“I was asked by the young mail clerk of my hotel whether I was the photographer who made a book called Picasso’s Picassos and if I would please look at her portfolio”
- David Douglas Duncan
“She has her own world too”
- Pablo Picasso
A Magical World of Inner Reality and Fantasy Unveiled
A childhood in war-ravaged Berlin, a rebellious youth which led her to abandon a fine art education in Munich and a secret passage to New York (to the consternation of her father); an accidental meeting with a photographer at a hotel lobby that would bring her art to the attention of Pablo Picasso… the life and art of Dorle Lindner combine a search for inner, hidden reality and fantasy, helped by the invisible hand of serendipity.
Dorle’s artistic quest has been to peel away the layers of external reality to the abstract ‘core of the matter’, the elusive truth beneath the veneer of everyday life. The journey to the centre is not for the faint-hearted. It has consumed Dorle for seven decades. There are phantoms which fade in and out of consciousness, demons to wrestle with, and the restless endeavour to find the meaning in the unseen that lies at the centre of human existence.
After her sojourn to the United States she returned to Germany where a wrong telephone connection from England led to quick and unexpected courtship. After marriage two weeks later, she bore the errant caller two boys, etching and painting in between duties as wife and mother. In her sunset years she now lives in a quiet village in Hertfordshire, England, where she continues to pursue the art, her doting husband of 51 years at her side, always ready with canvas and oils.
Working as a mail clerk at the reception of the Plaza Hotel in New York, she met the renowned photographer, David Douglas Duncan, who had previously documented Picasso’s work across various publications. David immediately recognised the conceptual and intellectual similarities between the Spanish master and Dorle. It led him to publish ‘The Magic Worlds of Fantasy’ in 1978. The 112-page book featured her early scraperboard works alongside those of three other abstract artists. Some of these originals, originally gifted to David, are permanently exhibited in the University of Humanities in Austin, Texas.
In the book, David recalled in a chapter dedicated to Dorle…
“I later showed Picasso the pictures, which had been given to me. Upon handing them back he looked up with those unblinking eyes, and nodded. ‘She has her own world, too’.”
That inner world – forged in an abstract dimension – has stayed with Dorle even as her artistic expression moved beyond the scraperboard to oils and acrylics on canvas. What is surprising is not the breath-taking range and quality her works but that this body of nearly 100 works of art, some appreciated by Picasso, has remained un-exhibited, scattered, un-curated in storerooms in homes in Asia and Europe, and virtually unknown. Until now.
That artistic genius could have been consigned to obscurity, like many masterpieces lost for decades if not centuries, in some dusty attic or garage. But that same invisible hand of serendipity which lifted her from war-ravaged Germany and a cloistered upbringing to the bright lights of Manhattan and Picasso’s attention, also led to the ‘re-discovery’ of Dorle’s art in the unlikely setting of Singapore suburbia.
For several years Dorle shipped some of her favourite paintings in succession to the home of Nicholas and Canns Hanna in Singapore. There they hung unnoticed for over a decade until one of his clients, after gazing at the art works, eschewed all decorum over dinner, insisted that he would not leave unless he could buy one of them.
The Hannas relented and that unplanned first sale of Dorle’s art quickened a sense of urgency between Nicholas and his brother, Nelson, to curate her artistic legacy as she is already approaching 80. Thus began months of sieving through the artworks that lay in several homes, cataloguing them and staging the first-ever exhibition.