This is limited to only 99 number copies; Signed by six
Signed by his only three children, all now around 80 years old.
from Jackie Cadousteau: Laverne Leeteg and her brother Edgar, Jr, Leeteg
and from Stella Ebb: William Ropati Leeteg
Also signed by the Authors: CJ Cook and Michael Ashley
and the Book Designer, Claudine Mansour;
Optional personalized inscription by CJ Cook
Throughout his life, shrewd promoter and creative genius Edgar Leeteg possessed many titles, astounding fans, and antagonizing critics. Considered the “American Gauguin,” the rakish ladies man originated the modern technique of oil painting on black velvet. Once memorialized by James Michener as an original rascal in paradise, he redefined artistic success by pioneering a form of painting in the South Pacific that would forever change the world.
This is a biography of Leeteg, who left California in 1933, with a few paintbrushes and oils, bound for the South Pacific. He started the black velvet painting craze linked to South Pacific-themed restaurants. His home in Tahiti allowed him to paint nudes, drink, and party with sensual vahines from the beaches to the bars of Tahiti (Captain Louis Bougainville’s birthplace of the Venus, goddess of love).
Leeteg described himself as a “fornicating, gin-soaked, dope head,” and all the artists and writers of the South Pacific knew of him. He took on the elite of the art establishment of the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1938 and shamed them in the press. He painted murals in fine establishments in Honolulu and in Tahiti and sheltered himself and his family on the neighboring island of Moorea. However, his self-promotional newspaper ‘letters to the editor” and drinking bouts in the bars of Papeete, especially Quinn’s Tahitian Hut, made him the most famous scoundrel in the South Seas. He was a wealthy artist and legend in his lifetime, a goal few can achieve. Tourists visiting Tahiti would seek him out for his generosity of wine, women, and song on his Shangri-la-like estate called Villa Velour on his quiet isle. He was the father of black velvet art and the genesis of a genre continuing today with the tiki and Polynesian pop art movement nearly 70 years later.
Instead of viewing Leeteg as a relic of some unenlightened period, we should ask ourselves, what can this genius teach us about what it means to create and fearlessly love? Death will come for us all one day. As he wrote just before his death in Tahiti,
“Might be a good idea to salt away a few Leeteg velvets . . .as an Inheritance . . . just in case I must leave suddenly this beautiful nooky-laden Paradise, for a sexless one.”
What we do in our life composes our legacy. Our gift to
When we look back at Leeteg, we encounter our own reflection, forcing us to reckon with our existence. When this occurs, a question leaps at us: Did we live as much as we could?
When it comes to Leeteg, we know the answer.
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