by Art Chantry:
this is a genuine ‘leeteg of tahiti’ drawing of some sort! $20 at local antique mall. not bad. i’m not sure what i got here. it seems to be a charcoal drawing or something. frankly, i’m not expert enough to quite tell what it is. if it’s not a charcoal drawing, it’s a great piece of printing that fools me so much that i can’t figure it out. but, it’s definitley a signed piece. under the magnifying glass, there’s no mistaking the reality of that signature.
of course, this isn’t really all that great of a leeteg to have – no tits! the primo stuff to have is one of his famous velvet painting nudes. yeah, leeteg is the guy who popularized VELVET PAINTING! no joke. even though painting on velvet has been around for centuries (largely on clothing – the romans even painted on velvet), it’s “leeteg of tahiti” who is the one who re-introduced the technique to the modern world. without him, a million mexican painters of ‘sofa size paintings’ of elvis and “flaming love” would not be available at every sizable traffic intersection in the low-rent parts of every city in america.
edgar leeteg started out as a signpainter in sacremento. the depression hit hard and he stole some painting supplies from work, packed up his mother, “Bertha”, and bundled it all off to tahiti. he initially met with even harder times there. but, since you could live on the beach in a place like tahiti, he was able to barter paintings to survive. he would often trade a painting for a bottle of booze, so most of the bars in tahiti had leeteg velvet paintings hanging on their walls. that’s where they were ‘discovered’ by an art hustler named ‘decker’. he became leeteg’s first real patron and edgar stopped worrying about where his next drink was coming from.
leeteg eventually became a standard bar item in every bachelor pad in america (certainly every tiki bar) and his paintings reached of peak of around 20 grand apiece at one point. after his death (on a motorcycle) interest in him faded and he became a forgotten kitsch semi-joke among the elite of american craphounds everywhere (which is where i found him, too.)
leeteg was a short, fat, eastern europen-heritage guy with little banty legs and a balding scalp and a fuzzy body. he was a loud sloppy drunken american living in a country that hated loud sloppy drunken americans. if it wasn’t for his mom, he would have been very lonely. however, he LOVED the young nearly nude island womenfolks and talked them into posing for his paintings. apparently, he bedded a number of them as well (frankly, many of them were prostitutes that plied their trade with sailors in the same bars where edgar drank heavily). at his death, leeteg was already dying of a particularly nasty form of VD that had no cure available.
however, just look at the tender loving care leeteg gives to this study of this tender young islander girl. it’s actually rare to find one of his paintings that doesn’t have bared breasts showing in them. his facial structure is a little ‘off’ here, but he could always sell one of his paintings to a randy customer if it had tits. the early velvet paintings passed for acceptable pornography you could hang in your home bar or in a public place, simply because of the ethnicity of the young women depicted. like ‘national geographic’, this stuff was a sex-substitute for the still (even today) crippling puritan sexual mores that create such a huge disparity among americans. these paintings never did sell well in europe, where open sexuality was never considered sin of damnation.
leeteg of tahiti got rich. he even built a huge crazy-ass opulent mansion in his beloved tahiti. he painted his naked chicks on purest of velvet and sold them for an enormous profit. he drank and drank and drank. he continued
seek the illicit favors of his female ‘models’ to the end. his nude velvet paintings of the prostitutes who modeled for him acted as PERFECT advertising devices for the those same women working the bars where they hung. it was a perfect arrangement all around. he was ‘edgar in paradise’.
when he died in that (assumedly) drunken motorcycle wreck, he left bertha a wealthy woman.
(see link at end)…Just two hours before Decker’s ship was to set sail, he saw a man fitting Leeteg’s description (a rotund, staggering American) approaching the ship.
Leeteg stepped up to Decker and said with a grin, “You must be Mr. Decker. Crawford told me when I found the loudest Hawaiian shirt I’d ever seen, it’d be you.”
Decker invited Leeteg down to his cabin. He stayed for a few hours and went on to tell Decker of his flight from the States and describing the method he had developed for painting on black velvet. Decker finally asked how much it would cost for Leeteg to reproduce some of the paintings he had seen in the junk shop.
“If you will give me that fancy Hawaiian shirt I will make one for you,” replied Leeteg. Decker took the shirt off his back and gave it to Leeteg, along with four more of his loudest aloha shirts and $200.
Tears welled up in Leeteg’s eyes. He said he was so moved because Decker was the first person who had trusted him since he arrived in the islands….
Leeteg:”…The so-called fine arts have been on the skids since the turn of the century, when impressionism was aborted into the birth of all “isms” of abstract painting. Art is, always has been and, if it is to survive, always must be emotional. To make it coldly intellectual by abstractionism and impressionism is to destroy it or mold it into a monstrosity that is better kept locked up in musty museums. I frankly would rather prefer to have my paintings displayed in a gin-mill rather than buried in a repository together with the rest of the dead art, which is where this modern crap will end up.
“I refuse to be converted. The other day one of these ‘artsy artists’ from the Metropolitan in New York was sitting right on this lanai and he did some sketching of this bay. He showed me his finished canvas. I wanted to vomit when he showed me what a sacrilegious abortion he painted of my beautiful Paradise. I was quite frank with him. I told him I had seen better similar art on a stableboy’s shovel!” Read More:http://www.barracudamagazine.com/leeteg.htm