Carl Heidenreich's Response to the Death of John F. Kennedy: An Interview with Emanuel Wolf

From left to right: Emanuel Wolf, Richard Buxbaum and Patricia Recendez at Emanuel and Patricia's home in Carlsbad, California.

From left to right: Emanuel Wolf, Richard Buxbaum and Patricia Recendez at Emanuel and Patricia's home in Carlsbad, California.

Emanuel Wolf was a businessman and film producer, credited as part of Allied Artists in the production of Cabaret (1972) among other films. He has been a major collector of Carl Heidenreich's work since 1961. After Heidenreich's death, he purchased the artist's estate and has stewarded the work for the past half-century. He and his wife Patricia Recendez live in Southern California. 

This conversation is part of a series of interviews with families and individuals who collected and preserved the legacy of Carl Heidenreich. On August 31, Alla Efimova interviewed Emanuel Wolf about his memories of the artist. Below, the interview has been excerpted for clarity and brevity.

Alla Efimova: I know you’ve told me this story over the years in bits and pieces, but I wanted to hear about the history of how you first began collecting Carl's work.

Emanuel Wolf: When I met Henry Buxbaum [a German refugee and doctor in Canandaigua, NY, who also collected Heidenreich's work], he wanted to know if I would be interested in getting some art. He had a wonderful artist and, at that time, I was living at 55 Central Park West in New York. I had a terrific apartment overlooking Central Park and I had all these empty walls.

I said, "Sure." I never had really met a real, true artist. I went to museums, looked at art books, but this was certainly not a main drive of mine.

So he told me about Carl Heidenreich and what a wonderful artist he was. He lived in New York, had wonderful paintings, and Henry would contact him to see if he would share with me some of his paintings. Maybe I'd be interested in buying.

Since I made my first purchase of Carl’s work, I just became overcome with the art. I never wanted to sell any.

Landscape With Water . 1961. Oil. Collection of Emanuel Wolf.

Landscape With Water. 1961. Oil. Collection of Emanuel Wolf.

When I arranged Carl’s first posthumous gallery exhibition, some people wanted to buy the work. That’s when I met Mark Tobey who told me that, while he made better oil paintings, Carl was a better watercolorist. In fact, Mark said he thought Carl was the best, among the best he'd ever known. Carl’s watercolors were exceptional.

And I thought that was quite unusual for one artist to complement another artist. At that time, I was in the movie business and I never heard one producer say nice things about another producer.

AE: Manny, can you talk a little bit about what you remember about Carl as a person? 

EW: I remember I had an office at 425 Park Avenue with great views on the 27th floor, overlooking the skyline. Carl called me right after Kennedy had been killed. He was very distressed on the phone. He said it was very important that he see me as soon as possible. So I said, "Sure, Carl. When do you want to visit?"

He came over to my office, carrying with him the Kennedy painting.

I’ll never forget this. He sat down in front of me and was truly distressed. I've never seen him like that before. He had always been very cool and collected and very organized. But when he came to my office, he really was distressed.

He was convinced that this was the beginning of a worldwide plot to destroy democracy.

Kennedy's Death . 1963. Oil. Collection of Emanuel Wolf.

Kennedy's Death. 1963. Oil. Collection of Emanuel Wolf.

We must have sat there talking for an hour and, really, me just listening to him. He showed me the painting, which he had just finished. This was about a week or ten days after Kennedy had been shot.

When he was about to leave, I asked if I can buy the painting. He said, “No, I didn’t come here to sell this to you; I came here just to show it to you. I've been working on this since Kennedy had died and it was important I show it to somebody important like yourself.”

So I said, "Well, Carl, I would like to have it." He sat down with me again and that's how I acquired the Kennedy painting.