1957 – 1966

Toronto 1965: First Delegates’ Convention

The changes made to the articles of association in 1963 for the first time provided for the possibility of  a  Delegates’ Convention. Just two years later, the time came to hold the first Delegates’ Convention of the Association. In conformity with the articles of association, as well as the Managing Board Members, six Delegates from the electoral regions, as well as six guest Delegates from North and South America gathered in Toronto to take part in this assembly. But it was not only the holding of the first Delegates’ Convention which represented a first: at the Convention in Toronto: mouth and foot painters from all over the world were also meeting outside Europe for the first time.

The President was accorded the honour of announcing that the Association had once more grown over the past two years, and the distribution of members had once more undergone worldwide expansion. At the time of the Delegates’ Convention in Toronto, 80 mouth and foot painters belonged to the Association as Full or Scholarship Holders. This was 26 more than just two years previously, in Madrid. The number of countries represented had also increased. Counting Brazil and Mexico on the American continent, as well as India, VDMFK was now represented in 25 countries.

The continually growing membership numbers caused the Managing Board to propose to the Delegates that the Managing Board should be expanded, a proposal which was unanimously approved by all present. New elections therefore became necessary, and the managing Board was expanded for the first time in the history of the Association. In a secret ballot, the Delegates elected the mouth painter Eugen Pirard from Belgium. Following the 1965 Delegates’ Convention, the Managing Board was therefore composed of the following people: Arnulf Erich Stegmann, President, Marlyse Tovae, Charles Pasche, Eugen Pirard and legal adviser Dr. Dr. Herbert Batliner.

Madrid 1963: Fifth General Assembly

The fifth General Assembly of 1963 in Madrid occupies a special place in the history of the Association. At this meeting, the articles of association of VDMFK underwent a fundamental revision, which was unanimously approved by all the members present. This new version of the articles of association was necessary, as the number of Full Members and Scholarship Holders was constantly growing, and, from 1963 onwards, was scattered over all the continents. For, from the time of this General Assembly, the Association was represented by 54 Full Members and Scholarship Holders in 22 countries.

In his annual report, President Arnulf Erich Stegmann explained why the change to the articles of association was necessary in the following words: “As we now have a large number of members – not only in Europe, but also in America, Australia and Asia, we must make decisions which are in keeping with the current circumstances. We hope that the financial basis of our Association will continue to strengthen, for a host of young artists who are currently attending art schools and academies must then become Full Members of our Association.” According to the minutes of the meeting, the President also explained: “The acceptance into the Association of more and more artists from non-European countries, has also made it necessary to introduce a change concerning the General Assembly.” Specifically, this meant that through including the Delegates’ Convention in the articles of association, the members present approved an expansion of the official bodies of VDMFK. Moreover, from this point on the Delegates’ Convention became the supreme official organ of the Association and was composed of representatives from three electoral regions. These were: a) Europe and Africa, b) all South, Central and North American states and c) the rest of the world, as defined in the articles of association. For every seven members, an electoral district could send one member to the Delegates’ Convention.

The tasks which were transferred to the Delegates’ Convention were diverse. They included, among other tasks, the election of the Managing Board and the passing of resolutions concerning changes to the articles of association. The Plenary Meeting continued to be an official body of VDMFK and it regarded itself as an assembly of all members. It was to gather now and again, as decided by the Delegates’ Convention. The same competencies and tasks were transferred to it “as to the Delegates’ Convention, but with the exception of the elections”, as can be read in the articles of association of 1963. Furthermore, it was laid down in the articles of association that the President and Initiator of the Association, Arnulf Erich Stegmann, had been elected to his post for life at the Founding Meeting.

1961: Fourth General Assembly in Vienna

20 of the 24 members gathered in Vienna on 4th and 5th June 1961 to take part in the fourth General Assembly of the Association. It thereby became clear that the Association was not going to stop at the borders of Europe. The Australian Athol Thompson was the first artist from outside Europe to joint the Association. In addition, the list of Scholarship Holders supported by the Association was constantly getting longer and more international. With the support of an artist from South Africa and an artist from Argentina, from 1961 onwards VDMFK was already represented on four continents. VDMFK’s increasingly international character also became evident in the fact that, in October 1960, an exhibition took place outside Europe for the first time. It was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, and inspired several different media to report on the Association. At the General Assembly in Vienna, two innovations were brought in. The first was that, for the first time, the members met at two year intervals, and the second was that for the first time no elections to the Board were necessary, as the General Assembly two years before had extended the term of office to four years.

Edinburgh 1959: Third General Assembly

At the invitation of the publishing house in Great Britain, the mouth and foot painters met in Edinburgh to hold the third General Assembly. This occasion was overshadowed by the death of the Managing Board member Corry F. Riet, who died in November 1958, only six months after being re-elected to the Board. The passing of Corry F. Riet meant that the members of the Association had to fill the vacant seat on the Board. The delegates therefore elected the foot painter, and later President, Ms Marlyse Tovae from Switzerland to the Board. After the General Assembly in Edinburgh, the Managing Board of the Association was thus composed as follows: Arnulf Erich Stegmann, President, Charles Pasche, Marlyse Tovae and legal adviser Dr. Dr. Herbert Batliner.

Paris 1958: Second General Assembly

Just over a year later, the VDMFK family met in Paris for the second General Assembly. At this point, the members already numbered 21. An additional 12 young artists had been granted scholarships. 20 mouth and foot painters from 16 countries undertook the journey to the capital of France to take part in this General Assembly from 6th to 8th May 1958.

Founding Meeting in March 1957

On 19th and 20th March 1957, 16 mouth and foot painters from different European countries met together in Vaduz, the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein, to hold the founding meeting of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painters. The initiator of this founding was Arnulf Erich Stegmann from Germany. It was he who had the idea of founding such an association, and who, on his own initiative, searched for mouth and foot painters who would welcome this plan and would therefore want to be founding members. In all, he was able to find 18 artists who were ready to join the Association. He achieved his goal and life work on those two spring days when 16 of the 18 members gathered at the Waldhotel above Vaduz, in order to carry out the official founding of VDMFK. This was the birth of a more than 50-year success story.

During the Founding Meeting, Arnulf Erich Stegmann gave an address in which he described his plans. He thereby emphasised: “In 1947 – that is, exactly 10 years ago – I resolved that in the future I would work together with all my colleagues who, like myself, create works of art by mouth or foot, if these colleagues were willing to do so. […] Why? In this world where we live, which is often so hostile towards the physically disabled, such an association offers a huge possibility for more easily overcoming their difficulties, whether in the area of art or of life in general. It is quite simply sad and absurd, that despite having achieved the highest standards in their artistic work, severely physically disabled artists (as is demonstrated here over and over again) are not allowed to state publicly that these works have not been created in the normal way, and that they have come into being using the mouth or foot as a substitute for the hand. […] Yet for us, this work, this artistic creativity, represents the key to freedom. This is why, in the autumn of 1947, I asked the German artist Bruno Schmitz-Hochburg to work together with us. Then, in 1952, the Austrian mouth and foot painter Erich Macho came along: now we were a three-leafed clover. When I heard that the Swiss foot painter Charles Pasche was living on Lake Geneva, I visited him, and our clover now had four leaves. Later on, I travelled to Holland and we joined forces with Miss Corry F. Riet and Miss Riek de Vos. In Sweden, I visited Mr Henry Ullberg, who is permanently confined to his bed; he was more than willing to work with us. In France, we found Madeleine Jars, Geneviève Barbedienne and Marie-Louise Tovae, in Belgium, Eugène Pirard, and then Elof Lundberg and Sune Fick back in Sweden, Irene Schricker and Cefischer (Carl Fischer) in Germany, de Munter in Belgium again, Evi Thor in Sweden, and Rolf Thomassen in Norway.”

The agenda on that day, 20th March 1957, consisted of eight items. These included elections to the Managing Board. After President Arnulf Erich Stegmann stated that he would not be standing for election, since, as the founder and initiator of VDMFK, he could hold the office of President for life, and also that legal adviser Dr. Dr. Herbert Batliner did not need to be elected, it became necessary to find two more Board Members. At President Arnulf Erich Stegmann’s suggestion, the two artists Corry F. Riet, a mouth painter from the Netherlands, and Charles Pasche, a foot painter from Switzerland, stood for election. Both were elected to the Managing Board by a large majority.

One milestone with regard to the openness of VDMFK was also reached on that day. At the request of legal adviser Dr. Dr. Herbert Batliner, the following paragraph was included in the articles of association: VDMFK has a neutral attitude with regard to religious, philosophical and political beliefs. Any preferential treatment or discrimination due to the religious, philosophical or political beliefs of a member is therefore impermissible.” With this passage, the Association formally opened itself to all cultures, and it is characterised TODAY by its great openness and high regard for the disabled artists, irrespective of the part of the world and cultural group from which a mouth or foot painter may come.