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Sunday, September 29, 2013


Los Angeles Times Art Critic Christopher Knight from a Times video

WHODUNIT @ THE WHITE HOUSE?--The following story has all the elements of a international art heist worthy of a “DaVinci Code” whodunit, but the whereabouts of the eight missing subjects of this Los Angeles Times investigative report have been hiding in plain sight for the past half-century.

LA Times Art Critic Christopher Knight tells a tale of Kennedy era White House intrigue involving acclaimed artist Paul Cezanne, Jacqueline Kennedy and a devious John Walker III, chief curator of the National Gallery of Art.

At the heart of the mystery is what happened to eight Cezanne paintings that were bequeathed to the White House and the American people.  How did Jacqueline Kennedy uncover the yegg, who bamboozled President Harry Truman out of eight world class French impressionist paintings?

Knight’s article “Chasing the White House Cezannes” quotes Mrs. Kennedy, who wrote to the perp. “We all know what you did to poor President Truman—making him sign away the eight Cezannes...”

It’s a classic piece of investigative and historical reporting.  To view the article link to:,0,2028196.htmlstory

For a video go to:

The Eight Kidnaped Cezanne Paintings

1.  Still Life with Quince, Apples and Pears,” circa 1885-1887, " . . . [I]t is often difficult to identify the fruits in Cézanne's still lifes. In this picture they have been variously denominated, but it is probably a quince that rests upon two apples and a barely glimpsed green fruit may be a pear--by analogy with the green pear to the left. . . . "Still Life with Quince, Apples, and Pears was one of more than a dozen Cézannes, eight of them now in the White House collection, owned by Charles A. Loeser, an American expatriate who lived in Florence."  ----White House Historical Assn. Scholar’s Notes.

2.  “House on a Hill,” early 20th century.

3.  “The Forest,” 1890-92 is a fine example of Cezanne’s postimpressionist style in his prime.  "It is a very French 'forest' that Cézanne spreads before us, parklike and inviting. The soft play of light and the fresh palette recall, not altogether by chance, the pleasant parks of 18th-century French painters like Watteau . . . . "Cézanne's glade . . . is unpeopled. The trees themselves become the actors and dancers . . . . The rolling ground is counterbalanced by the vertical thrust of the dominant tree ...” --White House Historical Assn. Scholar’s Notes.
4.  “Still Life with Skull,” circa 1900.  This work is said never to have entered the White House.

5.  “Boathouse on a River,” early 20th century work is reportedly now in the first family’s quarters.

6.  “House on the Marne,”1888-1890, "The artist used the motif of this house on the Marne at least three times, most likely in 1888. During that year, while living in Paris, he painted along the Marne between Paris and Rheims on a number of occasions. Of the three compositions this is the most insistently symmetrical, with the house and even the river presented nearly frontally, parallel to the picture plane, framed by the inward-arching trees. The cone-capped turret of the house is carefully linked with the vertical trees behind. These verticals are strongly reflected in the river, creating a central axis that intersects the riverbank to control the picture surface." ----White House Historical Assn. Scholar’s Notes.

7.  “Landscape with Tower,” 1885-1890: oil on canvas, bequest of Charles A. Loeser.

8.  “Mont Sainte-Victoire and Hamlet near Gardanne,” 1886-1890:  ". . . . If one is first drawn to Mont Sainte-Victoire and Hamlet by the harsh splendor of the landscape, one stays with the painting because of the compelling geometry of the buildings that are of, not on, the earth. This bold group, drawn together like a single structure, a sort of a Provençal manor house that seems to have risen from a geological fold, presents a united face against the baking sun. "The greatest heat of the day has passed, and shadows have begun to lengthen on the houses . . . . Their angular roof lines are modulated by . . . swelling arcs . . . then a lone house bridges the rest of the distance to the mountain whose pulsing surface distantly echoes the buildings. "Gardanne is about eight kilometers south of Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne had his studio. The "hamlet" of the title is in fact Meyreuil, situated on a plateau about four kilometers northeast of Gardanne with Mont Sainte-Victoire about seven kilometers beyond."  --White House Historical Assn. Scholar’s Notes.








Two of the Cezanne's (Left: "The Forest") and ("House on the Marne" were photographed by Robert Knudsen in the White House's Green Room on November 21, 1961, when the room was readied for a luncheon in honor of West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer.
Image courtesy: White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

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