"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
January 30, 2016
Heroes, Mostly
by Lawrence Jeppson

Frances, Mathieu, and Lawrence at the Daines' reception, 1999

I ended my previous "Moments in Art" column telling about the Federal art fraud trial of Claire Eates. After a long wait in the witness room, I was on the stand on two different days testifying against a woman who had been my friend.

This was the second time I appeared as a witness in an art trial. The first time was a civil courtroom.

Bekins Moving and Storage lost two small modern Aubusson tapestries by Louis-Marie Jullien, and the owner was suing Bekins for an outrageous amount in a Honolulu court. Not knowing what they might be getting, Bekins flew me to Hawaii to appear as an expert witness.

What neither side knew-but were about to learn-a short time before I had negotiated the sale by the artist of 17 Jullien tapestries to my friend and client Charles Snitow in New York. So I knew exactly the market worth of the lost tapestries.

I was on the witness stand parts of two consecutive days. At the end of the case the Japanese American judge said I was the best expert witness ever to appear in his court.

Bekins won the case, and I cajoled from its lawyer an extra day in Honolulu and a professionally guided tour of Oahu.

I have outlived almost all of my close art world friends. I mentioned Charlie Snitow. He owned a number of big-time trade shows, including the U.S. World Trade Fair. Because my tapestries were a popular public draw, he provided me with huge free exhibit space in three of the Trade Fairs in the New York Coliseum and then two more held in San Francisco.

I hung a collection of tapestries by Mathieu Mategot in one of the New York fairs. Mathieu came from Paris to see it. While he was there Vice President Lyndon Johnson came through the Fair to give it pizzazz and government support. He posed with Mategot in front of the tapestries. This was an important occasion for the artist, but I was never able to identify the photographer and get a print of the photo.

As I thought about this event last night my mind dredged up memories of other notables I saw or met during my nine decades. As a missionary in Lyon, France, 1949, I stood with three other elders on our third-floor balcony overlooking the Rhone while the President of France, Vincent Auriol, and his entourage drove by below us. A few years later, 1958, Frances and I watched the Bastille Day parade in which Charles DeGaule rode in his triumphant return to save France from the politicians.

I once sat next to Governor McKelden of Maryland at a Republican Lincoln Day dinner. When I was a teenager in Carson City Governor Ted Carville became my friend. Living so many years in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC I met lots of people of either influence or notoriety, from astronaut Michael Collins, concert pianist Grant Johannesen, and a passel of politicians. But the most electrifying experience came when my mother-in-law gave a big 80th birthday party in the Congressional Club for her husband, Senator Wallace Bennett.

As dinner ended the building was suddenly awash with Secret Service agents. President Nixon swept in, went to a piano, and played "Happy Birthday" while everyone sang. One by one family members were introduced to the president.

On a much later occasion, when Fran's brother was sworn in by the Vice President for his second term as a United States Senator, we had invitations to watch the ceremony. Afterwards we posed for family pictures with Vice President Dick Chaney.

These anecdotes are far from art, but old men are prone to ramble. Despite what I'm tempted to say, I am going to keep the rest of these non-art stories for my descendants.

I knew all of the important French tapestry artists and their weavers. My two closest friends among them were Mategot and Jullien. Jullien, always the teacher, guided me through the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in the Cluny Museum in Paris and through a big Leger retrospective in the Petit Palais, Paris. We had dinners in his apartment when he fed me and in a restaurant when I fed him.

Mategot and I were frequently together in Paris, New York, and Washington. Our adventures took us to Aubusson, Rouen, Angers, Limoge, Chicago, San Antonio, Houston, Galveston, and-twice-to Las Vegas.

Along the way Mategot and I became close friends to Bertrand Goldberg, the renowned and innovative architect of Chicago's Marina City.

In 1999, Mategot, aided by his son Patrice, came to Maryland the last time, to see me. He said, "If Mahomet won't come to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mahomet."

I set up a small party so that he could greet some of the people I had introduced him to over the years.

The next year Frances and I were in Paris. Mathieu was living in a small new apartment provided through the influence of President Chirac. He was 90, almost blind, slow moving. He had been made a Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters, France's highest civilian honor. But he had never been able to attend any ceremony for an official presentation.

As we sat on the edge of his bed he brought out a small box, the sort you'd use if giving a friend a tie. From it he took his Commander medal and its long ribbon.

He said to Fran and me, "I have never allowed anyone to hang this around my neck. I have been waiting for my good friend Lawrence to come to Paris to do it."

With near tears, I tied the ribbon and its glistening gold recognition around Mathieu's neck. It was the last time we would see each other.

As I end this column, I come to a regretful end to "Moments in Art" in the nauvootimes.com. Including a few reruns, Moments has appeared more than 160 times. I have enjoyed working with Kathy Kidd and Kristine Card. I mourn Kathy's passing. I received an encouraging email from her, which may have been the last thing she wrote before she suddenly died.

She always encouraged me to publish Moments in book form. As she knew, my intent was to organize various moments thematically and publish these as short, fun-to-read (but instructive) books of about 20-25 Moments each.

Some of the projected book titles: Demons, Despots, and Dunces; The Thief Who Terrorized Picasso, and Other Tales; Merchant Oracles of Art; Felonious Forgers; etc.

I don't have a blog or a web page. I thought of doing jeppsonartandletters.com, but this has never been developed. I thought also about crimsonwhirlwinds.com, which is a collective name for my fiction. This, too, remains undeveloped.

For the moment I will concentrate on finishing The Joy of Vision!, my big book about the American/Canadian Impressionist painter William Henry Clapp.

I thank Orson Scott Card and Kristine Card for allowing me to participate in Scott's ezine from first issue to last.

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About Lawrence Jeppson

Lawrence Jeppson is an art consultant, organizer and curator of art exhibitions, writer, editor and publisher, lecturer, art historian, and appraiser. He is America's leading authority on modern, handwoven French tapestries. He is expert on the works of William Henry Clapp, Nat Leeb, Tsing-fang Chen, and several French artists.

He is founding president of the non-profit Mathieu Matégot Foundation for Contemporary Tapestry, whose purview encompasses all 20th-century tapestry, an interest that traces back to 1948. For many years he represented the Association des Peintres-Cartonniers de Tapisserie and Arelis in America.

Through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the American Federation of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, and his own Art Circuit Services he has been a contributor to or organizer of more than 200 art exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. He owns AcroEditions, which publishes and/or distributes multiple-original art. He was co-founder and artistic director of Collectors' Investment Fund.

He is the director of the Spring Arts Foundation; Utah Cultural Arts Foundation, and the Fine Arts Legacy Foundation

Lawrence is an early-in-the-month home teacher, whose beat is by elevator. In addition, he has spent the past six years hosting and promoting reunions of the missionaries who served in the French Mission (France, Belgium, and Switzerland) during the decade after WWII.

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