Martin Lewis died in obscurity in 1962; a retired art teacher who had found some success in his early career, but was largely forgotten after the Great Depression took away the demand for his craft, leaving Lewis to spend his last three decades teaching other people how to etch. History chose Edward Hopper, but Martin Lewis was his mentor.
“After I took up my etching, my painting seemed to crystallise,” Hopper is quoted in his biography. It was Martin Lewis, an Australian emigré who had moved to New York in 1909, that helped Edward learn the basics of etching. The two became good friends on the artists circuit where eachothers’ work was presented to the public at various art clubs and small exhibitions.
Lewis had taken up printmaking by 1915 and was using the etching press to produce prints which became widely admired and collected by the East coast elite. While making a name for themselves in New York City, Hopper asked his friend if he could study alongside him to learn his techniques, making Lewis his mentor for a brief while. As his student, Hopper learned the finer points of etching and both artists used the great American metropolis at night as their muse.
Years later, when Hopper was preparing for a one-man show in Pittsburgh at the height of his career, he rejected the notion that Lewis’s work had influenced his own or that he had studied “under Lewis” as implied by the exhibit’s biographical essay. “Lewis is an old friend of mine,” he countered. “When I decided to etch, he, who had already done some, was glad to give me some tips, on the purely mechanical processes, grounding the plates, printing etc”. By this time, the two artists were no longer friends however. According to Edward’s wife Josephine, Lewis and his wife Lucille had given the Hoppers up, “quite understandably. It had been too much of a blow to have E.H so successful.”
Nearly 50 years after his death, Lewis’s print, Shadow Dance (pictured above), sold for $50,400 at an auction in New York, setting a record price for the artist at auction. He had found a renewed, posthumous appreciation in the new millennium, whereas decades earlier, auction houses couldn’t sell off his prints at all and entire lots failed to reach their reserve price.
Much of his work may yet to be discovered. In 1920s, he was supported and collected by numerous etching societies and museums, but so many works are now held privately, out of public view. We would love to see more, wouldn’t you?
Rio de Janeiro police have arrested a 48-year-old Brazilian woman, Sabine Coll Boghici, for allegedly defrauding her 82-year-old mother out of $142.42 million worth of jewelry, money, and art.
The Boghici family owned work by some of Brazil’s most famous artists, including Cicero Dias, Rubens Gerchman, and Alberto Guignard. Sabine is accused of stealing 16 paintings, including three by Tarsila do Amaral, estimated to be worth 700 million reais ($137.7 million).
Investigators have unveiled what appears to be a bizarre scheme that began in 2020, when Sabine is said to have hired a psychic to stop her mother, Genevieve, in the street and warn her that Sabine’s death was near.
Sabine fed several psychics personal details about her mother that convinced Genevieve to make large payments for “spiritual treatment,” according to a police statement. When Genevieve became suspicious and tried to stop paying, Sabine confined her to her home for months and physically threatened her, according to police.
Sabine and a psychic accomplice also “began to take the artwork from the [mother’s] house, claiming that the painting was cursed with something negative, with negative energy that needed to be prayed over,” Rio de Janeiro officer Gilberto Ribeiro told Reuters.
Police took dramatic action this week, executing 16 search and seizure warrants and six arrest warrants. Authorities recovered 11 works, including Amaral’s Sol Poente, which was featured in the artist’s 2018 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and is valued at 300 million reias ($59.1 million).
Investigators found the painting stashed under the bed of one of the supposed psychic’s homes in Rio’s Ipanema neighborhood, as seen in a video from Brazilian newspaper Journal o Dia. The other two missing works by the celebrated Brazilian Modernist are titled O Sono and Pont Neuf.
Police recovered additional works from a São Paolo art gallery. Eduardo Costantini, an Argentine businessman and founder of the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires (MALBA), bought four of the stolen paintings from Ricardo Camargo Gallery in São Paulo in 2021.
“According to provenance information, two of these works belonged to Boghici’s daughter and were bought in good faith and duly registered,” Costantini said in a statement to Infobae, claiming that Genevieve “was aware of these acquisitions.”
Two of the works, Elevador Social (1966) by Gerchman, and Maquete para Meu Espelho by Antonio Dias, are set to go on view at MALBA later this month. The other stolen paintings are said to be by Di Cavalcanti, Antônio Dias, Kao Chi-Feng, llya Glazunov, Emeric Marcier, and Michel Macreau.
Rubens Gerchman, Elevador Social (1966). The painting is one of 16 works said to have been stolen from Genevieve Boghici by her daughter. It was purchased by Argentine collector Eduardo Costantini for his Buenos Aires institution, the Museum of Latin American Art.
In the raids, three other suspects—Gabriel Nicolau Traslaviña Hafliger, his mother Rosa Stanesco Nicolau, and Jacqueline Stanescos—were also arrested. Nicolau appears to have attempted to escape from police by climbing out the back window of her apartment, as seen in footage from Brazilian news outlet Globo.
Authorities are looking for two more suspects, Diana Rosa Aparecida Stanesco Vuletic and Slavko Vuletic. Those involved could face embezzlement, robbery, extortion, and false imprisonment charges.
What to read to understand the history of Western capitalism
Our senior economics writer picks three books and two papers
It is easy to be swept up in news about the economy, especially these days. In 2020 the world saw the biggest economic contraction since the Great Depression; today we are dealing with the highest inflation since the 1980s. People rarely have time to think about the very biggest questions in economics. Why did the industrial revolution begin in the 18th century—and why in western Europe? Why do so many countries remain poor when some are fabulously rich? And what is work like today compared with the past? All the issues improve your understanding of the news. For the answers, you need to turn to economic history. Here are five resources to help you understand why we are where we are.
The Worldly Philosophers. By Robert Heilbroner. Touchstone; 368 pages; $18.99. Simon & Schuster; £8.99
The best book to read if you are interested in the history of economic ideas. First published in 1953, it covers some of the most consequential early economists, from Adam Smith to Thomas Malthus to Karl Marx, explaining what they thought and why. Was Adam Smith really a free-market fundamentalist? The book is written in a light, conversational style that is hard to beat—giving the reader a proper understanding of Marx’s theory of capitalist collapse, for instance, without getting bogged down in debates over doctrine. And that’s not the only reason it is a better starting point than Joseph Schumpeter’s “History of Economic Analysis”, which is more precise and nuanced about the early economists but also less fun. Heilbroner’s book is short. You can read it in a few hours.
A Culture of Growth. By Joel Mokyr. Princeton University Press; 424 pages; $22.95 and £17.99
This book deals squarely with the question of why Europe was the first region to industrialise. It focuses on institutions—how ideas of free debate and free markets became embedded in everyday life. Mr Mokyr talks a lot about the Royal Society, a learned institution founded in London in 1660, with the motto “nullius in verba”—“take nobody’s word for it”. The Royal Society was the site of furious disagreements between different scientists, who nonetheless recognised that they were working towards a common cause: improving humanity. And why did this happen in Europe? Geography probably played a role. Fractured into lots of states, a firebrand intellectual who incurred the wrath of the authorities could easily move elsewhere. In most other places, free thinkers had few escape routes.
War as an Economic Activity in the “Long” Eighteenth Century. By N.A.M. Rodger. International Journal of Maritime History. XXII, No. 2 (December 2010): 1-18
This is a short journal article, but the message is profound—and deeply underappreciated. It is about the role of technology. To understand the growth of capitalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, you must understand navies. To be a successful navy, you need to have good ships—obviously enough. A country that wanted to rule the waves therefore needed to invest heavily in new technological innovations. These, in turn, spilled over to the rest of the economy. In addition, you had to have an efficient bureaucracy—for instance, to supply ships thousands of miles from home. This encouraged better government. It is no coincidence that countries with the best navies tended to have the most sophisticated economies: the Dutch in the 17th century, the French for part of the 18th century and the British in the 19th.
The Hundred Years’ War, Volumes 1-4. By Jonathan Sumption. University of Pennsylvania Press; 3,320 pages; $170. Faber & Faber; £84
This series is set long before capitalism got going. The Hundred Years’ War, effectively a French civil war which England egged on, started shortly before the Black Death around the 1340s and finished in the mid-15th century. But the book nonetheless does a fantastic job of showing how different governance and politics were before capitalism, and thus what changed from the 18th century onwards. Kings did not care about economic growth, or even know what it was: they wanted glory. They were happy to tax their subjects to oblivion to fund their missions. And they often laid waste to an opponent’s conquered land, rather than using it for productive purposes. If you don’t have the patience for four full volumes—soon to be five—the single best chapter of the entire series is called “Men at arms”, in the fourth volume, which tells you everything you need to know about the economics of the war.
Enclosures, Common Rights, and Women: The Proletarianisation of Families in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries. by Jane Humphries. The Journal of Economic History. Vol. 50, no. 1 (1990): 17-42
Another paper, which nonetheless contains as much insight as an entire book. It focuses on how lifestyle changed as capitalism came about. During early capitalist development, from the 17th to the late 18th centuries, many people worked from home in small-scale manufacturing industries—producing clothes, for instance. But in the Victorian era many moved into large factories. This had an enormous impact on people’s day-to-day lives. For one, it became harder to look after children. It became more difficult to grow food at home, both because people were there less frequently but also because they were now more likely to live in a city. And they had less control over their time: the factory owner would need them there at 6am sharp. The paper shows that capitalism, despite producing miraculous improvements in people’s material wellbeing, has its trade-offs. ■
Our senior economics writer is the author of his own book on the history of economic thought.
The Classical School: The Turbulent Birth of Economics in Twenty Extraordinary Lives. By Callum Williams. Hachette; 288 pages; $11.99. Profile Books; £20
An intellectual tour of the 20 most significant early economists, from Adam Smith to David Ricardo to Rosa Luxemburg. “A clear, well-written, and useful introduction to the lives and thought of some of the leading classical economists,” according to Tyler Cowen at the “Marginal Revolution” blog. ■ ____________________
Do you have your own recommendations? Send them to email@example.com with the subject line “Economic history” and your name, city and country. We will publish a selection of readers’ suggestions.