DONORS' LOVE OF ART GREW AT VALLEY FIRM; FURNITURE BUSINESS LED TO GALLERIES.Byline: Valerie Kuklenski Daily News Staff Writer
It wasn't the warm applause greeting the elderly couple at the Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. County Art Museum that brought tears to Edith Lewin's eyes.
It was the prospect of saying goodbye to some very dear treasures, paintings she watched over and enjoyed in the galleries she ran with her husband and in their home.
Former San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. furniture merchant Bernard Lewin Bernard Lewin (September 30, 1906–January 30, 2003) was a German-born American citizen who amassed the largest private collection of modern Mexican art in the world. , 91, and his 86-year-old wife were on hand Friday when the museum formally announced its acquisition of the Lewins' $25 million collection of Mexican art, which includes paintings by Frida Kahlo Frida Kahlo(July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter, who has achieved great international popularity. She painted using vibrant colors in a style that was influenced by indigenous cultures of Mexico as well as European influences that include , Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco Noun 1. Jose Clemente Orozco - Mexican painter noted for his monumental murals (1883-1949)
Jose Orozco, Orozco and Rufino Tamayo Rufino Tamayo (August 25, 1899 – June 24, 1991) was a Zapotecan Indian painter born in Oaxaca de Juárez, México, of Mestizo parents. Early life .
Museum curators are studying and cataloging 1,800 pieces, many of which had been on public display in years past at the couple's B. Lewin Galleries in Beverly Hills Beverly Hills, city (1990 pop. 31,971), Los Angeles co., S Calif., completely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles; inc. 1914. The largely residential city is home to many motion-picture and television personalities. and Palm Springs.
As museum officials praised the significance of the paintings, sketches and studies, and applauded the Lewins' generosity in turning them over to LACMA LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art
LACMA Los Angeles County Medical Association
LACMA Latin American and Caribbean Movers Association , Edith Lewin grew wistful.
``I personally feel very sad about it,'' she said after the news conference. ``I like to work; I don't like to retire. I like to go into the gallery.''
Asked whether there was much discussion between them before her husband arranged the acquisition, she replied: ``No. He wanted it and I went along with it.''
The Lewins, married in 1933, have been making such momentous decisions since they immigrated to Los Angeles in 1938, fleeing the tumultuous economy and personal peril they faced in Nazi Germany.
Arriving in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of the Great Depression, Bernard Lewin bought a truck for $30 and started a small moving business. When one client decided not to move his belongings to New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of , Lewin bought the household goods for $500 and the following day sold them to a furniture dealer for a small profit.
That transaction inspired Lewin to go into the furniture business, and he opening his first B. Lewin Furniture store in Van Nuys, later expanding the business to Glendale and North Hollywood.
B. Lewin, well-known to Valley shoppers, presented itself as ``a furniture store daring to be different.'' Its proprietor began offering works of art for sale in addition to functional furnishings.
Lewin fueled his interest in art by taking some courses at UCLA UCLA University of California at Los Angeles
UCLA University Center for Learning Assistance (Illinois State University)
UCLA University of Carrollton, TX and Lower Addison, TX and studying on his own. He began collecting works of prominent American artists and was inspired to examine Mexican art in 1954, when he first saw a Tamayo painting on exhibit in Los Angeles.
In 1958, Lewin made his first trip to Mexico, hoping to meet Tamayo. The painter at the time was working in Paris, but the trip gave Lewin the opportunity to explore the canvases and murals of Mexican masters Kahlo, Rivera, Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, which he also admired greatly. He bought three paintings from Rivera's estate during that trip.
In 1963, Lewin finally met Tamayo in the artist's studio and bought four of his paintings on the spot. They became lifelong friends, and Lewin became a passionate collector of Tamayo's brilliantly colored canvases.
In the years that followed, the Lewins began acquiring works of other Mexican masters, including Kahlo, Carlos Merida, Francisco Zuniga and Rafael Coronel. They made a habit of doing business with the artists themselves or their families, not dealers.
Asked Friday what attracted him to Mexican art, Lewin said: ``Color, texture, power, composition. It's in my opinion the finest art of the 20th century.''
The successful furniture dealer turned his attentions exclusively to art in 1968, when he opened his first B. Lewin Galleries in Beverly Hills, specializing in Mexican art. In 1984 he concentrated his business in Palm Springs, dealing exclusively in Mexican art.
What compelled Lewin to venture into the gallery business, probably one of the riskiest small retail operations, with a high start-up cost?
``It's just the love of the art,'' he said with a slight shrug.
Photo: (1--color) Untitled, Jose Clemente Orozco
(2--color) Bernard and Edith Lewin view one of the 1,800 works of 20th century Mexican art they're donating to the county museum.
David Sprague/Daily News
(3--color) Potrait of the Poet John Dunbar, Diego Rivera