GH Rothe

GH Rothe, Interlude
Rothe, Interlude, mezzotint

Gatja Rothe was my friend, patron … colleague … partner in distributing her art. I have a picture or two of her from c. 1975 I’ll scan. Meantime:

Rothe etching from '60s Germany

Rothe etching from '60s Germany

I’ll gather links to mentions of her around this blog, resurrecting stuff from K. that got censored: and reading in the post I had at another blog:

When Gail Bruce asked me to represent her art I was already friends with Gatja Rothe, the mezzotint master. Gatja had already consigned to me a portfolio of her mezzotints in hope that as Director of the Circle Gallery on Madison Avenue I’d be able to sell them to Circle chief Jack Solomon. I did show them to Jack, Jack didn’t buy them. (Thanks to my having the art on hand I’d been able to sell one on a payment plan to the lead ballet dancer of the Met.) I wouldn’t have let Gail talk me out of Circle Gallery and onto the street quite so easily had it not been for the additional backing of Gatja. The moment I announced that I was thinking of going independent, I had not only a couple of Gail Bruce serigraphs in my portfolio, I had Gatja’s lifetime production of mezzotints, a few Ed Solol serigraphs, spare art by Will Barnet, and dozens of other artists who suddenly appeared out of nowhere to fill up my sales portfolios.

Rothe Dance of Tom mezzotint

Rothe, Dance of Tom, mezzotint

Rothe, Audience Favorites, mezzotint

Rothe, Audience Favorites, mezzotint

pk & GH Rothe – A Note on Money

When I find time I will explain how Gail Bruce promised me financing but the only person ever to actually give me any was Gatja: she bought my PK Fine Arts. Ltd.-mobile: a new VW bus. I paid her $100 a month, when I had $100, for years. Gatja waited and waited, while I fed her money to Gail Bruce, uncomplaining, I’d explained “why” to her. By the end of the 1970s I’d paid Gatja most of what I owed her: though what I owe her is debatable: Gail promised me backing, but actualy only delivered art, and there only in sluggish dribs and drabs. A lot of time and money was wasted: a lot of earn-able money was not earned: no financial lubrication.

But Gatja too sabotaged me as well as supported me. I drove to LA in the winter of 1974, taking PK inventory to sell out west. Gatja mailed me more art c/o Texas. I phoned her from Texas to tell her I’d received it: she told me — after buying my car for me and filling it with art — that I couldn’t sell her art in California: she’d just sold an exclusive to Ed Weston!

Can you imagine. She invested in me, then pulled the rug out!

Ed and I were under each other’s feet ever after. He could afford it; I couldn’t. Gatja hurt me, herself, Gail … all my artists.

Then again, think of this: Gail’s husband was unsure about investing in his wife’s art. He was unsure about investing in his wife’s trusted dealer: me. Murray was always looking for investments. He made tons, lost tons. He could have invested in Gatja Rothe! and didn’t. Armond Hammer, Hammer Graphics, bought Gatja away from all of us: me, Ed, Hugh McKay, all of us. Murray Bruce could have had big pieces of those millions. But then I’ve always been surrounded my morons.

Notes on the Images

I put Interlude at the top. I love this one best as it is the first Rothe mezzotint I ever published entirely by myself (and sold out entirely by myself). Dance of Tom Gatja had done years before I met her. A zillion other publishers had had their hands on it before I took over the bulk of the edition. Gatja gave me time, all the time I needed, to pay. I promised her $20 each. The first guy she’d offered them to declined to pay her $1! I sold the last of them at $1,000 retail. My own print was stolen: along with most of my framed Rothes, all dedicated to me: my Interlude 1/100 for example.

Audience Favorites was one of two editions I sold to a mail order catalogue out of Baltimore. That secondary publisher ordered 50 each. I made the editions 100. Gatja sold me the remaining 50 and 50: again, on time: again all the time I needed.
I sold them for $50 wholesale, of which I then owed her $20. When I sold them for $250 wholesale, still, I owed her $20 …

When I first met Gatja she was wowed by how I looked at her art: slowly, carefully. She was then wowed by how patiently I listened to her. Come on: she was my girlfriend’s friend, my girlfriend had boobs bigger than any Bunhilde and Gatja had boobs bigger than Inge! I’m not hat big a boob man, but these German bosoms were ridiculous. Anyway: I listed to her tell me how she’d been used, robbed, by Hugh McKay, by Lublin … When she took Weston’s money, then Hammer’s, moved to Carmel, took up with Clint Eastwood – all over the art shows people would exclaim to me, “Your old girl friend is going out with Clint Eastwood!” – I imagined her telling Clint how I had cheated her, used her …
But then she’d look at me in astonishment, “Paul, you’re still sending me money!?”

I wish I could explain to her how Gail Bruce and her moron husband robbed both of us, and posterity.
The world has the Rothes, but the world does not have Rothes like I would have encouraged from her. See Interlude, above!

Would I ever though have been able to dissuade her from putting her own face everywhere?
Yes! If I’d been able to feed her enough money!

[Own face or not, everywhere, Interlude is way better than the dreck Weston, then Hammer, prodded from her. My mezzotints from Rothe are small, carefully worked, worked by her! I gave Interlude a half-page ad in color in the art mag, Weston promised her the back page: whole page, full color: x 12, ie. for a year! Suddenly galleries all over are crammed to the rafters with gigantic Rothe roses, gigantic Rothe tulips: not carefully textured or detailed: she hired a slave to do the hard, boring parts: 90% of the image!
PS There’s some anatomical awkwardness in some of those early Rothe ballet pieces but, less and less with time, she was improving. Who ever said the human body was easy: especially a posed athleticism?
Not me, I have my own art, but its word structures, not lines.]

But wait, before you get the wrong idea: I was close to Gatja, I was affectionate with Gatja, I was mildly eroic with Gatja, but she never drew any life size pictures of me coupling with her the way she did of Hugh McKay. She lusted for that son of a bitch no matter what he did to her! (At least Gatja never showed me any erotic drawings of the two of us.) (But look at the eching above: Gaja’s relationship with the whole world was erotic! as only a female can be!)

(When McKay bounced back from bankruptcy – artists filled the Nabis auction bidding on their own art that they had never been paid for, huge Rothes I was trying to retail for $400 were sold in stacks for fifty cents each! – Gaja showed up on his doorstep and offered to paint his new duplex for him! Paint that is as in cover a wall surface with color, with sealant. Of course he let her! Cheez.)

PS And I bet McKay never actually screwed her either. By the time Gatja was making overtures to me, Inge living with some drummer, I was head over heels in love with Martha! Timing, all timing.

Martha R.



I never got to know Hugh very well, I stayed back no mater what enticements he displayed. But everyone, including me, loved to tell stories about him. Part of his charm was that no matter how many women he was with, he seemed to be unattached in any crowd including women: even when his ex-wife was standing right there. Women threw themselves at him: even more than at me! Even my beloved Martha! She‘s the one who told me!

Down in Savannah a couple of female gallery owners told me, “We offered him everything we had, our bodies, our money … All he took was our money!”

2013 09 08 And now I’m remembering a physical joke Frank Fedele used to mime when McKay was mentioned:

“Oh, Hi, Hugh.”
And Fidele extends his right hand, pumps it as though it’s being shaken.
Then, loud physical stage whisper – “One, two …”, Fidele pretends to be counting his fingers!

Was ever a goniff better celebrated?

Make Up a Number
2015 11 10 Cross Reference to Other Artists’ Memories
Bob Vickrey told me a great story about Alan Gruskin, the dealer who made his, Vickrey’s career (having established his own in the Great Depression: Everybody was broke; Grus was making money.). The great Grus would let visitors, clients or potential clients, browse the galleries. He’d watch through a peep hole. When the client seemed to be paused in front of some artifact Grus would saunter out, make a casual comment or two: then, eventually say something like, “Oh, I know what you might like to see”: and he’d steer the client toward his private show room, a back room with a door to close out interruptions, interference. At some point the visitor, enjoying his special treatment might ask, innocently, “How much is this one?” And Grus would say, “Oh, let me look that up”. And he disappear into his office. There he’d continue to watch his fish, let minutes pass, the fish alone with the bait.
Understand, there were no prices written on a list. The price was whatever Grus said out of his head. The artist didn’t tell Grus what the price was; Grus told the artist what the price was, and the client. Grus had already inspected the prospect, assessed what he might be able to pay, be willing to pay.
I’ll bet more than one prospect by the time Grus reappeared was ready to say, “I’ll take it!”

What was recorded in a list were the prices paid for all previously sold paintings. So Grus knew full well that he’d been getting $500 for a So&So that size, $5,000, $15,000 …
Just imagine: Grus knows he’s gotten $10.000 for a So&So that size: he judges that this visitor can pay $10,000: he comes back in, feels positive about the moment, says, “Umm … $25,000”.

Of course there’s a downside to that pattern: artist has never sold anything, to anyone, at any price. He hears that Warhol has just gotten $100,000 for a used toilet sheet. Somebody looks that this artists loft-scale abomination, the artist says $100,000, firm. And this clown, who just happens to be trying to trim $100,000 off his company’s plus-side, says OK, writes the check. And this sap artist never sells another thing: at any price! Once is better than nonce, but you really hope to sell two, three, and four.

Understand further, people who can afford to buy paintings at four figures want to pay an uncomfortable amount. Stretching, risk, is a stimulus.

Family, Friends


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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4 Responses to GH Rothe

  1. MemoryLane says:

    Interesting. I actually worked at the gallery McKay owned in gramercy. As a female, I never got why so many women were falling over him. At the time he was living in a small apartment with a women who bartended in the neighborhood. The only thing I can remember is that he picked his nose while talking to people. Thanks for the memories!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. William Sharek says:

    Loved your memories of GH Rothe. In 1983, I was walking in Manhattan and happened to pass the Hammer Gallery window. I noticed “Conquistador Cielo” which was then being exhibited (at the convention center?). My job paid $30,000 a year but I went out and splurged on the “Conquistador” etching. But I loved her portraits of Maurice Symonds and Schweigen Ist Gold the best. Such detail. Do you have any info on the subjects of these portraits? (I didn’t like the 3rd portrait of Dr. ____ )

    • pk says:

      Sorry, no, I don’t know them. Once Gatja went with Hammer Galleries she moved to Carmel. I had no further contact with her. Though I did continue to send her car payments through like 1979, having small idea whether I was yet paid off, over-paid, or what. And I did hear once from her son Peter. He was asking me what the retail price should be on some title I’d had nothing to do with: what a laugh.
      Pricing is a strange art: you just make up a number, see if the world accepts it.

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