The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, North American educator and poet Muna Lee de Muñoz Marín discusses the restoration work and artistic career of Franz Howanietz, a Viennese painter who lived in Puerto Rico. In 1935, Howanietz restored paintings from the Degetau Collection, which was donated to the Universidad de Puerto Rico in memory of Federico Degetau, a collector and the first resident commissioner of Puerto Rico in Washington, DC. Howanietz’s work was funded by the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration (PRERA).
A painter and art restorer from Vienna, Franz Howanietz came to the island when he married Puerto Rican Gloria Muñiz. In 1935, he replaced Walt Dehner at the Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR), which hired him to restore the painting collection of Puerto Rican politician Federico Degetau that had been donated to the university in the 1910s. Degetau, the first resident commissioner of Puerto Rico in Washington, DC, was a highly cultivated man who had always dreamed of founding a picture gallery in which to display paintings on the island. To that end, when he traveled to Europe he acquired paintings that were later exhibited in the classrooms and offices of the UPR. Many of these works, which were on exhibition for many years, were damaged by the hurricanes known as “San Felipe” and “San Ciprián.” The restoration of the collection was funded by the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration (PRERA), an economic assistance program set up in Puerto Rico in the early-1930s during the Great Depression in the United States.
Edited by Muna Lee de Muñoz Marín, this issue of the newsletter, Art in Review, discusses the exhibitions organized and the works acquired by Walter Dehner (New York, 1898–California, 1955), the director of art at the Universidad de Puerto Rico at that time. This issue, which was published in 1937, offers an early view of the art and cultural scene in Puerto Rico. These mostly little-known documents also illustrate the importance of the Universidad de Puerto Rico as the primary venue for the first exhibitions held on the island. Related documents include the title page of this issue of Art in Review (doc. No. 823185), “Other Gifts to the Art Collection of the University of Puerto Rico” (doc. No. 824943) and “Catálogo de pinturas de la Colección Degetau con notas de apreciación artística e histórica” (doc. No. 823403).
Muna Lee (Raymond, Mississippi, 1895–San Juan, Puerto Rico 1965) was an educator, translator, and writer of poems, stories, and novels. The United States Secret Service recruited her as a translator during the First World War, stationing her in New York. In 1919, she met Luis Muñoz Marín, governor of Puerto Rico from 1949 to 1965, to whom she was married for twenty-seven years. Lee was the source of moral and economic support for her husband throughout a tumultuous marriage that ultimately ended in divorce after a number of separations. Muna Lee was the chair of the advertising department at the Universidad de Puerto Rico from 1927 until 1946, when she resigned. At that time, she was on unpaid leave while working in Washington, DC. Muna Lee was a close friend of feminist journalist Ruby Black, who gave Muñoz Marín direct access to the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Lee worked at the Latin American Bureau of the State Department, and served as a specialist on Puerto Rico under presidents Harry S. Truman (1945–52), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1952–60) and John F. Kennedy (1960–63).