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Frede Vidar (1911 – 1967)

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Rumor, 1944, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, signed and dated upper right, inscribed verso “Rumour Frede Vidar Captain CE OCE GHQ SWPA Personal Property of the Painter,” exhibited: 1) Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York from November 27, 1945 through January 10, 1946 (see Jewell, Edward Alden, 165 Artists Show Work at Whitney, The New York Times, November 27, 1945, listing Vidar as being “Among the artists whose contributions may be deemed a distinct asset to the show” and Jewell, Edward Alden, Stress on Painting Contemporary Work at Whitney Includes Much Abstraction – Other Events, The New York Times, December 2, 1945 (illustrated); 2) Pasadena National Art Exhibit at the Pasadena Art Institute, Pasadena, California, opened March 3, 1946 (label verso) (second prize - $750 – the Ella Brooks Solano Memorial Award) (see These Paintings Won top Honors In Art Exhibit Which Opens Today, Metropolitan Pasadena Star-News, Pasadena, California, March 3, 1946 (illustrated and noting award), Brush Strokes, The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California, March 10, 1946 (listing the work and award); and Ross, Kenneth, Art and Artists, Metropolitan Pasadena Star-News, Pasadena, California, March 10, 1946 – “[T}he exhibit is indicative in some quarters of extremely discerning selections among the established artists, particularly in the work of . . . New Jersey’s Frede Vidar”)); and 3) at the Newark Museum of Art, Newark, New Jersey, unknown date (labels verso); ex collection of The Laguna Beach Museum of Art (1980) (label verso), The Virginia Steele Scott Foundation (label verso), Sullivan Goss Gallery – Santa Barbara (label verso)


About the Painting

Frede Vidar’s Rumor represents a significant aspect of 1940s American art, namely, the important story of artists, both amateur and professional, who enlisted in the US Armed Forces and captured their experiences on canvas and paper. From the outset of the conflict, artists flocked to every branch of the military from the Army, Navy and Marines to the Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, Women’s Accepted Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) and Women’s Army Core (WACS). Initially, these artists completed murals and other decorations for stateside postings to raise the morale of the troops, but as the war progressed, the military deployed artists to special units and groups to work on propaganda and camouflage and to the front lines as combat artists where they saw action in every theater of Allied operations. Brigadier General F. H. Osborn, Director of the US Army’s Special Service Division, which oversaw these efforts wrote, “The present war is a subject of tremendous emotional significance for any artist. Soldier artists are transferring to canvas the power of modern machines of war, the speed of planes, the roar of tanks, the boom of guns. Most important, the American solider is portrayed in proper perspective as a young man prepared for any sacrifice for his country. This appreciation of his stature is a stimulant to spirit d corps.” Frede Vidar was among the best American artists to capture the brutal reality of the conflict in the South Pacific. Vidar was a captain in the engineer corps and served as an official combat artist. He was awarded the Silver Star for action above and beyond the call of duty and served as aide de camp to Major General Hugh Casey. Vidar saw front line action with the First Marine Division at Guadalcanal and later in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea where he painted Rumor. The inscription at the bottom reads “Roumors East of Sentani,” the site of an important airfield in Papua. In Rumor, Vidar depicts the horrors of modern war and its impact on civilians. At the center of the composition, Vidar places a child and her bare-chested mother holding an empty tin plate, against the background of a total devastation. Vidar draws on early medieval iconography of the Madonna and Christ child to portray the modern-day victims of war. Two US servicemen look down at the pair like hovering angels. In his oversized hand, one of them holds a tin cup which is highlighted in white and outlined in black to call attention to this detail which seems to offer the hope of a helping hand. The looks on all their faces are war-worn, but stoic. The painting is sympathetic, but not overtly patriotic, as Vidar presents us with the bare facts of mechanized warfare. The power of war paintings like Rumor resonated with audiences and critics as exhibitions by combat artists were mounted in Europe, Australia, and the United States, including at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Vidar was among the most awarded of these artists. In late 1945, he received a $2500 Guggenheim Fellowship in recognition of his artistic and military service to the nation. Vidar’s Rumor broke free from the rigid categorization as a war painting when it was shown and favorably reviewed as part of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1945 installment of the annual and when it won the $750 Solano Memorial Award for the second-best painting at the Pasadena National Art Exhibit in 1946.

About the Artist

Frede Vidar was a well-respected and accomplished painter, muralist, and art instructor. Born in Denmark, Vidar studied at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, the Academy of Fine Art in Munich, and Academie Julian in Paris, where he also studied with Matisse and Dufy. Around 1925, Vidar moved to San Francisco and continued his studies at the California School of Fine Art. He was a significant figure in the Northern California art scene during the 1930s when he was selected by the Public Works of Art Project as one of twenty-six artists to paint murals in San Francisco’s Coit Tower and he exhibited at the Golden Gate International Exhibition, the San Francisco Art Association, the Oakland Art Gallery and the San Francisco Museum of Art. Outside of California, Vidar exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum of Art (Copenhagen) and the Whitney Museum of American Art. During World War II, Vidar served as a combat artist, reached the rank of captain, and won a silver star. After the War, Vidar initially relocated to New Jersey and continued to pursue a career as a fine artist, while also working as a documentary and commercial artist for Abbot Laboratories and Life Magazine, including as a war correspondent and artist during the Korean conflict. Vidar taught at Washington University in Saint Louis in the early 1950s and then at the University of Michigan from 1953 until his death. Vidar is listed in Who was Who in American Art and other standard references.


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