Sale of Rescued Artists' Works Marks IRC's 70th Anniversary
Artist Mark Chagall's contribution to the 'Flight' portfolio.
As the IRC marks its 70th anniversary of assisting refugees, we are renewing efforts to sell a portfolio of lithographs by prominent refugee artists rescued by the IRC during the second World War. The collection was assembled by one of the most intriguing figures in the IRC's history. Here's the story:
In 1940, shortly after Hitler's Army swept through Europe and seized France, an American editor named Varian Fry settled into the Hotel Splendide in Marseilles. There he initiated a clandestine operation to rescue some of Europe's most famous artists, writers and intellectuals who had fled to France and whose names were on the Nazis' wanted list.
Fry was on a mission for the Emergency Rescue Committee, which merged in 1942 with the International Relief Association to form the International Rescue Committee.
Over the next 13 months, Fry and a team of American and French anti-Nazis helped at least 1,500 refugees, including prominent authors, artists and academics, escape from France to Spain and other safe countries. The group also provided aid to more than 2,000 other European refugees. Fry's work would have continued had France not expelled him "for helping Jews and anti-Nazis."
Among those Fry helped rescue were Chagall, Hannah Arendt, Max Ernst, Nobel Laureate Otto Meyerhof and Spain's leading Catholic philosopher Alfredo Mendizabel.
It was years before Fry's exploits won the recognition they deserved. Five months before his death in 1967, France awarded him the Croix de Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor.
During the 1960s, Fry began assembling a portfolio of 11 lithographs and one serigraph by rescued refugee artists, such as Marc Chagall and Joan Miro, and their associates to raise funds for the IRC. All of the works are on the theme of "flight," and all plates were destroyed by the artists after printing.
A limited number of the original 300 portfolios are still available for purchase. The price is $15,000, a substantial portion of which can be claimed as a charitable tax deduction. Download the Flight Portfolio brochure (.pdf format), or contact Amy Robertson amy@theIRC.org or (212) 551-3075 for more information.