When Ernst Wille was alive, his former student, Rolf Goellnitz, bought several of his paintings — partly because he admired the German artist's work, partly because he wanted to help Wille fund his latest artistic endeavors.
Now, the owner of OMC Gallery for Contemporary Art is paying tribute to his mentor in another way. "Couples and Pairs," a collection of paintings, silk-screen prints and gouashes that Wille produced before his death in 2005, went on display at the Old World Village gallery last weekend.
Goellnitz hopes the show, which marks the first time Wille's work has been displayed at the German-themed shopping center, will give exposure to an artist little-known in the United States.
"Nobody knows him here," Goellnitz said. "He's known in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, but he's totally new to California."
Wille did, though, make at least one significant mark on American art: When he was a prisoner of war during World War II at Fort Niagara in New York, he painted a large mural depicting American history. Wille was sent home in 1946 before he could finish the mural, and he and Goellnitz returned in 1999 to complete the image.