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A Panama financial scandal with money laundering implications around the world emerged over the weekend as the leading story in the news. A complete contrast to most of the time where it is a sleepy backwater canal area frequented by tourists transiting the canal from one ocean to another.

A century ago this was not the case as a leading American Impressionist painter Jonas Lie traveled down there to paint what was then the largest engineering effort in world history, the United States Army Corps of engineers effort to build a canal to link the two oceans and decrease transit time in case of war from 66 days down to two weeks. The USS Oregon made history in 1898 by racing down the west coast to be in position for the war in Cuba and the record sixty six day transit time made obvious the need for a canal.

These photos were taken largely at the museum at West Point in 2005 as a prospective Art in Embassies show this writer curated for the then United States Ambassador to Portugal, Ambassador Al Hoffman, a member of the USMA Class of 1956. The politically correct curators of the state department deemed the series "too imperialistic" so the paintings remained in storage.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, this year organized by the Hudson River Museum and James A. Michener Art Museum, Oh Panama! Jonas Lie Paints the Panama Canal is curated by Kirsten M. Jensen, Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator of at the Michener Art Museum and Bartholomew F. Bland, Deputy Director of the Hudson River Museum.

Link to this years museum exhibition:

Archival program to the orginal exhibition of these works held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1914

J Lie01Jonas Lie (1880-1940), Panama Canal construction Collection: West Point Museum

J Lie02Jonas Lie (1880-1940), Cucaracha Slide, Panama Canal Construction, Collection: West Point Museum

J Lie03Jonas Lie (1880-1940), Cranes at Miraflores, Panama Canal Construction, Collection: West Point Museum

J Lie04Jonas Lie (1880-1940), Lock Chamber, Pedro Miguel, Panama Canal construction, Collection: West Point Museum

J Lie05Jonas Lie (1880-1940), Toil, Panama Canal construction, Collection: West Point Museum

J Lie06Jonas Lie (American, 1880–1940), The Conquerors, Culebra Cut, Panama Canal, Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art

J Lie07Jonas Lie (1880-1940), Cullebra Cut, 1913, Collection: Detroit Institute of the Arts

J Lie08Jonas Lie (1880-1940), Gates at San Pedro Miguel Lost, Exhibited at the Pan Pacific Exposition, 1915

Lost painting last seen at the Pan Pacific Exposition, 1915

J Lie09Jonas Lie (American, 1880–1940), Excavation, Panama Canal, Collection: West Point Museum

J Lie10 hostheavenly panamaJonas Lie (American, 1880–1940), Heavenly Host, Panama Canal, Collection: West Point Museum

J Lie11Photo of the canal under construction

J lie 12Reason for the canal, cut transit time for United States battleships in time of war

manuel noriegabeforeafterRecent example of the fate of money launderer Manuel Noriega, before/after "Operation Just Cause"

Link to the West Point Museum2110 New South Post Road, West Point, New York 10996

Telephone: 845-938-3590, DSN: 312-688-3590, Hours: Open Daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year's Day, Map to West Point Museum

A criticism of this writer by an editor is that he buries the lead, after this display of past American endeavors on the Isthmus it is a reminder that the Panama Canal despite the nominal independence of the country remains "of interest" to the United States Government. At first the recent release of documents in the Panama Papers appeared to be a sort of preememptive move by Russians looking to embarrass Putin and Company by exposing their money laundering in the United State's backyard as it were, especially after the FIFA/FBI/and CONCAF contretemps this will be fully investigated.

On second thought, the appearance of high ranking Chinese princelings in the discovery of these documents makes this even more of a story to unfold. Russia and China, caught in mischief in the backyard of the United States. So Jonas Lie works were deemed too imperialistic, perhaps, but they serve as a reminder that both Russia and China just got caught playing with funny money very close to a spare parking lot of the US Government.

FBI agents are probably in flight headed to Panama City to see what else may be of interest.

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About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...