Virginia Fontaine Diaries

Virginia Fontaine Diaries

Synopsis 1951-1952

See Cast of Characters Below

To go directly to the Transcriptions

1951  Transcription

1952 Transcription

Virginia and Paul Fontaine have been in Germany since the end of WWII. Paul fought in the Italian campaign and decided to remain in Europe at the war’s  end; he asked his new wife of five years with their then four-year-old daughter to join him. Rather than return to the United States, and struggle in the New York City economy where most contemporary artists were making their mark, he thought the employment and artistic  opportunities would be better found in Europe. He was also anxious to get out of waiting for his “number” to be chosen to get on a boat home. After six months of waiting there were still not enough boats,  and taking a job a designer for the Adjutant General seemed like a great way to relieve boredom.  They had met at Yale University Art School and after marrying in 1940 had already spent a year outside of the US living on the Virgin Island Tortola, where Paul supported them with the Yale Winchester Wirt Scholarship for the entire year.  They enjoyed the expatriate lifestyle; an adventure in a new culture.

Virginia came over to Germany in the summer of 1946 and in just a few short months made friends with a prominent art patron in Germany, Hanna Bekker vom Rath. She had been a key art dealer in Berlin, supporting the Expressionist artists throughout their Nazi suppression. Hanna also founded the Alexej Jawlensky foundation to help him during his later years health crises, and opened the first gallery in Frankfurt, the Frankfurter Kunstkabinett following the war. Hanna, also a  painter,  was trilingual, brought up among royal families, formerly married to a Jew and famous composer Paul Bekker who emigrated to America,  and was comfortable in all social circles. She was particularly close to Karl Schmidt-Rottluff for whom she built an apartment to reside in on her own estate in Hofheim, a town outside of Frankfurt. Her home is now an historical monument. She left her  collection of Expressionist art  to the Wiesbaden museum upon her death. Hardly a week went by when Virginia and Hanna were not together either visiting or entertaining.

Aside from Hanna’s family including, her daughters Maxine and  Barbara and Barbara’s husband Jury, the Hagen family members were frequent visitors. Yvonne Hagen met Virginia in the maternity ward at Frankfurt General Hospital in 1948. They were in adjoining rooms. Yvonne’s husband, Karl Hagen, had just died in the Berlin airlift and was happy to find a woman to whom she could talk.Yvonne was an art critic for the Herald Tribune so she and Virginia had plenty in common. She lived in Paris, but her womanizing brother-in-law Peter Hagen frequented the Fontaine’s, while he sang for the Frankfurt Opera.

Synopsis of 1951 Diary

In 1951, Virginia was thirty-five years old, with two children, Carol age nine and Genie (aka Gigi, or Paula) age three. Paul just started working as the new art director for the Stars & Stripes newspaper, after years in other publications departments for the Occupation. They had a full-time housekeeper, cook and nanny-Friedle, a luxury that all the occupation families enjoyed. The Germans were desperate for work and the Americans obliged.

Virginia had been in this worn-torn country for six years and had not wasted a moment making friends. Her generous disposition and intuition for opportunity created one adventure after another. It is hard to imagine how she kept up the pace of their entertaining—the diaries  have almost a banter quality much like a Hepburn-Tracy conversation. The activities evolve around three themes. Virginia seemingly had three agendas: find buyers of her husband’s paintings; be prominent, useful and hence respected in the community to both Germans and Americans; and finally to get a job with the leading cultural division of HICOG  (the Occupation government)–which,  while serving the other two purposes,  would help out with her desire for financial independence. Her German language skills were adequate but most Germans were  fluent in English. Paul spoke fluent French. She was extremely resourceful, brought up with frugal parents and in the Depression generation, but did not appreciate her husband’s fanatical control on the purse. She had enough funds technically and certainly more than the artists she endeared, but wanted at least some financial independence. Virginia’s mother had been sending packages since Virginia moved there, knowing how difficult the economy was. They contained  the latest fashion garments for the  family and sometimes friends. Virginia was well dressed; no thanks to her husband.

In the 1951 diary, Virginia describes, in detail, three major trips visiting artists and dealers: Paris, Amsterdam, and Madrid. The descriptions are peppered with mundane details about food and gas costs along side descriptions of unwanted  personality tribulations among her traveling companions.

The other underlying story is her love for the dancer Nel Roos. In one of her travels —she became friends with the dance community in the Netherlands. This then led her to become the photographer for the International Dance Congress in Switzerland. Her friendship with the famous modern dancer and choreographer, Mary Wigman and her entourage including Nel, offered a new level of recognition for Virginia. She wrote an article for Dance Magazine about the Congress complete with photos, but her deep feelings for Nel seep throughout the diary. Only on occasion did Paul seem to recognize this distraction on the  part of Virginia. Nonetheless, forever, Hanna Bekker was the stable friend.

These diaries offer are a variety of perspectives on life in those times. They provide a roster of every modern German artist either exhibiting or that came through the Fontaine household; a view into a intensely concentrated experience of energized artists and dealers working their way back into normalcy after years of suppression or deprivation; an influx of American art dealers eager to find bargains;and an overabundance of socializing, especially by the Americans to keep from being bored. Virginia grew tiresome of military family politics and rarely attended the standard officer club events, but nevertheless, Virginia did her part keeping the wives happy. She was most fond of anyone interested in modern art and barely tolerated the rest. In between all this, Mimi, her French-Canadian-American provincial and eighth- grade educated mother-in-law from Worcester, Massachusetts, came to visit for three months. It all made for entertaining dynamics.

They also offer  an insight into the current American culture. Virginia attended almost every movie offered by the Occupation and read  the available  best sellers.

Virginia also traveled with Hexi, her Dandie-Dinmond terrier.

Cast of Characters

Below is a more extended list of historical figures mentioned in the diaries. The page numbers are to Diary 1951 pages  (1952 is under construction)and the Wikipedia  or other Web references  are there to learn more about the persons:


HICOG: High Commission for Occupied Germany—Established in 1949  in the State Department to replace the Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.) [OMGUS] (Oct. 1945-Sept. 1949) HICOG was headed by John McCloy

ECA: –The Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) was a United States government agency set up in 1948 to administer the Marshall Plan. It reported to both the State Department and the Department of Commerce.

OEC—Organization for Economic Cooperation

H or Hanna–Hanna Bekker vom Rath


(Note: This is not an exhaustive list of every person mentioned in the Diary. Please go to the Transcription and search directly to search further)

Ajemian, Anahid and Maro, 100, 103, musicians,

Alsberg, Henry and Francis, 48, classmates from Yale

Arp, Hans, 48, (aka Jean Arp), artist, sculptor

Bauer, Gustav, 30, 49, 50, 53, 59, 62, 122, 124,Stars & Stripes?, or HICOG? a frequent visitor in their home but not sure of connection.

Baumeister, Willi, 6, 7, 96, 117, 118, artist,painter good friends with  Virginia and Paul

Bekker vom Rath, Hanna, 2, See almost every page in the diary, art dealer and painter and founder of Frankfurter Kunstkabinett gallery and Virginia’s best friend

Bluhm, Ursula, 7, 101, 120, artist married to painter Bernard Schultze

Brodda, Bernard, 3, 11, 12, 20, 49, artist

Buchheim, Lothar Gunther, 56, art dealer,painter,  founder of Galerie Buchheim-Militon in Frankfurt and later author of “Das Boot”

Buchheister, Carl, 54, 55, 84, artist, painter

Callado, Louis, 81, artist

Cavael, Rolf, 61, 95, 128, artist, painter

Chamberlain, Gladys, 2,Virginia’s third cousin worked as student counselor in Frankfurt for boys high school

Constant, Anton, 15, 19,artist, painter

Darcé, Virginia (Gini), 69, 75, 101worked for HICOG as head decorator

Davis, Melton, 123worked for ECA, in radio in Paris

Davring, Henri, 56, 58, (aka Heinrich Maria Davringhausen)artist, painter

Dayton, Ken, 86,US State Dept official

Dayton, Sylvia, 2, 3, 5, 6, 21, 22, 25, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 42, 43, 45, 46, 48, 91, 94, 101, 102, 111, 112, wife to Ken Dayton, good friend to Virginia-travelled to Spain together

de Bary, Erica, 84, writer

DeLuce, Alma, 94, 98, 99, 103, 106, 109, 111, 122, 124, 126, AP journalist, collector and friend to Virginia, wife of Dan deLuce

DeLuce, Dan, 38, journalist, AP director, Pulitzer prize in journalism,

Devendorf, Nina and Rolli, 127, Rollie worked for AG publications. 1975 published “In defense of Richard Nixon”

Dix, Otto, 96, artist, painter

Domnick, Ottomar, 6, 7, 27, 96, medical doctor of psychiatry, art collector, movie producer and publisher. Published a book in 1949 on Hans Hartung for which Virginia did the English translation. (Madeleine Rousseau et Ottamar Domnick, Hans Hartung, préface de James Johnson Sweeney, Stuttgart, Domnick Verlag, 1949.)

Eichhorn, Alfred, 27, artist, printmaker

Falcon, Bruni, 50, 52, 53, 86, 108, 122, opera singer, sang with Peter Hagen

Fauser, Arthur, 8, 55, 124, artist, painter, lithographer

Fietz, Gerhard, 7, 26, artist, painter,

Fietz, Helga, 21, 22, 49 wife to Gerhard Fietz

Franck, Klaus, 15 art dealer, founder of Zimmergalerie Franck, Frankfurt gallery

Geiger, Rupprecht, 27 artist

Georgi, Yvonne, 104,  dancer, choreographer

Gomez-Sicre, Jose, 64, 65, Cuban art critic

Götz, Karl Otto, 8, 15, 19, 81, artist, printmaker,

Graverius, Hildegard, 3 friend to artist Bernard Brodda

Grieshaber, HAP, 124, artist

Hagen, Louis (Budi), 2, 47, writer wrote “Follow My Leader” (1951), brother-in-law to Yvonne Hagen

Hagen, Peter, 48, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 91, 94, 100, 105, 106, 108, 111, 122,opera singer, worked with Bruni Falcon, later banker and art collector, brother-in-law to Yvonne Hagen

Hagen, Yvonne, 2, 3, 13, 47, 55, 89, 90, journalist, art critic for Paris Herald Tribune. Met Virginia in hospital maternity ward, Frankfurt in 1948. Husband, Karl, died in Berlin airlift. Wrote an autobiography of her life in Paris: Hagen, Yvonne. From Art to Life and Back: N.Y.-Berlin-Paris 1925-1962. [S.l.]: Xlibris Corp, 2006.

Haller,Chichio, 2, Swiss art dealer, founder Chichio Haller Galerie, Zurich

Hartung, Hans, 48, artist, painter

Hartung, Karl, 75, artist, sculptor

Hauser, Jack, 23, 25, 26, Stars & Stripes art department colleague

Hay, Florence, 2, 6, 12, 16, 20, 23, 51, 52, 74, educator, when returned to US in 1955 Ph.D in education

Heckel, Erich, 15, 51, artist, painter, printmaker

Hewetson, Bob & Joan, 2, 5, 7, 8, 12, 23, 31, 54, 59, 60, 67, 70, 75, 76, 87, 97, 100, 110, 112, 124, US State Dept. OEC

Hildebrandt, Hans, 27, 55, 96, art historian

Hofer, Carl, 75 artist, painter, printmaker

Jaenisch, Hans, 27, 75 artist, painter

Jaguer, Edouard, 81 French poet

Kerkovius, Ida, 7, 30, 73, 96 artist, painter, weaver,

Kiep, Claus, 4family member of Kiep and vom Rath family, cousin to Hanna Bekker

Kiep, Louis, 13, 122, 123, 126 married to Hanna Bekker’s sister Eugenie–Have a hamburg shipping company

Knorr, Betty, 2, 51, 53, 54, 78, 88, 89, 90, 110,worked for Stars & Stripes weekend edition-husband Maj Knorr thrown in jail for a week by German govt for tax evasion

Krenek, Ernst, 99, 100, 114,composer and conductor

Kricke, Norbert, 101, artist, sculptor

Kunz, Karl, 27, artist, painter

Kunz, Rosemary, 3, 11, 14, US State Dept. Worked in Madrid embassy–unsure of how they met

Linck Daepp, Margrit, 120, artist, ceramacist-married to Walter Linck

Linck, Walter, 20, 78, 79, artist, sculptor

Lutzeier, Paul, 7, 52, 70, 85Chief Employee Relations HICOG. Papers are in Detroit Wayne State University Reuther library

Mataré, Ewald, 104, artist, sculptor

Maywald, Willy, 88, 89, photographer

McCloy, Mrs. John, wife to US High Commissioner of Germany.

McKnight, Eline, 25, 27, 28, 29, 64, artist, printmaker, art promoter, married to Maxwell McKnight. Resided in Berlin wrote about Berlin artists for the Information Bulletin, December 1950″Free Artists in Free Berlin”

McKnight, Maxwell, 26, US State Department, prosectuted war criminals

Möller, Ferdinand, 112, 120, art dealer, founder of Galerie Ferdinand Möller

Müller-Landau, Rolf, 63, artist,

Nay, Ernst Wilhelm, 73, 120, artist

Neumann, J.B., 94, 95, 96, 97, 100, 101, 109, 113, 117, 120, art dealer

Nieuwenhuys. See Constant, Anton,

Noonan, Tom and Vicki, 11, 59, 108, 109, 113, 117, 118, 121, 124, 131, US HICOG-Cultural Affairs advisor for OLCH-Office of Public Affairs

Oberhoff, Ernst, 8, 117, artist, painter

Proelss, Maria, 62, 72,artist, musician

Rebay, Hilla von, 53, 55, artist, painter, art collector friend to Solomon Guggenheim

Reich an der Stolpe, Siegfried, 46, 120 artist, painter,

Rieth, Alf (Adolf), 54,124, 125, professor of archeology. Helped protect artwork during WWII in Tübingen. Art minister for Wiesbaden-1951.Noted work: (Rieth, Adolf. Archaeological Fakes. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.)Frequent guests from 1950’s-to late 1960’s

Ritschl, Otto, 59, 100, 113, artist, painter

Roeder, Emy, 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, 21, 48, 52, 60, 63, 70, 124, artist, sculptor -sculpted a head of Virginia which was ruined before cast.

Roh, Juliane, 27art historian

Rohlfs, Christian, 115, artist, painter ­­

Roos, Nel, 68, 130, 132, 133 dancer, choreographer founded Nel Roos Dance Academy, Amsterdam

Rüdlinger, Noldi, 20, 48, 78, arthistorian, museum director Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland,

Schmidt-Rottluff, Karl, 50, 59, 62, 63, 65, 68, 70, 73, 76, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 123, artist, painter

Schultze, Bernard, 7, artist, painter

Solms, Marylou (Marie Luise), 3, 58, 61, 78, 131, princess and poet–distant cousin to Hanna Bekker von Rath

Solms- Oppersdorff, Pucky (Marie Gabrielle), 2, 3, 101, 102, 125 princess distant cousin to Hanna Bekker von Rath


Spiller, Jurg, 2, 10,  artist, painter

Ströher, Karl, 7, 96, 100, industrialist, art collector, founder of Wella, donated modern art collection to Darmstadt museum.

Tajiri, Shinkitchi, 13, 25, 26, artist, sculptor

Tashko, Artur, 77artist,

Ubac, Raoul, 84 , artist, sculptor,

Uhlmann, Hans, 62, artist, painter, sculptor ,

Valentiner, Dr. Wilhelm R., 11, art historian, museum director-Los Angeles County Museum

Vietta, Egon, 20, 101, 117, 118, 120, journalist, art critic, very fond of Fontaine’s work–intended to write a book on Paul  Fontaine, but died of a heart attack —

Vondenhoth, Eleanore, 15, Wife of Director of Frankfurt Symphony and theater. Friends with Hanna

Werner, Theodor and Woty, 48,114 artist, weaver

Winter, Fritz, 27, artist, painter,