Harry Holtzman was one of the discoverers of Mondriaan. He became one of his closest friends, paid his voyage from England to the United States in october 1940 and introduced him in the New York art-scene. He became Mondriaans heir after Mondriaan's death in february '44. I wrote Harry Holtzman in 1973 and send him a number of photo's of my paintings. I felt that he was a man with a nose for new original art who could really see and discern between good and bad. He could recognize a new voice, new ways of expression. Here are two of his letters.
(heir and friend of Mondriaan)
July 9, 1973
Dear Mr. van Tongeren,
Thank you for your very long letter, and the confidence which you express in my judgemet. I very much appreciate the long and difficult path that you have been following. It is not easy to feel isolated and misunderstood.
I must explain to you that my interest and relationship with Mondrian began in 1934, when I was twenty-two years old. It was much more difficult a time economically, although the world of "abstract" art was a thousand times smaller. I too identified myself as an artist and was very active, productive -- but much opposed and ignored.
When Mondrian died, his recognition was only at the beginning, compared to now. His works were sought only by a very few advanced mentalities, a very few museums, despite his importance since 1917. In 1934, still struggling for existence, he was already 62 years old. I had no question in my mind about his great importance, and since that time devoted the better part of my life to his historycal advencement.
Now I am 61 years old. Now I am almost free of the feeling of my obligation to my friend Mondriaan and to social history. Now it is time for me to return to myself, in my own studio, in a way which I have not known since Mondrian died.
I tell you these things so that you will understand that I am not quite in the position your letter suggests, to help you in your situation. You are obviously a very gifted and serious artist. According to your letter, despite your difficulties in Holland, you nevertheless are active in Germany where the acceptance of your extremes are evidently more active. Moreover, every artist has the right to approach every museum director who pretends to represent the advancement of contemporary art. You have the right to request consideration, as your work, judging from the photos you sent to me, is the expression of a mature and deep sensibility.
When I come again to Holland I will make every effort to find a way to visit you. Meanwhile, my best wishes.
February 3, 1974
Dear Herman van Tongeren,
I cannot remember whether I wrote to you since I visited you with your beautiful family. I want you to know that I enjoyed our fine dinner. Especially, I want to tell you that I think you are a tremedously gifted artist and that I hope you will find the respect you deserve.
The difficulties of establishing rapport with the art-world are entirely other then the intensity of meaning and value that the artist must struggle to achieve in his work. Often the two struggles are hopelessly opposed to each other, even contradictory. I hope you did not misinterpret my sincere desire to genuinely encourage you in your efforts to establish useful social relationships which would help you to bring your work to the light of the public.
But you are a very determined man. I am sure that your persistence will one day be effective in establishing the kind of relationships you deserve.
Sincere greetings to you and your wife and children.
I lift a glass of Genever to our next meeting.
Harry Holzman discovered Mondriaan as a great artist when he was 22 and Mondriaan 62. He saw two paintings of Mondriaan in New York and although poor at that time he wanted to meet the painter who had made them. He went to Paris where Mondriaan lived. Mondriaan was still a poor man at that time. Holzman stayed for four months and they had a very intense contact. When they had to part, Mondriaan said that he felt as if Holzman was a brother of him. When he had been younger, he would have gone to the USA with Holzman, he said. In september 1938 Mondriaan flees to London for the war that he feels will come. After the breaking out of the war and german bombardments of the neigbourhood where Mondriaan lived, he is eager to accept Holzmans offer to pay the passage to the USA. In New York Holzman helps him and introduces him to other artists, galleries and museumpeople. Mondriaan lives in New York from october 3, 1940 till january 31, 1944 when he dies 72 years old. Harry Holzman becomes his heir.
I was always hoping to be discovered by a man with a nose for new developments in art, a man who perhaps could make art-museum directors make attentive of my work. When I red in the paper that Hary Holzman had given a reading on Mondriaan in Holland I wrote him a letter. With a good number of photos of my paintings. He wrote me a nice letter back, the one of july 9, 1973. Then after visiting me and seeing my work, he wrote the letter of february 3, 1974.
I find such words of a man who can discern between the important innovative art and the great mass of unimportant art that one can see everywhere, important and it gave me a little hope after so many disappointing reactions of dutch museumpeople. I would like to go on silently, undisturbed with my work, as a hermit, but I know my work could be enjoyed much by all lovers of abstract art. But they will only know my work when I do my best to break through to a great public, perhaps by way of internet. But now I stay amidst many hundreds of other artists. One great exhibition in an art-museum, with a bit of publicity which so many bad artists get, would probably be enough to make me known outside the little circle of people who know my work, but are not able to change my situation. Harry Holzman was himself a painter and although he became a multimillionair being Mondriaans heir, it did cost him a lot of time too to promote Mondriaan, to collect his reproduction rights, etc., etc. He always stayed at my home when he came to Holland, told me a lot about the “New York School” of which he knew all the members, but that was all.
I would like to show the tremendous possibilities there are to express every feeling in paintings and drawings in a modern way. I want to move people as the last string-quartets of Beethoven move me and the later tranquil pianoworks of Liszt, the early works of Anton Weber and the works of Charles Ives.
The photo’s of my work should tell enough but everybody knows that most people seek a strengthening of their meaning by others. That is why I put these letters on Internet.
Isobel Moore was an American paintres I met in the Academy Julien in Paris in 1953
February 21, 1979
......... I must tel you again: I feel very strongly that you, as an artist, are making strong, original statements. I am not sure I always interpret them correctly nor do they always mesh with the direction in which I am going. I feel you paint in the language of Laser beams and vectors and energy forces and electronic music and space probes. I wish you would sit down and write exactly what you feel about each of your paintings, as I believe a pattern would emerge that will help you “sell” your advanced ideas to both the critics and the public. Most every artist who paints in the non-objective style had formulated his own private credo that invited viewers to participate in your experience. I feel very strongly that as a youth you suffered so many outraged emotions that you kept either mute or stifled because you could not react or fight back, that this pattern penetrates each of your canvases. Dynamic opposing force-patterns. I wonder what you would do with "Anger", "'Love", "Hate" and most of all, "Peace". I, myself, have always stayed away from seeking inspiration from the paintings of others I and I think you should also. You have your own painting to do. You are extraordinarily talented. Find the core of your desire to express yourself, and never let it go. You cannot paint truthfully through the eyes of another painter. Now I must close this letter as I'm afraid you will think all I do is scold. It is just my age and the fact that I am I unable to do the things I used to do, including painting, and in a way I envy you your youth and your wife and your lovely family, but I wish you continued happiness and prosperity always.