Galka Scheyer wasn’t just interested in art, she was obsessed with it. She devoted her life to turning others on to her single-minded passion.
During the tumultuous 1930s and ’40s, the prominent German-born art dealer and collector organized exhibitions, lectures, publications — and ultimately sales — of work by the beloved artists she dubbed the Blue Four: Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Alexei Jawlensky and Vasily Kandinsky.
“It’s hard to underestimate the impact she had when it came to raising consciousness about these artists in the state of California,” says Gloria Williams, who the current show about Scheyer’s life, “Maven of Modernism: Galka Scheyer in California,” on view at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena through Sept. 25.
Scheyer (1889-1945) became friends with a number of prominent artists during her years in Los Angeles, including John Cage, Walter and Louise Arensberg, Josef von Sternberg, Peter Krasnow and architect Richard Neutra, whom she hired to design her home in the Hollywood Hills.
“If you want to leave the establishment, California is where you come to really let your hair down and do something new,” Williams says of Scheyer’s arrival in the state in 1925, and her ultimate success in cultivating a popular taste for avante garde art.
People loved her exuberant energy, and many of the items on display contain tender inscriptions with terms of endearment, such as one by Feininger on a piece of personal correspondence that begins with, “My Dear Little Friend.”
Williams selected each object in the exhibition — including work by Alexander Archipenko, László Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera — based on its close and meaningful connection to Scheyer.
‘Maven of Modernism: Galka Scheyer in California’
Where: Norton Simon Museum,411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
When: Noon-5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; ends Sept. 25.