Harold Liebmann 1895 -1960

Harold Liebmann working on a watercolor of musicians at Ridgewood Farm, Hannacroix, NY.

Harold Liebmann was born "Arthur Hans Otto Liebmann" on 7 January 1895, in Leipzig, Germany. Somewhat of a mystery is a photo of Liebmann in his photo album, marked "Scala Berlin - 1932" but the name on the photo is imprinted "Harald Livell."


Harold as he appears in a Soviet book of great Russian dancers.

Livell is not a common surname and it may have been a stage name that he used for a while. Oddly enough, two photographs of "Livell" -- both of which clearly are Liebmann -- appear in a Soviet book of "Great Russians" in the "Modern Dance" section.


Contemporary newspaper articles and reviews point to the possibility that Liebmann graduated from the Leipzig Humboldt Gymnasium and then studied art at the Kunstschule, Weimar. It is also possible that he studied at the Bauhaus in Weimar following WWI. According to newspaper stories, Liebmann trained horses in the German Army during WWI. This seems plausible based on his interest in horses and his use of horses as a frequent motif in his artwork.

Harold Liebmann, "Horses in Pasture," oil with sand on masonite.

Following WWI, Liebmann studied with André Derain who, along with Matisse, is considered the founder of the Fauvist Movement in France. From France, Liebmann went to Holland where taught art at The Hague and eventually met his future wife, Lola. Lola's birth certificate indicates that she was born in 1907 in Kiev, Auguste Imgard Erica Meyer, and in 1923 she was granted German nationality through her mother, who was German.


Harold and Lola, Berlin, 1929.

 

A page from Lola's scrapbook with many of the places where Harold and Lola performed together.

In 1929 or 1930 Harold and Lola devised a dance routine that was to be their staple for the next two decades. The earliest performance of the Dance of the Cobra (Snake, Python, etc.) took place at the Ambassador Hotel in Paris in 1931. Remarkably, they may have performed in 1931 on early British television, and indeed they had a well-documented history of television performances all the way through to rebroadcasts of the Ed Sullivan Show 1992, thirty-two years after Harold's death in 1960.

By 1932 Harold and Lola were established as dancers and performers in Europe and England, and made their first trip to America aboard the S/S France in August of 1932. In 1933 they were back performing in England and returned to New York in 1933 to perform under the auspices of the famous impresario, Clifford Fischer, who remained their friend and employer for almost a decade.


Harold and Lola at New York's Shubert Theatre during their first US tour in 1932. Harold was often quoted as saying, "I dance so that I can paint," or words to that effect.

Although Harold and Lola were not paid at the rate of big Hollywood stars, they clearly did well for themselves. In 1936 they were part of an extensive tour of South America, and in January of 1937 they purchased a large villa in Abbazia, Italy (now Opatija, Croatia). In May of 1937 their son, John, was born and he was left in the care of Lola's mother while they went back out on the road.


Early in 1938 Harold and Lola were placed in a concentration camp by Mussolini for reasons that are not altogether clear but by mid-year they had been released and were performing in Europe. In June of 1938 they were in London and by Fall 1938 they were in the USA. They remained primarily in the USA until after the end of WWII although we do have a photograph of them in Paris which is labeled, "Folies Bergere finale - 1940."

Clipping from the Hollywood Citizen-News, 19 May 1939.


The finale of Harold and Lola's "Dance of the Cobra" at the Folies Bergere, Paris, 1940.

In 1941 Harold and Lola became US residents. Throughout the war Harold and Lola moved around the country with their act. He referred to himself as being Dutch, she Russian, since German nationality was not an asset in the entertainment business. They were able to earn enough that in August of 1944 they bought Ridgewood Farm in Hannacroix, NY, a large house and buildings on 170 acres south of Albany. It is probable that the property was purchased with the proceeds from "Variety Time" and "Pan-Americana," two movies made by RKO in which they were featured.

At Ridgewood they established a safe place from which they operated for the rest of their lives.

Harold and Lola performed across the United States during the 1940s, not only in night clubs but also at state fairs and similar venues. Harold took these opportunities to make numerous drawings and paintings.

After the end of WWII, Harold and Lola continued to perform. In 1948 "Villa Palma" was seized by the People's Republic of Croatia, along with all its contents. Those contents included 300 of Harold's pre-1937 paintings and other work, all of which have disappeared. The property was never recovered due to bureaucratic wrangling revolving around their German citizenship and then their US citizenship.
Harold had numerous exhibitions of his work and toward the end of his life he received several commissions. Harold and Lola continued to perform together until around 1958 after which Lola satisfied her desire for performance with a successful dance school operated at Ridgewood Farm.


In 1960 Harold died, and his work was last shown at a 1984 exhibition in Albany, NY.


Harold was continually seeking innovative ways of expressing himself. Toward the end of his career he experimented with adding sand to his paintings to give them texture; he produced a series of mural-like panels in concrete; and he developed a puppet theatre whose characters were made from everyday household items and whose performances can be tracked for a number of years.


1947 - James Breasted, Director of the Los Angeles Museum, accepting one of Harold Liebmann's paintings for their permanent collection.

There is no complete record of where Liebmann's work has been shown, or where it may have been collected. He was a dedicated and prolific painter so it would not be surprising if examples of his work surface in Europe or in America. Here is a brief list of some of his exhibitions:

1944 - Exhibition, Washington Art Gallery, Miami Beach, FL.
1945 - Exhibition, American Water Color Society, National Academy Galleries, NY.
1945 - Exhibition, Worth Avenue Gallery, Palm Beach, FL.
1946 - Exhibition, Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, Los Angeles, CA.
1946 - Exhibition, Washington Art Gallery, Miami Beach, FL.
1947 - Exhibition, Catskill Arts & Crafts Guild, Hudson, NY.
1948 - Exhibition, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany, NY.
1950 - Exhibition, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany, NY.
1952 - Exhibition, Biblioteca Articas-Washington, Montevideo, Uruguay.
1953 - Exhibition, Catskill Arts & Crafts Guild, Hudson, NY.
1954 - Exhibition, Washington Art Gallery, Miami Beach, FL.
1957 - Exhibition, Catskill Arts & Crafts Guild, Hudson, NY.
1958 - Columbia Co Arts & Crafts Guild, Art Center, Hudson, NY
1960 - Memorial exhibition, Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany, NY.
1960 - Work exhibited, Whitney Museum, NYC.
1961 - Exhibition, Artcraft Gallery, 694 Broadway, Kingston, NY.
1966 - Exhibition, Albany Art Gallery, Albany, NY.
1977 - Exhibition, Greene Co Council on The Arts, Athens, NY.
1984 - Exhibition, Colombia-Greene Community College, Greenport, NY.


"Jungle and Pool [2]," Harold Liebmann.


Untitled watercolor, Harold Liebmann.


"Girl reading," Harold Liebmann.


For more information on Harold Liebmann's work, please contact:
Roosevelt Fine Art LLC
P.O. Box 162
West Danville, VT 05873
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