ATOA Transcription Archive
Students Talk about Hofmann as Teacher
Fritz Bultman, Moderator
Artists Talk On Art, NYC; March 17, 1978
MALE VOICE: I want to thank AIBF for lending the chairs two weeks in a row.
I'd like to ask you to not smoke in the space please, and not to sit against the wall
if you can avoid it. I'd like to announce that next week there will not be a panel,
but the following week's panel is Questions of Size and Scale. Irving Sandler is the
moderator, Judith Bernstein, Suzanne Harris, (UNINTEL NAME), (UNINTEL NAME), and (UNINTEL)
Siegel are on that panel . Tonight's panel is a panel that we're very happy to have.
We've wanted to do it for forty years and we found it difficult to get the right
group of people together. We have a lot of different concepts here for what the
panel is doing tonight. Hans Hofmann, artist, teacher. Fritz Bultman is the
moderator. Nell Blaine, James Gahagan, Selina Trieff, Cynthia Goodman, and
Lillian Kiesler. George McNeill is supposed to be here. He's not here yet.
We hope he joins us. Fritz.
FB: I'm Fritz Bultman and this is Lillian Kiesler on my right over here,
Cynthia Goodman, Nell Blaine, Selina Trieff, and James Gahagan. They all studied
with Hans at various times, except Cynthia, who's doing the catalogue raisonné of
his work, and she knows more about the pictures because she's probably seen many of
them while gathering material. But Lillian started to study with Hans in 1931 at the
Art Students League, and I think it will be really quite proper to start with her
contribution to this evening.
LK: I don't know if it's going to be a contribution, but in any case what I'm going
to tell you are the most commonplace facts about myself and Hans Hofmann --
not only myself and Hans Hofmann strangely enough but my late husband, because that
has to come in. When I was in high school in New England, I was in a sense
a -- how should I say -- Rousseau called "the noble savage" , because the only
kind of art -- this is in the twenties, this is late twenties -- the only kind
of art that I liked, since I-- I have two adoring art teachers (we’ll swiftly
come to Hans Hofmann)-- two adoring art teachers, they would allow me to do
anything I liked, and what I liked came straight from a Vogue magazine advertisement
I saw -- this is the twenties -- and I saw an advertisement that where what were
three rectangles and at the left, from top to bottom, and luckily I said to my
art teacher, Hugh Morrison (?), "What kind of art is this!" And she said "My
dear Lillian, that's modern art." And from that time, (UNINTEL), I knew what
I liked. I liked this art, "modern art." And truthfully I knew nothing about
it except that Miss Morrison would say that this was modern art and that's
what I liked. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, when you only want to kiss the cow,
"I know what I like!" So it's as simple as that. In fact the whole thing
is as simple as that. From that time on, I was always ready to kiss the cow,
and I knew what I liked and I've never changed my mind. The fact is that that
advertisement that I was looking at, strangely enough -- how strange life is --
happened to have been an imitation of Frederick Kiesler's cover for the Star
(?) Magazine in 1921. So you see, I was quite correct. I knew what I liked.
Then I came to New York and I was setting up at Cooper Union, and a good friend
saw it, what there was, and here’s that word-- and really it was so unlearned. I
t was what I liked. He said "You need at least a modern teacher." And (LAUGHS)
(UNINTEL) Matulka. I took Matulka’s class, 23rd Street, (UNINTEL) evening class,
I'm sorry George McNeil is not here because it really (UNINTEL), in the historic
sense of (UNINTEL) George McNeil was in that class and Irene Rice Pereira and
David Smith and Leo Lances and a few others. And I remember, I was most fortunate
that George was always my neighbor and that I always needed my neighbor because I
really knew nothing that was going on. And Matulka would come in, and at that time I
can remember that he had set the still life with eggbeaters and with plaster
casts and at that time, those of you who remember that of course was how Léger
was working. The eggbeaters were of utmost importance, and so was the plaster
cast and so on. Matulka set up that still life and we worked from the model
and all that I remember -- this is now the thirties, and again (UNINTEL) kiss the
c ow, was Matulka came in, and that is a new word, he said "Be creative." I
had no idea what the meaning of "creative" was. However, I would say to George,
"What does it mean?" and George said "Well, I think you should pull your composition
together." [LAUGHTER] It had nothing to do with being creative, but that was
the beginning of somewhat, slightly-- But this is really modern art. Now
moved (?) on to Hans Hofmann. Matulka’s class was over, and I really had a
great time with George giving me private criticism and (UNINTEL). He was my t
rue teacher. And not only was he my true teacher, I wish it were on the record
-- it is on the record -- he is a true teacher of many people in that class.
I mean Irene Rice Pereira and the rest of us. He was filling the composition gap (
?). We would not know-- here is the man who knows so much. George knew not only
to be creative, but how to solve whatever we thought and we really were all savages -
- what modern art was about. We were looking at (UNINTEL), but we really did not
know. But next September I was walking on Eighth Street and along came one of the p
eople from the class who said "(UNINTEL). The greatest art teacher in the world i
s coming. Luckily," he said, "the greatest man art teacher." You can be sure
the first day that Hans Hofmann appeared, that first night I went to art school,
appeared at the Art Students League, I was there together with sixty other people.
Now there were sixty other people. There were Linda Lindeberg, Mercedes Carles
Matter, Buddha Kairser or Ray Kaiser, George McNeil, and so on. And I can so well
remember that first night at the Hans Hofmann, in that Hans Hofmann class --
absolutely packed -- no one, including myself, had the slightest idea, the slightest
idea, what a vaguely, vaguest idea who Hofmann was. There were sixty easels, we
all had our Strathmore paper, we all had our vince charcoal. The model was up there.
My God, I had a heavy book of philosophy on my lap. I was, you know, (UNINTEL)
and so intense (LAUGHS). I had no idea what Hofmann was going to say.
Hans Hofmann came in and was-- I wondered to myself what he thought of these
sixty Americans, and I, the first exchange that he had with me, (UNINTEL)
tuition, by that time my face was covered with charcoal. I was reading God only
knows whose philosophy book and he came over. He looked-- I looked like an
apparition, my face covered with charcoal. He shook his head and he said,
"Wonderful." I can hardly understand, but by osmosis I understood it. And
those were really the great guiding words of my life. He said, "It's wonderful
to have emotions but one has to know what to do with it." He could see already i
n his crystal ball [LAUGHTER] that I was going to have some troubles (UNINTEL). [
LAUGHTER] That was the beginning, and I tell you, no easy task. In other words
it all became very difficult for Hofmann, because I became, whether he liked it or
not, his self-elected-- As soon as Hans would leave, couldn't (UNINTELL), I thought
I was (UNINTEL), so you can imagine how I really understood very little about what
he would say. Could not understand the language. And appointing myself to
criticize, but seriously, the question which Cynthia Goodman had asked, "Did I see
any difference in how Hans Hofmann taught let's say in 1931 and let's skip over to
1936 (UNINTEL)." In 1931, when I start to understand what was involved, let's say
the great discipline of Cubism, that was real, finally Hans Hofmann in those early
years never flattered anyone, never, never in all the years that I worked with him.
In fact only when I was no longer working with Hans Hofmann did he ever tell me that
I was inside a (UNINTEL). Thank God. He never said you were talented. What he did
he, I was pretty much like a (UNINTEL) dinosaur, more or less he hit my hands.
Nothing was ever good enough, thank god. Because the training, the discipline of
Cubism was so difficult. What we were, what we more or less aimed at, very few
of us confused (UNINTEL) was to work with a central core, (UNINTEL) of the early
thirties, and around that central axis to build cubes -- both positive and negative
space. Just try to do it, try to do it now. (UNINTEL) cubes, working around, so
that the entire picture plane is in absolute balance. It never was right for Hans
Hofmann, never. The difference-- And he was right. To do this one really had to
be a Picasso or Braque, the two who'd started it. It never was right. I knew very
few people that could do it (?). However, by 1936, in between, let's say by 1934
and '35, the very sharp criticism, very much going on. Remember this is not
(UNINTEL), it's not the world of success. Remember that simultaneously in New York,
there were the influences and the attitudes of de Stijl, there were the other side
of (UNINTEL). They were criticizing Hans Hofmann because they felt he was rendering
dark and light, not the flatness of Neo-Plasticism -- that was going on too.
However, there were changes. If you remember that Hans Hofmann himself from 1898
was very much influenced by his teacher, Willie Schwarz, who had come from Paris and
had the lesson of Impressionism brought to Munich. Hans Hofmann by 1902 was painting
a self portrait with impressionist dabs and spots, and Hans himself then going on to
aris and becoming a colleague of Matisse, working with color, and (UNINTEL),
becoming familiar with Picasso and Braque. There was very much going on at the
same time. By 1935 it had changed. His instructions had changed -- to his students
and his own work, his own concepts. He was moving towards larger planes, (UNINTEL)
more abstract art. But remember sometimes he would go back. Sometimes his
students would. There is nothing in life that is so pure, so clean, (UNINTEL).
You know, we all-- As Picasso said, "Every new movement in art -- every new movement
in everything -- every love affair starts with dirty feet." [LAUGHTER].
Right? Nothing's so crystal clean. So it is with Hans Hofmann, so it is with
Max Ernst as with Hans Hofmann. I will say of utmost importance is what went around
the Hans Hofmann School. But the boldest students, the boldest and most daringly
attractive I would say is the nucleus of people who were really daring, that were
reading James Joyce, that were going to the Ballet Russe, that were listening to
Stravinsky, that were settling (UNINTEL) Wigman. We were the arrogant ones. We
were impossible, you know. Outrageous. We were as-- as you people today, we were
as outrageous as today. We were outrageous, that nucleus. Nothing really changes
(UNINTEL). Every period has its own bold ones. Those that have the courage
(UNINTEL) repeats itself, should repeat itself. You come in with dirty feet while
others come in with dirty feet. It's wonderful to have had them (UNINTEL).
FB: That was very nice. [APPLAUSE] The (UNINTEL) chronologically next, George McNeil still hasn't turned up. And I think now you're started in the forties. Right after I left the school. And why don't you speak about what you have to say. At some point here, we have slides, and the slides go back to very-- there's one very early painting of Hans's, then there are pictures of the studio in Munich, where he lived, and there are drawings. Some (UNINTEL) period of drawing of the development of cubism in his own work. And then we go to the landscapes and interiors that . . .
FEMALE VOICE: Do you want to show the slides first? My slides are at the end of these.
FB: Would you like to see some of the early slides now? Okay, let's see... [BACKGROUND CHATTER]. This is a landscape of Han's from 1915, right after he came back from France and was rooted in Germany, and it's probably the only early painting-- Since it's very close to much later landscapes, I thought you would be interested in seeing it. It's a very very early landscape. It's a watercolor, about 8 x 10 inches, and much worked over, and actually many layers of very thin paper.
Q (MALE): [INAUDIBLE]
FB: This is one of the drawings from the '20s. Between the Wars, there are actually very few paintings. I saw a number of them, of the oil paintings, in Munich and they were very heavily impastoed. Unfortunately, the Hofmanns did not take the idea of bombing into consideration, and when Miz Hofmann came here to this country in '39 she only brought paintings that were fairly easily transportable. That early portrait that Lillian referred to and an early portrait of Mrs. Hofmann, and one still life. But there were other paintings in the attic in Munich and were left there for storage during the War, and unfortunately the building was destroyed. This is the second time that Hofmann was completely wiped out. All of his work prior to 1914 was left in Paris, or sold to collectors in Berlin. And Cynthia Goodman's on the track of the paintings that were sold to collectors and trying to find some trace of the work that was left in Paris. There is a catalogue of a show that was at Cassirer Gallery in 19-- what was that, Cynthia?
CG: In 1910.
FB: 1910. He shared a show with Kokoschka, and none of those works exist. That landscape is the earliest picture that we know, and these drawings. There are prints of these drawings that he made, quite a numerous group of them as prints, and there are some of these drawings that are still in the Hofmann estate. This is a collage, self-portrait. You can see the date on that. I think it says 1931. 1930. This is a drawing-- It's a self-portrait (UNINTEL) of Hans at that time, and it is a drawing collage. It's done on the same onionskin paper that the other drawing is done on, and is cut up and planes are inserted. Okay. This is the studio in Munich, and you have some idea of the way that they lived there and their world-- really their collection of Vivins and an African sculpture and plants in the windows and Biedermeyer furniture, and this is the way-- they moved here, the Miz came here, that circular table, the desk, the Biedermeyer furniture, the Vivins came with-- and this was their life and their goods. And a couple of these photographs of the studio in Munich. Okay, the next one. This is a painting (?) from the middle thirties made by Herbert Matter, and it's Hans painting outdoors in the landscape. You can see he held down the easel with bottles of water and Herbert did several of these photographs of him painting in the landscape, as he said, "from the motif." And he also said, "I look like a grasshopper." And he would just get himself-- he would go off every day in the summer during the thirties -- this is the thirties -- and work outdoors on the Truro Hills, and in Provincetown. And then numerous paintings from this time existing. Okay, you want to go on with that? This is a still life interior of the late thirties. Now this is one of the (UNINTEL) (PAUSE) I think that's in there right, isn't it? Is the signature right, or is it backwards?
CG: It's backwards.
FB: It's backwards, yeah. This is up at Williams College, in their collection. You want the next one?
MALE VOICE: Let's see if-- There are several backwards ones.
FB: Okay, if there are several backwards-- This is backwards too. This is a painting, another interior painting, and since Nell wants to talk about the interiors and the paintings about this particular time, this is late thirties, early forties. This is one of the Truro landscapes from the late thirties. It's very much like that other painting from, the paintings.... Another painting from the late thirties. [INAUDIBLE CONVERSATION) That one's right. It's just the-- Yeah, that one's right. It's just the other two that I got . . That's right too. I think we got all the rest of them in. It's just those two interiors. I was talking to someone and I did everything except turn them around. Here's another interior. I think that's right. [INAUDIBLE COMMENTS]
OFFMIKE MALE VOICE: What is this one?
FB: I think that is about '38- '39.
CG: I think it'd be a '39.
FB: '39 at the latest. It's a painting that I remember seeing first in '39, when Miz came.
CG: I remember the '37s.
FB: It's '37? The other-- I think that other-- Are you going back at all? Going forward, okay. That's one of the landscape-- Oh, that's The House on the Hill. That's actually Provincetown, a landscape of the house that he lived on on the hill. There are several versions of this picture. And this is-- Is this a-- Yeah, this is another landscape.
CG: (INAUDIBLE) another one of the harbor scenes.
FB: Of the harbor scenes. Why don't you stop there, before we get into the abstract painting. Nell, do you want to talk about (OVERTALK)?
NB: Well, actually I was going to talk more about my own experience in the school, so . .
AUDIENCE COMMENTS: (INAUDIBLE).
NB: This one's '37.
FB: You see this is later than the others. The others are from the thirties and the early forties. This is much more abstract. Why don't we turn on the lights for a minute and let Nell talk about her questions and things that she had about the school at that time. You had some statements too that . . . (INAUDIBLE CONVERSATION)
NB: I thought I would talk just a little bit about my own personal experience at Hofmann’s, and how I came to study with Hans, because I feel that it's all very subjective. I had studied in the Richmond School of Art, which was a branch of the College of William and Mary, and I was sixteen when I went there. And one of the night school teachers, Worden Day, had spoken of this great teacher. Now Hofmann had taught a teacher of hers, who was Vytlacil, who unfortunately couldn't be here tonight. But Vytlacil had passed on this message and I was already excited about the idea of coming to New York and leaving my hometown, which was Richmond. One thing that I heard was that Hofmann was very difficult and it was a very mysterious experience that lay ahead of me. I had a lot of parental opposition, to say the least. In fact, my mother wanted to have me committed. [LAUGHTER] That's a fact! And in order to prevent me from doing this terrible thing, she got in touch with the head of the art school where I was going and the head of the museum, who didn't even know me, and asked them to put pressure on me, because she thought it was for sinful purposes. Nevertheless I was fired (?) to go, and a friend, who also wanted to study with Hofmann, joined me. Her name was Polly Bates. And we came, and within a few days Jeanne had gotten to the school, and I remember the first night that I was there, the lights went out, and we had candlelight and it was very romantic. But I met there the first evening Albert Kresch and a number of other people who became friends for life, really, and professional associates and (UNINTEL). Well it was a completely new world for me, and the first time I saw Hofmann was an extraordinary thing too. I felt Hofmann immediately was an electrifying presence. He was-- Those are I would say a very contrast between -- almost like a Santa Claus figure and a great intellect. And this blend made him most (UNINTEL). He was both a dramatic presence and a very serious and warmhearted person. The intellectual stimulation can't be overestimated and the spirit of the school. First of all, the physical premises of the place on Eighth Street, which was over the Village Barn, was very fresh and great for painting. Simultaneously I had gone to the Art Students League and enrolled, but I didn't last but two weeks there, I was so thrilled with Hofmann. Then I was going in the evenings and working at the New York Life Insurance Company—Lillian Olinsey helped me find a job there. We used to talk at lunchtime about Hofmann. So we were completely immersed at this point. I have some slides of student work at that time that might be worthwhile to comment on, but I believe you have the other slides before that now. Can you jump to those? Is it possible?
PROJECTIONIST: I'll try.
NB: That will give you an idea. [OFFMIKE REMARKS] First I want to show you work that I did at the time, not to promote my own work but just to elucidate some of the directions at the time. I was there from 1942 to 1944. And then
I'll talk about the teaching a little bit.
PROJECTIONIST: Is this the beginning of the group that you were talking about?
NB: No, my own work is black and white. These are all Hofmann (OVERTALK). It's the last sixteen slides.
PROJECTIONIST: That's what I thought.
NB: Mine aren't so interesting. [OFFMIKE REMARKS]
PROJECTIONIST: There they are.
NB: This is a drawing made-- Wait a minute. (OVERTALK). This is not the correct one (?). (UNINTELL). Just one more. This was the first painting I did at Hofmann's. There we go. Sorry. This was the first painting I did at Hofmanns. I don't consider it a good painting at all, but it was the beginning of a feeling of an interest in spatial (UNINTEL) and the way I felt, I was beginning to be liberated from the local color and the local tones. You can go to the next. There's a drawing there. Yeah. This was a little self-sketch, where I was beginning also to break free in a spatial sense, I think, and just kind of an amusing caricature almost, of myself at that time. Okay. This is a drawing, which I felt the first drawing that I made which had a little sense of movement and which I felt inside myself that I was beginning to be an artist, that I was in touch with my feelings. Hofmann spoke always about empathy, and that one should empathize with the form. This was made from a still life. These still lives were extraordinary creations in themselves, and I once watched him set up the whole series of them, the whole afternoon he spent, and he used materials in a very exciting way. He would go to the dime store and get cups and sort of drape them and use them in different ways, not just as cups but as sort of spatial objects. And he would take paper and crumple it. I'd never seen this done just this way. And once he said, "I did it before Calder." [LAUGHS] Okay. Anyway, this is a painting I did from the drawing. And I did the drawings in school, but I would get home and paint. And this one I felt was my first painting. As you see it's very (UNINTEL). Okay. Now this was a drawing-- underneath somewhere was a trace of what I was doing, but he worked on it and I won’t say that it was exactly totally his, but most of (UNINTEL). He would often, to dramatize a point, tear a drawing in half in order to show how the space—we were always asked (UNINTEL) envision the two-dimensional, how to create deeper space by shifting a whole plane, two-dimensionally to the left and the bottom to the right, and here you'll get a very dramatic illustration of this-- It would upset some people quite a bit, but he kept saying that drawing is not to be a thing in itself but to be a process of study, so we mustn’t try to make pictures, but we were having experiences.
FB: He also used to say we mustn't collect our own work. [LAUGHS]
NB: Okay. [OFFMIKE QUESTION?] Well, during the first summer that I was there I very naively decided to show some of my work of the summer in Washington Square. I thought that was amusing. But some of those things were done at that time. That is Nina Trygvedottir or something. Right. Who stopped (UNINTEL). This was Josef's sketch from newsprint and not a good drawing but it was a preliminary for a painting that I did at that time which I submitted to Peggy Guggenheim's Gallery, called "New (UNINTEL) Artists Show" in 1944. And it was still very much inspired by things done at the school. Okay. And then [LAUGHS] there I was at the show at the (UNINTEL) Museum with a painting that I did on cardboard done on the street. I was very prudent (?). But I wanted to show that the development towards more neoclassic art (?) which was (UNINTEL) and so the ones on the outside of the large painting are layered works, just with-- done about a year later. And at that time in my work at Hofmann's, he said that I was drawing in a very individual way and he encouraged me -- as he did all of the students -- to go on their own way. I don't think he imposed his directions. It was a very liberating thing.
FB: He kept his own paintings away, in those years, really out of sight.
And I think everybody that worked in the school had that feeling that they were going their own way.
NB: He encouraged everyone their own way. That was his great gift. Okay, the next? And that was that direction that grew out of the earlier things, that was very often from (UNINTEL). Okay. That was another one, the same period. One was (UNINTEL) I was always interested in experience but (OVERTALK AND QUESTION). I was always interested in structure.
OFFMIKE QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)
NB: This is also from the same period. It was in my first show. It was a Jane Street show, which was the first cooperative group downtown. And incidentally, I bring that up before-- I guess three-quarters of the people in the Jane Street Group were former Hofmann students. Albert Kresch, Judith Rothschild, and Louisa Matthiasdottir. Okay, the next. Ah--
NB: And I put a couple of later works just to show that there was a cycle that-- And still I believe that Hofmann wasn't fooling me. I don't believe that I ever lost a kind of inspiration from him. That was a great gift that he could give to people. I feel that in a way the color feeling, and the liberation about color, came in a way through Hofmann -- but at much later date. And I never felt I was dominated or anything. It was just that his insights were so profound, and he was so involved with the organic in art, and a very natural way of working, that you could be stimulated always. That was from 1951.
NB: Yes. These are oil paintings. And this was from that time. I was in Greece. Okay. And this is a recent one, a little painting. A couple of years ago. Okay. And this is just a small watercolor that-- again, with a kind of touch that comes through-- I just wanted to show you different aspects. Although the work spans a great number of years, which comes out of a kind of core of feeling that came from those days, it's related to that idea of the organic. I would like people to ask questions about that time, if they would like. Any specific ideas about Hofmann's-- First of all, I recall that . . .
MALE VOICE: Do you want to turn the light on?
NB: It doesn't matter.
FB: It'll burn these slides. I'd turn it off. It will just burn the slide out.
NB: At different times, Hofmann's teaching I feel was inspired by different concepts, and this was another great thing about him, that his teaching was so fluid and always changing. When I was there I thought it grew out of Cézanne and out of even Bonnard. There was a sensitivity, really. And then at times, concepts of Mondrian would be a great inspiration, the way that Mondrian used a limited space and concerned with the vertical and the horizontal. But it was never purely abstract. It was always from nature. So anything you'd like to ask?
CG: There's something-- I was just thinking in regard to this at one point Lee
Krasner made a very interesting comment to me. She said that she thought this might attribute to the fact that the Hofmann School painted in so many different styles that for many many years -- and my guess was almost to the time of his show at Peggy Guggenheim in 1943 [sic]-- that none of the Hofmann students actually did see his paintings. And she said that although, except for the chosen few who were allowed in his studio, you had a pretty good indication of what he was thinking at that time and he would fluctuate, she thought in particular, between Matisse and Picasso. And she said you had a sense between whether his primary concerns were based on shaping with form, color, or line, and that this might, you know, from one day to the next really be bound up in his criticism. And Lillian and I, we were talking, we were saying how there seemed to be an evolution really in his concern stemming out of analytical cubism in the earliest years, where you were mostly aware I guess of the fact of his feelings toward Picasso. I think it was the point you were starting to make (UNINTEL) discussed it, you know, how (UNINTEL) contrast evolved.
VOICE: This afternoon I looked at some (UNINTEL) I had and I had a few letters of Hans
Hofmann, and I thought it might be helpful to all of us to hear what he had to say. From 1940 he wrote the following: "I need drawing as an attitude" -- "attitude" was underlined three times" -- to master composition, because when you paint you have not sufficient opportunity to cultivate this attitude in the sense of the self. You hear me always saying how “so we start, so we finish,” and when the start is a failure from the beginning, it is a failure." Again the letter, in September he wrote, "I will paint as much in September weather will permit. I am not doing it so much but I have (INAUDIBLE)." This is now September 1940. "I will paint as much as the September weather permits. I have not painted so much, but I must have made several hundred drawings at least. It is a problem of composition that I want to master more as I do because I must become absolutely (UNINTEL) in painting. There are many demands that must be respected. In spite of this, I am working mostly better all the time, contrary to the practical sides of life. But this is an artist’s (UNINTEL). I may not be so (UNINTEL)." So he was very much in theory with (UNINTEL) with composition.
FB: I think you came in '49, to the school? And that's where we were with the
slides at that time. And would you like to ....?
JG: Sure. Just very quickly, about who I am and what my association with
Hofmann was. I first became aware of Hofmann through my painting instructor, instructor in college, I was in college up in northern Vermont. I was born in New York -- lived there all my life, first time out of New York City, actually, in terms of living. The painter Richard Lippold was teaching sculpture there at the time, and Albert Mullen was teaching painting. He had studied with Hofmann, and he tried very hard to get me to quit college and go study with Hofmann, and I had continual battles with him and had other things in mind than painting and being a (UNINTEL). He was right, I guess, in what he was trying to do. He sensed my own spirit. So out of that in 1949 during the summer I went up to Provincetown just to find out who this character was, because I'd never seen any of his painting, and I was basically working quite representationally, in fact I thought Mondrian was out of his mind, so it was very very far from where I ended up a few years later after my association with Hofmann. I went into a drawing class for a few weeks and was so impressed with what I didn't know-- and I think this was an effect that Hofmann, through his teaching, had on a lot of people. One has to say it was balanced by a kind of love and encouragement that he could give you extremely hard criticisms, without totally breaking your heart and having you run off and not wish to come back again. But I was so impressed, I went back into college, was hitchhiking across the country trying to put my head together after I graduated, I stopped off in the university at Albuquerque to visit a couple of friends in the spring and they en masse were loading themselves into two automobiles to come back into Provincetown and study with this man, Hans Hofmann. I said, "Well, really, I'm not going anywhere," and I jumped in the car with them and came right back again, with this support group. And so that really started my association with him, and that's actually in 1952 at that point. I don't think Hans remembered me at all, but I had made up my mind that I was through studying with anyone -- I knew really everything that I had to know, until I came in contact with this man who put those doubts in my mind. So I dragged some of my work down to the New York Eighth Street school, to show him, and he spent a lot of time looking at it and giving these necessary compliments. And then suddenly he stopped and he turned to me and said, "Now, what do you really want with me?" [LAUGHS] It wasn’t that he was a suspicious man, but he was a pretty cautious man and you knew he always had something on his mind. So I said, "Well, I want to study with you, but I'm broke. I don't have any money. I can't pay tuition. I don't have a job. I'm looking for a job," and all that -- the whole story that (INAUDIBLE). And so he gave me the monitorship in the evening class. We had three classes a day, and I guess it was that way ever since he started the school in New York. Morning class was, I think, a painting class from the model, and the afternoon was still life painting, and then the evening was a drawing class from the live model, five days a week. You could enroll in the whole package deal at a particular price, or slice across the mornings or the afternoons, it all depends what deal you worked out. Or, if you were really serious, and he sensed it, and you didn't have any money, there was always a scholarship, a fellowship. So I swept floors and posed the model for quite a few years. The secretary-treasurer, chief bottle-washer of the school, there was always one position -- I think it was called Registrar, and different people had it down through the years, was held by a young painter, Charles Little, now teaching out in Tucson, University of Arizona. And he went back out west and I took over his position, I guess it was 1954, and I stayed in that particular relationship with Hofmann until he closed the school in the summer of 1958. For me, I really can't speak as deeply about the experience as I would like to, or quickly without boring you, because I really don't want to talk about myself as much as (UNINTEL) talk about Hans Hofmann himself. But I had studied painting a long time. There was no doubt in my mind that I was a painter or wished to be a painter, and I really felt that I knew a great deal. I had a great deal of painting experience. And this guy turned me upside down, and I can only indicate it to you by a couple of stories. In one, an extremely important one to me, which was really just one moment. I had been-- studied painting and working five days a week, all day, day after day, year after year, and month after month, like many people were. And I really thought I'd got to a point where I could draw from the figure. Now we'd worked from the same pose three hours, five days a week without changing the pose, and usually on the same piece of paper. You were not encouraged to do quick sketches and throw them away. It was very irritating until you got used to it and found out what the point was. And I finally completed on Friday this drawing that I felt was the best drawing that I had ever done, and I was standing there looking at it. Hofmann usually came in at least two days a week to give criticisms, Tuesdays and Fridays. Friday was kind of a public day, a certain amount of outside people would come in to listen to the painting criticism. And suddenly I felt this-- I didn't know he was in the studio room. I felt this heavy, heavy hand on my shoulder, [LAUGHTER] and it was just the feeling of the hand that I knew I wasn't going to get the compliment I deserved. [LAUGHTER] And he just held it there quietly, and he was a big man and I was half his size, and about a tenth of his weight. And I would say it still, the old saying, "It was a very magic moment," as painful as it was going to be, and finally he let out a huge sigh and he said, "Now Nikka," -- Anyone who ever studied with Hofmann knows that he used that after every word. N’est-ce pas? Is this not true? Is this not so? Nikka – you can shorten it to Nikka. And he would say, "Ah, Chames, nikka, you are so blind." [LAUGHTER] This is after years of work. And for a long time I -- I'll just go on a little bit with it -- but what I’m trying to point out is that Hofmann as a teacher, I think what made him what many of us considered to be a master teacher, that master was-- that he could say something like that. That someone else would punch him in the nose, or you'd cry, or your normal response to being attacked in that way, but somehow you knew he was right. Suddenly it (UNINTEL) drawing and it appeared differently than never before. You saw it fall apart before your eyes. So he backed up and he said, "Let me show you something." Now this was something he had been showing me and many students for many years, one of the most difficult things to see. And that is how to see through the appearance of reality. The model is sitting there something like this, and I could have been working very accurately, through observation. I had forgotten the whole point of inspiration. Now I'm going to try and say something technical. Some of you might be aware of it, some of you might (UNINTEL), but I really want to talk a little bit, five minutes or so later on, about what some of Hofmann's principles actually were that he made us aware of. The real way he made us aware of these was not so much by speaking, because most of us couldn't understand what he was talking about. Half French, half German, half English. After a few years-- It took you awhile to understand him. He had that marvelous ability that is so rare in a teacher, where he would then just pick up the charcoal and he'd walk up to my drawing and he said, "You see, you have been drawing what you have been looking at. And that's your error." And he made a few very quick slashing marks, and the legs, which I had been having a great deal of trouble with trying to find out where they were in space and so on, he did something magical and they kind of reversed positions and then they simply looked like the model. It didn't look like what the model looks like, but they felt like what the model was doing, and it really worked. Now that was a marvelous trick. We had a student there at the time who maybe (UNINTEL) worked with Hofmann in the later years will remember, maybe I shouldn't say his name, okay I will. He became a rather wellknown writer, a novelist, lived in Paris at the time, he studied with Hofmann for a long time. He was a South American fellow, he was a very very brilliant man and a very mysterious man. And at least once a week he would come up to one of us before the criticisms and very seriously -- I thought he was paranoid, actually he wasn't -- and he would say "When is Hofmann going to give up the secret?" [LAUGHTER] To which you would say, you know, “Pretty soon, I don't know.” And the rest of us, you know, would get a little irritated and say, you know; and he'd do this week after week. Well, there was a secret. Hofmann himself was finally confronted by this fellow in public, in the public situation at the school where he'd given the criticism, he said in anger and frustration, "You are keeping a secret from us, and I have been studying here for so many years and I want to know the secret of it all." And Hans said, "Ah, yes, nikka. Of course there is a secret, but you must find it yourself. It does not belong to me, but you must find it." And that was a kind of nice way out of it. And I don't know as I ever learned what the secret was. I guess I'm still struggling. That's the secret. [LAUGHTER]. I'd like to make a few kind of passes at what I feel, and people can contradict me if they feel I'm wrong, but there's a lot of controversy around aspects of Hofmann's teaching -- what Hofmann taught them of his own understanding of the development of Analytical Cubism. Hofmann said he wants-- and I don't think it was a private comment, he must have said it to many people, what brought it to mind is what he said down here about the relationship between Picasso and Matisse -- Hofmann made a statement very similar to a statement that (there might be an art historian here who could quote) Tintoretto, I believe it was Tintoretto who made it, and he said, "My aspiration is to draw like Michelangelo and use color like Titian." And Hofmann made a statement like that about Picasso and Matisse-- that “I wish to take the drawing of Picasso and the sense of color volume of Matisse and synthesize it, integrate it.” And I think that is-- and then he didn't say "my" -- he said, "That is our future. That is our problem," I guess what he was trying to indicate. Well certainly I think it was his problem, I think he saw it that way. Add to it the nonobjective aspect of painting, and I think you had to a certain degree, you could create some kind of image of what Hofmann might have hungry for in his own work. The basis of Hofmann's teaching guidance for most of us really was not necessarily to directly embroil us in that problem how to relate line, form, and color. How he did it essentially was -- and I think you can get the same idea to some degree by reading Kandinsky or Paul Klee -- how to move from the development of a point to a line, how to master the line where the line becomes, creates a plane, and then how to so sensitively relate plane to plane relationships that you created volume. And then if you got maybe near mastery, there was another step that you would do later on, and that was how to relate volumes to volumes, and that was a particular problem. Painting opened up the interpenetration of volumes. I think if I could kind of condense that as one of his main teaching methods related to the principle that is still breaking with some (UNINTEL), I believe, and this is to move for a moment, so to speak, color or size, and that was how simply to maintain the two-dimensional character and integrity of the surface of the painting and drawing and create the greatest and deepest volume simultaneously. Now he could say it much simpler to us. He would say, "Do not make it flat. But it must stay flat." And that was a real mystery. I know I heard that like many times during the first year there and it was a real Zen problem. What in hell does it mean? The essence of Hofmann. And I'm trying to get at that essence, because I kind of (OVERTALK) that was the paradox -- I would use the word paradox rather than contradiction -- he taught in a paradoxical manner by being extremely disciplined. I wouldn't really use the word "harsh." I think his sense of honesty about the search-- When he looked at your drawing and painting and began talking to you, and he had a very beautiful way of talking to you as a person -- sometimes it would be hands-on, he'd actually make physical contact with you. Of course there were fifty, sixty, thirty, twenty-five other people that would stop, nobody worked while Hans talked. But he had that way when he was talking to you. That was your moment. He always spoke loud enough so everyone-- it was really for everyone. Everything centered around that problem of how to keep the surface integrity flat and yet open it up volumetrically, not in terms of naturalistic space but what he used to call, or we’d all call, aesthetic space, thought space, psychological space, whatever space. But space (UNINTEL), space full of movement, space full of significance. Now the most technical way I think I can say that, because he’d repeat it so often to us, was how to articulate space. How to articulate the planes into volumes. How to articulate the volumes -- negative and positive -- into that vast orchestration, which expanded and contracted simultaneously. It was always a paradox. It was never one way. The experience of the painting was that you went in and it always came out and you established the surface again. He was kind and gentle with his touch with you, and his words would rip you apart, by saying you were blind or stupid. So it was this constant paradox. And I think there probably is still a lot of controversy around what "flat" means and how to achieve it, and so on. But when you take color, I think this was Hofmann's biggest contribution into this particular (UNINTEL WORD), Hofmann was saying -- and I'm of course oversimplifying -- color to us in the sense that he said the big revolution coming from Impressionism about color is that color has two functions, and we move it from its purely local naturalistic effect and application to an object, which through light and dark of shading subordinates the color idea to a naturalistic illumination idea of color. He said you must free it from that and we must release its psycho-emotional character in the painting. Simultaneously, color is a major formal means of creating space and movement articulation, by its natural ability to contrast, to contrast with the-- Most of us misinterpreted this. I know I did for years, and I always aimed at the most intense contrast. You have an idea of (UNINTEL) bright colors, you kind of get it loaded up and you were always fighting and always trying to get the thing to be more and more luminous. I know it a little better now. But the main thesis was that not only did scale and dark and light and shape and planes and planal overlaps help to create space and help to articulate space, but that color itself, if freed from this naturalistic role of light physics, used in its fullest sense automatically, whether you liked it or not, any two colors, you decided the relationship to each other, one of which would recede and one would come forward as an automatic response. And it was your job to control -- do what you will with it. So tying that idea of color as a space articulator and as an expressive characteristic, a psycho-emotional characteristic, with the lessons from Cubism, all this really was a compositional problem. I'm trying to come back to an emphasis, that is what we started with, because I think that was the key to Hofmann. You did not worry about style. You did not decide the style for your personality before you had grown. Style was the automatic and reasonable and logical growth, just like your personality, of you resolving problems in the way that only you could resolve them. Period. And you looked at ten of your paintings, or twenty or something, there you were. And you really shouldn't worry about it. So that whole question of style we would ask a lot about-- it relates a bit to the fact that we were called at one time "Space Cadets" -- which we were not necessarily embarrassed by at the time. But a lot of us of course were influenced by this man, particularly us of my generation where he couldn't hide his paintings anymore and they were visible. He exhibited every year and we saw his work. It was very hard for his beginning students to actually catch on that what Hofmann was talking about and what his paintings looked like, that was we were not supposed to find a connection there. Now, of course we did. We looked and we saw him using heavy painting, palette knife, and rectangles and you couldn't help but say, "Well, I'll try that. Maybe the mystery is in handling it that particular way." But to overcome a prejudice that I've heard a great deal about we who have studied with Hofmann, in terms of being overly influenced by him. If that is true, it is our fault I would say, not his, because it's certainly not something that he stressed. If we were influenced, we felt we were influenced by a very strong personality who held a mystery and sometimes then we would try to look at his paintings and find the solution there. But when he saw the paintings he would always tell us we were wrong. Okay, so I'll just stop at that point. And I worked with him until finally he closed his school in the summer of 1958, and then for the first time since he started teaching -- When did he start teaching? It was like '21-- I think he started teaching.
JG: So here he was now (OVERTALK) It was more than half a century. (MINGLED VOICES). He stopped teaching and for the first time addressed himself fully to painting (UNINTEL) until the year that he died (OVERTALK). Thank you.
FB: George McNeil has arrived (UNINTEL). Since he was one of the first (UNINTEL) I'd like him to-- Would you just begin, George?
GM: The person who speaks last is always at a disadvantage (UNINTEL) this is a second disadvantage because I didn't hear what was said before. Listening to Jim, it seemed that everything I was thinking about saying was already said. Looking back with a kind of nostalgia (UNINTEL). Interestingly, some of the ideas that I thought were my own were unique to him I think now -- like style is a reflection of personality -- I think that I probably did pick this up from Hofmann at some time or other. So anyway, I was with Hofmann as a student from 1932 until-- I went in '32, started in the fall at the Art Students League -- and I was with him when I was a regular student until about 1936, and then I was around the school after that a good deal, and drawing and helping Hofmann -- Hofmann (UNINTEL) tried to root himself into American culture and I helped with technical details of administration of the school. About the debt that I owe to Hofmann -- my memories of the whole thing -- I think the point that I've thought about the most over – (UNINTEL) -- is that prior to that time I had been interested in modern art. In other words, in the fall of 1928 and the spring of 1929, Vaclav Vytlacil who should have been here tonight, gave a series of lectures at the Art Students League, but anyway there was a public introduction of what was going on in modern art as of the twenties to a New York audience. At that time, there was rather a very limited amount of interest in modern art in New York City. There was Stuart Davis, who was very well known, and there was Gorky, there was Graham, there was Matulka, and that was about it. So listening to Vytlacil was a kind of revelation. And I had not had enough art training to have been more or less hooked by representational art, so I got interested in modern art then in 1929 and 1930, but basing my concepts as to what modern art was, I studied for two classes (UNINTEL) Duchamp, and things went from bad to worse. In other words, between 1930 and 1932, there was a kind of increasing disenchantment as far as modern art was concerned, because I was only getting the safest aspects of it. Now I had ideas about going to study with Hofmann, and getting a kind of, you know, the mountain not to Mohammed, but the mountain came to me and Hofmann showed up that fall at the Art Students League in 1932. The big thing that I got from Hofmann was that modern art was not a question of novelty. It was not a question of some kind of (UNINTEL) originality or high degree of genius but rather it was a consequence of abstraction, it was a consequence of certain concepts, certain down to earth concepts, which Jim has already talked about, was the biggest one, that is the experience of nature was three-dimensional but somehow it had to be transformed into a two-dimensional equivalent. Now the students who had had more of an academic background, more of a representational background, were in a bad way. But I didn't have so much of that. I was able to catch on fairly well to what he was talking about. (UNINTEL) it was a (UNINTEL) time, but it took me two years and I remember very well Hofmann had the school on 57th Street, and I remember painting, that was in 1935 and I was twenty-seven. It was the first time that I really did something which was abstract and was genuine, there was no concern with abstraction whatsoever and there was no concern with modern art soever, but whether it was a consequence of a space demand, or a space concept. So that -- from that time until the present, space has been the main consideration in the development of my work. Having said that, I've said almost everything I have to say. But I was wondering in the last few years why it was that I never got to Hofmann -- maybe Fritz did -- and said, "Where did you get the space concept?" And my feeling of what had gone on in the period that there’s never been a mention of space. Hofmann always had the – always had had a close relation in his Paris days with Delaunay, and it might have been that Delaunay, who was of a more theoretical turn of mind, had some of these spatial-- but I do not know where Hofmann got his original relationship to space as the kind of commanding or basic or fundamental drive in the making of that kind of form, which ensues as modern art and as abstraction. I don't know if there's anything else that I want to say or can say, maybe there'll be questions asked later on. I was friendly with Hofmann then, you know, all his life, but perhaps more so from 1932 until 1940. And I've heard him speak a little bit-- Fritz came around in 1939 -- '38. '38. What did I say, '21? (MALE VOICES SAYING NUMBERS). Yeah, I remember I must have been, I was seventeen years old at that time.
FB: I was a little older. [LAUGHTER]
GM: But anyway, Lillian was there too, and a great great help to Hofmann all through the years.
LK: George, can I interrupt here, because I think it's quite important to talk about this. I said before he arrived, my memory is always that winter that Matulka has said that in that class was Irene Rice Pereira, David Smith, Leo Lances, yourself, and what I can't remember (OVERTALK) – David Smith’s wife—Dorothy Dehner, and I can remember (OVERTALK) --
GM: He used to come around, yes. Yes.
LK: And Harry Wilson (PH) was not in our class (UNINTEL). I said up here tonight, that what I remember that winter was you, that you were a strong force, and I thought that when Matulka came in, and he would say "Create!" and we had no idea what he meant by "create." And then when he went out, we would all sing and dance and we would act out "create," [LAUGHTER] having no idea what create meant. But you, George, were the only one, as I remember, I always selected being next to you, but you said (UNINTEL) composition (UNINTEL), which delighted me, that you, you took that much interest. But you seemed to be from that point, George, the, as I was going to say, the backbone of that class.
GM: Matulka’s class--
LK: Matulka’s class, and it was true, and even Hofmann’s was so too, if you'd allow me to say it. [LAUGHTER] By the way, Dora McNeil was there. Is Dora here? It was Dora who made those first layouts for the Hans Hofmann catalogues that I have here, and there was Dora and George, they were really the backbones of the Hans Hofmann school. Congratulations, both of you. [APPLAUSE]. I do want to say something . . .
[END OF RECORDING ON SIDE 1, TAPE 1]
[SIDE 1, TAPE 2 BEGINS]
ST: . . . studied at the League for awhile. Then I went to the Hofmann school and I really felt I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't really understand modern art. Well, we've thrown that term around, and I said I could make nice-looking pictures, but I didn't really understand what I was doing. And I heard about this man and his school, I guess he was in his seventies by that time, and went down and rea-.... And I found that the perceptions which he put forth I could understand. They came from the world around me, because art was an art of perceiving what was around you and where you exist, and being able to take from what was out there and put it down on the canvas. And I found also in the pro-... When people spoke about the way he'd destroy a drawing-- rip it apart, literally -- I found what I also got out of that, that he would never destroy the student. He could destroy the work and say, you know, "This really is very bad," and take it apart, rip it apart, but never destroy the individual. That affection that he had for his students, and that love that he had for his students, and they had for him in return, made it able to have that kind of relationship with somebody -- that this person could come in and tell you, "You really have done a lousy drawing," and it not affect the relationship that you had with this person. Because you ultimately knew he's really telling you the truth. You didn't need the pat on the head. You needed that heavy hand. You know, so, it really is funny. The people who were there at the time also helped you to move this whole feeling along. Let's see, Jimmy was there when I was there, Wolf Kahn would come to draw. Miles Forst, Jan Müller, Mary Frank, Robert Henry was there -- oh, you know, so many. Jerry Samuels was one of the students there at the time, and there was this incredible feeling that we were involved in the quest and a quest which was really important. You were involved in doing something valuable. And that's all I've got to say.
FB: I'd like to say one thing more. You know, when Hans was alive,
he wrote a book that he never wanted published during his lifetime, and it is left as a manuscript and it is still -- the only thing that's been published is an introduction to it that was published in this magazine a year or so ago. This magazine's no longer being published, so you can't write them. But you might find copies of it around. It was a little magazine published up at Northampton, Mass., and they got ahold of the preface and were going to publish the entire manuscript. It was called "A Painter's Primer," and he never-- It's exactly the same way as he kept his paintings away. He did not want this theoretical material to be disseminated and used like almost against him. He wanted it there and recorded and everything else. And unfortunately, like much of Hans's writing -- except for the piece that Lutz Sanders translated, which is really in English -- it has still in this edition a great many German constructions and so forth and so on that make it difficult to read and unavailable. But it is something that you can look for and find. The piece that Lutz translated, called "Plastic Creation," was published in the Art Students League magazine, and I, whenever I taught, I always had it mimeographed and passed around. But it's a remarkably concise and clear statement, but this is a very long piece and there are many plates that go with it. Cynthia has seen the manuscript with the plates. I've only seen the manuscript. But it's something that should come out and be available sometime within the near future. (OVERTALK) if Cynthia Goodman has the strength to . . .
JG: (UNINTEL) not to mention that of course, there is the Search for the Real.
FB: There is the Search for the Real.
JG: Five essays in Sam Hunter's book on Hofmann. (OVERTALK)
CG: Two are from Search for the Real.
JG: Two are crossovers. That's about the extent of--
FB: This is the work that he considered to be the-- He worked on it and
translated it and Peggy Huck-- Strangely enough, Hans's German almost disappeared over the years and his English was very "provisory" -- as he would say. He wrote this in German, and when Peggy Huck translated it -- She wanted to be here tonight and I tried to get in touch with her. We had a number of mixups. She's up on the Cape. She had a great deal of trouble in getting the English into English. She's very fluent in German. She actually has a doctorate in German. So eventually this will be available for the public. But I don't know whether to say very much more than what you'd heard tonight, because you've heard a great deal. [OFFMIKE REMARK] Thank you. Are we going to have questions? (OVERTALK)
JG: By all means.
OFFMIKE QUESTION, MALE VOICE: I read somewhere, I can't remember where,
someone said that (UNINTEL) Hofmann's most superior (?) works are those he did after he stopped teaching.
FB: Yes, that's April Kingsley's feeling, very strongly.
Q (cont'd): What is the panel's reaction to . . .
FB: If you want to see some of those, we've got slides of them.
We've got the rest of the slides of that particular time, and that was the end of the slides. I think that he became more and more-- I don't know whether you ever saw that last painting, (UNINTEL), which to me is the culmination of -- you have to go back (UNINTEL) . . . . [OFFMIKE OVERLAPPING VOICES]
CG: This is I think "Song of the Nightingale," a picture that's in
Baltimore, it's 1951.
ST: '61? 1961?
CG: Now that's right. That's (UNINTEL). That's '61. That's the big
painting that you all probably know at the Metropolitan Museum, “Veluti in Speculum.” '63. And this is a painting Blue Monolith. Are these all, are you going to reverse all these now, or are these . . This one's 1961 also.
I think this might be in Brooklyn. No, it’s not in Brooklyn. I think it might be actually in the estate. And this is a painting in a private collection here in the New York, 1962. And this one's backwards, but I think-- Fritz, is this the one that's called "To Miz, Pax Vobiscum"?
FB: No. No that's not--
CG: That's in the Boston Museum. Again, this was-- It's part of a
series we have at the Metropolitan Museum, which is one he did almost right at the end of his life, in 1965, called "Rhapsody." Another painting from 1965. And another 1965. He died in 1966 in March.
FB: In February.
CG: In February?
FB: February '65. End of March. 23rd. 21st (?).
JG: It's upside down (UNINTEL). (OVERTALK)
CG: And this one's '65. There should be a few slides in here that I
put in from '58 right when he quit teaching, right here. (UNINTEL).
[GENERAL BACKGROUND OVERLAPPING TALKING]
JG: Could I make a comment, a reaction to a question? Because there’s something real strongly implied from where that's coming from. And it surrounds the controversy of Hofmann himself. And it's a controversy that surrounds every artist who has ever taught -- any teacher whoever thought they were making art. Many people felt-- you know, the argument that raged quietly, subterraneanly, in lower Manhattan, for decades, was whether one could be a great painter and be a great teacher. Whether one could be a painter and be a teacher. Whether these-- the forced verbalization, the forced intellectualization, wouldn't take away from the energy, spirit, inspiration, and so on. This has always been very controversial. Hofmann was consistently, I feel, attacked, maligned, (UNINTEL) that this was the weak point. That one could decide if one was a great painter and then wipe the teaching out, or that he was a great teacher and wipe the painting out, but damn it all, it couldn't be both. My own personal feeling and conclusion that I came to very quickly working with him and when I saw his work -- he became, and I openly admitted it then and I openly admit it now, a model for me, related to that problem as to whether you could teach and paint without it being a contradiction, unless you individually had some particular problem that didn't permit you to deal with this simultaneously. So that it is, and I have a feeling there is going to be a lot of history written by individuals after the fact, who did not have direct experience with Hofmann or a confrontation with this problem, and . .
MALE VOICE (?): I would like to (UNINTEL)
JG: Simply to reinforce the loyal opposition, continue the war, that if you can do it -- which is what Hofmann would say -- it is possible.
FB: It is possible.
JG: And it was possible for him. So I do not think -- unless you're coming from someplace else -- not you, people -- that one could say when he stopped teaching only he released all of this repressed energy and inspiration and finally became a painter.
FB: I don't think so.
ST: I don't think that's true.
JG: He was always a painter. And probably people will always argue over this particular question. I think in the end we would all agree the test of the painting is in each of us-- We decide. It's true in one sense. Look at the paintings and decide for yourself what the hell you're doing. He was moved by light.
FB: I think that there is one thing to say that the first years, the beginning to teach, he put so much effort into not probably into teaching as much as organizing the school and so forth and so on that he limited himself to drawing. But that was also a problem that he was having internally in his own work -- of resolving this problem that he used the word "compositoric" -- and it's an impossible-- he did make up marvelous words. And the problem of composition is what he was talking about. But he uses the word -- because I happened to read Lippander's (PH) To Brag (PH) and I came across that word and I said "Oh my God! You know, has to be. Who is ever going to..." I just stand back and . . .
MALE VOICE: (INAUDIBLE)
FB: Yeah. I mean, you know, there were marvelous words . . .
FB: Companized. Companized. Yeah. I mean he made up a language out of French, English, and German, and his own inventiveness, and civilization didn't seem to take away from him that much energy. Some people it might.
JG: But I would repeat that the mastery really was that he could do it. When he walked up to a drawing, he could make it happen and all the words became visually creative. The intellectualisms were at times extremely difficult to follow, and you'd talk to each other and studied and read, did all we could. But the fact is when he made his move with his hand and something flew back in space and something else flew out of the back, movement was created. It was in fact an articulation. And by the way, people worked representationally and nonobjectively in the school, always. Hofmann never-- I don't believe, in my experience -- ever even said that one should work nonobjectively. That was something that had to do with your own development. In fact, a very prominent thing he would do, a teaching technique that I've stolen from him, and that is he would walk down along with each of us and someone would be working quite representationally, and when he'd work on their drawing, he would work very nonobjectively and he would give a very nonobjective formal criticism. He'd step to the next person, who was working à la Mondrian, and he would pick up the charcoal and he would find the figure in that as you were looking at it -- a head would appear -- and then he would say "Oh, you see! That's where that would move, say, the head, it really should be over here." He had this remarkable ability that even if you had limited insights and experience in dealing with the problem, he could see what you were doing, where you were trying to go, and he would go there -- very directly and very quickly with his hand. And often he would say nothing. He would just do it and then step to the next student, and that was the lesson.
FB: One of the things at the end of his life that he did say, though,
that is rather interesting, when he was painting these rectangular paintings, he-- One afternoon we were riding through the Wellfleet swamps and he said "At this point" -- and he was over eighty then -- "I wish I had the strength to come back and paint again in front of the motif with all that I know now." [LAUGHS]. You know. I mean it never left-- this exchange, you know, I mean his exchange between-- His dialogue that he was carrying on, because most of his paintings--
JG: With nature...
FB: With nature, have a sort of-- They are a dialogue with nature.
You know, the things like some of them are called Sunset, Moonrise, etc.-- And those were not just titles that were given out of the air. They were given out of the experience, which is the main, to me the main word with all of his teachings. Experience. Experience of-- Don't just do it, experience it.
ST: And feeling.
FB: And feeling. Feeling and experience. Anybody?
OFFMIKE Q: (UNINTEL) Is there any chance of, any possibility of locating some of
the early German period painting? And what is the methodology that we're using in tracking them down?
CG: Well, this actually is the problem that several of the people up here particularly Mr. Bultman and Mrs. Kiesler have been helping me with. There was a period when Hofmann left -- he left Paris in 1914 and went to visit his sister in Germany. And while he was there the War broke out, and at that point he had left all his belongings in Paris, which of course the hope of returning. Again, when he was in Germany, he came over the United States, he was teaching in California and Mrs. Hofmann stayed in Germany. And at a later date, Hofmann -- a year or so later -- it was decided that he was to stay here. And Miz Hofmann didn't come over until 1938, and even indeed when she came . . .
CG: '39? Sorry. The plan was again that they would go back again. So at this point the paintings were left in their home in Germany. Early, when Hofmann -- his first years in Paris -- had one patron named Freudenberg, who was a department store owner. And just recently, and again really through the Bultmans, we were having a conversation when it was remembered that a relative of Hofmann's first dealer, as it turned out, was living here in New York and had an address of a relative of the first department store owner. So the person who might have had some of the paintings was tracked to Israel, where they had also fled Germany, had gone to, having fled Germany. So really it's going around in circles. To my belief, we've got some of Hofmann's paintings, still do exist in Berlin, but they're part of family collections, they're early works, and certainly wouldn't be-- Well, they might be similar to the very early landscapes that Mr. Bultman showed in the evening. Perhaps more of those do exist. You know, it's just, it's really hard to know. I have a catalogue -- and that's my other frustration, every time I look at it, 1910 from the Paul Cassirer Gallery, and I see a listed painting and there's no trace of it. You know, the fact that every single Hofmann painting was gone in one war or the other, I can't quite believe that.
FB: The strange thing is that Hofmann—there’s very little memory of him in Germany at all. When he had a show there in the sixties, no one had remembered that he had ever had a school there. And Vytlacil told me something very interesting a few years ago. He said well, that doesn't surprise him, because the school-- already the school in Germany was an American school. It was Americans who made the vitality of the school. Hans's coming here is not a surprise. He did not fit in to either Expressionism or the German movements. He was an individual and he remained one really in his method and its concept of space, which may have oriental overtones, again. All his life, and he was not part of the Munich art scene or the German art scene of Expressionism before the War. And after the War, or during the War, he helped open something called the Expressionist Workshop in Munich. But very few traces of that exist, you know. I mean it's-- You'd be surprised how much material has been lost and destroyed over the years.
JG: Well I think-- I was in Munich when that show opened, and I was staying with a group of artist-printmakers there, who were just a few years younger than I was, maybe about ten years younger, and now they had never heard of Hans.
FB: Never heard of him!
CG: He still isn't (OVERTALK)
JG: These were very active young artists, Munich-ites or whatever.
FB: It's-- it's a very unusual story, you know, to be-- His biographer was very..
JG: I think the point of that is that when Hofmann did come to this country, and certainly when he finally took out his citizenship papers, he was -- I'm not trying to get into some crazy term, "nationalism", (OVERTALK)
FB: Oh he hated nationalism of any sort. (OVERTALK)
JG: (OVERTALK) (UNINTEL) but he was open about it. He was very proud to be an American. (OVERTALK) He was very proud of his citizenship, and very suspicious of the F.B.I. And in a way, he used to protest the confusion, when there'd be an article on him-- one article would list him as a “German painter" and another one as "U.S.A. or American painter." And he preferred to be known as an American painter. He felt he was an American. Something happened to him, I think, spiritually, when he came to this country and he attributes most-- all of that feeling in his work, that explosion, the synthesis that occurred -- to the fact of this environment here. And I think that's very important historically to know that, that he himself did not feel a foreigner in a foreign land here. He acted positively (OVERTALK) (UNINTEL).
FB: Well, he had a very strong feeling for an international-- a very broad sense of international values in the arts, and did not want them limited by any national-- That's what he disliked-- is the qualifying word "German" Expressionism. You know, I mean, is that, always a clarifying adjective. Is there any other..?
MALE VOICE: I was going to say one of the questions that we had in our own minds
when we were trying to put the panel together, going back a couple of years ago, (UNINTEL) was whether there was a written register some place, an actual list, of Hofmann students over the years (OVERTALK).
FB: I have that file.
JG: We kept rather detailed lists of-- Because Hofmann, Hofmann was very German in that sense. And as one of his Secretary/Registrars in the last ten years at the school, it was my job to enroll students, collect money when and where I could, and account for it. And no student formally studied in that school without a name and address being in three places, triplicate. (OVERTALK) I assume one has those records somewhere.
LK: 1932, when Hans Hofmann (UNINTEL) from Munich, with German
lists of the students from German students. And (UNINTEL) madness for modern art (UNINTEL). I transcribed all this, for all (UNINTEL) [LAUGHS] that came, because I was transcribing from German scriptwriting to what I thought was English. For years to come. You can imagine how (UNINTEL) I found (?) that work. In any case, later, since I had very much to do with the mailing list-- We had about five hundred students. There were at least five hundred students. I have a list of at least 500 students. (UNINTEL) original Hans Hofmann students. How we-- I'll say this briefly, so you can leave, a marvelous way of the Hans Hofmann listing, the Hans Hofmann students (UNINTEL), very simple idea because none of us were paid any through the years. We did everything out of enthusiasm. I simply had the idea of going to the New York Public Library and get the list of all of the art teachers in secondary schools, all the high schools in USA -- very simple. Dora McNeil had designed the announcement. There were forty thousand printed, forty thousand, and we addressed forty thousand envelopes. Very simple. [LAUGHTER & COMMOTION]. (UNINTEL). We addressed (UNINTEL) without being paid one cent, she designed the (UNINTEL). We addressed forty thousand envelopes in a year, and out of those forty thousand (UNINTEL) today. If you address forty thousand, there will be a certain number will come. [LAUGHTER] And it was a percentage who did come, spent (?) a course in the summer school. Every year, for a number of years, we addressed at least forty thousand (UNINTEL) readdressing those envelopes. Very simple (UNINTEL). (OVERTALK). (UNINTEL). Very simple. Try it today. Of course you have to have insomnia.
JG: I can give you some figures on the last years (UNINTEL) in the New York School that in any given time in the last year there were a minimum of seventy-five to a hundred students working in the studio -- roughly twenty-five and thirty in each session. Some repeats. In the summer school, which I think started out to be like twelve weeks long, and then went ten weeks and then finally to eight weeks, we averaged -- it became a good production problem -- about 250 students studied there each summer. A lot of them moved for the first time, they would come for the summer and go away and we'd never see them again, but that's the vast majority—the college teachers, professors, a great influx from California. California supported Hofmann (UNINTEL). So it adds up to a tremendous number of people who'd be interested in being totaled someday and then arrive at some equation of what the effect of that all might have been. Because many, a substantial percentage of Hofmann students, went on themselves to become teachers. If that will work.
OFFMIKE FEMALE VOICE: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).
FB: I think it was simpler than that. He just didn’t belong to any group there. Because the school was an international school, and when that nationalism set in, it was just completely washed away. And the generation that grew up between '32, let’s say, and . . .(INAUD) so we had to get out.
OFFMIKE FEMALE VOICE: (INAUDIBLE COMMENT)
CG: So what there was often was confiscated, and in fact during World War One, the art was confiscated. Then after the Wars, if there were large public sales, the dealer Wilhelm Uhde and Kahnweiler, Katzenbach, two of the earliest dealers in abstraction in Paris, both of their properties were sold in large large auctions. And I believe that whatever was in Hofmann's possession was confiscated by the French, were sold in sales, and I haven't been able to track it down under whose name it was auctioned off and where it went. Now again that might be just a very very small body of work. And the German production is a mystery. And the keynote in that mystery is actually how much he did paint at that time. Most records say that he was doing nothing but drawing. Fritz recently has recalled seeing some paintings.
MALE VOICE: I'd like to thank Fritz and the members of the panel.
[APPLAUSE - END OF PANEL]
[Transcriber: Ellen Dissanayake. June 28, 30, July 1-2, 2001]