In May of 1944 Mrs. J. Borden Harriman and the American Free World Association presented a series of his small watercolors and drawings entitled "Totalitarian Europe" at the Knoedler Galleries on East 57th Street, New York. These portrayed the fruits of Fascism in the lives of ordinary people with scenes of starvation, horror, concentration camps, the dead, bombed out buildings, and other ravages.
They are approximatelyl 14 x 18"
(The black and whites are photos of watercolors I don't have.)
There were 27 works on the walls and together they depicted "totalitarianism in its following aspects:
1, 2, 3
Totalitarianism begins by destroying its own
Destruction, systematic and sudden.
5, 6, 7, 8
Hunger, that comes with destruction....
and misery that comes with hunger.
Abandoned children lose human feelings
Children's blood serves to revive the executioners
The mothers and sisters are raped.
And the cataclysm reaches to the defenseless below the ground
Jails augment with the triumph of Totalitarianism....
as do concentration camps
and barbed wire.
desire for freedom is discouraged by the wooden block and
by bodies swinging in the air
or hanging on lamp posts
who do not belong to the race of Totalitarians are
forced to dig their own graves....
killed in gas chambers en masse.
Even with the numbers of the drawings included the flow of titles makes a powerful statement, perhaps even more so because of the inclusion of the numbers and what they represent, for the imagination is set to work. The show was received favorably by the New York art critics who had the common theme of the war now to work on: Fascism had become America's enemy too. And all the critics commented upon their impact and the grimness of their theme, especially Emily Genauer of the World Telegram, who always championed my father's work.
"The pictures he has painted," she said, "for all their unvarnished grimness, for all the violence of their themes of rape and destruction, are still incredibly tragic rather than frightening, heartbreaking rather than violent. Their colors are gentle, even melting. Their organization is always magnificently controlled, formal in the extreme. So beautiful are they aesthetically that could one think of this war they depict as a fight honorably done with centuries ago, one might derive genuine pleasure from the paintings. But they're of the here and now and their aesthetic form serves most brilliantly as a vehicle for the expression of powerful and important ideas, not one bit pleasurable."
Excerpted from Waiting at the Shore
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