Your article on the provenance of artistic items in the Princeton University Art Museum (Campus Notebook, Oct. 10) raises the issue of the outcome of the Monet and Gauguin paintings and other art objects of the collection of Gabrielle and Paul Oppenheim of Princeton. I viewed them in the art museum in the late 1980s and 1990s. The paintings were displayed as loans from an anonymous lender. I knew the Oppenheims as a speech-therapy student of Gabrielle from 1950 to 1954 and as her longtime friend. 

The Oppenheims were of the highest level of European Jewry before World War I.  Gabrielle’s father was Rector of the University of Brussels. Her mother was Italian. Paul was a German-Jewish executive in IG Farben, the German armaments manufacturer. They were part of a social set that included Albert Einstein. These people bought and collected modern art at Left-Bank Paris prices in the early 20th century.

Hitler’s assumption of power in 1933 caused Paul’s immediate ouster from IG Farben. Miraculously, they and their two sons got out of Germany with all of their modern art. They followed their friend Einstein to Princeton, and famously walked every Sunday morning with Einstein along the Lake Carnegie pathway.  They lived in a colonial-revival house at 57 Princeton Ave., which had a soft contemporary decor to display their paintings. The color scheme of pink and light blue was keyed to a Monet painting of London Bridge over their living room mantel.

Gabrielle was about 55 when I met her. Beyond speech therapy, we became cultural friends. Our speech therapy concentrated on slow reading of D.H. Lawrence stories – not bad duty. She would take me to New York to visit the art museums and galleries, especially the Frick and MOMA. We’d have lunch at the old Russian Tea Room. I see the experience now as a mentorship within a Princeton education – all for five bucks per therapy session. Paul died first, followed by Gabrielle at more than 100. 

At my 35th reunion with my wife, Anne, and daughter, Mary, we visited Gabrielle. She must have been 94 years of age. She made a tragic confession that explained our close friendship. Her younger son had died in the terrible Coconut Grove nightclub fire in the 1940s. It was as if he had died in a German concentration-camp oven. In her grief I became a substitute son, for which I was very grateful.

Did Gabrielle help me with my stuttering? Her relaxation technique was not what I needed. I was 56 when my father died. I came to terms with his unreasonable pressure on me throughout my life. None of my achievements was ever high enough for him, especially in my adulthood. He was sending me want ads for general-counsel positions into my 50s. He probably expressed dissatisfaction with my early childhood speech, causing the onset of stuttering. At his death, I accepted myself as a stutterer and adopted the best techniques of my experience. I speak fluently, with only the involuntary repetitions inherited from my childhood. Like many parents, my father was paying for therapy to correct the problem of stuttering that he had caused. In many ways, I always had a secret life from him. My pleasure of knowing Gabrielle Oppenheim was one of them.

Fred Fraley ’54