Henry Pearlman, 1948

Oskar Kokoschka, Austrian, 1886–1980

Henry Pearlman, 1948

Oil on canvas
The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on long-term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich
photo: Bruce M. White

Henry Pearlman was a self-made man. He was born in 1895 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and raised in Brooklyn. After high school, he worked as a secretary for the United Cork Company for seven dollars a week, rose to a sales position, and in 1919 founded his own company, Eastern Cold Storage. In midlife he began collecting art and from the beginning was noted for his exquisite taste. Over time, Pearlman also developed considerable knowledge of art and a cadre of artists he considered friends. He met Oskar Kokoschka in London and commissioned him to paint this portrait; they became so close that Kokoschka stayed with the Pearlmans when he came to America, and Pearlman traveled with the painter to Vienna. Henry Pearlman remembered:

Kokoschka later invited me to join him on a trip to Vienna, where he had been commissioned by the Burgermeister of Vienna to do his portrait, which would take about ten days . . . Kokoschka was given a dilapidated automobile by the city for use during his stay, which had an official emblem on it; [and] he . . . would travel through the streets of Vienna, and every time the car stopped at an intersection, a traffic policeman would salute the emblem. Oskar would turn to me and say: “Henry, everybody knows I’m in town.”
Learn more about Henry Pearlman.