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Academic & writer

Partisan Review

Planting the Seeds of Modernism. An Evening with Annie Cohen-Solal

Interview with Annie Cohen-Solal, Partisan Review, Vol.  LXIX, Number 2, 10 April 2002

Edith Kurzweil: I first want to thank Dan and Joanna Rose for their hospitality and to welcome you to celebrate Annie Cohen-Solal’s new book, Painting American. The French title is more provocative: Un jour, ils auront des peintres. This was Matisse’s verdict when he visited the United States in 1933. Annie has written about the interchange between French and American artists up to the end of World War II, and she will finish by talking about Jackson Pollock. As some of you know, Annie’s first book was about Paul Nizan and her second one, which she was writing when we met in Paris in the early 1980s, was about Jean-Paul Sartre. It was translated into many languages, and Annie caught the attention of Helmut Kohl when she spoke about it on television. He mentioned her to French President François Mitterrand, who soon asked her to be the French cultural counselor in the United States. During the time she was here, about ten years, many among you met her at the French Embassy. I have read the French edition of her new book, which won the Prix de l’Académie des Beaux-Arts, and I am sure that it will soon earn her many more prizes. That’s all I’m going to say now, because Annie will talk in depth about her subject. She just told me she’s working on another project, a book about the connections between intellectuals and painters, and how they interacted with each other, much as the so-called New York intellectuals and painters did. Now to Annie.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Thank you, Joanna and Dan, for welcoming me here, and thank you, Edith, for introducing me and organizing this get-together. I could not think of a better place to speak about my work, because I find on your shelves so many of the books that I have in my own library. I sense a sort of European-American atmosphere here.

This book took me five years to write, but altogether ten years to produce. I first thought about it when I arrived in New York to work at the French Embassy. I had just completed a book on Sartre, and you know talking about Jean-Paul Sartre in the United States is not a great assignment, because apart from the Partisan Review crowd, who had met him, he is not exactly a hero in this country, to say the least. I remember interviewing William Phillips, Lionel Abel, William Barrett, as well as many others. So, when I came here, I had in mind another project, which was to investigate the years between 1944 and 1948, when the cultural hegemony of Europe shifted to the Unites States. I wanted to know more about this period, to find out how the Europeans came to realize that things would not continue as usual, and how they reacted to this change.

I arrived to take my position as French cultural counselor in October 1989, and within two weeks I met Leo Castelli. “I’m going to teach you all you need to know about American art,” he told me. While I was in charge of opening exhibitions of French impressionists in Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, here was Leo Castelli teaching me about Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, and the like. I could not have asked for a better mentor than him. He was a European who had arrived from Trieste in 1941 and who knew everything about the connections between Americans and Europeans. I learned voraciously from him. Little by little, as I grew interested in the unique aspects of the American cultural system, I realized how hard it must have been for the French and the Americans to interact, because the two models couldn’t be further apart. In France we have a state-supported system for the arts, while in America artists rely on private aid. In France the system is hierarchical and centralized, while in America it is more scattered. These things are changing in both countries, but I remember when I arrived here there was a controversy at the National Endowment for the Arts about pornography and art, and everyone was asking me how things were done in France. And I said, “Well, you can talk about anything you want.” It’s amazing to analyze the gap between the cultural policies of France and the U.S.

But what I really needed to do was to examine the roots of the American model. One of the greatest assignments that I had at the Embassy was to open the doors of the Barnes Foundation near Philadelphia. It was extraordinary to learn about what Dr. Barnes had done in the thirties and about the board of Lincoln University. In the end, we managed to get the show to the Musée d’Orsay, which was wonderful. So little by little I learned about the people who had paved the way for modern art in America. I soon realized that I needed to know more about earlier times in order to describe these people, and it became evident that the existing books on the period weren’t totally convincing. One of them, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, remained very much influenced by the Cold War. It gave the CIA a large role in the images of abstract expressionism. But I felt that it presented an overly ideological vision. So I decided to investigate what I call the “intercultural space.” I love working on this space between cultures, which is very thin and mysterious, particularly in the visual arts, as it is a field in which the tradition of ritual pilgrimage has played a major role. Painters have traveled in Italy between Rome and Florence, between Florence and Venice, between Venice and Amsterdam. Then, in the middle of the nineteenth century, Paris became the center of the art world, just as Florence had been during the Renaissance. Paris lost its supremacy to New York one century later. I felt compelled to understand the complexity of this cultural shift.

At the Embassy, I interviewed everyone I met in order to understand the elements that had a part in this rapid change. After I left my diplomatic assignment, I worked in the archives of American art at the Smithsonian and in French museums, trying to dig out the voices of the characters of my work. They turned out to be not only the painters, but also the collectors, the patrons, the museum directors, the museum curators, the critics, and the teachers. This network of people made it possible, in different periods, for the United States to create an extraordinary group of institutions, with extraordinary art, within a very short time.

What first struck me is that the fundamental events took place much sooner than we usually learn from traditional American art history, and in a much different way. First of all, I should tell you that I am not an art historian, but a cultural historian, and that I am approaching the field of art not through the paintings, but through the actors behind the paintings. In other words, I am considering not so much the text, but the context. It soon appeared to me that at the very same time as the French system changed, around the middle of the nineteenth century, so did the American system. The French system was very much a monopoly; it stood for absolute excellence in the art world. This ran through all the Parisian institutions: the École des Beaux-Arts, the best school in the world; the Musée du Louvre, the best museum in the world; and the Salon, where living artists exhibited twice a year. So Paris had it all. However, the French system evolved, partially because of demography–the increase in the number of new painters–and partially because of the arrival of new patrons. The impressionist painters were the first symptoms of that change. First Courbet in 1855, then Manet in 1863, challenged the rigidity of the French model and of French official art. Therefore, within a decade there arrived on the market a large number of paintings belonging to the so-called “New Painting,” but the primary French patron, the French state, was not interested in this kind of art.

At the same time the American scene was also changing dramatically. In this country, as you know, artists have been stigmatized by many: by the Puritans who founded this country, for religious and political reasons; by the pioneer culture; and by the businessmen. For a long time the artist was not thought of as a productive person. It was around the middle of the nineteenth century with people like Emerson and the changes of urbanization and other elements that the status of the artist changed. Art became something essential for the new industrialists, the so-called robber barons, who needed to symbolically assert their social position. Now there was a real need for assembling art. One man, in between these two scenes, would have an enormous impact: Paul Durand-Ruel. This dealer saw the potentiality of the market in America. He came to New York in 1886 and brought over three hundred paintings from Paris for a value of $80,000. Americans were not savages, he pointed out; rather, their taste was simply more “open” than that of the French. I was lucky enough to be accepted into the archives of his Paris estate and to find there many unpublished documents.

In these archives, I saw the press clippings for Durand-Ruel’s show in New York, and they were extraordinary. One critic wrote that it was amazing that the most wonderful art created in one country for the last twenty-five years was being shipped part and parcel to another country. Within ten years, Paul Durand-Ruel would sell his most beautiful paintings made by the artists in Paris, the painters of l’Ecole de Barbizon, and the impressionists to American collectors. I stumbled upon this fact thanks to a letter written to him by a journalist in 1895 asking where the most beautiful French paintings were located in American collections. Durand-Ruel replied in a ten-page letter, proceeding city by city, collector by collector, painting by painting, and concluded by stating that seventy-five percent of the most beautiful paintings produced in France could be found in America. It was stunning to observe how fast the visual arts map of the United States was evolving, considering that the first museum built in this country dates from 1870.

In researching Painting American I discovered that the American institutions and collectors, among other actors, paved the way for American artists. And bringing such an extraordinary patrimony to another country is a way of planting seeds in that country, to influence generations of painters. We sometimes forget, for example, that the Metropolitan Museum had three paintings by Manet before any museum in France had any. These canvases were refused by the French officials, who were deciding what to buy for the French public museums’ collections. When the World’s Columbian Exposition took place in Chicago in 1893, the French official pavilion displayed only official artists such as Bouguereau, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and the military painter Edouard Detaille, but none of the impressionists. However, some French impressionist paintings would be shown by a curator named Sarah Hallowell, a friend of Mary Cassatt who had worked as a dealer for the Potter Palmers, famous collectors from Chicago. Hallowell had assembled the most wonderful foreign paintings belonging to private collections in America, among them many French impressionist paintings, which she displayed in such a way that they appeared to be already part of art history. You can imagine the reaction of the French official when he realized the meaning of the situation! So he gave a speech, which was actually quite courageous, saying that the “living masters” of France were able to “escort [its] great departed masters.” Still, it was embarrassing for him to see that the person displaying the leading artists of France was a young American curator, and not the French official “commissaires.” I found his speech in the archives of the Musée d’Orsay, and enjoyed once more the pleasure of discovering scattered elements and putting them in a meaningful context.

So the story goes. The period of total domination of the American arts by the cumbersome European model continues until 1890. Then begins the period of emancipation, which lasts until World War I; this is followed by what I refer to as the period of autonominization, going from about 1915 to 1948. During the period of emancipation, American museums would be built in two huge waves: first, in neoclassical architecture and second in modernist buildings. More than fifty museums were constructed in the United States between World War I and World War II, primarily modernist buildings. However, when did France establish its first modern art museum? In 1948, with the Musée moderne de la ville de Paris. The seeds of modernist and postimpressionist art were planted, nourished, and raised in the soil of Paris between 1900 and 1915. During this extraordinary epoch, Paris was the center for foreign artists around the world with l’Ecole de Paris, and the art would be bought primarily by foreign collectors and taken out of France.

This growth took root in America in an extraordinary way. In Painting American, I identify some of its most dynamic actors: for example, the duo formed by two photographers and art dealers, Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz. Edward Steichen was in Milwaukee at the age of nineteen when he saw in a magazine that in Paris Rodin had had a fight with officials: commissioned to create a sculpture of Balzac, he created a work that was not at all conventional–an enormous Balzac wearing a bathrobe, basically something outrageous, and it had been refused. Having read this article, Steichen was filled with romantic notions of coming to Paris to see the birthplace of modern art. He visited the Universal Exposition of 1900, where Rodin had his own pavilion; there he approached the artist and asked to make a portrait of him in his studio. He would produce an amazing photograph, the profile of Rodin facing his Penseur with his “Victor Hugo” in the background. By superimposing the two negatives, one on top of the other, he depicted Rodin as a genius in the same way that Rodin had done for Balzac. By producing this portrait, Steichen, at a very young age, stepped into the closed circle of the Paris geniuses. And he ended up being the one to promote Rodin’s Balzac because Rodin would ask him–ten years later–to photograph it in the moonlight. Steichen did so, even if sometimes the shot took more than an hour. Rodin thought it was beautiful, and likened it to Christ walking the desert; and through Steichen’s pictures, the Balzac of Rodin became known all over the world. This anecdote demonstrates the vitality of this relationship between contrasts: a young artist and an older one, an American and a Frenchman, a sculptor and a photographer. Steichen would not only create the photographs of Balzac, but he would also send Rodin’s erotic drawings to Alfred Stieglitz in New York. As you can imagine, they shocked a lot of people. He also sent drawings by Matisse and Picasso. 291, Stieglitz’s gallery, functioned as a showplace for modernism.

Another group which plays a capital role in our story is the Stein family: Gertrude Stein, Leo Stein, and Michael and Sarah Stein. Gertrude and Leo arrived in Paris in 1903, with Michael and his wife Sarah joining them the following year. Leo Stein, who had traveled all over the world, wanted to study painting at the Académie Julien, although it was not exactly his greatest talent. In Paris, however, he began intensely collecting postimpressionists’ paintings and elaborating interesting themes about them. The Steins soon established their Salon, and quickly assembled Paris’ largest and most interesting collection of works by Matisse, Cézanne, and Picasso. Sarah Stein, Michael’s wife, opened an academy with Matisse which trained a large number of young American painters. So in the Stein family, Leo was the collector and theoretician, Michael the financier, Gertrude the social force, and Sarah the practicioner. It was, in fact, a real “American Academy in Paris.” Every Saturday evening Leo and Gertrude would invite their friends to dinner, among them Matisse and Picasso; later in the evening they would admit young American painters who were studying in Paris, who would be able to see the collection, hear about the works, and meet with the artists. You can imagine these American artists, who had for years been driven to the classical school of official art at the École des Beaux-Arts, suddenly meeting Picasso, Matisse, and Cézanne. Guests such as Patrick Henry Bruce, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Morgan Russell, and Max Weber were later exhibited at Stieglitz’s gallery; it was they who would bring modernism to the United States and found movements such as Synchromism.

World War I played a huge role in terms of the emancipation of American art from the French model and the discovery of America by French artists. Actually, it would reverse the flow. Marcel Duchamp played a key part in this process. Although his nude was the main shock for the audience at the Armory Show, Duchamp himself arrived two years later. In an unpublished archive of his military files I discovered that he refused to go to war, and didn’t want his brothers to know that he was leaving the country. He wasn’t very proud of himself. He couldn’t yet speak English, and he was working as a librarian in Paris. When he came to New York, he was welcomed by the Arensbergs, once again worked as a librarian, and taught French to the Stettheimers. The Duchamp family has so many brilliant artists: Raymond Duchamp-Villon, the cubist sculptor; Marcel Duchamp; as well as the two sisters. For me, the Duchamp family is an allegory of France during World War I: they would lose Raymond Duchamp-Villon to the war in 1918 and Marcel to America, where he would influence so many Americans painters, even today. The way the Armory Show was brought into this country is yet another story, not the beautiful one we usually hear, but a rather pathetic one. Modernism seems to me to have arrived in the United States in a very odd way: it was not brought by the kind of didactic exhibitions that Roger Fry used to organize in London, but brutally, as a “coup,” chaotically. This explains a lot of things about modernism in America.

Another important moment has to do with the creation of the Museum of Modern Art, which to my mind combined three elements that belong totally to American culture. First, the women from republican families, Abby Rockefeller, Lillie Bliss, and Mary Quinn Sullivan, whose modernist tastes differed widely from their backgrounds. They consulted the advisor Paul Sachs, from the Goldman-Sachs family, German Jews who immigrated to this country. Paul Sachs taught a famous museum course at Harvard, which trained generations of American museum directors for thirty years, the last being Bill Lieberman from the Metropolitan Museum. These women asked Paul Sachs whom he would recommend as director of their new museum. He asked them whether the age was a handicap. They did not see why it would be, so Sachs came up with his best student, the twenty-seven-year-old son of a Baptist priest, Alfred H. Barr. It was the support of republican women, the expertise of a German Jew with Ivy League credentials, and the energy of a young Harvard cadet which made modern art possible in America. Alfred Barr was asked by Abby Rockefeller to meet her at her estate in July 1929. Five months later the first show took place, complete with paintings by Cézanne, Matisse, and Van Gogh, among others.

Alfred Barr had traveled through Europe two years before that. He had seen the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Italy, France, Germany, and Holland, and had brought back the best of everything he found there to the United States. He borrowed the idea of the Dutch architects, the conception of the Bauhaus museum in Dessau, which was integrating design, art, architecture, and cinema to the more conventional sections of a traditional museum. He had the ability, talent, and access to financial support to pull it all together.

I’ll now return to the person who trained me in American art, Leo Castelli. When Leo arrived in New York in 1941, he said that the collection Alfred Barr had gathered at the Museum of Modern Art was an encyclopedia of European art that no European country could have created at the time, integrating the German Expressionists, Russian Futurists, and French Surrealists. No European country could have been able to assemble such a collection, simply because they were at war, and nobody knew what was going on in other countries. Leo told me that for him the Museum of Modern Art was already functioning as an integrated Europe (and we are all aware of the extraordinary amount of emphasis put on education in American museums). The theater designer Lee Simonson argued that a museum should “generate culture rather than simply preserve it.” The idea of museums generating culture, questioning, challenging, and educating the public, is very strong and very American.

The federal government’s involvement in the art world through the WPA program represents another extremely important part of the story. Roosevelt enacted the WPA program from 1933 to 1943 on the advice of his friend, George Biddle. It was modeled on the Mexican revolution, and commissioned artists to produce works of art for public spaces, such as frescos and sculptures. This was the only time in American history that the federal government became directly involved in the creation of works of art. This period saw the development of Realist art, with painters such as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood; but above all, the creation of cultural centers and art communities across the country. It inspired Americans to believe that art is an essential part of their society. And, as Dore Ashton puts it, it built a specific community which did not exist before in the United States, connecting the artists to the public.

So there definitely are indigenous reasons for the establishment of New York as a world center after World War II. But there are also external reasons, which have to do with the European wars that forced so many European artists to come to this country, for example, Josef Albers and Hans Hofmann. From France they came in waves–Matisse, Leger, Hélion, Matta, Breton, Masson. As Edith mentioned in her introduction, the French title of my book derives from a remark Matisse made when he arrived here in 1933, invited by Albert Barnes to paint a large fresco at the Barnes Foundation. “Someday they will have painters in America,” he said, because it’s not possible in such a country not to have painters one day. It’s strange to hear that sentence today, but it does give you the French perspective of America at that time.

Edith Kurzweil: Thank you, Annie. Since you’ve agreed to take questions, we’ll take them now.

Joan Schwartz: You must have come across many references to literature, music, and dance. Did it parallel what you described here?

Annie Cohen-Solal: I think that examining the performing arts in this way is more complicated, but very interesting. And I’m puzzled: should I now start work on the next installment of Painting American, on American art through the eyes of the actors between the years 1948 1998? Or should I start working, as you’re suggesting, on Dancing American, or Acting American, and so on? I don’t know. But here is a related question which is extremely compelling: why did the United States have so many great writers at the end of the nineteenth century–Hawthorne, Poe, Emerson–but no great painters? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. Why was this not a country for visual artists?

Audience: But I think there were artists around then. . . .

Annie Cohen-Solal: Of course there were. I just spoke at the Eakins show in Philadelphia last Friday evening. And many such artists are being reevaluated. For example, Frederic Church was discovered twenty-five years ago. There were great artists, but at that time they were not rated as the world’s greatest artists.

Karen Wilkin: Eakins and Church certainly were.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Yes, but Eakins was banned from the Philadelphia Museum.

Karen Wilkin: That was for having a nude model with women students. It wasn’t his art that was banned.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Nonetheless, he was not given the credit he deserved. The Gross Clinic was very shocking for the American audience.

Karen Wilkin: It’s still shocking.

Annie Cohen-Solal: That’s true. Did you see the show in Philadelphia? What did you think?

Karen Wilkin: I think it’s a fascinating show. It has a lot to do with the new cache of photographs they found and the relationship of photography to Eakins’s work. It’s a very well chosen show.

Joanna Rose: The photography was known, too; it was just not shown. Bryn Mawr College was given a lot of photographs by local collectors. But they were not evaluated by the public; they were not publicized in the way that the art world now treats everything as a major event.

Annie Cohen-Solal: It’s fascinating to observe how cultural models are translated into other cultures and how societies sometimes fail to recognize their own artists. For example, the French impressionists were banned by the French officials but took root here, and Eakins imported the French tradition from Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris. He also went to Spain to learn about realism, which did not catch on here. At the time, it was not the right context, and he might not have used the right strategies. Or he may not have properly conducted his dispute with the Pennsylvania Academy. But it’s really interesting to see how it malfunctioned. We have to wait a few years, a few decades, in order to get the full impact.

I am convinced that Eakins is a great artist. How demanding he was! He was trained to notice everything, and he religiously asked Jean-Léon Gérôme to point out what was wrong in his work. So Jean-Léon Gérôme then would explain in detail that, in order to avoid the static element of his drawing, he had to show the beginning and end of the movement. And yet, generally speaking, he was rejected here and accepted there. It’s a very important show. Next year we’re going to have the show in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay. I think it’s important for the French to understand Eakins’s role in bringing European realism to the United States. He paved the way for Robert Henri and The Eight; they carried on a fight from Philadelphia with the Charcoal Club and all the illustrators who subsequently arrived in New York.

Dorothea Straus: Don’t you think it’s the painters who provided the United States with their independence and their superiority to Europe at that moment? Until then we had writers and other things, but we still leaned very much on England. And on France. But there was a whole psychological change by the painters after World War II.

Annie Cohen-Solal: You’re right. And I think it’s ironic that painters were stigmatized in American society for so long. I have memories of a text by Thomas Hart Benton talking about his father, who was deeply suspicious of intellectuals and artists, and regarded them as “pimps.” It is that painter who pulled up the United States over Europe after World War II. It’s fascinating.

Ruth Bowman: It was interesting that the American Abstract Artists had to picket the Museum of Modern Art because they were not represented. Ad Reinhardt made flyers and handed them out with cartoons making fun of Alfred Barr.

Annie Cohen-Solal: They attacked him for not giving enough credit to the local artists.

Ruth Bowman: But the local artists loved going to the Museum of Modern Art and looking at the art.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Exactly. That is how Jackson Pollock got his training in European art. By coming to New York in 1930.

Jules Olitski: It is interesting that Barr integrated all of European painting over here, even though the school of Paris had all of Europe there. Is the aspiration of the American writer to be European? In the correspondence between William James and Henry James, William James always complained to Henry, why do you live in Europe? Why do you write in what is considered a European manner rather than an American one? Both Henry James and T. S. Eliot aspired to be Europeans first (they both ended up Englishmen), James living first in Italy and Eliot also much in French culture. But the main idea was to be European.

Annie Cohen-Solal: That is very interesting. A similar example from the realm of the visual arts is James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Born in America and trained in London, he came to Paris and never returned to the United States. For me, Whistler is the epitome of the modernist American artist. Early on, he caught on to what an art market is, what promotion is, and so on. And he also had a thoroughly European character, just like Henry James, who called him a cosmopolitan, educated European–a kind of American aristocrat, with Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and certain other expatriates.

Audience: Just a comment. There was a show on Mary Cassatt’s material. And I don’t know if it’s in the archives or not, but they have a very funny letter to her parents. They had visited her in Paris and she had taken them to one of her studios where they bought a couple of Monets. And in the letter she underlined, “Hang on to your Monets.”

Annie Cohen-Solal: In a speech Sartre made at Yale University in 1946, he mentioned how, in literature, cultures borrow from each other. He said, “The occupation heightened French intellectuals’ fascination with American life, its violence, its excess, its mobility. The principal reason of the influence of the American novel comes from the revolution it brought to narrative techniques”–here, he is referring primarily to Dos Passos. He continues, “We did not seek tales of murder and rape out of moral delight, but for lessons in renewing the art of writing. Without being aware of it, we were crushed by the weight of our traditions and culture. And American novelists, without tradition and without assistance, forged ahead with barbaric brutality, which was an instrument of inestimable value. We have made us of this conscious and intellectual manner, which was the fruit of talent and of unconscious spontaneity. The first French novels written after the occupation will soon appear in the United States. We are going to reestablish the techniques that you lent to us. We will return them digested, intellectualized, less effective and less forceful, consciously adapted to French tastes. Due to this incessant exchange that leads nations to rediscover in others that which they invented and then rejected, you may well discover in these foreign books the eternal youth of the ‘old’ Faulkner.” This has to do with literature, but I think it’s exactly what it is about in art as well. Sartre had written a wonderful piece on Dos Passos, about whom he gave his first speech as professor of philosophy, in 1930. Simone de Beauvoir had translated Manhattan Transfer for him–which I found out when she gave me that speech. They had really promoted each other.

Jules Olitski: They preferred Faulkner before we did. Faulkner was much more famous in Paris in 1949 than here. France got its culture from Italy when the king François I invited the architect who built city hall.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Yes, Pietro di Cortona. He was born in my village in Italy, Cortona.

Audience: It’s a pattern. The Romans got their culture from the Greeks and the Greeks got a lot of theirs from Egypt.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Yes, and from the Etruscans. But to go back to the collections in museums. We talked about the impressionists being brought here, but Napoleon brought back art from his campaigns in Egypt and Italy, Lord Elgin carried the Parthenon’s marble to England from Greece, and Emperor William II brought Priam’s treasure and the Temple of Zeus to Berlin from Pergamon. You’re absolutely right that this pattern developed all over the world.

Jules Olitski: Have you considered looking at the so-called journeymen in the early 1800s, late 1700s? They were not sophisticated, they had no connections. Their art is kind of harsh, simple. I’m always curious about them. Because they’re rather charming and expressive and I don’t think much has been said about them.

Annie Cohen-Solal: You’re talking about American artists? William Dunlap and the like? Who went from village to village to do portraits?

Jules Olitski: Yes.

Ruth Bowman: Isn’t it interesting that Mrs. Rockefeller collected folk art?

Annie Cohen-Solal: That is a tradition that goes back a long time. The daughter of Louis Havemeyer also collected folk art.

Jules Olitski: They seemingly had no relationship to London or Paris. And yet they seemed to see something that that they based their art on, especially their religious paintings.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Did you see these at the Met?

Ruth Bowman: No, at the New York Historical Society and the Maritime Society.

Jules Olitski: They did have a role in American art.

Annie Cohen-Solal: Yes, they are influential cross-culturally. That is interesting. It is a field I should look into next.

Edith Kurzweil: Thank you, Annie. If there are no more specific questions, let’s continue this discussion over dessert