When my grandfather, Josef, suffered a heart attack and moved in with our family, we gathered the works from his apartment at 33 East 22nd Street in Manhattan. With a borrowed truck my father, my brother, a cousin and I transported them to our suburban home, my brother and I rode in the rear of the truck with our cache of statues.
A room was added onto the rear of our suburban home for Josephu’s studio when he recovered. He never rose up to working again and died in 1970. This studio became a showplace for these 15 statues. I was always in awe of how people would respond when they saw the pieces. Everyone felt the need to touch the work. This was the same response of bronze smith Bill Gold who would later make reproductions of selected pieces.
I grew up listening to the stories of how the Josephu family emigrated from Vienna during the early days of World War II. Of family that was left behind and never heard from again … of the offers from Hitler … of Josef’s famous friends in both Vienna and the United States.
In 1985 I attempted to research Josephu’s history with little success. I wrote to dozens of libraries, museums and schools in Vienna and uncovered nothing about the artist. During a particular stormy day in the winter of 2001, as I viewed the one bronze reproduction that survived the thievery of an amateur art dealer, I began a second attempt at researching Josephu. Only this time the response was amazing, and the interest in my research was encouraging.
What complicated my work was… documents were not only in German but in Gothic print, and the duality of the information. Both brothers attended the same schools, mostly at the same time, and with the same professors. Both served in World War I as lieutents and both were wounded. Both married in 1918, both wives named Olga with a last name that started with a ‘K’, and both wives were Jewish. Both brothers had their first daugther in September 1919. It’s no wonder why Florian added his mother’s maiden name, “Drouot,” to seperate himself.
There also seemed to be help coming from an eerie source. Shortly after I began I received an email from the Midwest from a person who had just bought two Florian Josephu bronzes at an auction. Then a distant cousin, Georg Klein, found me on the internet while researching his grand-uncle, Florian. Then came a startling a communication from Vienna … family my mother left behind were still alive! I have made many trips to Vienna, visiting this wonderful family, and enjoying the wonders of Vienna, and Austria. If nothing more comes out of this book, I will find great satisfaction in having reconnected the family.
With their help, along with various research facilities in the US and abroad, I have been slowly compiling biographical information on the Brothers’ Josephu, Josef and Florian. I will admit to the frustration of not being able to find more about Josef’s American work. Although he lived and worked in New York for over thirty years, there seems to be little record of his art. Might there be another breakthrough or discovery just around the corner?