Sunday, January 25, 2015

You Are NOT The Proud Owner of a Friedrich Schroder Sonnenstern

Last fall Jenny got a call from her dad that he had gotten a contract to clean out a 10,000 square foot warehouse, and wanted to give her the first chance to see if there was anything there she wanted. I've learned never to ignore the possibility that anything this man does might not turn into an adventure, so I was in. When we got there it was 10,000 square feet. Of ammonia jugs, bleach, curtain rods, water bottles, light bulbs, wire hangers... you see, the man had owned a surplus department store called Insurance Liquidators, and had a couple of decades of junk stockpiled. Now, I like bleach as much as the next guy, so I did grab a few jugs, but after all it only costs a dollar a gallon, so we wondered if it was even going to be worth the drive out there. Jenny's dad was trying to convince her to take all kinds of useless items, and I could see she was getting annoyed with him, so I used the opportunity to sneak off into another part of the warehouse, where I discovered an office. Finally, I thought, if any treasure has been left behind it would surely have been deposited here. Unfortunately, after a few minutes I was unable to unearth anything more interesting than a stack of old country music records. Oak Ridge Boys, Slim Whitman, the obligatory Engelbert Humperdink. Also, it was cold, and the kids were in the car. The treasure hunt had turned into an ordeal. I needed to find something, anything, to justify the drive out there. Then I saw this ...

The art you're looking at at first appears to be polyurethane, or plexiglass. I just thought it was tacky as hell and wanted it immediately for the 70's themed den we are planning downstairs. It also does have a sort of strange appeal, and is not without any artistic merit. But my first assessment was that it was a cheap piece of mass-produced decoration from the 1970's that he had ordered for the store. And it may very well be that. But it is signed. By an artist named Schroder. I put this out of mind for several months, but looking at it again a few weeks ago I vowed  to make a concentrated effort to discover the identity of the artist.

I was initially excited by the possibility that the piece might have been done by Friedrich Schroder Sonnenstern, a German Outsider artist who did work I find very unique and appealing. It fits roughly into his style, but it just wasn't right. I was NOT the proud owner of an original Friedrich Schroder Sonnenstern

Sonnenstern painting
Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern
Michael Werner Gallery

Which left only one other Schroder in my Google search results... Henner Schroder. A glass artist. A glass artist? Surely this is a promising lead, I thought to myself. And since Henner Schroder is alive and working in the Northwest, I thought I had a good lead, and contacted him with a picture of my art. 

And he disavowed the piece. Said it wasn't his.

What choice do I have but to believe him? I was unable to find the signature of either artist to make a comparison, but here's a piece by Henner Schroder...

Now that Henner Schroder asserts the piece is not his, I can only go back to my original hypothesis that it's a rather cheap and tacky decorative piece ala 1980, the sort of piece someone who owned a discount retail store might acquire in volume. I asked around, and Insurance Liquidators did indeed on occasion sell home decorations and such. Is it possible there are a couple copies of  my Schroder floating around? Is it an original Schroder. Who is Schroder? I doubt now I will ever get an answer to any of these questions, but I like the work of both Schroders I discovered and would have been proud to possess one of their pieces. 

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