For Denver art lovers, history buffs and theater aficionados, a new exhibit at the University of Denver’s Anderson Academic Commons offers an embarrassment of riches.
The exhibit — on display Nov. 15 through March 16 — provides visitors a rare glimpse at a number of paintings by the late Maria Lowenstein, mother of Henry Lowenstein, a living legend among Denver’s theater patrons. Maria studied art at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, before World War I. In the 1920s, she was part of Berlin’s adventurous art community. Late in life, she had a devoted following in Denver. This showing of her paintings coincides with a larger exhibit of her work at Denver’s Knoll Gallery, 915 Santa Fe Drive.
Also on display are memorabilia from the Lowenstein Family Collection, housed at the University’s Beck Memorial Archives, which preserves and publicizes the vibrant Jewish experience in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Denverites associate the Lowenstein name primarily with a rich theater tradition. Henry, a noted set, lighting and costume designer, came to the Mile High City in the mid-1950s to work his magic at what was then the prestigious Bonfils Theatre on East Colfax Avenue. (Today it’s home to the Tattered Cover Book Store.)
From 1956 to 1975, Lowenstein designed hundreds of plays, operas and ballets. He became general manager of the Bonfils Theater in 1967 and served in that position until his 1986 retirement. He then established the Denver Civic Theatre, where he designed and produced more than 90 shows until embarking on his second retirement in 1995. To acknowledge Henry’s significant support of the arts generally, and dance specifically, he was honored as a Legend of Dance by Friends of DU’s Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library in 2012.
Extraordinary as his theater career was, Lowenstein has other compelling stories to tell. His family was among a handful of Berlin Jews to survive the Holocaust and immigrate to the United States. Maria, who was not Jewish, expressed her family’s feelings about these experiences through her paintings and drawings. Many of the paintings in this exhibit were recently discovered upon the sale of her daughter Karin’s house.
The Lowenstein paintings and materials are complemented by an online exhibit that chronicles the family’s story through text, photographs and historic documents.