“Heartline” (2018)
by Barbara Kacicek (1957-)
6×24 in., oil on 2 in. cradled panel
Coppola Collection

Barbara writes: The striped stones are all from the coast of New England except for the small, heart-shaped one which hails from Florence. I’ve been waiting to put this together for a while.

Clever, I think, and an irresistible companion to the 2014 “Stone Circle” painting.

“Stone Circle” (2014)
by Barbara Kacicek (1957-)
8×8 in., oil on cradled panel
Coppola Collection

“Of Dust and Blood (NBM cover)”

‘Of Dust and Blood (NBM Cover)” (2018)
by Val Mayerik (1950 -)
9 x 11 in., oil on panel
Coppola Collection

“Of Dust and Blood” is a historically accurate graphic novel about the Battle of Little Big Horn, written by Jim Berry and illustrate by veteran comics artist Val Mayerik. They developed the book, which is formatted in landscape mode, through a Kickstarter campaign a few years ago.

In addition to some of the illustrations I picked up as Kickstart premiums, a likeness of me was integrated into one of the panels and I have that original page. I also picked up the original painting used as the artwork for the dust cover of the graphic novel, and I bought the three-quarters done artwork for the original cover, which was rejected. Search on “Mayerik” to see those.

The book has been reformatted to portrait mode and will be made more widely available by NBM publishers. Val reached out to me and offered me the painting that is being used as the cover to the NBM edition (the actual cover is shown below).


“Donkey Head” and “Space Baby”

“Donkey Head” (2018)
by ASVP (Simon Grendene, 1976-) (Victor Anselmi, 1973-)
50 x 70 cm, silkscreen and paint on paper (#1 in an edition of 10)
Coppola Collection

I have a small but treasured corner of my collection devoted to the work of the so-called Street Artists, all the intellectual and artistic step-children of Banksy, FAILE, and Fairey.

Check out streetart.com for one of the most comprehensive listings I know of. The andenken gallery in Amsterdam represents a nice group of higher end members of this community, including Evan Hecox (andenken.com).

ASVP is an artistic duo based in Bushwick, Brooklyn. As it true for many of these artists, they create work that is a mix of graphic (hand painted) illustrations that often contains elements from advertising, pop and comic book culture.

In 2008, ASVP Studio was created as an artistic partnership between Simon Grendene and Victor Anselmi. Having roots in Commercial Art & Advertising Design, ASVP knew how to develop an iconic, graphic language from the outset of their work together. Due to this, ASVP quickly became an established and recognizable name in the Street Art scene in New York and around the world.

From the beginning, they produced handmade paste-ups, posting thousands of them in public spaces across the world. They have provided many immense murals on the sides of buildings in New York and elsewhere around the world.

This silk print contains a collage of ASVP’s legacy images (see “Space Baby” below) that were pasted on city streets around the world between 2009-2013. In the foreground we see one of the most iconic figures of ASVP. The “Donkey Head” can be traced to some of ASVP’s earliest works. Among enthusiasts this singular image has become the symbol that represents the duo and their art.

“Space Baby (dark blue)” (2010)
by ASVP (Simon Grendene, 1976-) (Victor Anselmi, 1973-)
20 x 30 cm, mixed media on paper
Coppola Collection

“And what, sir, are your intentions…?”

“And what, sir, are your intentions…?” (1940)
by William “Bill” Crawford (1913-1982)
19 x 22 in., ink and crayon on Glarco Illustration Board
Coppola Collection

Although we rely on our historians to tell us these stories, my interest in these political cartoons continues to be inspired by just how informed at least some people were about the comings and goings related to the beginnings of WWII. Here we have a character (Sumner Welles) interviewing a weaponed-up Hilter. The date is March 1940, and we see a series of military victories summed up from the last five years. The question “what are your intentions?” is clearly naïve, and Sumner a fool, correspondingly, for note seeing what is front of his face. In case there is any question, the answer is there: peace is not in the cards, there are only pigeons (the marks in a scam) to be had by whatever might be said by the gentleman from Berlin.

Why does this sound so vaguely familiar in 2016?

The story of March 1940 is important to the War. Coming off the first land grabs by the Nazis in 1939, the next wave of invasions was just months away. Italy was hanging back, still, and the US was sending a diplomat to Europe for meetings with all the principals.

Benjamin Sumner Welles (1892 –1961) was a major foreign policy adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and served as Undersecretary of State from 1936 to 1943, during FDR’s presidency.

The secret protocol contained in the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union had relegated Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the Soviet sphere of influence. Mussolini remained “non-belligerent” (the Duce hated the term “neutral”), which annoyed Hitler, and particularly because Italy did not join the September 1939 invasion of Poland.

On February 9, 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the following statement at his regular press conference: “At the request of the President, the Under Secretary of State Mr. Sumner Welles, will proceed shortly to Europe to visit Italy, France, Germany and Great Britain. This visit is solely for the purpose of advising the President and the Secretary of State as to conditions in Europe.”

 On 1 March 1940, Sumner Welles arrived in Berlin. He had just visited Mussolini in (neutral) Italy and would be going on to London and Paris afterwards. His instructions from President Roosevelt, as far as we know, were to seek a basis for peace and to offer the United States’ services as mediator.

Unfortunately, World War II was not about to end that easily. Hitler was in no mood to give up the conquered territory in Poland, or Czechoslovakia, or anywhere else. Welles was fluent in German and needed no interpreter when talking with Hitler, whom Welles found to be ‘dignified.’

On the same day (March 1, 1940) Hitler received a break that would end up leveraging Mussolini. That day, the British had announced that they were cutting off shipments of German coal to Italy. This was a heavy blow to the Italian economy and threw the Duce into a rage against the British – warming his feelings toward the Germans, who promptly promised to find the means of delivering their coal by rail. Taking advantage of this circumstance, Hitler got off a long letter to Mussolini on March 8, which Ribbentrop delivered personally in Rome two days later.

The day before March 1 (February 29—it was a leap year) Hitler had taken the reportedly unusual step of issuing a secret “Directive for the Conversations with Mr. Sumner Welles.” It called for “reserve” on the German side and advised “as far as possible, Mr. Welles be allowed to do the talking.” It then laid down five points for the guidance of all the top officials who were to receive the special American envoy. The principal German argument was to be that Germany had not declared war on Britain and France but vice versa; that the Fuehrer had offered them peace in October and that they had rejected it; that Germany accepted the challenge; that the war aims of Britain and France were “the destruction of the German State,” and that Germany therefore had no alternative but to continue the war. A discussion [Hitler concluded] of concrete political questions, such as the question of a future Polish state, is to be avoided as much as possible.

Hitler received Welles and insisted that the Allied war aim was “annihilation,” that of Germany “peace.” He lectured his visitor on all he had done to maintain peace with England and France.

Remember the pigeon.

“Hitler is taller than I had judged from his photographs,” Welles remarks. “He has, in real life, none of the somewhat effeminate appearance of which he has been accused. […] His voice in conversation is low and well modulated. It had only once, during our hour and a half’s conversation, the raucous stridency which is heard in his speeches–and it was only at that moment that his features lost their composure and that his eyes lost their decidedly “gemutlich” look. He spoke with clarity and precision, and always in a beautiful German, of which I could follow every word […]”

Welles met with Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the former finance minister who was then out of favor: “He gave me to understand that a movement was under way, headed by leading generals, to supplant the Hitler regime. [….] Dr. Schacht referred to Hitler as the ‘greatest liar of all time,’ and as a genius, but an amoral, a criminal, genius. […] Dr. Schacht further said that the atrocities being committed in Poland were far worse than what was imagined, as to beggar description.”

Again, something familiar-sounding about some of that.

Sumner Welles returned to London on March 10, and argued (in vain) with Chamberlain that the only pathway was disarmament. Welles headed back to Rome on March 15, but the Germans had already made their move to consolidate the Axis. Ribbentrop discussed the Welles mission with Mussolini: “As the Führer had already told the Duce, Sumner Welles’ visit to Berlin did not yield any new elements.”

The meetings that the Nazis held with Mussolini, inspired by the coal embargo and the salvation from Germany, ended up as not a matter of “if” Italy would enter the war, but “when.” An urgent, face-to-face meeting of the dictators was arranged at the Brenner Pass on March 18, and Hitler pressed Mussolini into nominal service to the Axis alliance.

In retrospect, the Germans had been worried that Welles would return from Paris and London with some secret proposal for Mussolini precisely when Germany was gearing up for two major military offensives: the invasion of Denmark and Norway (April 9), and the attack into Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg (May 10) that would lead to the invasion of France.

On July 23, 1940, with Europe falling away, the US was still only testing the waters of public opinion towards engagement. Even the UK, with Germany barking at the door, was still under Chamberlain’s dogma of appeasement. Welles issued the “Welles Declaration” which condemned Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. Roosevelt used Welles’s stronger public statements as experiments that would test the public mood in regard to US foreign policy. Churchill finally changed things in England, while it took Pearl Harbor to engage the US.

And 1940 was not over for Welles, by any means. By September, Welles had resigned in the aftermath of a homosexual scandal involving Welles and two black Pullman car porters on a train from Alabama to Washington.

“The Way Things Stand”

“The Way Things Stand” (ca. 1940s)
by William “Bill” Crawford (1913-1982)
19 x 22 in., ink and crayon on Glarco Illustration Board
Coppola Collection

Crawford worked as a sports cartoonist from 1936-39 for the Washington Daily News and the Washington Post. He joined the Newark News a chief editorial cartoonist, where he spent the bulk of his career.

Crawford defended powerful cartoons that took strong positions.

One of the most provocative questions about WWII is “what did the German people know and when did they know it?” This cartoon gives a poignant and contemporary commentary on this question, as the broken, stumbling state of Germany is propped up by the German people.

In his 2015 book (The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945), Nicholas Stargardt draws on first-person accounts (diaries, court records, and military correspondence) and asserts that awareness was widespread. What drove the Germans to fight for a lost cause…a strong propaganda campaign of false equivalents that justified actions as retaliation and self-defense. Steve Forbes’ review of Stargardt: “an extremely interesting yet disheartening tale of a civilized people’s descent into barbarism.”

“The Chemist”

“The Chemist” (ca. 1950)
by Robert Patterson (1898-1981)
13 x 18 in, acrylic on board
Coppola Collection

Patterson was a prolific illustrator in both advertising and fashion. His work appeared broadly, and included magazines such as Vogue, McCall’s, Judge, Snappy Stories, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, Woman’s Home Companion, American, Cosmopolitan, and American Weekly.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down anything at all about this piece, which is obviously near and dear to my heart as a chemist. It has that look of a pulp novel cover, and the person from whom I bought it guessed it to be from ca. 1950 based on other Patterson stuff he had.

You could give an entire page of a lab exam to students just to have them track down the laboratory safety issues in this composition, and then spend half a thesis deconstructing the stereotypes depicted.

It’s a wonder anyone went into science.


“Starry Night”

“Starry Night” (2018)
by Daniel Macchiarini (1954-)
yellow gold shank with 3 diamonds set into black jade, size 9
Coppola Collection

A special commission from Danny in the general motif of his third generation interpretation of the “dot ring” that he is known for.

Here he is sizing the shank from when I was there visiting, but before the lapidary had drilled the jade for doing the insets.

“I Haven’t Lost Anything…”

“I Haven’t Lost Anything…” (1965)
by Hugh Smith Haynie (1927-1999)
19 x 14 in, ink and tone on paper
Coppola Collection

Hired in 1958 as an editorial cartoonist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, he remained with that paper until his retirement in 1996 and then as an emeritus advisor.

Haynie’s cartoons were keepsakes, even among the politicians who were criticized in them. His work is included in the collections of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter presidential libraries.

This is a nice example of Haynie’s work.

Mao decided to commit a large portion of China’s military and other material sources to backing the Vietnamese Communists in 1964 and 1965.

The strife between these two countries was escalating, however. A first sign of disharmony appeared over differences regarding the role that the Chinese troops were to play in Vietnam and the proper relationship between Chinese troops and local Vietnamese.

When Chinese troops entered Vietnam, they were exhorted to “use every opportunity to serve the Vietnamese people.” The underlying assumption was that China’s support to Vietnam was not only a military task, but also a political mission. It was therefore important for Chinese soldiers to play a model role while in Vietnam, thus promoting the image of China as a great example of proletarian-internationalism.

Efforts to put such principles into practice, however, were often thwarted by Vietnamese authorities. Several such incidents were reported to Mao in late August 1965, only two months after the first Chinese units had entered Vietnam.

Beijing, offended by Hanoi’s decision to begin negotiations with the United States in Paris, recalled all its troops from Vietnam.