Henry Null collection of Antonia Greene paintings, mostly portraits, mostly from 1930's. Gallery show January 2018 Santa Barbara.

Henry Null collection of Antonia Greene paintings, mostly portraits, mostly from 1930's. Gallery show January 2018 Santa Barbara.

Her art survives

by HENRY NULL

I have discovered the lost paintings of a prominent portrait artist who lived and painted here almost 100 years ago. Very few people have seen  these paintings.

The unsold paintings of Antonia Greene's lifetime, acquired from her estate by a Santa Barbara  art dealer in the early 1960's, were damaged in the 1992 flood. Since then, they mostly were  forgotten, living in art maintenance poverty on a dusty shelf in a downtown  storage shed.

I found these paintings and had them cleaned and restored.  Zoomed, framed photos of Antonia Greene's artwork can be seen on this website's  main gallery. Click the gallery thumbnail to see close-ups.

The art dealer, Robert Livernois, died in 2013 and I had permission from Wanda Livernois to go through hundreds of paintings supported next to each other on steel shelving. I did this with Thomas Van Stein an artist who is an authority on the art history of Santa Barbara, and especially the 1930-1940 years.

She was born Antonia Joanna Clara  Mauruschat  in 1881 in Germany and came to New York City in 1900 and to Santa Barbara in 1929. So says the 1910 US Census and AskArt. She married Winfield Wardwell Greene in the Bronx in 1913, and brought a son Winfield Kurt Greene into the world in 1919. This info came from the US Census of 1920. Two paintings of her son, one at aged 10 and one at 20 and then in the US Army testify to her thoughts as a mother and artist. Both paintings are unfinished. 

The 1929 painting that probably says the most about her  is her self-portrait on this page. It's signed "Antonia Greene" in black on dark blue in the lower right hand corner.  She also titled it "Antonia Greene" in red, curving it with the  shawl or blue wrap. The spelling-out of Antonia was significant. The title meant "this is the real person, the person I think I am." The signature means "I painted it."  Most  of her paintings were signed Ant. Greene or A.J. Greene. Most female artists through history initialed their art rather than spelling out their names.  Not showing their feminine name was a strategy to protect their work from a social bias slighting women in the workplace.

Faulkner Gallery  1930 Opening

She came to Santa Barbara in 1929 and first showed in the  1930 grand opening of the Faulkner Gallery,  This alone would identify her work to a sophisticated  talent level because the Faulkner opening was  an enormous artistic event.  Just to show in the opener was by invitation only. From newspaper accounts saved at the Santa Barbara Public Library,  the Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery  grand opening was an art celebrity event with the likes of Ed Borein, Clarence Hinkle, Rico LeBrun, Fernand Lungren, Wright Ludington, DeWitt Parshall, Douglas Parshall, Channing Peake and Colin Campbell Cooper. These are names that 87 years later still resonate in  Santa Barbara's  and international art world. There is a photo image of this exhibition, courtesy of the Public Library, on this page. The Greene entry is a portrait of a black woman called A Study.  However  The Santa Barbara Daily News of Oct. 16, 1930 (later the News-Press)  calls the study "The Ethiopian." and describes the painting as " a fine characterization of the race." I don't know exactly what that means, but if it is like anything else of the Greene paintings I've seen, there is strength and depth within the characterization. Exhibition photos show some awesome paintings displayed and I mean that in the 1930 definition of awesome. The Colin Campbell Cooper interior of St. Mark's  cathedral and the Fernand Lungren Grand Canyon both are in the overwhelming category.

Not much is known about her life here.   She did exhibit her work at subsequent Faulkner events, a 1931 summer exhibit noticed by the News Press. Another was a 1939 show that produced "The Leghorn Hat " displayed on this page. In 1940 she had a one-person show at the Montecito Country Club.

In the 1990's I bought a couple of her paintings from Robert Livernois, Brinkerhoff Avenue art dealer. I noticed her work when  I went to his shop and always liked them. Once I asked Robert about her and he told me he knew nothing except  he bought  her entire art estate. Which was in the early 1960's. Robert died in 2013.  

Provenance chain

This year, when I began  thinking about selling my collection, I remembered  her paintings in Robert's storerooms. Then I called  Wanda Livernois, who took me through the storage shed and I bought all the Greene art I found, something like 12 paintings, all portraits, one still life. Wanda sold separately an additional Greene, this of a woman in purple cloche cap looking quite self absorbed. And I've come across a Greene portrait  for sale for $1500. at Early California Antiques, in Los Angeles. Incidental: the owner told me he was moving his business to Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Historical Society told me she was divorced and had a son Winfield, who was 20 years old in 1940. I own two unfinished paintings I believe are portraits of her son. One paints him as a young man in US Army uniform; the other as a 10-year old boy.

Winfield Kurt Greene, aged 10 in 1929.

Winfield Kurt Greene, aged 10 in 1929.

Winfield Kurt Greene aged 20 in 1940

Winfield Kurt Greene aged 20 in 1940

Her last address here was 2410 State Street.  I saved the remaining shreds of her official ID show-sticker that was on the back of  her  self portrait   You can see ARTIST "Antonia" then torn paper, then TITLE  "Port." Then more torn paper.

My interest in her expanded from four paintings I owned for years,  to  18, mostly in the last six months. I changed from roadside observer to an unthinkable role of artist authority.  I can't shake it: I am very probably the only person in the world who knows about the artwork of Antonia J. Greene.  I didn't want this kind of responsibility, I just wanted to be an old garden designer But here I am  paying conservators, restorers, cleaners. I remain uncertain about where this will lead, as I am uncertain about a lot of things. I'm doing it anyway.

The 1920 census says Antonia Mauruschat from East Prussia had become Antonia J. Greene  in 1913 and was living with her husband, Winfield Wardwell Greene in East Orange NJ. Since we know her son was born there in 1920, I am assuming she spent at least a decade and maybe more, living and painting in Essex County NJ.  I am getting nowhere attempting to track down art and artists in East Orange in that time zone. Any help on the East Coast would be appreciated.

 

Antonia Greene

 Santa Barbara artist  1929-1957

           Antonia Greene self-portrait, 1929. She signed this painting twice. Once as artist, proof of authorship. Again, in red on the blue shawl wrap, as a title: THIS IS ME.

          Antonia Greene self-portrait, 1929. She signed this painting twice. Once as artist, proof of authorship. Again, in red on the blue shawl wrap, as a title: THIS IS ME.

      POSTER for Antonia Green exhibition.     Poster design, Henry Null.  For exhibit info, call HENRY 805 331-3233

     POSTER for Antonia Green exhibition.  Poster design, Henry Null. For exhibit info, call HENRY 805 331-3233

 

     NOTE — Exhibition catalogue is at end of  this website section

 
Photo of Antonia Greene ID exhibition sticker from  Faulkner Gallery, 1930's. The pencilled "Antonia" is what's left from her self portrait  (shown above) after restoration this year. This the reverse side of that painting.

Photo of Antonia Greene ID exhibition sticker from  Faulkner Gallery, 1930's. The pencilled "Antonia" is what's left from her self portrait  (shown above) after restoration this year. This the reverse side of that painting.

 
Here is an Antonia Greene portrait for sale $1500. through Early California Antiques, L.A.

Here is an Antonia Greene portrait for sale $1500. through Early California Antiques, L.A.

This 1931 still life painting by Antonia Greene was the only non-portrait found in the search for her lost works. The rest, including several unfinished paintings, were all portraits. This platform for grapes and pomegranates is based on several circular curves. Note table top, blue plate. candleholder, vase, and graphics on background fabric. These curves  serve as thematic staging to the round, curved shapes of the fruit. The thinking preceding the actual painting and cartooning shows sophisticated preparation. Making the finished painting not just lovely to look at, but an artistic expression of strong  identity. The more you look at this, the more terrifying the artist's conceptual preparation becomes. First glance, simple fruit plate. After that, 30-40 years of painting produced artistic geometry.       

This 1931 still life painting by Antonia Greene was the only non-portrait found in the search for her lost works. The rest, including several unfinished paintings, were all portraits. This platform for grapes and pomegranates is based on several circular curves. Note table top, blue plate. candleholder, vase, and graphics on background fabric. These curves  serve as thematic staging to the round, curved shapes of the fruit. The thinking preceding the actual painting and cartooning shows sophisticated preparation. Making the finished painting not just lovely to look at, but an artistic expression of strong  identity. The more you look at this, the more terrifying the artist's conceptual preparation becomes. First glance, simple fruit plate. After that, 30-40 years of painting produced artistic geometry.

 

 

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Her self portrait:  mystery

The camera isolated and enlarged Ms Greene's painting of herself to show head and shoulder as a  target of myriad brush strokes and colors that created a veil of lights. These are hither-thither,  jiggly-jaggly spots of color and random lines. Her blond hair drifts into so many dark shadows you can't count them.  There even is a patch of green, a reflection of something green in the background. She painted this at age 49, new in town and from a background of East Prussia, with later stays in New York City and East Orange NJ.  I believe she saw  middle age beginning to compete with the beauty of her youth. Her penetrating eyes picked up the fine details of a life that even today says mystery. The  bare shoulder was covered slightly by the shawl that had nothing underneath. It meant then what it means now.  Only more so. She kept this painting all her life.

Gallery show of Antonia Greene paintings, January 201 8.

Gallery show of Antonia Greene paintings, January 2018.

 
 
                 Lovely sitter is unknown. But portrait of her is likely an Antonia Greene opus magnum. Large painting (30x26) shows  a formal pose that conveys social self-confidence, eyes that speak outward curiosity,    hair arranged  for the    occasion.  Yet wrapped around her and in her lap is this sheer fabric, likely long silk chiffon shawl.   Right hand interested in feel of  fabric or act of protectionism. The art of representing the  silk chiffon, the gauzy vertical and horizontal strokes, suggests technical expertise and creative moment.  This is not a one-dimensional coverlady portrait for the living room centerpiece.    

                Lovely sitter is unknown. But portrait of her is likely an Antonia Greene opus magnum. Large painting (30x26) shows  a formal pose that conveys social self-confidence, eyes that speak outward curiosity,  hair arranged  for the  occasion.  Yet wrapped around her and in her lap is this sheer fabric, likely long silk chiffon shawl.   Right hand interested in feel of  fabric or act of protectionism. The art of representing the  silk chiffon, the gauzy vertical and horizontal strokes, suggests technical expertise and creative moment.  This is not a one-dimensional coverlady portrait for the living room centerpiece.

 

My office wall is holding up all the Antonia Greene paintings I own. These were painted between the 1920's and the 1950's.

My office wall is holding up all the Antonia Greene paintings I own. These were painted between the 1920's and the 1950's.

Faulkner Gallery exhibit  at  1930 grand opening. Third full picture from far left:  Likely a Colin Campbell Cooper's Interior of St. Mark's Cathedral.  Big vertical painting at end of room is an over-the-top Grand Canyon by Fernand Lungren.  Photoimage courtesy of Santa Barbara Public Library.

Faulkner Gallery exhibit  at  1930 grand opening. Third full picture from far left:  Likely a Colin Campbell Cooper's Interior of St. Mark's Cathedral.  Big vertical painting at end of room is an over-the-top Grand Canyon by Fernand Lungren.  Photoimage courtesy of Santa Barbara Public Library.

 
Antonia Greene's Ethiopian lady portrait study in 1930 Faulkner Gallery opening exhibit. Portrait hangs to right of facing door.

Antonia Greene's Ethiopian lady portrait study in 1930 Faulkner Gallery opening exhibit. Portrait hangs to right of facing door.

 
 
Cover to Antonia Greene retro show, offices of The Romantic Garden co., 123 West Padre St. Santa Barbara 93105

Cover to Antonia Greene retro show, offices of The Romantic Garden co., 123 West Padre St. Santa Barbara 93105

 
List of artists in grand opening. Antonia Greene appears as A.J. Greene. She was new in town in 1929 .

List of artists in grand opening. Antonia Greene appears as A.J. Greene. She was new in town in 1929.

 

                                                                 

FRONT COVER   January 8 Exhibition catalogue

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PAGE 2    January 8 Exhibition catalogue

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PAGE 3   January 8 Exhibition catalogue

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PAGE 4  January 8 Exhibition catalogue

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PAGE 5    January 8 Exhibition catalogue

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PAGE  6 January 8 Exhibition catalogue

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PAGE  7  January 8 Exhibition

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BACK COVER   January 8 Exhibition catalogue

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ACTUAL EXHIBIT —  Photos taken a few days before opening

ACTUAL EXHIBIT — Photos taken a few days before opening

EXHIBIT BEFORE EXHIBIT — Empty chair is  symbol of Antonia Greene's art inviting consumers.

EXHIBIT BEFORE EXHIBIT — Empty chair is  symbol of Antonia Greene's art inviting consumers.