Partridge, Charlotte Russell,
Painter, Educator, Arts administrator, Founder
Sound recording: 1 sound tape reel ; 7 in.
Transcript: 59 p.
Collection Summary: An interview of Charlotte Russell Partridge conducted circa 1965, by Harlan Phillips for the Archives of American Art New Deal and the Arts Oral History Project. Partridge talks about teaching at Downer College; forming the Layton School of Art in Wisconsin during the 1920's; her work as director of the Federal Arts Project in Wisconsin; trips to Mexico; and about various individuals involved in WPA art programs, such as Holger Cahill, Edward Bruce and Tom Parker.
Biographical/Historical Note: Charlotte Russell Partridge (1882-1975) was a painter and educator, in Milwaukee Wis. She cofounded the Layton School of Art in 1920.
This interview conducted as part of the Archives of American Art's New Deal and the Arts project, which includes over 400 interviews of artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s.
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This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Charlotte Russell Partridge, circa 1965, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW WITH CHARLOTTE PARTRIDGE
11745 NORTH SHORECLIFF LANE
2W THEINSVILLE, WISCONSIN
JUNE 12, 1965
INTERVIEWER: DR. HARLAN PHILLIPS
HP: HARLAN PHILLIPS
CP: CHARLOTTE PARTRIDGE
HP: Well, perhaps a good way to get into this is to access your own relationship to the field of art in the 20's. It gives you a standing on which they relied on in the 30's. What were you doing in the 20's? What were you up to in the way of interest?
CP: In the 20's? Well, I came to Milwaukee in 1914. Before that I had plans to go to spend a year in Russia. I was just out of art school and was going there then with a musician friend. We were going to earn our passage. In those days, you could earn your passage across and she was going to do some teaching of Russian -- she's a Russian girl -- and I was going to make some sketches and some little stories about the trip on the shipboard. Well, then something happened -- I won't go into that. Anyway, we couldn't go and so I was offered a position to teach in Milwaukee Downer College -- teach art. There were things that I never would consent to do and teaching was one of them. I won't tell you what the other two were, but I came because I had to earn some money. And anyway, people always interested me and of course art did too. I had some ideas about mistakes in teaching art because I had been to one or two art schools and found some things that I didn't agree with very much. You know, at that age you can disagree, but I hadn't had experience enough to really . . . . I just had certain standards that I just was interested in. Well, I got involved in Milwaukee Downer College in the Art Department and, well, frankly, the thing that interested me was I only had something like 12 hours of teaching, and I would have a room in the art department and it would be my own studio. And I could go on with my textile designing and my painting. We started and the girls were so interested in things and, before Christmas came, I couldn't use my studio for myself. I had to use it for classes. Well, that was a year of experience for me in teaching, and I found that teaching was just like living. A habit of curiosity was important, and I wanted to get that over to the students. I wanted them to get interested in things just for the fun of really learning new things. And I thought myself that, after a few years, I would be old enough and mature enough to really be maybe an authority but I've never gotten to that point. I'm telling you about my thoughts as of that time and, oh, that makes life just fascinating. That's why I'm having a good time, even now. But the Department developed, and I was able to get other teaching help, and it was still every day was an adventure and I saw things developing among the students and their expanding. We had . . . I found that the college girls, the Sophomores, the Juniors and the Seniors that came into the studio weren't interested in the kind of books I'd been reading.
CP: And so we just gathered up. Two or three afternoons when classes were over, two or three of the girls, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20 of them would come up, and we'd talk about some of the books that related to art in some way, you know, and well, before the year was out, we had really a club that was working from books.
CP: Yes, and when in those days, (I still am), I was very much interested in Oriental art and the painting of China, the theory of China, the literature in translation and then of Japan and some of the Japanese writers and Herne, an American, who went over there. Why, I read everything that he had -- that never had been heard of at Downer College. I couldn't nearly stand it.
HP: You were a disturbing influence only in the sense of enrichment.
CP: And Weidemal in the East series, they didn't know anything about! Well, I just enjoyed them. We had a good time.
HP: Well, did the girls take hold?
CP: Oh, they certainly did; not all of them, but some of them did.
HP: It opened up a whole world for them.
CP: It certainly did. And well, practically, they'd never had a life class there, and I thought that was important. And I didn't believe in working from casts. I believed in working from movement because movement is a part of everything and -- well, we had a life class. But that was frowned upon, but the powers that be just pretended they didn't notice it.
HP: Sticky, stuffy people -- unreal, isn't it.
CP: Yes, but the College had some wonderful things about it, it really did.
HP: Oh sure, sure.
CP: But . . . .
HP: But growing pains are growing pains, nonetheless.
CP: Yes, they are, and I won't tell you about one thing that happened, not on this record anyway.
HP: But, to get them even to accept it . . . .
CP: Did you turn that off?
HP: No, it's still on, but to even get them to accept a departure . . . . You know how conservative and sticky institutions can get, it's terrible!
CP: Well, I was there -- I've forgotten -- I think about six years, and then the art school in Chicago, that I had gotten most of my training from, was headed by a very creative, wonderful woman, and she, for certain personal reasons, had to close her school. And she said: "Why don't you go on with it?" I said: "I can't do that. I don't want to come back to Chicago. I don't want to teach any longer." She said; "Well, I don't mean that. Have it in Milwaukee." I said, "I'm getting a little tired of teaching just girls. I believe in coeducation." I haven't any use for segregation of any kind, and then I realized that that's one of the things that was bothering me. Why I was getting a little stale at Downer, and also I had reached the limit that could be done, and we had, though, while I was there, established a four-year degree course in art.
HP: Oh, marvelous!
CP: And that was something, and I thought it was time for somebody new to come in. Then I talked with a couple of trustees of the College and told them I was thinking about leaving, I told them about what I was thinking about doing, and I talked to the trustees of the Milwaukee Art Institute, and they were very much interested. I said: "If I would start a school here, this would be for college age boys and girls, could you house the school? I will take care of all the other expenses through the tuition." Well, we had a good many conferences over that, and they were crowded as they were. The board [of trustees] of the Layton Art Gallery heard about this, and I talked to one or two of them at his request and they gave us the ground floor of the Layton Art Gallery, rent-free. At that time the basement didn't have any hot water, didn't have but one wash room, had no electricity, a few gas light burners. It was a storage area, and they would give, I'd forgotten, each of the trustees would give so many hundred dollars to remodel it. They said: "Go ahead and do as you please." And so we started. That's why it was called the Layton School of Art.
HP: Yeah, but you got a rent-free storage area which they were willing to convert.
CP: Then my brother-in-law gave me a thousand dollars to move the furniture from the old school in Chicago. It had been used for a long time, but we had lockers and there was a skeleton and tables and chairs and easels and stools and that kind of thing which we scrubbed up and used.
HP: And you had a school going in the Layton Gallery.
CP: At that time there was a curator at the Layton Art Gallery, and he was retired, and I was made director of the Layton Art Gallery and so we used the whole building. We even had some classes parked some days right up in one of the galleries, and visitors who came in enjoyed that experience of seeing them. We didn't copy the paintings because we were doing a different sort of thing, but we were using it. Of course, I was downtown all the time and I was interested in anybody who was interested in painting and drawing, or designing or decorating -- I mean interior design or industrial design, and, before long, I really knew practically all the young people and the older people. Some of the older artists didn't approve of us, but then that's natural. It went on . . . . I think that first year we had some of the transfers from the Chicago school. We had 25 -- I think our original day school was 25 boys and girls, but the evening classes developed and they were enormous. Well, I had found one teacher, Gary Sinclaire, who came from Minneapolis here to teach, and then Miss Frink was footloose, and she said that she became interested in it, and she said: "Let me come and do the office work." I said, "You'd better not. It's too much of a gamble." But she got interested in it. She started it, and then, W. Price Watson, who was then the art director of the Milwaukee Art Institute was quite a live wire -- he was up here the other day. I talk to him frequently on the 'phone. He hasn't been here for years. He was with us, and he said he'd come and teach History of Art once a week. Well that helped. Well, I taught the design and what I called "Nature of Analysis" and painting, and the Life work when Garret was sick or something. I continued to teach . . . the first year of the school. I continued half-time at Milwaukee Downer College at the President's request. It was quite nice because I got the salary for that, and I didn't have the salary at the school to go for two or three years because all the money had to go into the other people. And we got came, that's another story. He came from Europe, taught sculpture and Margaret Franz who was a graduate of the Milwaukee Downer. Milwaukee Downer students never knew that this was going to happen when they graduated in June. I didn't think that was cricket, but she heard about it in a roundabout way- very gifted young woman- and so she came in to help with some of the work, with the Nature Analysis, some of the design work, and so forth. And I taught 3 nights a week from 7 to 9 and some nights when I'd go in there I would be so tired! I had two rooms going, one in design here and one in design in this room. I had about 30 in this room and about 25 in this smaller room; I couldn't take them together and they were wonderful. They were young art students who were working at other places, studying in other places. There were people from the public museums who needed some drawing and some design, photographers, newspaper photographers because they felt there was a need of some more understanding about composition, and there were two or three cooks who wanted to have some recreation and some new kind of life. All nationalities and of course I am dumb, I can only speak English, but they were so exciting and in 5 minutes after I'd met those classes I was reborn. It was just wonderful! And some public school teachers, lots of them, and several dentists, two doctors and some of their wives, some socialites. To go into a class with that mixture of social connection, and we always began . . . . I gave them a little bit of homework. If it was a photographer, he brought in some of his photographs which were criticized from the point of view of arrangement of composition or design, whatever you want to call it, and then, if they were designers or whatever it was, some of the public museum people brought in their work, you know, and so forth. But they always wanted to get better and so I carried on these . . . . Well, first year was one room, the second hour was the other class. And they put their work up on the wall. They never were late the way I was for you today. Well, we'll see you today, and always stayed afterwards. One teacher had been a kindergarten teacher for a number of years, and she grew so in her work and so forth, that one day I had the temptation to talk to her about going on and specializing in art and she was a quiet little thing, and she didn't say anything about it for a long time. Finally, after several months, she came to me and she said, "I've been thinking about it, and I have taken a leave of absence from the public schools and I'm coming to day school if you'll let me."
HP: I'll be darned...
CP: She became a teacher in our school. She is now head designer for a big company in Milwaukee. She has accounts all over the United States as a designer. Most of it is for clubs and offices and, well, she is the designer for the furniture for our building. Did you hear somebody?
HP: Yes, someone's at the door. [INTERRUPTION]
CP: --I could just live those days, my.
HP: Well, you had no problem here with the Life class; there wasn't any question about it. This was your school.
CP: Oh, there was.
HP: Was there really?
CP: Well, yes! (Laughter)
HP: So the education of Milwaukee took a slow time with respect to Life class.
CP: Oh, you can't imagine how conservative and old!
HP: That's right, you had coeducational classes which was another wrinkle, I suppose.
CP: No, Downer College was only for women.
HP: That's right.
CP: But this was coeducational, and the funny thing about it: we always had . . . . all the years of the school, there's been a predominance of boys and men.
HP: That's interesting.
CP: Well, I don't know what . . . .
HP: I asked you about, you know . . . . This was your school in effect, you set this school up.
CP: Yes. Well, I founded it but Marian Frink came in and she very soon became co-director too. There were two of us and . . . . Oh, one of the things I wanted in this school was psychology. I didn't want the regular psychology; I wanted the students to begin to think about things that are classified as psychology in relation to themselves and their own development and their growth. Well, to find somebody who could teach that. Miss Church, from the old school, came up for two weeks. She had taught that in the other school. She was an exceptional person, and all the students in the school were in these talks; very informal and very, I thought, very helpful for the art students, for anybody, but we were working with the art students. You know, in those days, the student's parents didn't want their boys, especially to go to art school. They wanted them to go into some business of their fathers', or anyway some business that would make lots of money. Money was their standard and to try to break down that barrier, well we're still doing it! But . . . .
HP: Or to break down the effect of that barrier upon the young artist, or to make him understand what it was.
CP: Any boy or girl in general, but we were involved with that, you see, and a student I didn't accept . . . I don't like to say "I" too much, but in those days I was jack of all trades, you know, and we didn't accept a boy or girl until we had an interview with them. And I had to know something about their family, their background and the sort of things they'd been involved in school and the sort of standards that they had developed in their homes and incidentally did they have some talent. Theoretically everybody has some talent, but I wanted them eventually, if they spent several years in art school, to be able to be qualified to be independent financially. Now that's not the same thing. I think that it is better to be a humdinger of a janitor than it is to be even a third rate painter, artist, and, if during their first year, and we knew our students very thoroughly, if I was convinced in talking with their other teachers and talking with them and their families, that we couldn't help them, that there was something else, some other kind of school that could help them, in a different direction, I would try to get them to go to that other school where they could get that. That was one reason why, when the school was formed, it wasn't my school. I insisted that it be nonprofit, incorporated as a nonprofit school, with a board of directors, because I didn't want myself or any of our faculty to think: "Well, we've got to keep that student because we need his tuition." And I didn't think I would ever reach that, but I'm human, you see, and I was only one because I don't believe in anything that is completely dedicated . . . . No, I don't mean dedicated, I mean directed, bossed. Well, we had some . . . . Well, I had some shocks, not among the students, but I found very soon that head people from different commercial houses would come, and as a director of a new school, they were interested in it. They were interested in education. They were . . . . It may be that it was interior decorator furniture stores because they thought: "Well, anybody, a customer, that I could send to them." They offered me as much as 40% on any customers I sent them. Well, I thought that was a bribe; I thought that was terrible. I was terribly ignorant about business. One company, a very, very powerful company, big money-making company in the art education field, they published textbooks in art and so forth for every grade, and this gentleman was very polite. He asked . . . . He said: "I suppose you know our books." I said, "Yes, I do." He spoke about they're for the different grades, the elementary grades and high school and he said, "I'll be glad to give you a set." I said, "Oh, I have them." The talk went on and finally he said, "Well, you know, we'd like to help you, and we'd be very much interested in giving you a yearly contribution to help you." He mentioned the sum. And more than that, but, "everyone of your graduates we will guarantee him some kind of a teaching position of art in the United States and any time you want to give up teaching this, we will give you a chance for a position as supervisor of art in a big city," and he mentioned a salary. That was about 4 or 5 times the money I was making then, but he said, "Of course, you'll use our books as textbooks."
HP: Sounded too good.
CP: He sounded to me as though he was the devil incarnate, it really did.
CP: I have had a few terrific shocks in my life, and that was the first one. And, as he left, he was quite different in his courtesy. He said, "Of course, you understand that we will have nothing to do with you and we will only have words against this school." I said, "That might be a compliment." I had the nerve to say that.
HP: You must have been furious!
CP: I was. I was so furious that I was just shaking. Well, I learned quite a lot from that lesson. I've had such approaches since, but I say, "Well, that's ordinary common business that I have no use for." But it doesn't bother me any more except I don't want our students to go out with that kind of a thing and that's one of the many things that I thought maybe just what you might call a superficial course in psychology would help them because we were trying to develop their talent, if they had enough to make it practical for them. Also, we were trying to help them or put things in their way so they would be better citizens because even an artist doesn't live on an island by himself. He's got to make a contribution aside from selling his paintings and designs and posters and everything else. Well, then, after the first World War, the veterans came back, and we had adults in our class. They were not boys anymore, they were adults. They were different from the veterans in the second World War. The second World War had had more experience in a more open world. We had more automobiles. We had more everything of that sort of communication, but the first World War men, and I think we took in . . . I can't remember, I would say maybe 10 or 12 or 13 or 14. We wanted to help them. Some of them didn't prove at all. We had one man, a fine man. He really worked hard, but he just couldn't . . . . We couldn't see any reason for any chance for him otherwise. Well, finally he stopped work when the Veteran's Office let him, and he became a policeman and he was a marvelous policeman. He died about 10 years ago, too young. One day he came into Carl's gallery just as I was going out for lunch, and we met on the stairs. He was glad to see me, and I was thrilled to see him. I hadn't seen him in a long time. He was in his uniform and so forth. So we stood there for quite a while out at the entrance to the gallery talking about old times, you know, how you do with friends. The story came around later on in the afternoon that something was wrong at the school, or the gallery, because there was a policeman there interviewing Miss Partridge.
HP: Just an old friend. But he'd become a good policemen.
CP: He became a good policeman. Now, that I think was a great achievement. Well, we had many others like that. We had boys who were expelled from school, high school, and one of them, the first year he was there, he was a dreadful problem, and we had more teachers at that time and most of them wanted not to have him back. They couldn't manage him at all, and I knew that boy had something; I knew he did. Because of things that he showed and you can get lots from the work they do, especially if it isn't tracing, just learning to draw, learning perspective and things like that. And in spite of them, he came back the next year and the next year. He was one of the good artists during the Art Project, government Art Project. He came back and he taught in our school for a couple of years and then he got invited to the University of Minnesota. He has for years now been professor of painting there, and one of their big Minnesota artists. He no longer exhibits in New York because he thinks the worst of the place.
HP: But he was incorrigible as a youngster.
CP: Of course. He was in high school too. You see, in his schooling he'd never gotten a contact, none of his teachers could make a contact with him. He was bored.
HP: Bored to tears, up to mischief.
CP: It got to the point that he just thought anybody was asking him to do something, he was being dictated to and he was through with that.
HP: They're precious, aren't they?
CP: They certainly are. Oh, we've had a good many like that, but, well . . . . Oh, there were other troubles with the first World War, Garret Sinclaire's Life class one day . . . . I heard a terrific rumpus in there. He had left the room for a few minutes, and I went in the room and the model had stopped posing and two of those veterans, great big hunks, were having a terrible fight. They were pulling each other and pounding each other's noses; they were bloody. Their shirts were torn off. It happened just like that. I went in there and just couldn't see anything but those two men, and I went up to them like this. I took one by the shoulder, they were moving, and I did this to the other one, like this, and they were so surprised that they dropped their punches. It was terribly funny, terribly, and of course the other students were speechless! Well, I separated them and they were puffing and they're sweaty and awful ugly looking. I didn't know what to do so I said to them, "You go into the washroom and scrub up, and you go into my office. You can't scrub up yet." So I took one into my office. And my office there, this was before they redid the building, had been the coal bin. He sat down there and I sat down at my desk opposite him, and I didn't say a word. He kept puffing and puffing and puffing, you know, and moving around and didn't know what to do. His face was an expression . . . . Oh, he was so angry. And I did something on my desk, pretended to anyway, trying to think how to get at him. I had to calm myself down, you know, and I thought it was all right for him to stay five minutes or so, not knowing what's going to happen. Well, then I took the other boy in separately. But those were unexpected things, but they were, well . . . . We had to rent outside quarters, so we had an annex and the annex had to be moved two or three times because we outgrew them and floors within different office buildings within a couple of blocks of the Layton Art Gallery. And our faculty grew. They grew and a good many of the artists improved very much. We tried to follow them when they went out of the school, and you know, it was very thrilling when we began to get positions, or help to get positions of different kinds for our graduates. Most of the time they got more than your own salary, and even those were low in those days, everybody's salary was low in those days. Then came the second World War, and they came back by the hundreds and for two years we had to run three sessions besides the night school. It was very good. We had one session which began at 3:00 on to 7, you see, but that helped a good many of the boys who were part-time working in the daytime and, I think . . . . Didn't we have something like over 700 students? Now, how did we get them in? Well, of course, all the men who had education privileges had to go through the offices, and very soon the state always asked me if I would examine all the men in the state whom they couldn't place in reading, writing, arithmetic, you know. They didn't know whether they'd be good for artists or poster artists, or singers, or actors, or what, so they sent all those misfits to me. I said, "I haven't any of the theories of testing. I've studied several of them, but for the art field, I've had to work out a combination and some plus because . . ." I was talking to the man in charge, ". . . in the art field, all the art, I think, all the tests, give you certain mechanical things, but they do not give you anything that suggests their creative, their curiosity powers." So I began, and I think I always took one at a time and I gave them as much time as I needed because it took a long time. Sometimes I spent an hour and a half with a man, if he was a puzzle. And sometimes, if he was a Milwaukee man, or a Wisconsin man, and I got something about his family and so forth and I didn't think this school was for him, I thought it was a different kind of an art school, I would send in my reports that way. And we took quite a number of them, a great many of them. I think we had over a hundred of them. Then, after about three years, I got a word from the office that I should be paid for this and please send him my bill. I never had any bill. I never kept that kind of account and I never did, so I said, "That's my war contribution." I didn't think I had any right to take it because I was not a certified examiner. We had very few . . . . I can only remember two or three that we had to do something else about. It was a mistake coming. Some of them are pretty good people now.
HP: Some of your misfits have turned into finding the niche somewhere which is congenial to them and this is your own experience, you know, your hour and a half of probing, or whatever it was.
CP: They could smoke, they could put their feet up on the table, desk, if they wanted to, I mean, I tried to get them just to be at ease.
HP: But this is related to the need for the psychology exposure, you know.
CP: We discontinued that. I think we stopped the psychology in about three years and then we substituted Appreciation of Literature instead.
CP: Because I thought, and I always think that when a student is studying art, any of the arts, music or drama or whatever it is, that they are too narrow-minded. I think they ought to know what creative people are doing in all the arts, and it was contemporary literature and Miss Frink did that for years until we resigned. She was a marvelous teacher, and, you know, it's wonderful. Every once in a while when you're downtown, or the theater and places, you come across an old student, and they'll speak about how much they got from that Appreciation of Literature.
HP: Makes sense; its related to your Downer College.
CP: It's the same thing, yes.
HP: The reading club that grew up, even if that was related to Oriental art, it was an exposure to an experience which broadened them in their thinking. It makes sense.
CP: And, of course, you can't read Whitman, you can't read Salinger, you can't read a great many people without getting a certain civic sense of things, political things, sense of things, too.
HP: Or even deeply philosophical things, and, you know, self-awareness, a sense of relevance to the passing scene, or at least some means whereby one cannot fence it in because it's elusive, that's what you found that you could never become a master, you know. You always had to go back and start at the beginning again.
CP: And I wanted appreciation of music too.
HP: Oh, did you?
CP: And we were never able to pay for that, but I had a friend who was a commander in the Navy, retired. He's in business here, a musician, a real musician. He was interested in all the music organizations here and so forth and a very generous and a fine person, and we were talking. We were sitting with a group of people one night and I was telling about some of these things. He said, "You know what I'll do? I'd be ever so glad, if you want me to, to come in once a week, with some records and just talk informally, if I can smoke while I'm doing it." We had a piano teacher who was a very close friend, and she did that for a while, but we never could organize it. We never got . . . . There were so many things we couldn't do, but there were still things we wanted to do, you know. When I went around, thanks to Ned Bruce getting me that fellowship for a year, or whatever you call it, assignment, whatever it was, the Carnegie paid for it, I could go to any town or any part, any place. I had all the addresses of the post offices and the colleges for the murals and so forth, and for many other things from the Federal Arts and WPA, and I don't want to talk about that. But . . . . and so it was thrilling to see what was happening around the country. Went up to this little town on the farthest corner of Minnesota, the town that always has the lowest temperature, what is the name of it?
CP: No, no, oh, oh, well, it may come back to me. Little bit of a place -- cold, one little street and a tiny little post office. I went in to see the mural, and it was a mural with cows and country and so forth. Big thing, and oh, almost as long as that wall there, but higher, and the postmaster -- he was a darling old fisherman and postmaster, great big, greasy, you know that kind that's wonderful. And he was so proud of that post office and he was so proud of that mural. He said, "You know, that is the art center for our town. It's fun. You ought to come around and hear them talk about it. And they know how cows should be, and they know the colors of the cows, and they don't always agree, and they wonder why that's done and so forth." The water that was there and the trees and the houses and the barns in it and so forth. Well, it wasn't a great mural, but in that area it was something that was brand new and something that, even if they didn't understand it, they began to realize they didn't always have to understand everything in color, and I thought that was a bag step. When you want to understand, you use words, read, but when you look at a visual thing, you're not so tied down. There is the ascetic feeling, it's the fun feeling you get. Later the other thing will come.
HP: Yes, if you bring fixed ideas to a visual image . . . .
CP: It's deadening.
HP: It ceases to be a visual image.
CP: It's only . . . . The prejudiced person is the ignorant person.
CP: And some little town on the coast in Southern California -- they had a mural in their post office, and the day I was there, the flies were terrific, everywhere. It was hot, so hot, uncomfortable. The sun was blazing. The post office was not in the center of stores, a little way from it, and the expanse of sand around it. And the postmaster was proud to have somebody come from the East to see it, and he said, "It's the greatest think that ever happened to us here but, you know, we're beginning to get worried." I said, "What about?" He said, "The flies; the flies are specking it up. What can you do for it?" Well, I had forgotten what some practical things I gave, but I said, "I'll try to find out how to protect that thing, an inexpensive way, if I can." So that's something I had to do for them, you know.
HP: Sure, for his concern.
CP: He was concerned and the people were concerned because they loved it. There was a much better quality than this one up north, in the wood forest back here in Milwaukee. I'm wandering around, back here in Milwaukee, it was Christmas time, and one man, he was a foreigner, he'd come from, I think, as I remember, it was from Copenhagen. He'd lived in this country for years. He was an illustrator of lithography, in the lithography business, but he did the art work for it, over there. Came back here and finally he got in the position of doing the same thing in this country. He was an old world gentleman with a goatee, and proper dress, and so forth, always. When I got hold of him first, I'd heard about him and he came in to see me. He was the most courteous gentleman, but his trousers were fringed and his coat was shabby and so forth. It was clean. Evidently his wife sponged him up or he did it himself, but he was very, very down in the dumps. His wife was ill; he had no work. Well, I got that blessed man a bit of work and, of course, by Christmas time -- why, we were pretty well acquainted. My office -- well, it was sort of home. We were sort of friends. We were friends. And I was there the day before Christmas, everybody else had gone home and I was trying to finish up some government work. About 4:00 o'clock, a knock at my door. In he came, and he walked in and his hands were behind him. I knew he had something behind him, but I didn't think anything about it. He came in to wish greetings from his wife, from him and his wife, and their thanks for everything and for the fact that they really were going to have a Christmas with affluence. And then he laughed, that was his joke. He talked about his work and some of the things that he did there. And he was learning more and so forth and this country was a great country, and he was so grateful for it. He had a little flag- he always wore a little American flag in his buttonhole. He was very proud of what this country had done for him, and he had forgotten those months of starvation. He really had. And then he got to the door and one hand came around, and he opened the door and, as he slid out the doorway, the other hand came around with a long box like this, and he said, "I want to tell you, Miss Partridge, that my wife and I are celebrating Christmas in the most heavenly way that we know. It gives us the greatest joy," and he left that box and he went out the door. And they were a dozen American Beauty roses in it for me.
HP: I'll be darned. Well, you know, it's a form of appreciative attitude, and it was deep, too.
CP: Yes, it was so deep I sat there and cried.
HP: Life is filled with joys as well as sorrows. It's just the combination of the two in a way.
CP: Yes, but to think of that, how deeply they felt about it, that was their Christmas celebration.
HP: Yes, that's what I meant.
CP: And the joy that they got from it. Now, it wasn't me, I represented the country, you see. I represented the government.
HP: What effect did the 1929 have on the school, any at all?
CP: Gee, 1929, that was when everything went apart. Oh, we had a hard time, everybody did. Everybody did, and I guess I won't go into that. Well, everybody wanted to help everybody else.
HP: You suddenly found yourself in the same boat. Everyone grabbed an oar.
CP: And there was a great deal of satisfaction, of course, but I think there also was a great deal of- if I have something you share it, we share it together; and there wasn't any question of, as far as I know, in our experience, there wasn't any question of big I and little you, we're just all alike, and we were.
HP: Sure we were.
CP: Those were very difficult years. I think we learned an awful lot during those times, and we got out of them.
HP: Oh sure. How did the CCC problem come along?
CP: Oh, I'm vague about that because that was so sudden, and it was so, as far as my experience with it, and was so absolutely informal from beginning to end. We recommended lots of those boys. They came back and, well, the man that is now director of the Layten School of Art was a CCC boy. He doesn't want to talk about that though, and we have several who were in the Forestry Department and other departments in Washington, doing art work, who were CCC boys. We have several on the newspapers here and in teaching fields -- who were CCC boys.
HP: Well, this was a desperation move to fill a need at that time. There wasn't much in the way of a program design. That had to grow as topsy did, you know, and so that I suspect that you got involved from an aesthetic point of view and the fact that you had been familiar with, or knew how to handle youngsters.
CP: Well, you know, I don't.
HP: Well, the illusion was created that you . . . .
HP: I don't. I'm scared to death of an elementary student, of elementary schools or a kindergarten child.
HP: Are you really?
HP: I'll be darned.
CP: Although we have a few little . . . neighbors across the road, and they have a youngster who's about, now he's about -- well, he's in third grade. But, since he was about 4, he comes over here to visit. He comes over with a flower or something and a birthday card or May Day card, Christmas card, Easter card, that he's made. He and his sister, who is two years older, used to come but she now is too adult. She doesn't come very often, although she was here a couple of weeks ago. But he comes over now by himself, and one day the two of them came -- about two years ago -- and their mother didn't know. She's very particular. She didn't know they had come over here, but they hadn't come back for lunch, been gone for two hours, so she came over and said, "By chance are the children here?" Well, they were, so of course, they're very well brought up little kids, so they went right home. They said, "Thank you" and went right home. The mother said, "What in the world did you stay over there for so long for? You know you shouldn't have done it." The mother told us afterwards, and the little girl said, "Well, you know, mother, the conversation was so interesting, we just couldn't leave."
CP: Now, that's the most wonderful compliment that we've ever received. Just wonderful.
CP: And the little boy said, "Yes" and they wanted to talk all about it. What were we talking about? Well, we happened to have right out there, outside that window, a robin nest and we watched the thing until the birds came out. We watched them until they flew away, and they had seen them right in the beginning, but they didn't see them later and then they wanted to know about them. Questions came up of the bird's nest, how did they make them, so we had a good lot of fun about that bird's nest.
HP: Research job.
CP: Yes, but you see we talk with them. I say "we." Marion Frink lives with me, and she's really a brilliant person, she really is. I'm just a . . . . I to do my things by intuition, I haven't brains enough for anything else, but she has. And so very often we're both here when they come over, and sometimes we're not. There's a youngster over here who used to come over. Now he's in high school and he doesn't so much. He used to come over to talk, but he always wanted to talk about the books he was reading, very precocious, or the music he was interested in, and he'd go over to the piano and play and play and play. But I gave the piano away because we don't play, either one of us. We don't have time and so I gave it downtown, somebody else. So I'm trying to get rid of things.
HP: Well, you told me earlier, but it was off the tape, how the assignment came to you on the WPA, that early telephone call.
CP: Oh, that was about 6 o'clock in the morning. I was wakened up and called to the 'phone by somebody in Washington and to this day I don't know who it was. They said that the government was starting up some work for the artists, which was wonderful news, and they wanted to know if I'd be interested in helping. And I said, "Why of course I would." Without thinking, you know. I hadn't been up too long to be thinking very much. "All right. As of today, get some of the artists who are out of work and having trouble and so forth, and give them some assignments to paint or draw." "Well," I said, "What are these for?" "Well, they're to go to schools or public places." I said, "To do you know what places they go?" "Oh no, you can find those out later. They begin and they get the salary per month and you engage them and help them and so forth and furnish them with the materials if they need them, as they need them." I asked quite a good many questions and I got very vague answers: "We'll let you know eventually, soon, and, well, you can promise them." And that bothered me because I didn't want to promise anybody that they'd get the pay because I couldn't pay them that money. It was the government, and I wanted to know just how far I had the authority and how I could make them realize that I had that authority representing the government. Me representing the government was quite something. And so, well, they said, "You can manage somehow or other and, if you can help them temporarily, why that's fine." I've forgotten the rest of it. Did I tell you anything more about it? I don't remember. Anyway, I went to work that day, and I began to get people -- oh, they gave me a number of people to do it, I've forgotten how many. I think it was . . . Oh, maybe a hundred. I've forgotten how far our limit was to start with, but we could to do more than that, really. But to get a hundred in one day's work, and I was going to be busy teaching that day, too. We got started.
HP: Well, did any Easel Project unfold?
CP: Did what?
HP: Did you have an Easel Project?
CP: Yes. I called them painting projects because some of them don't use easels. They use the floor, or they use anything, you know, a table. Some of them, some of the unmarried, didn't have room enough for an easel. They used the table on which they ate and everything else. Watercolors, painting, any medium that they were accustomed to. I wanted everybody to to do something that they had been doing in their own fields because they had to get acquainted from where they were doing the things they felt they had some power.
CP: Rendering . . . . All right, anything. Only, with each one, we made an appointment each week for them to come in the next time. I saw them, some of them, every week, sometimes the time lapsed a little more as they needed less coming in, as their courage began and their active interest and their growth, and they got away from the feeling of the need of complete starvation. They were freer, so they didn't need me any more. Oh, I kept in contact with them right through . . . . But sometimes we didn't talk about their paintings at all. It was something else. We had our little art gallery, and we changed that a number of times. We had the little programs there, and our last art gallery was very charming. At that time, when we had to take, we then had to take some people who really couldn't paint, you know. They were more craftsmen. I didn't like taking them in, but, after all, as individuals, and we were told to to do it, why we did. But they constructed the gallery, you see. We made changing walls, and so that we could adjust to the different manuals and, if they could design them, work out the proportions, fine. That was, I felt, that they had some right, you see, aside from their mechanical thing. They could saw and hammer and figure up the amount of lumber or the amount of wall boards and so forth that was needed, the amount of paint, and that had to be done at the most minimum cost. Well, that was all right, too. I don't know, when you're facing a thing, you know, somehow things develop.
HP: Well, here's where your intuition comes into play, sometimes when you face what appears to be monumental, you tug on your ear and suddenly you're through it, you know. In a mysterious way. Well, was this centered in Milwaukee, or did it go on throughout the state?
CP: For the Treasury Art it was the State. For the Federal Art, it began with the state, but towards the end it was just Milwaukee county and the environment. We had one boy, very talented. He appeared at school a long time ago one day, thin, like a shadow. He looked as though he'd never eaten, but he came from up in the state. He had . . . . His father had worked on the railroad and there were six children and they were fed at home, but he wanted to be a painter, an artist. He wanted to to do murals and he wanted to paint. He showed me some of his work that he'd done. He hadn't shown it to his family or anything. His family didn't understand at all, you know, but they let him come down here. He was so eager. He was so intelligent and he was a graduate of a high school. He was so intelligent. He was so sensitive and, as he talked, his view of things, he was just full of-- absorbed with color and light and movement and drawing and painting and reading poetry, you know. Then he said, "Well, Miss Partridge, I have just two dollars and 50 cents to begin my study of art." I said, "Where are you staying tonight?" I've forgotten the details of what he said, but I think probably he'd been sleeping in the park or something. Well, we have some good friends, and I said, "Well, we'll talk about that. Can you take care of yourself for a couple of nights on that $2.50? That's quite a lot, maybe." It was then. "I certainly can," said he. So, well, to make a long story short, we had a wonderful friend with some grown children who had a lovely old house. They weren't rich, but they were people, they were educated people to whom a symphony concert and books were much more important than anything else. She was not very well, and so she said, "Let me take this boy. I'll give him his room and his meals. I'll see that he's kept warm. I'll help him with his clothes. That will help me very much. There'll be certain chores that he'll have to to do, but it won't interfere with his art work. He'll have plenty of time to to do his art work." He stayed there while he was in school.
CP: And so Zona Gale was from his hometown and she heard about him.
HP: That's the novelist.
CP: Yes. She . . . . We got her interested in him and, between Zona Gale and the school, we financed his education and his clothes, and we saw that he had plenty of books to read, and so forth. We saw that he got to a concert once in a while, and that boy, one of the girls in the school, a talented girl, they were just kids. They had no business to get married, but they did just as soon as they graduated there. They were classmates. We went to their wedding, of course, and they had a child, a son, and Forrest came in and said, "Oh, we've got . . . our boy came." I said, "Wonderful, what's his name?" He said, "You know, we wanted . . ." -- Forrest was his last name -- ". . . to get a name that would not be funny with Forrest." He never liked that name. And I said, "What is it?" He said, "It's Timothy," I said, "Wonderful." Well they had another son; and then he was never well, He was treated. He had a doctor's bill. Oh, he had a doctor friend who really took care of him physically. But we used our friends, believe me! We had lots of doctor friends. We had dentist friends and so forth. Well, anyway, he had cancer, and he was in the hospital -- no, I don't mean cancer, tuberculosis. He was in Merrydale, oh, for about 2 years, I think. Well, in the meantime, he began to sell some things, so he was beginning to support himself, and Life came out with two full pages of his art work in color. That came the day before he died. I took it up to the hospital to see him and he saw it.
HP: Gee, this is the race that arrived, this...you know?
CP: Now, he was on the project, on the WPA, you see. That was a very big spread for him, and all the other artists here were just thrilled about it. Another one on the project was Richard Janson, and, if I remember, his were in Fortune magazine. Forrest, one of his colors was a full page of his mural that was done out at Walatosa, and Richard Janson did some art work while he was in the service. He was a graduate of the school by that time and he was assigned to that phase of the work. And he was stationed in the East in Massachusetts for a long time and then got abroad and did it in the European area. He's now, for years, has been with the department, what department in Washington? It was Bookmeyer that was with the forest . . . . He was a big man in the forest department but he died just about a year ago. Janson is still living, and he still does this illustration work, very beautiful work, too. Now those are results.
HP: Youngsters who came on the Project.
CP: Incidentally they were from Layten before that, but we had lots of others. Gale, who's now a professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, was an old man, too, and very likable, Italian, and Seser, who just died. They're having a memorial exhibition of his work at the art center. It closed yesterday, last Sunday. A marvelous person, painting . . . . He did painting on the Project and also some lithography, but it was mostly painting, and it was always the painting of the underdog. He always got the suffering of the little man and even in his things that were landscapes, it was the wear and tear of ages that showed in the tree trunk, or the rocks, or the ground formation. He always had that feeling through everything he did. A little man, vital, just a darling, a Jewish boy. He was a professor at Madison when he died, and he was, of all the art departments and the art education department at the University of Wisconsin, he was the most loved and the most popular and the one that all the graduates remembered forever, his influence as a human being and as an artist. A marvelous draftsman.
HP: He kept his skills alive on the Project?
HP: Was the Project useful in keeping his skills alive?
CP: Oh yes, oh my!
HP: But for the Project, yes.
CP: He was a graduate of what was the State Teacher's College which is now the University of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, UWM. But I knew them while they were still high school boys. You know, even in the high school in those days, the high school boys that were interested in art would just come around, you know. I wonder if I dare tell you another thing. You know, when the boys, the high school boys and the young college boys, became interested in John Reed?
HP: Oh, sure.
CP: Up at State Teachers there was quite a colony of them. They hadn't come into the Layten School of Art, but, after awhile, their main clubroom was right across the street from the gallery. And they would then bring their lunch over on the gallery steps, when our students were on the gallery steps. Well, I didn't want to have that happen in our school, and I didn't want it to have happened anyway. They were too young to get started that way. Then they began to get the interest of some of our students -- invite them over for a spread, or something like that, just across the street. "Bring your lunch over and we'll eat together," and then they asked if they could have an exhibition at the Layten Art Gallery. I thought, "What in the world!" By that time we had . . . one of the rules at the Layten Art Gallery which was an exhibition of Wisconsin art, current art, to give the local artists a chance to be shown. Couldn't be shown any other place then. Oh, we were awful old-fashioned then. And so I went over to look at their work. I didn't make any criticisms of it over there, but I wanted to see what they were going to have. I knew what they were going to have, but I wanted to see how terrible it was going to be. So I thought, "All right, I think if I let them have an exhibition for a week in a public gallery, our students will be so shocked by the awful things that they're painting that they won't have anything more to to do with them." And I spoke to one of our trustees about it, and I spoke to Marian Frink about it, one of our artists. They were all against it. So days went by and it bothered me, and I thought, "I'm gonna to do it, I don't care. Because it's really for the artists. I'll give them one week, they can hang it as they want to." I usually hung the things because hanging a show is a design business. I let them hang it in this one little gallery. The gallery was only 30 feet long and 15 feet wide, with a big door at one end where they couldn't hang anything. And they hung it and I didn't say anything to anybody about it. The students went up to see it, the faculty went up to see it and everything. And the reaction was so violent. Our students were afraid, our students and some other students who worked in the John Reed Club -- groups from all around town came to see it, because they read all . . . . I didn't advertise it in the paper. Everybody came in and they were so disturbed and they said, "If I have to paint like that, it's not for me."
HP: Marvelous. Your intuition paid off!
CP: It was just marvelous! But I tell you what happened. One person who I knew was leaving a million dollars to the school, canceled her bequest, gave it to Milwaukee Downer College instead. I didn't publish that fact, but it seemed to me that it was really worth a million dollars.
HP: Well, the way in which you have told it, it's obvious that it was.
CP: It really was that way.
HP: It's like a cleansing process.
CP: And it needed . . . . Of course it didn't to do that to all the young people, but it did to a great many of them. It was really . . . . Anyway, our boys stopped going across and our girls stopped going across the street to that place.
HP: Yes, it gave them pause.
CP: It reached in a language that was very close to their hearts. And I never said a word against it, except to the trustees afterwards when some of them criticized me about them. And I told them why I did it and I told them the results as I had found them. But I was mum to everybody else.
HP: That's good though. I mean you have, you know, you have to make that . . . . You see something alive that's going on, you have to make a judgment about it and, while all the advice you could get was against doing it, and very sound advice, nonetheless . . . .
CP: And I think sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, it's necessary to meet fire with fire and have the courage, or hope anyway, that it'll work.
HP: Well, in this sense it was allowing the fire run its course to put itself out, in a way.
CP: Yeah, it was.
HP: Besides, think of the consequence if you had denied them access and they had publicized this fact and it'd become a virus in your own school about saying, "Well, you know, it's not a real free place." They could never point that finger at you. Without a word, you said you can hang your own show. So that you weren't critical, but the students who saw it could arrive at their own conclusion as to whether this was their cup of tea or not. That's shrewd, that's shrewd. Well, your board of trustees understood this, didn't they?
CP: Yes. I think several of them never did quite understand it, but that board of trustees I selected myself and invited them, so I knew them, and they were marvelous men. They were men who were really interested in what I thought were real . . . . They were interested in all the arts as a part of living, and they were interested in welfare work. I mean, what was happening to our people was important to them.
HP: Well, you couldn't go wrong on a gamble on that, not really.
CP: Well, that was an awful gamble. I didn't realize until after what a gamble it was.
HP: Well, I suppose fundamentally you have to like your own kind. You have to understand your own kind and you have to be willing to take risk for risk and depend that their intuition will pull them through, even if it, you know, it's like throwing a break on a development. It's worth it, because you're dealing with human beings, not with labels on bottles. You're dealing with contents; it becomes important in those terms. Well, how much direction did you receive from Washington?
CP: Well, when it became the WPA there was an awful lot of direction and that took so much time to take care of. I was afraid I'd make mistakes because that's the kind of thing I don't to do very well, one of the many. That took so much time away from the things I was interested in and felt were important and so . . . Then they wanted me to take . . . they said I had to take a salary. Now I wasn't . . . . I still am not rich by any manner or means, but I didn't feel that was right. I don't know. Maybe I was Puritanical about it, but I had been getting it because there's little you can to do for your country, you know, that's specific like that. And I had been learning so much. And I didn't like to to do that, and that was just one of the reasons. And so Margaret Clark was here then. She'd been living in Michigan and head of the art gallery there in the public schools and was much more of . . . . Well, she'd been a private secretary to earn her way through art school. She had that kind of training. I never had that kind of training and I knew she could take on that much better than I could. And so they took her on recommendation, and she was with it until they closed.
HP: Holgar Cahill wasn't one to issue a lot of directives, was he?
CP: No. And, you see, I was down there those 3 days when they were talking things over and I knew . . . . I was there and knew how . . . Nobody- of course I was kept still because I was so vague- but Eddie and Jack Baker was much more methodical and more business-like. Of course, he's a specialist in business, whatever you call it, but he was that other kind of mind. I think it was important to have that other kind of mind in there, and Hopkins -- he wasn't there very much, just once or twice, but he knew we were working hard.
HP: You were allowed discretion to exercise in Wisconsin, weren't you?
CP: Yes, we were. It was . . . . I think the conception of it was very marvelous. I don't think . . . . Maybe a hundred years from now I think people will realize that was a very marvelous kind of an organization, and . . . .
HP: Well, you could tailor-make your program to fit what you knew existed which Washington could not to do in its wildest dreams.
CP: And neither could the government business know what was going on either.
HP: But their purposes were different, the state organizations. Certainly very different from the Federal project number 1 as it was centered and designed in Washington. It's a lot different from any of the local political set-up. In a lot of ways it just turned it inside out, but that early period did give you discretion where you could deal with human beings that presented problems and where they had some measure of talent that could be utilized in some way.
CP: Yes, it was difficult to find the places for things, but they were found. Of course, you make mistakes that way, but I think you have to make mistakes to grow. I think it's bad to make the same mistake twice, but I think it's educational to make it sometimes.
HP: I think it's important to make it.
CP: I to do too. You can't . . . .
HP: You don't have all the answers in a fluid complex situation, and you're bound sooner or later to stub your toe, but to discover that one has tubbed one's toe and to know there's a boulder in the path that one ought to avoid next time. Then too, the situation may change, so stubbing your toe on that boulder is no longer an error. I mean, there's that fluidity, but any administrator would tack because he knows there isn't an answer really because you change all the variables with every day. But, you know, there are other various facets to the program. How did . . . . You seemed to have been jack-of-all-trades in the sense that you were involved in all kinds of things.
CP: No, really, I'd just been involved, at least as I figured it, I'd just been involved in the interest, in the importance of growth.
HP: Yes, that's Downer college all the way, that far back.
CP: Growth: physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, every way; civically . . . . I think we belong as citizens, and I think that's very important too, and some of those things you have to get at very indirectly, politically too, but politically . . . . I used to think that was a bad word. I thank God we have two parties and so that means politics too. But now socially with the students, our students -- when I say students I don't always mean Layten, that's just a part of it. I don't talk politics. If chance comes, I give some of my opinions because I think, when you're in a kind of public position that isn't politics, or business, I think you get a little bit more attention if you don't label it Democrat or Republican. I began as a citizen, I began my work with a single tax.
HP: Henry George?
HP: Did you really?
HP: Good for you!
CP: I was a student. And of course Women Suffrage.
HP: What else?
CP: It was natural.
HP: Just as natural as breathing.
CP: I was a student then, too, but to do you know what I did? I wanted to get to it so what I did is I sent 25 cents every week to Cause. Isn't that funny? But, you know, that gave me an awful sense of release that I could to do that.
CP: And they took it.
HP: Certainly, I understand it. Part of a free liberating movement.
CP: I was brought up in a dyed-in-the-wool Republican environment.
HP: Well, it had strange consequences in the sense of Henry George. That's a book, The Single Tax."
CP: Then I was interested in socialism, and I thought Thomas was a marvelous man, very intelligent man, and I voted for him for President once.
HP: Makes sense.
CP: Well, it did to me. But I didn't approve of some of the runner-ups and the associations. I still think he's a very intelligent, fine person, but I won't vote for him anymore. Of course, I couldn't, but anyway, and I just can't remember that I ever voted Republican because I guess I wasn't old enough. I didn't vote when I was young and I still think . . . . I get very upset sometimes at some of the personalities in the Democratic Party, but I still think they're the best. I don't know whether you to do or not, but I to do.
HP: Well, you came to Wisconsin and landed in Milwaukee and Milwaukee had a long tradition with a socialist mayor and the whole state was first on the scene with the Wisconsin Idea, the LaFollette brothers, the use of the University of Wisconsin, that is, people who were astute in specific problems ought to be brought in on them whether it was public utility rates, or whatever it was. This made sense where you tap the brains that you have. There was no need to have them educated if you weren't going to put them to use on public problems. CP I heard Victor Burger -- I knew him slightly. I heard him speak several times. His two daughters had been close friends of Marian Frink's and mine for years and when Mrs. Burger -- you see, he died long ago -- Mrs. Burger lived many years afterwards and she lived down here in this old farm house. I bought this land from one of the daughters.
HP: I'll be darned!
CP: And Mrs. Burger was the most marvelous . . . . The most marvelous, marvelous person I know of is Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt. And I was on a committee with her. I've seen her in the White House with a committee of five people and herself. I heard her talk. I've been with her at different times. When I went around the country and I heard what she'd done for the artists around, especially in the South, to me she was the greatest woman I've ever known. Meta Burger was a great woman too. She was a socialist. She got in bad with the Communists when she went to Russia, and she came back. She was misunderstood about some things. She saw something there that she liked, and she said so, and so she was dubbed a communist. Marian Frink started to write a biography of her and spent hours and hours for a couple of years. Mrs. Burger talked with her and wrote some things for her, and she has a great big . . . . She died before it was finished, and Marian hasn't done anything with it since.
HP: Oh, but that's a powerful tradition and it was indigenous here. It wasn't something that was imposed from without, and it grew and bubbled up from the quality of people who came and found their way to this place. And it isn't an alien thing. It's native in this sense, and it's a good tradition.
CP: I think it is too.
HP: You can't read . . . . Oh, what is it? What's the other book from the staid Boston, New Englander, Edward Bellamy, the book Looking Backward, or Equality which appeared just about the same time that Henry George appeared and not get exposed to ideas that were not necessarily Republican as opposed to Democrat, but something new. Well, you know, literature is creative too. Philosophy is the same.
CP: I had a great fear when I came to Milwaukee. I'd never known Germans 'til I came to Milwaukee.
HP: You had never known them?
CP: My young days were spent in Minnesota, and we had the Scandinavians there.
HP: Oh, yeah.
CP: And the Germans are not Scandinavians at all, and they're not English. I knew English people. I'd grown up with them, and I knew the Scandinavians, Norwegians and the Swedes, and they're quite different, one from the other, too.
HP: Indeed they are.
CP: And I'd never known the Germans, and I still don't care for them, although I have lots of German friends, individuals.
HP: That's another aspect of Wisconsin, I think, which makes for . . . that is the variety that you run into.
CP: Of course we have next to the biggest Polish population in the country.
HP: Now, yes, but aren't they more recent, let's say, than the Germans, Germans 1830, and the Scandinavians -- they gave rise to Thordis Viklen, my patron saint, but it certainly makes for excitement, and it must have been a marvelous thing to see the variety that came out of the art program where you had this mixture that suddenly found a kind of common ground. You put it earlier -- that you didn't think in the first person singular, but thought in a much larger "we," "us." Yeah. I'm surprised, although I shouldn't be, at warmth and the tenderness, the affection with which people who were part of the Federal Program speak of it in retrospect. I had one man tell me that it was the happiest time that he ever had as a painter. He had nickel for a glass of beer. He had the absence of pressure -- that is, he's been successful since.
CP: You know though, in some areas there was pressure, and it got worse. They had to produce a painting of such a size per month. I think they had some of that in New York, and New York is different from any of the other states.
HP: Well, New York is parochial. It is not the window of America for a long shot. That is, what happened in New York with its enormous artistic population . . . . Gosh, they formed committees for this and committees for that, and they were at war with the administrative part of the time. They were exerting all kinds of pressures and what, to get a gallery which they themselves run? A desperate idea!
CP: Some Wisconsin boys were in the New York project: Girolamo Piccoli, a sculptor, he's Italian. Did you hear his name?
HP: Not his name, but I've seen him. He was in New York?
CP: Oh, the project there. He was one who I think was with it even when it closed. I think he was one of the supervisors eventually, but he had an awful hard time. Walter Flint was there too, and oh, we had quite a number. Victor Goug, I think he was too. At least, if I had my papers handy I could tell you, give you names. You'd learn a lot, but this way you don't . . . . Now those papers are jumbled all together, I think. I've lots of papers that have figures on them. I don't know what they are. I don't remember what they were, but the great big yellow sheets with the lines on them and lots of material on them, written, to do you want that?
HP: Well, I wouldn't, you know. You indicated that you thought the proper place for the material relevant to Wisconsin, was the Wisconsin State Historical Society. I told you that I agreed with that position but, from the point of view of the Federal Art Project which we have at the Archives of American Art, there are a lot of records that are in Washington. Now we find that there are different kinds of records that were kept by state directors and they are also illuminating. Some people saved them, others didn't, you know. The human squirrel is a vanishing race, I'm afraid, but you preserved these. Now, even if they are jumbled, there is something there which the Archives of American Art, I'm sure, would find both useful to fill in a gap in their own records and they- I'm sure- would be glad to look them over so as not to make you go through them. I don't want that because you're too busy, you live in the moment and I'm in favor of this too. So, if there's any way in which we could be helpful . . . . I think we can if you'd just ship that box of material that you have about this period to the Archives of American Art, they can go through it and where correspondence of one kind or another would be helpful for them to understand, to make their records more complete than they would be without this, they could put it on microfilm then send the whole thing back to you so you could to do as you originally intended, send it to the State Historical Society.
CP: I think that's the safest place for it. They're building a big addition onto the building now. It's going to increase in size.
HP: But you wouldn't feel comfortable, really, you know, with Wisconsin material and material relevant to affairs in Wisconsin that was quartered in Michigan.
HP: No, I know that. I think that was when we first started to talk. I gathered that and so, since Wisconsin has a good historical society, a marvelous historical society and that's the place for it. It'll make you feel comfortable and anyone who comes into Wisconsin and who wanted to know about this phase of art in Wisconsin, would be expected to find it at the Historical Society record. It's only in terms of our program on the Federal Programs, anything that you would have that wouldn't duplicate what we already possess, would be most welcome and so, rather than have you laboriously go through that, I don't want you to to do that. I'd rather have you get more for this project.
CP: Are you nice!
HP: I really to do, 'cause this is an exciting thing. The Archives would go through and pick that material that they found relevant to their interest and put it on microfilm and send back to you so that you could then send it off to the State Historical.
CP: But I'm really thrilled that this is going to be put in the books.
HP: Almost everyone has been excited about the fact that the material is being collected and they wonder how it's going to be used and whether it's going to be used, and whether something can be done about the Federal Program. I think it's possible to . . . . Well, there's more material there than can be mined for monographic studies by students of art, students of art history, students of administration, you know. Name it and there's this material there for that kind of study, so that I look forward to a renaissance about our more recent art past: a writing renaissance about our more recent developments. And certainly anybody who talked about modern times has to go back to the 30's for the proving ground, or certainly for the educational period.
CP: They certainly to do. Well, I hope I live long enough to see them published. Anyway, it's wonderful to know they're going to be published.
HP: I think you get a sense of excitement out of anything in which you got involved, that is, you would bring that kind of excitement to it and it's interesting that the flame still burns for this period.
CP: Well, nobody would believe that I'd get any excitement in this, but I'm always excited about architecture too, and people. But I've never been interested in old age. I don't think very much about it. I think it doesn't make any difference. You're the same person no matter what age you are. I hope you've grown a little bit, I hope I live long enough to know something really, but that's kind of nice, I'd hate to be at the point where I knew it all.
HP: Well, I think I'm safe in saying you won't reach that, none of us will.
CP: No, I think though . . . . It took me a long while to see it because I wanted to be grown up and really know something more than any other one thing. But, you know, it's wonderful. If you're finished, well what could you to do, if you know it all? There'd be no fun.
HP: And I know how people try desperately to climb on top of something which they can know, only to discover it slips away from them because it's alive too. That's the fixed idea approach. They have the psychic depth before they get started . . . . You know, there's no necessity for them to get it. It's a fluid thing. It's alive and to . . . . Look at the variety of students that passed through your school.
CP: Well, any art school has a variety of students.
HP: But just the ones that passed through your school that you know, that you can see grow, you know, and that you could talk with, or puzzle with through confusion, just to keep it alive. Take the essay in the Cordon Santae that you created with the John Reed Club, you know. This is a tactical, strategic thing, but it has an aim to it.
CP: You know, I haven't spoken about that for years. It was just one of those things that I just had to keep still about.
HP: But it's the kind of thing, you know, confronted with the range of advice, it took courage and also intuition. You had to know your people.
CP: Little bit of desperation, too.
HP: Well, ultimately, I think when you breathe anywhere you're rolling dice, aren't you?
CP: Yes, you are.
HP: Sure you are, and that's part of the joy to see how it unfolds and that one unfolded to your advantage.
CP: But, you know, we were lucky. It was a very great experience to know Ned Bruce, for instance. In a business way, in an art way, in a home way, in every way, and I never will forget the dedication of the museum, the new museum, the National Museum in Washington. You know, that happened on a terrifically bad night, the rain . . . . Were you there?
CP: The rain poured and the lightning . . . . Oh, it was terrible and then, with the flowers and all the costumes and everything on the grand occasion; our President, in a wheelchair and next to him, Ned Bruce, our Bruce in a wheelchair, and those two wonderful men were moved up the aisle toward the grandstand. Isn't that a picture?
CP: That just shows how human, physical disabilities are nothing.
HP: Nothing, after all.
CP: And both of them.
HP: I had the President described to me once as a man who needed leg men and who really couldn't to do very much, but he could be President of the United States. A physical disability, but it didn't restrict the use of the mind. I think the man I talked to was his appointment secretary and he would fix appointments in the course of the day. Well, you know the President, He'd get off on a line of development with someone, and someone else was due in. He'd say, " Now, Pa Watson, get out of here." You know, and the whole appointment schedule would be wrecked for the day because somebody would be talking about the needs of Alaska to become a state, you know. Ernest Gruening might have been in the office talking about something.
CP: He's a big man. To do you know him too?
HP: Yes. Now, well, you know, in those days he was writing articles about Alaska, economic articles.
CP: And not only Alaska, he was on . . . . I spent a summer down studying in Mexico and Gruening was one of the . . . .
HP: That's right, he was an expert on Mexico. Incidentally, that's why he was in the President's room at this time. He had written an article about Mexico and the assumption was that he knew something about South America, so they got off exploring some topic on South America and the appointments went just out the window. He was in there for three hours.
CP: You know, that was wonderful, down in Mexico. We went down, I've forgotten the organization. It was a study group. Anyway, we studied the music, the arts, education, the politics, the agrarian and I said architecture, the new buildings . . . . It was a time when they were putting in schools in the little villages for the little children, just beginning. One of the teachers -- Oh, Sagosa, no that isn't his name, what is his name? Donnihue? Anyway, all these artists were teaching, and we went into their little schools. It was bedlam. They didn't know how to teach. They didn't know how to control their boys or girls, but it was excitement and in spite of that they were working. Then in Mexico they were building the houses for the poor, rows and rows . . . .were you ever down there?
HP: No, but I've seen those, yes.
CP: Well, and we were with the architects who did it, you see, and we were with the heads of government who did that, and also Gruening and Rene D'Harnoncourt was down there, and, oh, that was funny! Say, after the project D'Harnoncourt I and, I think, a couple of other people at different times, I think Marian Frink went part of the time and a Mexican woman another time, went down to the little villages, the different crafts, and we'd get out of the bus, or the car, and walk up the street. D'Harnoncourt was here, C.R.P., way down here, and the villagers, they all knew him and they came out and greeted him, they were just thrilled to know him. And then he'd look down at me . . . . They didn't have to, I was their height, but they were nice to me because I was with him. And oh, it was a wonderful experience to get down in those little villages. Whether it was needlework, or whether it was pottery, or whether they did metal work or so forth. That was after the conference was over. The conference only lasted three weeks, but . . . . And, oh, I've forgotten, we had about 25 men and women who were lecturers for it, and Rivera.
HP: Oh, that is an exciting period. Now when you see something like that which is the real fringe development for them and which becomes a necessary part of their lives . . . .
CP: This was in the 20's, too.
HP: It's almost like a shot in the arm, the people without opportunity, in effect, who confronted a blank wall; illiterates largely, had this whole problem of communication and to create a means whereby they could pull themselves up out of illiteracy into a wider and more expanded appreciation. It is an exciting time.
CP: Oh, it was. And, you know, that was a time when the church, the Catholic priests, were out, and I remember one Sunday morning, or afternoon, I guess it was afternoon. We went into a little church, Catholic church and . . . no, that was another time. Well, anyway, this time, we heard that the priest, the bishop, was coming to this little Catholic church, and we drove up just as the car stopped in front of the church. And we were behind him and out got a man in ordinary dress. He stepped up two steps to the entrance to the church and the doors were open, a man on each side, and we could look right in and, as soon as he got inside the house, his coat dropped and by the time he got up the inside steps, the 4 or 5 inside steps, he had all of his vestments, his bishop vestments on. Every step, you see, a boy on each side took off something and put something on, and we went in too. It was very, very marvelous. The church was packed, of course, and he gave Mass, and then, as he left, he got to the first step he gave up his mitre. His hat was taken off at the next step, something more was taken off, and when he got to that last step just before stepping out on the public, he had on his regular suit. Now, don't you think that was marvelous! Just picture that!
HP: Study in organization.
CP: Faurat, that great big cathedral there, they did have church there though, they did at that time. I think in some places they were allowed a little more freedom. It wasn't a bishop, but it was just an ordinary morning Mass and of course it was all that architecture. All the inside of the building went way up. They have it this way, and everything was carved, modeled and so forth, all covered with gold lining. The sun was shining in the door here, right down through the church, great huge door, with this intense sunshine here, intense sun shining down on the windows, from some of the windows toward the altar. There were no chairs in the church, of course, and all of this glistening gold carving and everything, and the altar equally magnificent in gold and going way up to the steeple, and, on the floor, masses of little black mounds. Of course, the men and women all in black, and they were all kneeling on the floor with their heads down. They were kept that way and their scarf over their heads, you see, so they made little kind of dark molds way down to the altar and it was breathtaking! And, as I went into that church, and I saw all these and little babies, some little babies were being nursed by the mother, and some were wetting the floor and some were kneeling, trying to be like papa and mama -- you know, it was something never to forget!
HP: Has a fantastic and frightening hold, too. But the contrast with the sea of black mounds with this enormous shimmering sun.
CP: Oh, it was the most dramatic, the most dramatic thing!
HP: Well, I've often thought that the church probably was a prime mover in this, you know, this shock of dramatic thing. The art was to frighten and fear, you know, horrid things in a way. They're in keeping with their idealogy, but none the less, you know, you can go to Mexico City now, which is, you know, a modern city and drive out of it a distance and you've lost something in terms of centuries on its way.
CP: There was an art dealer who wrote guide books on Mexico and the guide books on Mexican artists and so forth, and she had a house that was only about this wide square, and it went right up to the heavens. I think there were about 5 or 6 stories in there with a little tiny circular staircase in the center. You couldn't pass on the stairway, but she had . . . there was an apartment. The first floor was, you know, utility business and the garage and so forth, and then there was an apartment on this floor. There was another apartment on this floor, another apartment here. This is her own apartment where she lived, and the top apartment was her art gallery, so you had to walk up this stairs here and outside of the house. Part of it, one side of it was painted with scarlet and another side was painted in white, and always called it. I forgot what he called it, what did he say? Not an explosion, that wasn't the word but something like it, you know. He always called that "the house." She was a character. She was very well-known, and her own apartment was really an art gallery too, but she had also a kitchen and dining room, living room and a bedroom. All the rooms were small, but the gallery was one room and then there was an outside terrace . . . was out there too. She had sculpture out there . . . . Francis Tour.
HP: How would you compare and contrast, Ned Bruce and Holgar Cahill?
CP: Completely different. They're both sensitive men. Of course, Bruce was more of a business man. He had that side of it, that quick understanding of what I call dollars and cents. That kind of organization with big groups, and he was a man of sudden likes.
HP: Flashes, cyclonic flashes. Beautiful.
CP: And interested in lots of things. I think he was generous in listening to other people's views too. Eddie has that too. Eddie was gentle and sweet and determined. Certain things in living were terribly important, and he sloughed off some of the others. He never was very well. He didn't show it, but he really suffered a lot, but he was a hypochondriac, too.
HP: One kind of breeds the other sometimes.
CP: And full of ideas. Always had another book on his mind to write and very intelligent. I think that probably Ned, as I knew him . . . . Of course I knew Holgar very well. I was . . . I saw him very informally and I've been with him when he was sick and that kind of thing which I never had with Bruce, but I'd been to Bruce's home a good many times. I mean that's not the same way, but I have very close affection for Ned, or Eddy, I always called him Eddy, you call him Ned, don't you?
HP: Edward Bruce? Yes, Ned Bruce.
CP: And . . . . Of course, I knew very well too, he's been out here a lot. Eddie has too, Eddie Cahill, and Forbes Watson. Did you know him?
HP: He was part of the Treasury program and also a great editor, a great writer about art, I mean editorials in the 20's, in The Arts magazine. Oh-h boy, some of that just burned right through the page.
CP: Nan, his wife, I didn't know her so well, but Forbes I knew very well. In fact, the last time I saw him, he was out here -- I've forgotten what for -- and he stayed with us here, and we were going to have a cocktail party on a Sunday afternoon. We asked a lot of people that he knew, or that we knew would like to know him and he would like to know them. Not a lot; I suppose we invited about 20 or 25 people, but anyway, and that morning, the snow had come up. You couldn't get in our road at all and in those days you couldn't get the road cleared out quickly and that was way after the 30's. He died, when did he die? About 4 years ago, I think. I was in New York when he died. I think it was. And we had a caterer and we had all kinds of canapes and things made. It was a cocktail supper, and we had to telephone everybody that they couldn't get through, not to come and here we were. Snow everywhere, it was beautiful. It was just beautiful and all this food, and I thought I never wanted to see food again in my life! And we sat around the table nibbling on food from about 6 o'clock until about 2 in the morning.
HP: That's an unforgettable evening!
CP: And then he stayed another day, and then he went. I didn't see him after that. I liked him very much, aside from the fact he drank too much, that was too bad. He did here, but oh, he could write!
HP: Oh boy, couldn't he. He could put wings to words.
CP: He certainly could.
HP: He made The Arts magazine the great magazine in art. There's no question about that. Gave American art an opportunity in the 20's when it wasn't receiving an opportunity from some other source. I was interested in your comments about Bruce and Cahill. Bruce trained as a lawyer, a lobbyist for the Philippine Islands, a banker, a businessman, a man, a cyclone really, who had a sense of power, knew how to achieve it. To that extent somewhat ruthless, but this is simply having your eye on the bird on the wing, and he was one who could cock his eye in that direction. But Cahill has always puzzled me to some extent because, again, a public relations orientation. I'm thinking of Bruce in terms of self-orientation, or a salesman for an idea, but Cahill a salesman for an aesthetic idea which sometimes is more difficult. If I could characterize one as a cyclone, I'm not so sure I could to do that to Eddie Cahill. You said tender, sensitive . . . .
CP: And he isn't the type ever to be in the foreground -- except in memory.
HP: And Bruce is hard to keep out of that.
CP: Bruce would always be in the foreground, not because he really intended that way but, of course, it's become a habit.
HP: It was the man, that's right, it was what he was, but Cahill was -- well, I have this troublesome thing where matters got difficult, or some difficulty was involved -- like Benny Bufano in California.
CP: Oh! [laughter]
HP: He would avoid this like the plague because he couldn't deal in these direct power exercise terms. So Tom Parker went out there. I think Eddie Cahill in front of a group couldn't inspire anything. But talking head to head, tete-a-tete, 2 of you, could, then, you know, voice and express his ideas, and his ideas perhaps far transcended the ideas that inhabited Bruce's mind.
CP: Well, of course, Bruce, in spite of his handicap, was a big man, a healthy man. You felt that you were meeting such a man. But Eddie was a small man. He was a gentle man. And he would be in the background. If he was forced to be in the background, it wouldn't be quite natural, but he had the ideas and he . . . . But he knew enough to know if he couldn't meet a thing, he'd send somebody else and that's something.
HP: Well, it's a recognition of one's own limitations, I suspect, is the second important thing. One is to be and to grow. I have another thing in which they share to some extent and that's the feeling of disappointment. I don't know why I have this. Bruce is a vigorous man and to see that robust nature chaired . . . .
CP: It's terrible, isn't it? Just dreadful.
HP: But in some ways Eddie Cahill, though walking around, was also chaired.
CP: Yes he was, he was, he was.
HP: Yes, and this is the sense of disappointment, one which is a consequence of an accident in the sense of Bruce; the other was almost a natural, built-in thing. I never met him. I'd like to have seen him, because I suspect that Eddie Cahill was litmus paper for every idea that he heard. He could soak it up and absorb it and make it his own and make it walk and make it march in an intellectual way, which is no mean accomplishment. But a man trying to find a niche because he had successive interests, like writing the novels which never quite jelled, so there's always been this kind of sense of disappointment in both men, one physical and the other a kind of intellectual that never quite reached.
CP: Of course, I think another physical thing that was a disappointment with Bruce. You see, that Treasury business, the architects that he had to work with, and you know I think that sickened him so! And they were so horrid! They didn't understand him, and they were jealous and everything else, but it sickened so. I think he hated to be associated with them. He just couldn't bear to breathe the same air they breathed. At least I got that feeling from him.
HP: I think you're right -- that is to say, when he floated the Treasury idea, if he'd had sufficient power to manage the whole show, it'd been different.
CP: It would have been a grand thing.
HP: But for a negotiator, a kind of promoter of ideas, to have to deal with fixed entities like architects, and the government architects were pretty fixed, and pretty rigid; inflexible. They weren't prepared to entertain a new notion. I'm sure that Bruce's sense of optimism just couldn't believe that somehow, some way, something he couldn't say wouldn't sweep these people into the same kind of pied piper, you know, effect, but that must have been a tough struggle for him. Endless struggle, never solved, never settled.
CP: Never. I think it was terrible. My, he could talk violently about it, too.
HP: Oh, I think he had a capacity for violence.
HP: A capacity for outrage, and it didn't make any difference where he was. It was just the man, an extension of the man who had a concept of power. But I'm not sure about Cahill. I'm sure that Cahill had a sense of outrage too, but I think it would tend to tiptoe in public.
CP: I think he would, yes. And he had a stomach ache or something over it.
HP: A malady. CP; He really would.
HP: And not have . . . .
CP: And I've seen him, I've seen him stay in his bed, sick, because I knew he didn't want to get up and say something that was difficult for him.
HP: And yet he was just the catalyst for the Federal Project.
CP: But I think he did a marvelous job. Tom Parker, what's he doing now?
HP: Tom Parker is managing a big real estate agency in Alexandria, Virginia and doing very well.
CP: Oh good, I'm glad he is.
HP: He had two very severe heart attacks, you know.
CP: I knew he had one, but I hadn't heard about the other.
HP: Well, they came almost, like, you know, Castor and Pollux's, I guess. But, in any event, he decided to leave the art field entirely.
CP: He did?
HP: Yes. He's living in Virginia with his wife who herself is an interesting person. And he's doing very well. A nice man, a nice man.
CP: That's good.
HP: A gentleman.
CP: I never thought of him really as an art man, never did.
HP: No, I think he had more of the administrative gift.
CP: I think he did have more of that work to to do. A nice man though.
HP: Oh, he was a nice fellow, nice fellow.
CP: He was so happy when they built that house in Washington -- nice house too. Well now, Ed Rowan died, didn't he?
CP: What happened to his wife?
HP: I don't know. Ed Rauer was a catalyst, too, to this cyclone Bruce, and it's interesting how one wields power and how effectively one carries it out. In the other way the leadership was in a kind of inspirational vein by visit, where the man who was tending the store was Tom Parker with continuity. It's interesting, I don't know that Bruce and Cahill ever sat in the same room.
CP: I don't think they did.
HP: Or whether they could even stomach each other. I suspect no.
CP: I don't think they could. I think everybody felt that they couldn't. Of course, I knew, I never mentioned Eddie Cahill to Bruce.
HP: You had both hats you were wearing.
CP: Yes, and they both knew it. I could mention it to Eddie, but I couldn't mention it to Ned.
HP: You couldn't?
CP: No, at least I thought I couldn't; I never did.
HP: That's the explosive nature of the man. He'd have some . . . . I don't know why either, you know. Because the Treasury project subsequently received funds from the WPA for assistance on murals.
CP: Well, I kind of think that Ned really wanted to be the one.
HP: But he was the sort of fellow who couldn't stand in a group.
CP: I think so.
HP: I think probably, deep inside, Eddie Cahill probably had the same impulse but wasn't quite so certain that he could stand this.
CP: I wouldn't be surprised. I don't think he was conscious of it. I think Ned Bruce might have been conscious of it because he's conscious, he was conscious.
HP: I think you knew what he was about in personal terms. It's funny what chance will to do, you know, in a nation like ours that will throw up to the surface. Bruce, whose experience was in almost every other line except art, who came to art late, after a disaster, a business disaster in the Philippines, in a sense sold out by his own partner. Oh, it was a terrible thing, and then, you know, he'd suddenly say, "Well, I'm going to paint."
CP: And he did. And he kept on painting, too.
HP: That's marvelous. That's right angles, that's marvelous. But then that old sense of power, the desire to manipulate, to use in a way and to float an American school of mural painting. He seized it. I can't quite picture Holgar Cahill in a power position where he would manipulate. I suspect he may have wanted to, but it was just something he couldn't quite to do.
CP: He was not an executive type.
HP: No he wasn't, he was an intellectual.
CP: However, he had the ideas and he had the feeling, and he had the need for it. And I think he got some very helpful people to help him where he couldn't quite . . . Parker could to do work with him, for instance. And Parker was loyal to him, as far as I know.
HP: But, you know, I would imagine Cahill would face some difficulty going to New York for example, and dealing with Mrs. McMann, you know.
CP: Well, they didn't like each other.
HP: There's a powerhouse feeling right away and a knowledgeable one.
CP: Yes, but she didn't have the really inside aesthetic feeling that Bruce had.
HP: No, I don't think so either.
CP: She was a different person; she was a very difficult person to work with.
HP: Well, I think there was a deeper ego working in her.
CP: Oh, it was a very . . . .
HP: But, nonetheless, she had a difficult ship to float in the situation in which she was.
CP: She certainly did.
HP: Take the Index of American Design, where Boston had come up with marvelous plates and certain historical background on these plates, and New York was turning in enormous historical background and the plates were quite flimsy, partly because the Index of American Design, as established in New York, was almost a writer's project, as distinct from an artist's project. Well, this is one case in which Eddie Cahill took a stand; in short, it's the only project really in the Federal Arts program that became national simply because of the disparity between the plates as produced by Boston and those by New York. What's his name, Cook A. Glasgol, was made the man in the center, a kind of coordinator, but then it had a national standard of performance, and New York had to re-examine what it was doing. Well, now, that's, you know, that's like . . . .
CP: It's lots of fun to talk with you about it. Well, I've put this back, you know, in a little corner. HP; Can't you just imagine . . . . I can't quite imagine Eddie Cahill talking with Mrs. McMann. Well the happy thought was the Index of American Design wasn't thought so highly of by Mrs. McMann, otherwise she would have had it underneath her, but she had it under Francis Pollack, as she did the teachers and the gallery tours, as unimportant. So it was possible for him to make this decision, but whether he would have had stomach enough to beard her in her den, I don't know. I really don't.
CP: Pollack. Why did he leave the directorship of the American Federation of Art?
HP: I never . . . I know him, but we never talked about that. He's made some comments about it, but they weren't the kind of comments that had behind them substance that would make me understand it. He undoubtedly had difficulty with his board.
CP: I would like to work with him.
HP: I find Pete an exciting fellow.
CP: Certainly he's full of ideas.
HP: A hundred and one thousand a minute.
HP: He sparks like Old Faithful. You can press a button and out they'll come, and he's no fool. He's not naive.
CP: No, he's not naive.
HP: He's a knowledgeable guy and, well, it may be a clash of personality with a member of the board and, you know, some board members assume the whole board membership and become the spokesman. I don't know whether that's the case here.
CP: I'm disappointed in the American Federation of Arts. I still keep up my membership in it because I like to get those . . . . And I still keep with the College Art [CAA] because I like their magazines, some of them. They're getting to be very good magazines.
HP: Yes. They've performed an enormous service in the late 20's and 30's.
CP: They certainly did, and how they've grown. Oh my, since I first joined them, they're certainly . . . . And they're performing now, this business of getting positions. They paid every month, not every month, but four times a year, I think, they publish a list of . . . . Well, if you want a job, you advertise for them, and you go to them to get good people too, although they don't recommend everybody. They just give them their information. I think that's a good service, but the American Federation is trying to to do everything to everybody and you can't to do it, and I don't know many of the people on the board now, of course. I'm past 80.
HP: You're not past 80 to me.
CP: And I can't go to it, I can't afford to go over to those meetings and I can't travel much. I have to put all my money in that darn thing.
HP: That's an exciting thing.
CP: But it has to to do with people.
HP: Tom Parker, I think, was head of that Federation for a while, and it was while he was head of the Federation that he had such a severe heart attack, and he had to drop it.
CP: That's why, I knew he did.
HP: I don't know, the Federation being a kind of holding company of disparate views isn't necessarily a comfortable position to be in. This may take the Ned Bruce type.
CP: I think it would. I think it would be wonderful if they had somebody like that.
HP: Cyclone came in there.
CP: And how's Mrs. Faith, to do you know her?
HP: Yes, I see her occasionally, in conjunction with the New York Committee of the Archives of American Art. Oh, yeah.
CP: I haven't seen her, or heard anything about her. I read about her occasionally, but is she still living?
HP: I don't know, I don't know.
CP: You see, he bought a little company here at Cedarburg near us and ever heard about this?
CP: Well, and he did a beautiful thing. He had several exhibitions there, and they were stunning, they were beautiful. I have a catalogue somewhere, I have a couple of them. I couldn't to do much, but I bought one picture from that show, I don't know where it is now. Maybe I haven't got it up now. It's here. And he asked me to help him, and he wanted me to come out before the opening of the show and go through it and make suggestions: was it hung right and how to change it. And so I couldn't go in the daytime so I went out there one evening. And Getlive was his secretary, you know Getlive? And that's my introduction to Getlive. I'd known him slightly before. I saw him a few years ago in his home. She wasn't home when I was there. He was not very well. He was a very delicate man, very delicate man, had trouble with his throat. I've forgotten what it was, but he finally sold that . Then it was sold again.
HP: I don't know anything about him, but certainly this whole period had people pouring in and out of it, that had some continuity all the time, doesn't it? That is, you can't go anywhere, you can't be anywhere that you don't run into someone you met back in the 30's Somehow, some way.
CP: They were very important.
HP: Yes, with reference to one project or the other.
CP: What were you doing in the 30's?
HP: I was going to school, I was a kid going to school.
CP: Did you go in Nebraska?
HP: No, I was . . . . There's no need to put any of me on this. [END OF TAPE]
This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Charlotte Russell Partridge, circa 1965, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.