From 1940 to 1946 the amount of art galleries in Manhattan more than tripled. (DK266)
After the separation Rothko lived alone in an apartment in Brooklyn Heights. (RO163) Morris Calden who had rented a room from Mark and Edith when they were still living together in Brooklyn, visited Rothko and later said that when Edith "threw him out" he "took to his bed... He wasn't sick; he just was in bed. He couldn't get over the fact that she had thrown him out, and just took to his bed and he'd lay in his bed week after week and I used to come and visit him and he'd just lie there... all he talked about was Edith," complaining about being humiliated by her action and saying things like "she'll never get someone else like me; she'll regret it." According to Calden it was after Rothko recovered from his "breakdown" over Edith that he "started the myth paintings." (See 1941)
According to the Barnett Newman Foundation's chronology, "Newman is not painting during the early 1940s but pursues his interest in natural science. he takes classes at the American Museum of Natural History and is elected an associate of the American Ornithologists Union. Over the summer, Barney and Annalee attend an Audubon Society Camp in Newcastle, Maine, where they study birds and marine life." (MH/RO163)
By buying in bulk Hirshhorn obtained the paintings for $300 each. Hirshhorn would also buy Arshile Gorky in bulk during the early 1940s - see March 20, 1943. (DK470)
Joop Sanders met de Kooning at a concert featuring the music of Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland and William Schuman. Like de Kooning Saunders was Dutch. He had immigrated to the U.S. in 1939. At the concert Sanders started talking to the woman sitting next to him. When he told her his name was Joop, she remarked, "Oh, is that Dutch? You have to meet my fiance who is also Dutch." The woman was Elaine Fried (Elaine de Kooning). (DK193)
Franz Kline and his wife Elizabeth were evicted from 146 MacDougal Street for not paying their rent and moved to 71 West 3rd Street. (FK177)
The first time that Marcus Rothkowitz exhibited under the name of Mark Rothko was at a group show at the Neumann-Willard Gallery. The exhibition also included the work of Marcel Gromaire and Joseph Solman. By 1941 Rothko was also listing himself as "Mark Rothko" in the Manhattan phone book. (The name used on the letterhead and exhibition catalogues of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors was "Marcus Rothko.") Rothko's brothers were already using a different last name - "Roth." Both were listed under the name "Roth" in the 1918 Portland City Directory. (RO586)
Rothko would not legally change his name until May 16, 1959.
Swiss-born (to Greek parents), Nicholas Calas was an art critic and poet who aligned himself with André Breton and the Surrealists after arriving in Paris in 1934 and was an early contributor to Charles Henri Ford's View magazine in America. He would later write art criticism for the Village Voice.
From Surrealism in Exile by Martica Sawin:
Calas was a poet of Greek origin who had lived in Paris since 1934 and had been welcomed as a bright young protégé by Breton. As a second generation Surrealist he had been one of those, along with Mabille, Matta, Brauner, and Brunius, who tried to broaden its scope. Soon after his arrival in New York in early 1940 he received a visit from James Laughlin, publisher and general editor of New Directions books, with a proposal that he edit a Surrealist anthology for the 1940 New Directions annual. He invited Calas to stay at his home in Norfolk, Connecticut, during the summer while working on the anthology.
At least a portion of what Calas assembled, his 'Surrealist Dictionary' and his introduction to Surrealism in the form of an interview, offered a helpful clarification of the movement's basic premises. He then launched into his own 'Towards a Third Surrealist Manifesto,' an unfortunately garbled polemic that can only have baffled the reader and that Breton later severely criticized. Cala's selection of poems and prose and prose excerpts, all appearing in English translation for the first time, are from the work pr pre-Surrealists such as Rimbaud and Apollinaire as well as from the full range of Surrealist writers and some painters as well. For some reason, perhaps as a form of disavowal, Laughlin decided to end the anthology with essays by two outspoken critics of Surrealism, Herbert Muller and Kenneth Burke. Literary Surrealism was thus launched in the United States in a somewhat ambivalent fashion.. Since Laughlin later told Claes it was the worst disaster of his publishing career, apparently not many readers took the opportunity to be introduced to the movement that was even then descending on New York. (SS151-52)
Calas contributed to View magazine beginning with the first issue (September 1940 - see below), with the essay "Mexico Brings Us Art." [Note: Sawin incorrectly states that his first contribution was a letter published in the October issue.] During the 1960s he contributed a chapter ("Pop Icons") to Lucy R. Lippards seminal work, Pop Art, in which he likened Surrealism to Pop Art.
Nicholas Calas [from "Pop Icons" in Pop Art by Lucy R. Lippard]:
During the 1920s, Surrealism was Cubism's anti-art, as Pop Art is the anti-art of Expressionism... Lichtenstein, Wesselmann, and Warhol are no more Pop artists in the original British sense of the term than were Duchamp or Léger Futurists in the Italian sense. If the Italian Futurists had a Vulcan complex, the British Pop artists can be said to have a cornucopia complex, that is to say, a love-hate attitude toward America's wealth as they envisage it through the glossy American magazines... The Pop artists look out on the world through through reproductions. They paint it the way the Surrealists painted the dream - photographically. Having rejected the role of spiritual sons to some great master, both the Surrealists and the Pop artists have been viewed as anti-artists. (LL163/167/170)
Calas died of heart failure at the age of 81 at his home in Manhattan. The New York Times obituary for Nicholas Calas was published January 2, 1988.
During the late 1930s/early 1940s de Kooning was without steady employment, supporting himself by making furniture for other artists or an occasional freelance commercial art job (including for his ex-employer A.S. Beck). Elaine modeled and worked for a company painting dials on instrument panels. (DK180) De Kooning would employ commercial art techniques when painting:
He spoke about commercial art techniques and how he used them. Of course originally they were fine arts techniques, but they were much more used in commercial arts. Like using tracing paper and transferring with tracing paper. And he used to do these things that they do in commercial art layouts - they cut out and do a sort of collage, a final pasteout. I remember him doing one thing when I was in the studio - drawing lipsticks. Kind of drawing them literally, in art deco style. He would make an arrangement by cutting them out and moving them around. That's something he also did a great deal of in his early paintings. (DK186)
De Kooning was a perfectionist. Dissatisfied with many of his early works he would destroy them or paint over them rather than try to sell them even though he lacked a steady income. He received some financial assistance from friends who bought his paintings. Elaine de Kooning's brother, Conrad Fried, later commented "Friends would bail him out by buying a painting. Bill would sell at any price. Whatever they had in their pocket." (DK178)
Early collectors of de Kooning included Alain (Daniel) Brustlein and his wife Janice (Biala), Ellen and Walter Auerbach, de Kooning's neighbours Edwin Denby and Rudy Burckhardt, Max Margulis and Milton Robinson. Janice Biala was the sister of the artist Jack Tworkov. De Kooning met Tworkov while both were working for the WPA. Janice would later say, "We [Janice and her husband Alain] bought a number of pictures from de Kooning because he needed the money. We're not collectors. We paid him the regular price. We were the only people who did that Bill told Alain. We bought Woman [a turquoise and pink painting ca. 1943/44] and paid $700 for it, which at that time was a pretty good price." (DK177)
Margulies and Robinson each bought at least one of de Kooning's works and Walter and Ellen Auerbach purchased four small paintings for $10 each. Denby and Burckhardt bought a similar amount of paintings during the first half of the decade. Burckhardt was a college student at the time, living off a family trust fund: "Edwin and I would help him out with twenty dollars now and then, and he'd give us a small painting or drawing, or we'd buy a bigger one for maybe $200." (DK178)
During the early 1940s, de Kooning also entered into an arrangement with Pierre Latishe - a "kind of a con man" (according to Elaine's brother Conrad Fried) who knew his way around advertising agencies but lacked the artistic skills to get his own commissions. Latishe would get commissions for commercial work, De Kooning would ghost the work and the two would split the money. One of the jobs was a portrait of a judge who was about to go into retirement.
That judge would come to Bill's studio, put on his robes and sit on this chair, and Pierre would be behind the easel. He would make believe that he was painting. He had told the judge that he could not see the portrait until it was finished. Meanwhile Bill would be hanging around [pretending to be be Latishe's assistant] and then, after he left, Bill would paint him from memory, through what he observed. (DK182)
Adolph Gottlieb's friends from Brooklyn had been spending part of the year at Bolton Landing since purchasing a farm there in 1929. (AG23)
The freelance commercial art commission featured four round cameo busts of young girls each with a distinctive hairstyle. Elaine was the model for the sketches. They were commissioned through the efforts of Rudy Burckhardt, possibly at Elaine's suggestion. Burckhardt regularly sold photographs to Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of the magazine. De Kooning, with the help of Elaine, prepared a fashion portfolio for Burckhardt to show Brodovitch. Although Brodovitch was unimpressed by the portfolio, he commissioned de Kooning to do the four hairstyle sketches at $75 per sketch. (DK180/181)
According to de Kooning biographers, Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, "The Harper's Bazaar drawings emerged from the last drawing that de Kooning would ever do in an academic, old-master style, a portrait of Elaine from 1940-41 in which she sat, wide-eyed, gazing at the viewer... As usual, de Kooning worked slowly and deliberately. Every stroke, once made, was reconsidered and in all likelihood changed. The process was so tortuous that de Kooning announced that he would not to any more Ingresque 'academic' drawings. 'He said that if he kept this up he'd go crazy,' said [Rudy] Burckhardt. (DK180)
The magazine was published by the United American Artists which, according to Serge Guilbaut in How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, was a "Communist-dominated group that followed the new Party line in foreign policy by opposing the entry of the United States into the conflict in Europe and by sanctioning the artist's participation in politics." (SG46)
The watercolour, titled Country Studio, was shown in an exhibition of art by members of the association. It is likely that it was the same painting he exhibited at the ACA Gallery in 1938 under the name of Studio. (MH)
Spring 1940: William Baziotes meets Matta.
I found it hard to imagine Bill, born and bred in working-class Reading, Pennsylvania, in sophisticated Surrealist circles. He told me that he met Matta in the spring of 1940 and they became friends. Bill recalled: 'Matta was a shrewd analyst of paintings. But I didn't understand much of what he was talking about. He once told me he was a corpse over which flies crawl. What in hell does that mean?" Bill and Matta differed in critical ways. Bill said that "Matta called Picasso a carpenter. He once told me that I painted too well. He was interested in living. I felt closer to being a carpenter. (IS106)
The Soviet Union's invasion of Finland in November 1939 had caused a split among the members of the American Artists' Congress. Rather than being a liberating force for the working classes, the Soviet Union was now considered by some to be as imperialistic as the Fascist governments the members had railed against at their meetings. In fact, Stalin now seemed in league with the Nazi Germany. The two countries had signed a non-agression pact in August 1939. Then, the following month, Hitler had invaded Poland and about two months after that Stalin had invaded Finland. After the invasion the executive board of the American Artists Congress failed to respond to an appeal for help from the Hoover Committee for Finnish Relief. One of the founding members of the Congress, Ralph Pearson objected to the Communists' control of the Congresses board and urged Stuart Davis to have the board vote on the issue of Finland. Eventually the board asked Lynd Ward to prepare a report to be presented at the April 4, 1940 meeting. (AG27-28n27)
At the same meeting Ralph Pearson read a petition from a group that had formed around Meyer Schapiro. Among the signatories were Adolph Gottlieb, Milton Avery, George Biddle, Ilya Bolotowsky, Lewis Mumford and Mark Rothko. Schapiro spoke out against Ward's report which failed to condemn the Russian invasion of Finland but was unable to get enough members to vote against Ward's report. The vote was 125 to 12 in favour of remaining neutral in regard to the Soviet Union's invasion of Finland. Schapiro encouraged artists to protest by resigning from the Congress. (AG23/RO154)
Stuart Davis announced his resignation to the press on April 8, 1940. (BA290) Adolph Gottlieb and the Schapiro group publicly resigned on April 17, 1940. (Gottlieb and other members of the Schapiro dissident group would go on to form The Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors.) Although the American Artists' Congress would continue to operate until 1942, the controversy and resignation of so many members left it ineffective. (AG23) When Lewis Mumford resigned from the Congress, he called their silence on the issue of the Russo-German pact of August 1939, "a convert defence of Hitlerism." (AG28n52)
I produced a great deal of work during this period I was away from the New York scene and started using the material that was at hand. I didn't have any money. Art supplies were expensive. I started using paint from cans that I got from paint stores. I painted the objects that I picked up from the desert, dry pieces of cactus and other things, pieces of bone... I set up a still life... Well, then I came back to New York and had a show of that work. A lot of people seemed to think I had become very abstract. It didn't strike me as being particularly abstract...I simplified my space very much. And it was at that point that I became very much aware of certain special problems. It was necessary for me to have a certain kind of space for the kind of forms I wanted to use. That I think made it seem rather abstract. Oh, I was dealing with an abstract problem in that sense. It was all very tangible and specific to me as I worked but it had a look of what people call abstract. (AS/AG23)
The fourth, and last, Annual of the Artists' Congress took place at 785 Fifth Avenue. (AA278)
The New York Times announced the resignations of Meyer Schapiro, Lewis Mumford, Stuart Davis (a former national chairman), William Zorach (the New York chairman) and two members of the executive board, George Biddle and Ralph Pearson. Two days later, The Times reported the "secession" of seventeen congress members, including "M. Rothkowitz" (Mark Rothko) with a statement by the group of seceding artists. (RO154)
From the statement published in The New York Times, April 17, 1940 [as quoted in How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art]:
The American Artists' Congress which was founded to oppose war and fascism and to advance the professional interests of artists, at its last membership meeting on April 4, endorsed the Russian invasion of Finland and implicitly defended Hitler's position by assigning the responsibility for the war to England and France. The congress has also revised its policy of boycotting Fascist and Nazi exhibitions (e.g. Venice and Berlin 1936). It has failed to react to the Moscow meeting of Soviet and Nazi art officials and official artists, which inaugurated the new esthetic policy of cementing totalitarian relations through exchange exhibitions... The congress no longer deserves the support of free artists." (SG40)
The demonstrators distributed a broadside by Ad Reinhardt - "Is the MUSEUM A BUSINESS?" - in which Reinhardt quoted the president of the museum, Nelson Rockefeller, who had apparently said that by becoming the museum's president he was "engaging in show business." The exhibition at the time was "PM Competition: The Artist as Reporter" which ran from April 15 - May 7, 1940 and consisted of drawings and cartoons for PM newspaper. (RO141)
It was Matta's first show since arriving in the U.S. His first solo show would be at Pierre Matisse in 1942.
Different art writers have given different years for Gorky meeting Matta. Gorky biographer Nouritza Matossian indicates that they first met in 1942. (BA324) However, Jimmy Ernst recalls that both Matta and Gorky were part of a group that met at the Jumble Shop after one of Gordon Onslow Ford's lectures on Surrealism in early 1941 and that, at the Jumble Shop gathering, Matta referred to a "prior visit" to Gorky's studio. (See Late January 1941 - March 1941.)
Another Gorky biographer, Matthew Spender, has written that Gorky first heard about Matta from Willem de Kooning in the winter of 1941. (MS212) (According to Spender's account, it was the winter at the end of 1941 rather than the beginning i.e. winter 1941/42 rather than winter 1940/41.) Spender recalls an incident during the winter when de Kooning visited a Miró exhibition at an uptown gallery and saw some of Matta's work and told Gorky about it - the inference being that neither had seen his work before then. According to Spender, Gorky's reaction to Matta's work at that time was "Do you really like that kind of painting, Bill?" (MS214) According to de Kooning biographers, Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, however, "When Matta, arrived in 1939, Gorky quickly gravitated to him. By 1941, the two had become very close friends..." (DK173)
Hayden Herrera, another Gorky biographer, reflects the de Kooning time frame, noting that Gorky met Matta "soon after the twenty-seven-year old painter [Matta] arrived in the United States in 1939... Gorky and Matta could have met through Onslow Ford or at Matta's first exhibition in the United States, which took place at the Julien Levy Gallery in spring 1940." (HH383)
In Surrealism and Exile, Martica Sawin notes that "according to Peter Busa it was he who introduced Gorky to Matta, probably at a party at Matta's apartment." (SS323)
He [Gorky] told him [Matta] he thought he painted too thin. In those days Gorky was painting rather heavy. You could hardly lift his paintings and his palettes were so loaded with paint that they were like shields. Matta said he didn't think he painted so thin. An infantile conversation went on. Finally Gorky raised himself to his full height and said 'OK, let me put it this way. You don't paint so thin, I don't paint so thick,' and there was a lot of laughter. (SS325)
Sawin doesn't provide the year they actually met although she writes about the meeting in her "New York, 1943" chapter of Surrealism in Exile. Busa recalls meeting Matta at a party at Francis Lee's home in 1940 (SS323-4) so if Busa did introduce Gorky to Matta, it would have been between the time of the party in 1940 and the visit by Matta to Gorky's studio prior to the Jumble Shop gathering after one of Ford's lectures in early 1941.
Matta's influence on Gorky has probably been overstated by some art writers. Gorky tended to wax lyrically about his artistic influences (such as Picasso) but there is no record of him ever speaking in the same way about Matta. Comments by Gorky, as relayed by Busa and others, reflect a certain ambivalence toward Matta. Gorky (like Willem de Kooning) refused to join gatherings under Matta's leadership to explore the Surrealist technique of "automatic" painting (BA325) and in letters to his sister, Vartoosh, Gorky seemed more impressed by Breton than by Matta. According to Matta's wife at the time, Anne, "Breton felt very close to Gorky. He visited him a lot, appreciated him and helped him find his way. Breton had a wonderful way of inventing artists. He saw things in their work and he made suggestions to the artists that became a reality for them." (BA353)
Gorky's Garden in Sochi (c. 1941-1943) paintings are often brought into play when analysing Matta's influence but Gorky had been playing around with Surrealist forms much earlier. His Surrealistically titled Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia paintings and studies from the early 1930s reveal a Surrealist influence before he was aware of Matta which probably derived from Miró.
Arshile Gorky, Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia, c. 1933-4, 36 × 47 7/8 in. (91.4 × 121.6 cm), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston - Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund, © 2015 The Arshile Gorky Foundation - The Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Some of Miró's works from the 1920s and early 1930s are sometimes described as Surrealist. Miro's The Tilled Field, attributed to 1923-1924, has been referred to by the Guggenheim Museum as "the first example of Miró’s Surrealist vision."
Miro, The Tilled Field (1923-24) Oil on canvas, 26 x 36 1/2 in., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Nancy Spector (Guggenheim description of The Tilled Field here):
During the summer of 1923 Joan Miró began painting The Tilled Field, a view of his family’s farm in Montroig, Catalonia. Although thematically related to his earlier quasi-realistic, Fauvist-colored rural views, such as Prades, The Village, this painting is the first example of Miró’s Surrealist vision.
According to Hayden Herrera, Matta did not start painting until 1938 - well after Gorky's Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia series. (HH383) Matta's work was apparently included in the "Internationale du surréalisme" exhibition at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris which opened in January 1938 but I've been unable to find out which works were included - presumably they were drawings rather than paintings if Herrera's assertion is correct. The first solo exhibition that Matta had in France took place after he moved to the U.S. - in the summer of 1947 at the Galerie Rene Drouin in Paris. (UL) Matta was not well-known in France as an artist before he moved to the United States. He became famous in France after he became famous in the U.S. rather than the other way round.
The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and surround the Allied units that had advanced into Belgium. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and many French soldiers were however evacuated from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo. In the second operation, Fall Rot (Case Red), executed from 5 June, German forces outflanked the Maginot Line to attack the larger territory of France. Italy declared war on France on 10 June. The French government fled to Bordeaux, and Paris was occupied on 14 June. After the French Second Army Group was forced to surrender on 22 June, France capitulated on 25 June. For the Axis, the campaign was a spectacular victory.
France was divided into a German occupation zone in the north and west, a small Italian occupation zone in the southeast and a collaborationist rump state in the south, Vichy France. France remained under German occupation until after the Allied landings in 1944; the Low Countries were liberated in 1944 and 1945.
A new rule had been instituted that artists be rotated i.e. terminated for at least a month after 18 months on the project. (JP98) Around the same time, Jackson's brother Sande wrote to their brother Charles that "Jack is doing very good work. After years of trying to work along lines completely unsympathetic to his nature, he has finally dropped the Benton nonsense and is coming out with an honest creative art." (PP319).
Hayter, a Surrealist painter and printmaker born in England, had previously operated his printmaking workshop, Atelier 17, in Paris at 17 rue Campagne Prèmiere. In the autumn of 1940 he reopened the Atelier 17 workshop as a course at the New School for Social Research.
Among the artists who produced prints in his workshop at the New School were Tanguy, Ernst, Chagall, Lipchitz and Masson. Matta often visited and produced what he called his New School series of erotic etchings there. Ruben Kadish, worked at Atelier 17 in 1944 and Adolph Gottlieb in 1945. Miro would do prints at Atelier 17 (at a different location) in 1947.
Stanley William Hayter:
Possibly more than the prints we did was the talk. The artists were living in very difficult circumstances and had no place to get together. There was a little room at the Jumble Shop tearoom on MacDougal Street where we used to meet to talk on Fridays. This was the forerunner of the Artists' Club. Actually the New York School really came together at Atelier 17. (SS155)
Atelier 17 would be based at the New School until 1945. After leaving the New School premises Hayter moved his studio to 41 East 8th Street in Greenwich Village. In 1950 he returned to Paris and Atelier 17 in New York continued to operate under various directors, finally closing in 1955.In 1944 The Museum of Modern Art held the exhibition, "Hayter and Studio 17: New Directions in Gravure" (June 18 - October 8, 1944)
Everyone at the studio was on his own. Hayter would tell them to ruin the plate. He urged them to start without sketches, take proofs, re-etch, add drypoint, do everything. The idea was to make the artist lose his fear of the plate and also to make it an intuitive process. I think it had a lot to do with the development of the automatic point of view. (SS154)
One of Hayter's techniques was to drip "guck" from a "drip can:"
Stanley William Hayter :
We had an experimental approach and created an environment where things could happen.... This is an example of what we did: a drip can hung on a compound pendulum. It was an ordinary can with the top and bottom cut out and a cone inserted that was filled with guck, a kind of bitumen. It swung in a discontinuous cyclical motion and the stuff dripped in some very odd patterns. (SS155)
In 1940 the British Surrealist Gordon Onslow Ford was granted leave by the British Navy to travel to the United States as a sort of cultural emissary. During January - February 1941 he gave a series of four lectures on Surrealism at the New School for Social Research in New York. The flyer for the series announced "Surrealist Painting: an adventure into Human Consciousness; 4 sessions, alternate Wednesdays. 8:20 - 10 p.m. $4. Far more than other modern artists, the Surrealists have adventured in tapping the unconscious psychic world. The aim of these lectures is to follow their work as a psychological barometer registering the desire and impulses of the community." (SS156)
One of the techniques used by Ford was to pour paint on to a canvas lying on the floor. He brought several of his poured canvases with him when he arrived in the U.S. in 1940. (SS52)
After he arrived in the U.S., Ford was invited to join Matta and his wife and David Hare and his wife, Susanna (née Wilson), at Frances Perkin's home on the Maine Coast. While there he painted Propaganda for Love. Susanna later recalled "writing affidavits for the Bretons and for Duchamp and urging her mother to be sure they got visas. " (SS107) Susanna was the daughter of the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Marot had been a teacher at the City and County School where Jackson had worked as a janitor in 1934. She had remained friends with Jackson after he left the school and had encouraged Jackson to receive treatment for his alcoholism in 1938 prior to his being admitted into the Bloomingdale Asylum for the 1930s equivalent of rehab. According to Pollock's therapist, Joe Henderson, the effect of her death on Jackson Pollock "was to push him back again into some of his old troubles, with an alcoholic binge as the outward symptom." (JP98)
Tolegian later recalled that he was awakened one night by the sound of breaking glass. He looked out the window of his apartment (located at 28 Vandam Street) and saw Jackson across the street with some rocks which he was throwing at the building's windows.
He broke a window on every floor of my building. Tenants came running out of the building shouting 'What the hell is going on?' I ran downstairs and beat him up. (JP99)
Tolegian never saw Pollock again. He left later that summer to move back to Los Angeles to work in the family business.
Pollock watched him paint the mural, Dive Bomber and Tank, at The Museum of Modern Art which had been commissioned for the exhibition "Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art." (PP319)
The organization was founded by the dissenters from the American Artists' Congress (see April 15, 1940 above) - including Mark Rothko, Meyer Schapiro, Adolph Gottlieb, Louis Harris and Ilya Bolotowsky. Although they condemned the dictatorships of Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain and Japan, the primary function of the group was getting their members' work exhibited rather than becoming embroiled in political disputes. A Cultural Committee in the Federation was established, headed by Gottlieb and Rothko. (SG45) Rothko was also the federation's representative to the Artists' Coordinating Committee, an organization of fourteen artists' societies, which was headed by Communist Hugo Gellert. (RO156)
Foreword to the Federation's Constitution:
The purpose of this organization shall be to promote the welfare of free progressive artists working in America. It will strive to protect the artist's economic and cultural interest and to facilitate the showing of his work. We recognize the dangers of growing reactionary movements in the U.S. and condemn every effort to curtail the freedom and the cultural and economic opportunities of artists in the name of race or nation, or in the interest of special groups in the community. We condemn artistic nationalism which negates the world traditions for art at the base of modern art movements. We affirm our faith in the democratic way of life and its principle of freedom of artistic expression and, therefore, oppose totalitarianism of thought and action, as practiced in the present day dictatorship of Germany, Russia Italy, Spain, Japan, believing it to be the enemy of the artist, interested in him only as a craftsman who may be exploited. Our organization shall be free from obvious or concealed political control. We shall admit to membership independent artists whose work has sufficient merit, irrespective of their religious or racial status, providing only that they share with us the belief in the integrity of the artist and the opposition to the oppressive forces we have named. (SG215n103)
According to Rothko biographer James E.B. Breslin, "Within two years, the organization had sixty-eight members and twenty-four sponsors. Like The Ten, the federation was primarily an exhibiting group, less cohesive, but larger, with a more diverse membership, and thus more effective. Just six days after its incorporation the group's 'First Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture' opened in the rotunda of the American Art Today Building at the New York World's Fair. " (RO155) The 1939 - 1940 World's Fair had opened on April 30, 1939, then closed its doors for the winter on October 31, 1939 and re-opened on May 11, 1940, finally closing on October 27, 1940.
Pétain agreed to "surrender on demand" anyone who the Nazi's wanted. (CL2)
The committee (sometimes referred to as the American Rescue Committee), launched at a fund-raising luncheon at the Commodore Hotel in New York, was an organization formed by private individuals to help cultural figures trying to escape from Europe as Hitler advanced into it.
The Emergency Rescue Committee is often credited with helping the Surrealists immigrate to the United States. Although they did help André Breton get to America, many of the Surrealists who would play a part in Abstract Expressionism had already immigrated by the time the Committee was launched. Surrealists who arrived prior to the formation of the Emergency Rescue Committee included Matta, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy, NIcholas Calas, Stanley William Hayter and Gordon Onslow Ford,
Arshile Gorky's financial situation was becoming increasingly dire. On August 11, 1940 he wrote to his sister Vartoosh of his concern over his finances: "Somehow I'll make my way. I am selling all of my books because I am able to do so, and last month Ethel's husband purchased one picture for $50. Thanks for the $2 from Moorad. Honestly I am so embarrassed when you send me money. The day will come when I shall be able to help you all." (BA295/294)
On June 27, 1940 Varian Fry had written to Eleanor Roosevelt, "What is urgently needed now is a new Scarlet Pimpernel who will go to France and risk his life, perhaps many times over, in an attempt to find the intended victims of Hitler’s chopping block, and either provide them with means to keep alive in hiding or, if [this] is possible, to get them out of France before the French authorities reach them. I have volunteered to go myself and shall do so if no more suitable person can be found."
On September 7, 1940 he wrote to his wife from Marseilles, "“These refugees are being crushed in one of the most gigantic vises in history. Unable to leave France, unable to work, and so earn money, they have been condemned to death - or, at best, to confinement in detention camps, a fate little better than death.”
A villa (Villa Air Bel) was rented in the suburb La Pomme which served as a temporary respite for cultural figures trying to escape from France, including André Breton, his wife Jacqueline Lamba and their daughter Aube. (Max Ernst would join them in December 1940.) (SS119/131) It was at the villa that Breton wrote his poem Fata Morgana. (SS124)
Hopeful émigrés at the Villa Air Bel, including André Breton (second from right)
(Photo: André Gomes)
While Breton was staying at Villa Air Bel, prior to his leaving for Martinique on March 25, 1941 en route to the United States, André Masson, who would follow Breton to Martinique, was staying in a hunting lodge in the suburb of Montredon, about an hour's train ride from Air Bel. During the winter of 1941 he made three drawings of Breton.
By April 1940, membership in the museum had more than doubled (from 3,000 to 6,846) and by July 1940 had reached 7,309. (SG88)
Kline visited Frederick Ryan and his wife at Hopkinton, Massachusetts, spending his time painting, drawing, going to auctions and buying low priced picture frames.
At the time of the occupation of France Breton was enlisted in the French Army. (On September 16, 1939 he had written a letter of introduction on behalf of Wolfgang Paalen to Leon Trotsky's secretary in Mexico in which he noted that he (Breton) would soon be in uniform as part of a medical staff attached to a pilot training school near Poitiers. (SS66/7).) By August 1940 Breton was in the city of Salon having traveled there after being demobilized in Gironde. It was from Salon that he wrote to Seligmann.
In his letter to Seligmann Breton wrote that "our work can be best carried out where you are, since the period of reconstruction in France will certainly not be auspicious for an artistic revolution." (FR/SS119) He also came up with a plan which would allow him an exit visa from France and entry into the United States. He asked Seligmann to secure an invitation from an important cultural organization for a series of lectures in the U.S. and added that money would have to be sent to him in advance.
In New York Seligmann contacted Alfred Barr and his wife Margaret Scolari Barr who worked as an intermediary with the Emergency Rescue Committee. By October Seligmann was able to write to Breton that he would be happy to help organize a lecture series and that there remained few obstacles to his immigration. (SS115)
Kline had returned to New York by August 14th from Massachusetts. Kline was instructed by the owner of the tavern to “Paint me girls!” He was paid five dollars each, plus canvas, to do ten panels.
Between early 1939 and 1942 Kline would also paint murals for bars in Brooklyn and Hoboken - it is unknown whether they still exist as their locations are not known. (FK177)
They married in Reno Nevada.
Sage (Katherine Linn Sage) was an American, born in Albany New York, who had moved to Italy in the early 20s where she met, married and eventually divorced (after ten years of marriage) Prince Ranieri di San Faustino. Tanguy would become her second husband in 1940 after they were married in Reno, Nevada. Sage had become interested in Surrealism after a chance meeting with Kurt Seligmann in a hotel where both were staying in 1936. She met Breton in the autumn of 1938 and became part of the group of Surrealists centred around Breton who often met in her apartment on the Ile St.-Louis.
It was with Sage's help that some of the European artists were able to immigrate to the United States. Sage's cousin was David Hare who was married to Susanna Wilson who was the daughter of the U.S. Secretary of Labor. The Department of Labor was responsible for immigration until 1941 when it was taken over by the Justice Department.
Kline won either $10 or $15 from the Whitney Museum of American Art at the Washington Square art show for a pen and ink drawing. Around this time he met Karl Kerkam who was also exhibiting in the outdoor show. Kline had been showing his work for four or five years at these shows and served on the jury for one of them after winning the Whitney prize. (FK176)
Philip Guston and his wife in Woodstock, Summer 1940
Philip Guston's mural, Work and Play, was painted prior to Guston's Martial Memory (which was painted during winter 1940/41 (DA47) and prior to the artist moving to Woodstock.
Government inspectors thought they saw a hammer and sickle in the curve of a dog's tail against a child's leg in a mural "Work and Play" that Guston was commissioned to do for the Queensbridge Housing Project in New York before it was complete. Guston was ordered to stop painting the mural until his background was investigated. (MM31)
After finishing the mural Guston resigned from the WPA and moved to Woodstock, New York - although he would, during the next two years, accept several commissions from the Section of Fine Arts of New York State, completing murals for buildings in Georgia, New Hampshire, the Social Security Building in Washington, D.C. and for President Lines. (MM32)
The first issue of View
It was not until Charles Henri Ford's View came along that America had its own avant-garde literary and art magazine. Ideologically View's policy adhered fairly strictly to the tenets of the Surrealist Manifesto, in spite of its editorials extolling 'magic,' which it claimed had supplanted Marx and Freud. Observing Breton's excommunication of Dali from the Surrealist cofraternity, View scrupulously excluded mention of the Catalan painter from its pages, except for Nicolas Calas's scathing 'Anti-Surrealist Dali' piece in 1941. Appropriately Dali's only artist appearance in View was a strictly commercial one, in an advertisement for Schiaparelli cosmetics.
... View began modestly in newspaper format, and one was not sure when the next issue would appear. Then it became a thin magazine printed on slick paper. When its circulation warranted more frequent publication, it began to be issued eight times yearly, each month save for the four summer months. Had the war not caused the flight from Paris of so many important painters and writers, it is unlikely that View would have existed.
... The magazine's success on the newsstands was largely due to the brilliant covers created for it by such artists as Man Ray, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, Pavel Tchelitchew, Alexander Calder, André Masson and Wilfredo Lam. (VPix-x)
When Motherwell returned from Europe he first taught art at the University of Oregon in Eugene before moving to New York.
That was when I really didn't know what to do and there my friend Lance Hart from Westport was a professor at Oregon and there was a teaching assistant, or probably an instructor, who was on leave of absence and they needed somebody. He realized that I didn't know how to move from he academic world into the art world, which was what I really wanted. And he proposed --and it would only be possible in a small friendly university like that -- he proposed to them that they give me the job even though I wasn't ostensibly equipped. And they did. And it was there that I really began to paint all the time, and taught courses in art. I did know the history of modern art. I gave a course in aesthetics which knew, philosophical aesthetics which I knew; and so on. It was then that I really began to paint all the time... (SR)
He didn't remain long at the University of Oregon. Later that year he moved to New York and enrolled in the Department of Art History and Archeology at Columbia University as a graduate student where he studied under Meyer Schapiro. Schapiro introduced Motherwell to the European artists in exile. In 1941 Motherwell would travel to Mexico with the the Surrealist artist, Roberto Matta, for six months.
I had painted some in Paris. In fact, I had a small show in Paris of sort of silly work. You see, then I was very ingrained with what nowadays would be called French intimate painting. I liked very much Matisse, Bonnard, Vuillard, Utrillo, Braque, certain aspects of Picasso. Which was a very powerful influence in the world. Everything changes, but one has no idea how dominant in terms of international communication that particular aspect of modern art was -and Matisse above all. I mean to many people it seemed to be modern art with surrealism and abstract art and German Expressionism and sort of maverick fringes of this central core. So I began to work that way. I mean very much in my own way, very beautifully. Unfortunately, none of the work exists. You know, I'd leave it at home and when the family would move they'd give it away or burn it, or whatever. I spent a year learning, let's say, French intimate painting very well. I did some of it from post cards of France. I did some of it from nature in Oregon. But it was hard to do in Oregon because Oregon is very foresty and Scandinavian; and all that French thing is based on everything being parks and mannered and manicured and transformed by man. (SR)
At Columbia Motherwell studied under Meyer Schapiro (sometimes spelled Shapiro) who introduced him to the European artists who had immigrated to New York. (RM131)
I took a course in the history of modern art with him [Schapiro], which was mainly about Picasso; and a course in Romanesque manuscripts at the Morgan Library. But I lived near him by chance, not on purpose. And being so innocent about how busy people are in New York I used to paint all the time and I'd go around to his house around ten o'clock at night once a week and show him my pictures. He was very nice to me. But finally in a very exasperated way - really as I would now if somebody were doing the same thing - he said to me, "Look, what you want to know painters could tell much more quickly, and all you're dying to do is hang around painters, so i'm going to introduce you to some." He introduced me to the parisian Surrealists and set up for me to study with Kurt Seligmann whom he chose because he spoke English well, and was a highly cultivated man, and was willing to do it, and led a regular life. so he set u that ostensibly I was studying with Seligmann. I 'd study engraving with him. I think I paid him fifteen dollars and afternoon or something. But actually the Surrealists were real comrades. a real gang, the only real gang of artists I've ever know. And so if you knew one pretty soon, you'd know them all. Two or three times a week. they'd all have lunch together, they wandered the streets together and edited magazines together. So that within four months I knew them all. I was especially friendly with Matta who was the only other young artist around who was as enthusiastic as I was, and who also spoke English very well, and was more or less my age. (SR)
Before leaving his practice in New York, Dr. Joe Henderson referred Pollock to Dr. Violet Staub de Laszlo for continued therapy. Pollock saw her twice a week for about a year. (PP319)
In some accounts of the era, Graham is credited with having "discovered" Jackson Pollock. When asked whether Graham had discovered Pollock by a journalist writing for Partisan Review in 1967, William de Kooning responded, "Of course he did. Who the hell picked him out? The other critics came later - much later... It was hard for other artists to see what Pollock was doing - their work was so different from his. It's hard to see something that's different from your own work. But Graham could see it." Graham's wife Constance, later commented that "Graham probably wanted to be like Pollock. He wanted to be the sort of guy who could punch a policeman in the nose." (JP100-101)
During Pollock's first visit to Graham's studio, Graham asked Pollock if he had ever been to Paris and Pollock replied "Let Paris come to see me!" When Graham attempted to show Jackson reproductions of paintings by European artists in art books from his personal library, Pollock declined to look saying "Artists shouldn't look too much at what other artists do. An artist should do what's in himself." He then told Graham that Graham's friend, Arshile Gorky, was doomed to mediocrity because he painted too much like Picasso. (JP102)
From "Varian Fry in Marseille" by Pierre Sauvage:
In October, Mary Jayne Gold, Miriam Davenport, Theo Bénédite (Daniel Bénédite’s English wife) and Jean Gemähling stumbled on a large villa on the outskirts of Marseille. It soon came to house Fry, Gold and other A. R. C. staffers, as well as such luminaries as writers André Breton and Victor Serge and their families. Baptized “Château Espère-Visa” (Chateau Hoping-for-Visa) by Serge, Villa Air-Bel became a famous haunt for the refugee Surrealist artists who congregated around Breton. Fry, who enjoyed horticulture, took a particular delight in the garden. Not the least of the house’s amenities was that it didn’t have a phone... As good as Fry’s relations mostly were with the staff and the refugees, it is difficult to overstate how bad his relations were from the beginning with American officials in Marseille—and how quickly and precipitously they declined with the Emergency Rescue Committee that had sent him to France in the first place.
From Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School by Martica Sawin:
Breton had been hoping to mount a Surrealist exhibition in Marseilles. When the plan fell through, he devised another group project, the collective designing of a new deck of Tarot cards. Researching the origin of playing cards in the Marseilles Library, he learned that the derivation was military, the trefoil representing the soldier's country, the diamond arms, etc. He decided to substitute for the traditional suits four major preoccupations, each with its own symbols: the flame for love, a black star for the dream, a bloody wheel for revolution, and a key for knowledge... The joker, naturally, was Ubu, as his creator Jarry had drawn him. The other cards were produced as follows: Hegel and Helene Smith by Brauner, Paracelsus by Breton, Pancho Villa by Ernst, Sade and Lamiel by Hérold, Novalis and Baudelaire by Masson, and the 'dream figures' Freud, Alice, and Lautréamont divided between Dominguez and Lam... This talisman deck, known as the Jeu de Marseille, memorialises that tense and uncertain interval during which the Surrealist artists, poised in a void, redid the playing cards, symbols of the ultimate powers of fate.
A more spontaneous and unknown talisman testifying to the shared concerns of the group is a small book made for Helena Lam. On the day of her birthday she decided to stay along and not join the group at Air Bel. There was nothing to send her as a present, so those assembled each drew or wrote on a page or two in a little notebook. First a poem to Helena by Breton, then drawings and paintings by Dominguez, Brauner Hérold, Jacqueline Lamba [Breton's wife] and her sister, Huguette, and finally a drawing by the the four-year-old Aube [Breton's daughter] with her words written down by Breton.... (SS131-2)
Kay Sage asked Peggy to "help rescue and finance" the journey of five Europeans out of France - André Breton and his wife Jacqueline Lamba and their child Aube, Max Ernst and "Dr. Mabille" (Pierre Mabille). Guggenheim refused to help Mabille but agreed to help the others. She was also working to rescue the artist Victor Brauner, a Jew, who was hiding in the mountains disguised as a shepherd.
Guggenheim had moved to Grenoble after spending the summer at Lake Annecy. Prior to Sage's plea for help, she had managed to make arrangements to send her art collection to the United States by wrapping them up and sending them off with linens, furniture and household goods.
After receiving Sage's telegram, Peggy went to Marseilles twice and visited the artists at Air Bel. Max Ernst was staying there with Leonore Carrington who was, according to Guggenheim biographer Mary Dearborn, "evidently mentally ill." (MD207) During Peggy's second visit to Air Bel she entered into a sexual relationship with Ernst who she would later marry in the United States. Guggenheim and Ernst would travel together to the United States, arriving in July 1941.
(Max Ernst's ex-lover, Leonore Carrington, eventually settled in Mexico after spending some time in a psychiatric hospital in Spain. Her autobiography, Down Below, was published by Virago in 1989. On January 2, 2007 the Guardian newspaper in London published an interview with her - "Leonora and Me."
Mondrian immigrated to the United States with the help of Harry Holtzman, one of the founders of the American Abstract Artists. (AG/35DK30)
Barnett Newman gave up substitute teaching for a part-time job teaching silkscreen printing in evening classes at the center located at 40 Irving Place. (MH)
Weeks after Jackson was accepted again into the program, Sande Pollock wrote to their brother Charles on October 22nd that he feared they were going to be taken off the project. They had signed a petition to have the Communist party listed on election ballots and a number of artists that had signed the same petition had been taken off the project. Sande wrote, "The irony is that the real Party People I know didn't sign the damn thing and it is suckers like us who are getting it... Needless to say we are rigid with fright." (JP104)
He would undergo a psychiatric evaluation in May 1941 to determine his eligibility for military service. (JP104)
The organizational meeting took place at the studio of Morris Davidson. (SG41/AG28n53)
"Buy American Art " week would be repeated in 1941. According to Serge Guilbaut in How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, "32,000 artists showed works in 1,600 exhibitions across the country." (SG56-57)
From the brochure announcing "Buy American Art" week:
Our country today is turning toward the arts as at no other time in the history of the Republic. A great tide of popular interest in American art has been rising during the past few years. There are strong currents toward an art of native character and native meaning which shall express with clarity and power the interests, the ideals, and the experience of the Amerian people. It is a significant fact that our people in these times of world emergency are turning more and more to their own cultural resources. (SG56)
In the article, published in Partisan Review 7, no. 6 (December 1940), Rosenberg, a Trotskyite, took the view that the French capital had fallen prior to the actual invasion of Paris when Parisian intellectuals surrendered to the idea of a Popular Front. (SG51/217)
Collaborative Painting: William Baziotes, Gerome Kamrowski and Jackson Pollock, 1940-41
Oil and enamel on canvas, 19 1/4 by 25 9/16 in.
From Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School by Martica Sawin:
One evening in the winter of 1940 - 1941, Baziotes brought Jackson Pollock over to Kamrowski's studio, and the three artists began experimenting with quick-drying lacquer paint that Baziotes had bought at Arthur Brown's art supply store. They spread some cheap canvases out on the floor and began brushing and then dripping the paint onto them. In the process of 'fooling around,' as Kamrowski called it, they all worked on the same canvases and during the course of the evening produced a number of collaborative spontaneous works. All three artists already had some knowledge of Surrealism and were familiar with the concept of 'pure psychic automatism,' and they were trying to find ways in which the new quick-drying paint developed for commercial use could be put to this end. When Kamrowski moved out of that studio... he threw out most of these experimental canvases but kept one as a kind of souvenir, and this three-man canvas has surface in a a number or recent exhibitions as a kind of proto-abstract expressionist work. (SS168)
The painting is known as Painting or "Collaborative Painting" and is attributed to William Baziotes, Gerome Kamrowski and Jackson Pollock.