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 James Wenneker (JvB) von Brunn  (1920 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: Maryland/Missouri/North Carolina      Known for: landscape and portrait painting, illustration, graphics

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BIOGRAPHY for James von Brunn
Facts/Data
Birth
1920 (St. Louis, Missouri)
 
Death
2010 (North Carolina)

Lived/Active
Maryland/Missouri/North Carolina

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landscape and portrait painting, illustration, graphics

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the artist (Submitted 2002):
James W. von Brunn (JvB)

Born: 7-11-20 in St. Louis, Missouri

Studio: Easton, MD
Subjects: Scapes, Portraits, Illustrations, Graphics

Style: Realist

Methods: Oil, mixed media.

BIOGRAPHY
The von Brunn/Wenneker families migrated from Germany/Austria c. 1845, settling in St. Louis, Missouri.

James von Brunn's father, Elmer, was superintendent of Scullin Steel Mill. During WWII he designed, and supervised a 40mm shell plant for the U.S. government in Houston, Texas. His wife Hope Wenneker von Brunn, educated at Hosmer Hall, was a homemaker and accomplished pianist. They had two children, James (JvB) and Alyce. The family spent summer months at Piasa. Illinois, where JvB roamed the limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, hunted snakes and turtles in the willows along its banks, and collected Indian artifacts. His grandmother Wenneker (grossemutter) gave him an oil paint set for his 7th birthday. His inspiration to paint came from Scribner Illustrated Classics and painters such as Pyle, Schoonover, and Wyeth. But his painting, because of his love of athletics, was confined to days of inclement weather. During the hiatus between high school and college he hitchhiked through Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

JvB was educated in public schools. He matriculated at Washington University in 1938. He became president of SAE and played varsity football. The coach got him a Structural Bridge, Steel and Iron-Workers union card. During the summer months JvB worked as a punk hauling coal for forges perched high-up on steel-girders - buildings being constructed for the war effort. As experienced men were drafted into the Sea-Bees JvB quickly graduated to rivet-bucker and finally riveter. Either you conquered your fear and walked the beams or you quit. The other option was a long way down. At the University JvB was in the Liberal Arts program. He enrolled in art classes where he learned that Marxist/Liberal concepts dominated the program. Anatomy studies were discarded along with perspective, drawing and old master techniques. Western Culture was replaced by "expressionism." We see the results today in expensive art produced by monkeys, elephants, Pollack and pianists who play with their elbows.

JvB changed directions, graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism. The following day he was inducted into the U.S. Naval Reserve. As an Ensign he was shipped overseas in 1943 to "destroy the German disease," just as his family before him had been sent to "save the world for Democracy." JvB became a PT-boat captain, serving in the Med and Pacific theaters. He was honorably discharged in March 1946 as a Lieutenant with 3-battle stars and a Commendation from Admiral Hewitt. While in the service JvB painted watercolors of the passing scene.

JvB moved to New York City in 1947. He studied figure painting at the Central Park School of Art, located on Madison Ave at 57th Street, Manhattan. To make ends meet he worked in a bank vault at night. He attempted to crack into the newspaper business but all doors were closed to conservatives. Instead, he found a job in big-league advertising on Madison Avenue where he started as paste-up boy at $35 per week. He attended evening classes at the Art Student's League where he studied color and design under Howard Trafton. At that time the so-called "Holocaust" burst upon the scene. JvB was asked to change his German name by several companies during his 20-years New York career. Eric Sloane (Heinrichs) advised JvB to do as he had, "You'll never make it in New York if you don't."

JvB exhibited his easel paintings at the Commodore Hotel, Hotel Biltmore, Abercrombie & Fitch, and the Eastside Gallery. He illustrated for Wm. Morrow Publishers, and for two art studios. As an agency art-director JvB was asked to create story-boards for television. This took him to the set where he learned film techniques. Eventually he became an advertising executive film- producer-director and eventually producer director for two prominent film/tape production companies.

In 1951 JvB and Patricia Beverley-Giddings were married. Her father, creative director and novelist, was a Sandhurst graduate and an RFC pursuit-pilot, WWI. He survived being shot down by von Richtofen's Flying Circus. During WWII he was a member of British Intelligence. Bev owned a manor house on Maryland's Eastern Shore where the family gathered for holidays and for the shooting season. Tidewater country presented a wealth of subject matter ranging from watermen and their rigs to sporting scenes, and scapes. This was grist for JVB's paint brush. In 1951 Patricia gave birth to a baby boy, Jim "Bim" von Brunn. Pat was unable to have any more children. Bim attended the Church of Heavenly Rest, and Trinity, in NYC; the Country School, in Easton; St. Andrews prep-school, and University of Miami, Florida.

JvB moved to Easton, MD where he established an advertising agency. He was elected president of the Academy of the Arts. His friend Lee Lawrie, renowned sculptor, was co-founder of the Academy. Meanwhile JvB's political posture placed a burden on his marriage. Patricia and JvB parted company. The divorce was a tragedy for all concerned.

Please note, the rest of this autobiography was removed because it was inappropriate for an artist biography.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

On June 10, 2009 James von Brunn walked up to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, carrying a rifle and fatally shooting security guard Stephen T. Johns as he was opening the door for him.  Von Brunn was wounded by return fire from two other guards but survived.  In a seven-count indictment, he was charged with first-degree murder, killing in a federal building, and bias-motivated crime.  The indictment also accused him of seeking to intimidate Jewish people at the museum.

Von Brunn was held at Federal Prison in Butner, North Carolina awaiting trial and died on Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at an area hospital.  According to a prison spokesperson, he had "a long history of poor health which included chronic congestive heart failure and sepsis."

Sources include:
Associated Press, Wednesday, January 6, 2010.
CNN News Media


These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:

According to the press office of the Academy Art Museum, there are no records indicating that James W. von Brunn was ever President of the Board, or even a member of the Board.


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.

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