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Jackson Pollock

'An astonishing story': How an heiress' $900 donation led to a BMA exhibit of Picasso, Dali and other masters

'An astonishing story': How an heiress' $900 donation led to a BMA exhibit of Picasso, Dali and other masters

A gesture as simple as writing a check can have heroic consequences.

The $900 that the Baltimore heiress and art patron Saidie Adler May filled out represents a modest sum, even viewed from the perspective of 1940. It’s the equivalent of $16,150 in 2019 dollars, or roughly the amount needed to buy a late-model used car. But it was enough to possibly save four people from the Nazis.

May’s $900 donation purchased boat passage during World War II from occupied France to the U.S. for the major Surrealist painter Andre Masson; his wife, Rose; and their young sons, Diego and Luis. Rose Masson and the boys were Jewish; Andre Masson’s art had been condemned by the Nazis as...

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