Ingeborg ten Haeff

Regina Cherry

    A commanding, flamboyant presence in the world of artists and writers in East Hampton and Amagansett from 1948 until 1996, Ingeborg ten Haeff died on May 21 in New York City. She was 95.
    Ms. ten Haeff studied acting, singing, and music as a young woman in Germany and started painting after moving to New York in the late 1940s. Her paintings were abstract, but she also felt them as representations of people and human relationships. Ms. ten Haeff’s work has been shown in Europe and on the East End, both in group and solo shows.
    Clara Ponce de Leon, a friend for more than 40 years, said, “. . . besides the great affection that I always have for her, I also admired her beauty, her unique personality, the power of her paintings, and the beautiful atmosphere she created around her.”
     Before moving to New York, however, as a young woman of 25 Ms. ten
Haeff married Dr. Lutero Vargas, the eldest son of the president of Brazil, and, knowing no Portuguese, moved to Rio de Janeiro and became a Brazilian citizen. While there she studied sculpture and, in 1944, received a Rockefeller fellowship for study at the Juilliard School in Manhattan.
    In 1947 Ms. ten Haeff and Dr. Vargas divorced and she decided to make her life in New York, where J.B. Neumann, who represented Paul Klee and other artists persecuted by the Nazis, offered her a position at his 57th Street gallery. Soon after, she met Paul Lester Wiener, an architect and city planner who had designed the United States Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair. They would marry, but only after Mr. Wiener had divorced his second wife.
    The couple traveled to South America, where Mr. Wiener’s firm had begun a series of major city planning projects. Upon their return, they began spending summers in East Hampton, at first in rented houses in Georgica. In 1953 they rented a barn from Jeffrey and Penelope Potter on their Stony Hill Farm property in Amagansett. Mr. Wiener turned the simple barn into a charming, cozy, and spacious living quarters, where Ms. ten Haeff would spend summers for the next 43 years. Mr. Wiener died in 1967.
    Ingeborg ten Haeff was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, on July 31, 1915, the second daughter of Emmy Lindenberg and Hugo ten Haeff, a successful businessman in his family’s business in the illuminating-gas industry. She grew up comfortably and in a wide circle of friends from all over the world, although her father’s death when she was only 5 was a huge blow.
    Ms. ten Haeff became a U.S. citizen after marrying Paul Wiener and continued to travel widely and go on art tours. In 1968 Ms. ten Haeff met John Githens, a translator and scholar of Slavic languages who was then teaching Russian at Vassar College. The pair married and continued to travel in Central America, Japan and South Korea, Burma and Indonesia, and Thailand. Mr. Githens survives.
    Ignacio Ponce de Leon, a part-time resident of Amagansett for many years, said of Ms. ten Haeff, “Since my childhood, Ingeborg has symbolized all things beautiful and aesthetic. To be in her presence . . . was to feel the power of art on a very human level. She was an embodiment of these things and also a precious human being. . . . We are all unique, but Ingeborg was much, much more unique.”
    Ms. ten Haeff was tall and carried herself ramrod straight, always dressed stylishly and colorfully. Elizabeth Strong Cuevas, a sculptor and friend, said, “I would say that Ingeborg was a magnificent warrior in life on the side of beauty and truth.”
    In addition to her husband, Ms. ten Haeff is survived by her granddaughter, Alexandra Hamilton Kimball of Los Angeles, two great-grandchildren, and three nieces, two in Germany and one in Switzerland. Her daughter, Candida Vargas, died in 2003.
    Mr. Githens is planning a memorial to be held in East Hampton at a date to be announced.