It’s funny how one remembers things.
I was looking into a store window on Madison and 76th, a few steps from The Carlyle, when it dawned on me it used to be an art gallery I often visited.
Step back to 1979 – I’m a young twenty-two year old taking the city by storm. I have Vogue covers and stars in my eyes being in New York for only a few months.
I’m introduced to a man already in his 50s – Austrian, urbane – a leader in the art world where German and Austrian impressionists are revered: Egon Schiele, Gustov Klimt, Paul Klee, Max Beckman, Otto Dix to name a few…these were his charges representing them nobly.
I’ll call him Edsel, meaning noble in German, I realized used to occupy this space now filled with expensive linen and over-priced bedspreads.
The showroom was in the front, with an office in the back.
He had a receptionist, so when visiting disappearing where he’d hold court, you never felt unnerved or compromised being in the presence of a man twice your age.
He was tall and imposing dressed in gray trousers and a custom-made button-down… Belgian loafers on his feet. A burly man with a shock of thick, white hair cascading off his forehead like a blanket of snow.
As you entered his sanctum sanctorum, he’d always be lying on his couch reading Art News or something similar he’d happily put down to greet you.
I knew nothing about art, even though he kindly loaded me up with books, none I still have. A pity really since they were all first editions.
I’d sit in a chair facing him, and he would talk.
This is what I remember.
He married a very rich woman who helped establish him in the art world. Their union, producing no offspring, had after many years become cold and dry.
He wanted to leave, but his wife would threaten suicide, causing them to live separate lives in the same house.
He had a photograph on his desk of a beautiful dark haired lady in profile, her long hair piled way up on her head.
I resembled her, realizing, why he may have always been so happy to see me.
One day, shy as I was, asked about her.
She was his great love who lived, I’m going to say in Switzerland, but I’m not totally sure. It was Europe in any event, and they’d meet half way to consummate their affection I knew was real the way it still danced in his eyes as he spoke of her.
Finally, after many false attempts, he decided to leave his wife. Apparently this woman was going to have his child, so it was time to lead from the heart honestly, rather than obligation and fear.
The plane carrying her crashed, killing everyone on board.
He never got to see or hold her again.
It seemed to crush him, even years after telling me about it…the regrets, the sadness.
That’s what I thought as I peered in that old window, if it could only talk, thirty-five years later.
Edsel died in 1996 at 83 leaving behind a legacy of art and knowledge for these great German, Austrian artists he championed so.
But what he also left was love, turned to dust, melting in a blue sky.