I had my usual latte and social time at the French Hotel Café and was walking home in the cool November air when I noticed I was obsessing again about friends. Even though I’m happy spending a lot of time alone, I still sometimes question if I should spend more time with friends.
Usually my thoughts beam to the distant future. Will my friends last me the rest of my life? What if something happened to my children? Will my grandchildren visit me when I’m super old? This paranoia and feeling of scarcity go with my personality type, the Observer or #5 in the Enneagram system of 9 types of people; many Observers wonder if they have enough to fill themselves up. My husband, Gus, isn’t this way at all, though. He is even more comfortable than I am with his solitude.
When I returned home from the café, I opened the pages of the New York Times and read an article by Andre Higgins and Katrin Bennhold (“For Son of a Nazi-Era Dealer, a Private Life Amid a Tainted Trove of Art,” 11-18-13) about Cornelius Gurlitt, whose father, a Nazi-era art dealer, collected 1,280 paintings and drawings worth more than $1 billion by Picasso, Gauguin, Chagall, and other masters. Cornelius has supported himself by selling some of these works of art. He hasn’t watched TV since 1963 and doesn’t go online. Every night he would fill himself up by unpacking his favorite paintings from a suitcase and looking at them. When German customs officers confiscated them in order to figure out their rightful owners, he said, “I’m just a very private person. All I wanted to do was live with my pictures… there is nothing I have loved more in my life.”
Gurlitt seemed so satisfied with his solitude he probably didn’t worry about balancing social and alone time. But art experts quoted in the article felt compelled to ridicule his introversion. Vanessa Voigt said, “A collector prides himself on his art and wants to show it off.” A PROPER collector, that is. A Munich art dealer said, “The saddest part of this story is this man’s life. He was locked up in the dark with all these wonderful paintings. He is a man in the shadows, a ghost who never came out.”
Gurlitt is an extreme introvert who enjoyed his collection of art in a highly personal way. He obviously didn’t crave being surrounded with people or having others admire him or what he had. I need more people in my life than Gurlitt did, but I don’t understand extroverts who think everyone must be like them.
Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, an exuberant, partly Jewish Nazi-era art dealer, at times worked for the Third Reich and was also friends with artists disliked by the Nazis. “The collection was so valuable and, perhaps, its provenance so tainted by the family’s association with the Nazis, that the desire to keep it secure compelled Mr. Gurlitt to live a strange, Gollum-like existence behind permanently drawn blinds, obscuring not only the works but also the man himself,” according to the authors. Gollum in the Hobbit is "a small, slimy creature." It seems to me Gurlitt’s critics were trying to make the point that not only was he associated with Nazis but it was no wonder since he was a lowly introvert.
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