Summary of

The Struggling Artist at 86


Takeaways

0.8 min

I’m reminded of how important it is to market one’s own work. This is a rather melancholic, beautiful story. Plus, this part:

Now the Bertschmanns find themselves in a tenuous financial position. Mr. Bertschmann no longer does much graphic design, and Mrs. Bertschmann recently retired as the executive director of the Huguenot Society of America. She said that they have been “suffering financially.” Despite living in a lofty one-bedroom apartment near the South Street Seaport, they are retired renters who will not benefit from the gentrification of the neighborhood.

The retired renters part gets to me. Apparently they never bought an apartment because they were so busy leading ‘creative, exhilarating NY lives’. I can see myself falling prey to this — they successfully raised a daughter, lived reasonably ‘in an affordable duplex in the most cinematic part of the West Village’, and never planned too far ahead. My generation probably can’t afford that.

Overall, good PR piece, but still enlightening, in a ‘quick, snapshot of life’ way.


Snippets

Over the years there were some exhibitions and acquisitions, notably a 140-work retrospective in 1997 of both his commercial and fine art in Basel, Switzerland, where Mr. Bertschmann was born and raised. But these accomplishments never amounted to a self-sustaining fine art career. As he reached his 80s, humility and obscurity started getting old, and costly.

Now the Bertschmanns find themselves in a tenuous financial position. Mr. Bertschmann no longer does much graphic design, and Mrs. Bertschmann recently retired as the executive director of the Huguenot Society of America. She said that they have been “suffering financially.” Despite living in a lofty one-bedroom apartment near the South Street Seaport, they are retired renters who will not benefit from the gentrification of the neighborhood.

Mr. Bertschmann is an elfin man with comely features and a warm smile, Mrs. Bertschmann a strikingly beautiful woman of 85. Last month, both of them were neatly dressed in similar gray V-neck sweaters as they nervously prepared their apartment for the gallerists’ visit. He rarely fails to apologize for what he calls the mess in the living room, where his artwork rests against walls and sits on and in numerous metal cabinets. But the space isn’t remotely untidy. His wife explains his fastidiousness by pointing out, “He’s Swiss.”

Of course, at some point they should have bought an apartment, an option that Mrs. Bertschmann said they considered “so many times.” But they were busy leading creative, exhilarating New York lives. They spent 40 years in an affordable duplex in the most cinematic part of the West Village, so why move? They raised a daughter (Isabelle Kellogg, now a luxury marketer with a grown daughter of her own) and had interesting friends and neighbors, like an editor who worked with Diana Vreeland at Vogue and later Graydon Carter, the longtime Vanity Fair editor, who bought the townhouse next door. Every summer they took a hiking vacation in the Swiss Alps and visited Mr. Bertschmann’s family in Basel.

While Mr. Falk views the big picture, Mr. Bertschmann trains his eye on the sketch pad directly in front of him. Every day without fail, he continues to put pencil to paper with such single-minded focus that he doesn’t see his own career arc, or plan for the future. The other day, a guest raised the subject of where he hoped his body of work would end up after he was gone. He appeared genuinely stumped. “Actually,” he said, “I’ve never given it a thought.”