A weekly look at SoCal life covering news, arts and culture, and more. Hosted by John Rabe

Langer's Delicatessen home to pastrami, fine art: the story behind Marinus Welman's deli paintings

by Kevin Ferguson | Off-Ramp®

Norm Langer in front of the Marinus Welman's painting of Langer's Deli. Norm's father appears in the far left and Norm himself makes an appearance toward the top right. Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

Langer's Delicatessen has been around for over 65 years now. The MacArthur Park-adjacent institution's serves matzo ball soup, lox on bagel and the famous Number 19 sandwich. Past the hordes of pastrami-loving diners that line the booths you'll find three paintings: they show a Langer's Deli 45 years into the past.

Off-Ramp Kevin Ferguson found out the paintings are the  work of a Dutch born painter named Marinus Welman who is still painting today. He went to Langers to investigate. Norm Langer, the deli's owner says despite pleas to sell them, the paintings are a treasured part of his "public collection."

Welman hasn't gone far. He's living in Southern California still and keeps a studio in an industrial part of Orange. He says he was asked by the deli's founders—Al and Jean Langer—to produce three paintings for the restaurant. In exchange Welman said Langer's gave him about $1000 and a year's supply of the deli's Number 6: chopped chicken liver and pastrami. 

Welman—a lifelong artist—was 20 when he moved to the states. He grew up in Amsterdam during World War II. His first paintings showed scenes of war wrecked buildings and food, which was scarce then. 

He made a career here as a graphic artist in the states but never losing his love for fine art.  And touring his studio you'll find all genres: beautiful coastal landscapes, portraits of American Indians, enormous skyscapes. He says that recently though, he's confronting a topic that for a long time was hard to approach: the Holocaust.

Welman's Holocaust work was recently on display at Santa Ana's Q Art Salon. Along with a series of foreboding portraits of anonymous Nazi generals, Welman also depicts scenes of everyday life. One painting shows a group of women happily singing as a uniformed Nazi soldier plays the accordion. The blood red background and the grotesque depiction of the characters tells the viewer something isn't right here. The scene, Welman says, is based off a photograph taken at Auschwitz. 

Welman says it's these kinds of images that both inspire and enrage him. "Sometimes when I come across these people having so much fun and making their music, rollicking it up in a death camp—that it just sparks me to do something nasty," says Welman.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Enjoy Off-Ramp®? Try KPCC’s other programs.

What's popular now on KPCC