Edgar Leeteg once described himself as a “fornicating, gin-soaked, dope-head.” This wasn’t far off the mark. As a result, all the major artists and writers of the South Pacific knew of him — not to mention, the wider public. The talented iconoclast took on the Hawaiian art establishment, also challenging the Honolulu Academy of Arts, with his oversized antics and antiauthoritarian attitude. Leeteg’s insatiable lust for life led the author James Michener to label him “Leeteg the Legend” in his book, Rascals in Paradise (1957).
What follows is the story of the “American Gauguin.” Leaving California in 1933, with oil paints and a few paint brushes, he conquered the South Pacific art scene. (And of course, its nightlife.) Read on to learn the sensational story of Leeteg, black velvet artist and party man of Tahiti, who painted sumptuous vahines in his tropical paradise Villa Velour and was the father of black velvet art.