Thursday, 21 December 2017

Dorry Kahn, Lago Maggiore and some related things....

Dora (Dorry) Kahn-Weyl
Dutch painter and mannequin

In a local sale I stumbled over this undated pastel signed Dorry Kahn. It could well be showing cloud shrouded Lago Maggiore in Italy. It certainly is not the Netherlands. 

In a 1970 news paper article the artist, Dorry Kahn, claimed she had been painting for 30 years but I found an earlier article (below, 1941) stating she had been successfully exhibiting in 1940 (maybe at Hirsch's). In 1970 she also explains being fascinated and occupied with monotype printmaking "with glas plate and Japanese papers". 

Sylvain Kahn
Dorry Kahn, the daughter of a Jewish diamond cutter, was the elegant wife of Henri René Kahn (1888-1970), the later heir of posh Hirsch & Cie, elite fashion house founded 1882 by his father Sylvain Kahn (1857-1927) (above). Sylvain Kahn's partner in Hirsch (and also his brother im law), Sally Berg (1857-1924) never married. 

The beautiful newly erected Hirsch building (1912) to this day is proudly situated at Amsterdam Leidseplein. In the decades before the two business partners bought all the surrounding old buildings around their growing and highly successful enterprise. The fashion house is no more, but the monumental building is. Although the building, the owners and the business survived WW-II many Jewish workers, and customer, did not. The firm never recovered to its former glory, the decline obvious in a dramatically changed world. The final end came in 1976.

 In 2012  the Apple store moved into the listed building. The times are a'changing. 

Dorry Kahn and her family survived Nazi persecution. In 1927 her elegant portrait was painted by famous modernist Jan Sluyters (1881-1957). He was very attracted by the world of beautiful women, clients and models, surrounded by the colorful elegance at Hirsch's. 

His clientèle for a portrait will have been the same as Hirsch's. In the 1990's  Dorry was mentioned in the memories of lesbian Frieda Belinfante (1904-1995) having an affair. (In Toni Bouman: "Een schitterend vergeten leven" a glorious forgotten life). 

Bellinfante, daughter of Jewish pianist Aron Belinfante (1870-1924) and active during WW-II in the Dutch resistance later became known as the worlds first female conductor of a professional symphony orchestra (she immigrated after WW-II to America): the Orange County Philharmonic Orchestra (Los Angeles USA).

Since 1900 Sluyters "old school" Amsterdam impressionist colleague Isaac Israels (1864-1934) painted also at Hirsch's: the studios, the models, the workers and the clients. In 1916 he painted the twins Ippy and Gertie Wehman (b. 1895) internationally well known and Hirsch fashion models.

In 1916 Israels painted the portrait of Greetje Zelle (1877-1917) better known as Mata Hari, femme fatale, mistress, Frysian lassie growing up in Leeuwarden. 

Her tumultuous life ended executed as a spy by a French firing squad a year later in 1917. It is said Mata Hari was offered a modeling job by Kahn. She shopped at Hirsch' as did our Queen Emma. 

In the immense building besides all the departments, the fashion workers also were situated the studios of Jacob Merckelbach (1877-1942) the best known Dutch society and royalty photographer. 

In 1941 Dorry was photographed (below) by Julius Guggenheimer (1885-1943) a Jewish refugee, fled 1938 from Memmingen in Bavaria to Amsterdam for a newspaper article. The article mentions a successful exhibition "a year ago" so probably before the summer of 1940 when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. It was probably taken in their home in posh De Laraisse-straat.  
Guggenheim's two children survived the Holocaust by fleeing to London, Julius and his wife Nellie did not. 

Although they were granted visa for Honduras, they were arrested, deported and murdered in Sobibor 1943. Guggenheimer, his work and talent recently rediscovered, was awarded an exhibition in his native Memmingen last year (2016) see here *


All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

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