a middle-class Jewish family. As a young woman, she studied piano and painting, but it was in 1915, when she first saw paintings by Jawlensky (whom she met shortly thereafter) in an exhibition in Switzerland, that her life took a new direction, that of an ardent art supporter and promoter. (Indeed, it was Jawlensky who nicknamed Scheyer “Galka,” the Russian word for jackdaw, a gregarious, intelligent crow.) In the years that followed, Scheyer became closely associated with Jawlensky and the artists Feininger, Klee and Kandinsky, whom she named the “Blue Four” as she set out to promote their work in the United States in 1924. Scheyer found fertile ground for her mission when, in 1925, she moved to California and discovered an enthusiastic audience for her innovative artists and her activities as their representative.
In San Francisco, she quickly gathered important friends around her, including William H. Clapp of the Oakland Art Museum, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Frida Kahlo and Rivera. Moving to Los Angeles in 1930 enlarged the social and cultural network in which she circulated, connecting her to John Cage, Walter and Louise Arensberg, Josef von Sternberg, Peter Krasnow and a host of German émigré artists. Her Hollywood home, designed by Richard Neutra, functioned as a meeting place and gallery for a cadre of art aficionados. SHOW MORE