How a Refugee Supports a Refuge

HDietrichPortrait

Artist Henry Dietrich. Photo courtesy Tom Lonner.

If you’ve visited our gallery anytime within the last five or six years, it’s likely that you’ve spotted an ever-revolving display of paintings by mid-century painter Henry Dietrich. Their bold colors and the sharply delineated contours of their subjects are hard to miss.

German-born Dietrich started his art career at age 16, immersing himself in drawing and painting. He enrolled in a prestigious Berlin art school in 1935, but during the rise of the Third Reich, half-Jewish Dietrich was told he would not be allowed to continue his studies. Finding refuge in Shanghai—China being the only country he could enter without a visa—he met his wife-to-be, Martha, in 1944. The couple set out to make a new life in the United States in 1948, following which Dietrich produced a staggering 500 paintings until his death in 2000.

Henry Dietrich paintings

Newly delivered works of Henry Dietrich arrive in our annex.

Despite his clear talent, distinctive artistic voice, and the prolific nature of his work, Henry distrusted galleries and gallery representation. Thus, much of the work he produced remained unsold. He made his living as an illustrator for The San Francisco Chronicle.

Bainbridge Island couple Tom Lonner and Elizabeth Ward became great friends with the Dietrichs while they too lived in the Bay Area at the time. Upon Henry’s death, he bequeathed more than 400 of his paintings to them.

With the recent settlement of Martha Dietrich’s estate, we are pleased to present some of the last remaining works of Henry Dietrich’s, some of Martha’s favorites, which she kept on her own walls until her passing.

The couple pondered the fate of such a large collection, wondering if they could make a bigger impact by facilitating the sale of Henry’s works. Elizabeth, a board member of West Sound Wildlife Shelter (WSWS), decided to give that organization the opportunity to sell the art and use the proceeds to support their operations. While the organization was grateful, they were not set up for the business of selling art. Enter Bainbridge Arts & Crafts.

West Sound Wildlife Shelter receives 50% of proceeds from sales of Dietrich works.

West Sound Wildlife Shelter receives 50% of proceeds from sales of Dietrich works.

Nurtured by the Lonners, an incredibly fruitful partnership was forged between WSWS and BAC, two longstanding local nonprofits whose missions are markedly different but equally worthy. From the walls of our gallery, hundreds of Dietrich’s works have found their way to collectors and institutions around the country, with Bainbridge Arts & Crafts and West Sound Wildlife Shelter benefiting from the sales in equal measure.

With the recent settlement of Martha Dietrich’s estate, we are pleased to present some of the last remaining works of Henry Dietrich’s, some of Martha’s favorites, which she kept on her own walls until her passing.

Bainbridge Arts & Crafts sincerely thanks Tom Lonner and Elizabeth Ward for their enduring gift, and we celebrate the work of our partner, West Sound Wildlife Shelter.