Arts administrator, Art patron
Active in Seattle, Wash.
Size: Transcript: 56 pages
Format: Originally recorded on 3 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 6 digital wav file. Duration is 3 hr., 22 min.
Collection Summary: An interview of Joanna Eckstein conducted on 1983 April 7, by Suzanne Ragen, in Seattle, Washington, for the Archives of American Art's Northwest Oral History Project.
Eckstein speaks of her family background; education; the development of her art and poetry interests; the Seattle art scene prior to the opening of the Seattle Art Museum; the Museum's collecting policy and administration; art in public and private places; and her thoughts on aging well. She recalls the painter Mark Tobey. The interview is followed by Eckstein's speech on the history of the Seattle Art Museum delivered to the Docent Council at the Museum.
Biographical/Historical Note: Joanna Eckstein (1903-1983) was an art patron from Seattle, Washington.
This interview is part of the Archives' Northwest Oral History Project, begun in 1982 to document the Northwest artistic community through interviews with painters, sculptors, craftsmen, educators, curators, and others, in Oregon, Washington, and Montana.
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
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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 Joanna Eckstein, 1983 April 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Interview with Joanna Eckstein
Conducted by Sue Ragen
At the Artist's home or in Seattle, Washington
April 7, 1983
The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Joanna Echstein on April 7, 1983. The interview took place in Seattle, Washington, and was conducted by Sue Ragen for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
SUE RAGEN: Joanna, I know you have done quite a few interviews in the last few years. There are two in the archives at the university in Suzallo Library, one that you did with Meta Kaplan in 1975, and one that you did with LaMar Harrington's project in 1977, and you have given various speeches to museums particularly in the last few years. I almost feel that you're what the Japanese declare as a national treasure, that you are a Northwest cultural treasure. I know you will feel that some of this you have said before, but none of it is in the Smithsonian Archives. So feel free to say things that you feel may have been recorded somewhere else. I'd like to cover mainly three areas. First, some biographical details about yourself, then some information about the Seattle Art Museum which is about to have its 50th birthday celebration, and then some discussion of certain Northwest artists that you've been close to one way or another. So, if we could start with biographical information about yourself, your family, your education to begin with.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, I was born here in Seattle on the First Hill, which was then a very fashionable residence district. I was born almost on the site of the present Swedish Hospital where a lot of later citizens were born, and I grew up here. I attended the Seattle public schools through the grammar and high school grades, during which time my father served as a member of the school board. My father was Nathan Eckstein, after whom the junior high school was named. My mother was Minna Schwabacher Eckstein. The Schwabacher brothers, her father and his two brothers, were very early pioneers in the state of Washington; they went into the business in Walla Walla in 1859 which for Washington State is an early day, and they were over here in Seattle in business by 1868. Their sister married Bailey Gatzert who was also in business in Eastern Washington, and the Gatzerts subsequently came to Seattle in the early 1870s, I think. Bailey Gatzert was an early mayor of Seattle and one of the founders of the Chamber of Commerce. There is also a school named after him. They were very prominent. Then my father came out here to work for my Schwabacher grandfather and he met my mother who was up here visiting one of the many aunts she had in Seattle. They married and my sister and I were both born here and both of our parents were very active in the total community. It would be a waste of time for me to start enumerating the various organizations with which they were associated and of which they were chairman or president at various times, but they were usually in on the beginning of any kind of a new movement, besides going along with the establishment. My father was one of the founders of the original Community Chest which was the forerunner of what we now call the United Way. My mother was one of the founders of the Psychiatric Society, in a time when nobody could spell the word or even pronounce it. Henry Schmitz once when he was president of the University [of Washington--Ed.]- - -
[Break in tape]
Because there is nobody left, of either the Schwabacher or the Eckstein name, and the Gatzerts had no children-- they were very prominent citizens here in their day-- those families are sort of forgotten, it's the people who had descendents to keep the memory alive. As we have seen what Victor Denny has done for the Denny family, how much he enhanced it in his lifetime. Before Victor began all this nobody ever heard of David Denny; if they had heard of any Denny it was A.ÿA. Denny, because he happened to have some descendents who were articulate. And Victor came along and quite rightly stressed David Denny. And I feel that there's a lot of happenstance in this. What brought it to my attention was Henry Schmitz, when he was president of the university, who came to me once and said he'd been going over some old papers, and he saw that my father signed the papers establishing the Chair of Psychology at the university and why in the world did he do that? And I said, "Because my mother's family established that chair." Well Henry Schmitz couldn't believe that, and apparently there was nothing in the records to show that the Schwabacher Foundation or whatever it was called-- it was the Schwabacher family-- had anything connected with Nathan Eckstein, or any explanation of why he was there to sign the papers. Of course in those days husbands usually did sign for a wife. And I'm now at the present moment, besides trying to do a little to help with the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, I'm trying to lend a hand to the Seattle Children's Home [Society--Ed.] which is celebrating its hundredth year. Mrs. Bailey Gatzert was one of the original members of the original board; in fact I was told not too long ago that she was the one who had the original idea and interested the other ladies, and got the group together.
SUE RAGEN: The Ladies Relief Society?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: The Ladies Relief Society, the oldest registered philanthropy in the state of Washington. And working on this committee is a young woman, I think she was a member of the staff, whom [Lyn Hogan] had researching all the people who were on the board. Well she mentioned all the women, but she never mentioned anything about Mrs. Gatzert who really wasn't that educated or in any kind of public position but was a very strong character and did a good many things; yet nobody knows anything about her or her husband. Whenever their name comes up everybody always wonders how they got there. Just yesterday or the day before I received from Colleen Willoughby a book on Yarrow Point, because I had asked her if the old Gatzert house was still standing. I thought it was-- it was over at Cosy Coveÿ-- and she was going to try to find out about it. I don't know the answer to that question, but she sent me the book about the old houses there that somebody had written a few years ago. And there are pictures of many homes in there and the only thing about the Gatzert home that is mentioned is that the property next to the Firths was deeded to Bailey Gatzert. I had given to the university (and I think the Historical Society has copies, and I think I have copies) a complete set of photographs of the Gatzert home at Cosy Cove which is not introduced in the book and apparently nobody sees. I'm sure nobody connects me with the Gatzerts, nobody has ever tried to do any research on us, and they're not all that important but they're just as important as a lot of other people who are being mentioned. And they contributed a great deal to the establishment of the city. Well, to go back to more immediate things- - -
SUE RAGEN: You went to Broadway High School?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I went to Broadway High School, during which time my father was on the school board as one of his many activities. That was how I got into the family; I wanted to point out that I was brought up with a sense of community responsibility by two parents who were involved in all kinds of things to the community, both philanthropy and culture. My father was on the Symphony Board for over thirty years, he was on the one before World War I and then when it was reestablished between the two wars he was on it again. And my mother was on a great many things, mostly ladies' activities, you know. When I graduated from Broadway High School I went to Goucher College in Baltimore. I attended there four years and took my degree, came back to Seattle, and much to my surprise found myself a professional social worker, a field in which I didn't have much interest. But the head of the old Social Welfare League, one Evelyn Gail Gardner, was a very strong personality and she reached out and got me as she did two or three contemporaries who came from families who had been very supportive of the organization and of her. She got us to come down as volunteer workers but to take the full training course and do the same thing that the employees did. I did that for one year and decided that I was being foolish, that I should get paid. I told her I knew she didn't like to pay people who didn't need the money, but that I never knew when I would have to earn my living-- it could happen any time to anybody and if people asked for experience I had and I told them that I had worked for the Social Welfare League and they asked how much I had earned and I said that I was a volunteer worker, that was no experience. And I wanted to get a paycheck to establish myself as a professional. And she took me on; I guess I was doing a good enough job. That didn't last very long because I really wasn't interested in social work. In the meantime I acquired a beau so I spent a good many years just kind of frittering around having a good time, but I was always involved in community activities-- I was always out raising money for something.
SUE RAGEN: Did you study art at all at Goucher, Joanna? How did you develop an interest?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, it's very peculiar. My family had very good taste in music, very good taste in almost everything, except they had dreadful taste in paintings, according to my opinion, and loved seascapes done by the late nineteenth century German painters. I used to walk past them hurriedly, the ones we had hanging in our home. There weren't too many, and I can remember as a child the pictures I had in my bedroom: sepia reproduction of Rosa Bonheur's Horse Fair-- I liked horses, but those were the wrong kind of horses; The Madonna of the Barrel, which is rarely ever reproduced any more (my mother who was a devoted Jewess would not even allow us to sing Christmas carols in school and at the Christmas holiday season; I don't know how she ever came to pick a Madonna as one of the paintings except I guess she thought it was quite good); and a portrait of Dante's Beatrice. Anyway, they were not what I would have chosen, and sepia reproductions still don't appeal to me very much. So when I went east to college (I was one week over seventeen) and I got to New York on the way and discovered the Metropolitan Museum, I really didn't care for paintings. I didn't look at them. I used to run through the paintings of the Rodin room to the Egyptian pyramids. I was in college about a year and a half-- no I guess it was just my first year in college-- and I heard all these girls form the East Coast, you know girls who had gone to good prep schools, talking about two things that were new to me. One was that poetry was a finer form than prose. I had grown up in a family-- well, my father was a bibliophile, he had about ten thousand volumes in his library, all kinds of fine editions and erudite work. I had read everything in sight, but none of us ever read poetry, very little at least; we read prose. So these girls were talking about poetry as being a finer form. the other thing was that these people were painting seriously. Well, I corrected the poetry deficit by recognizing that Shakespeare was a poet and taking courses through college in Milton and Tennyson and various of the English poets whom I came to love. The painting was a little more difficult but I decided that if I didn't like it it was because I didn't understand it. I was right about one thing when I was young. I worked out that whenever I found anything I disliked, I tried to learn something about it and I would usually get over my dislike. So I took a course in the history and appreciation of art which was given by one Hans [Furlecker], an old time German schoolmaster who absolutely loved every painting that he ever talked about. He had this marvelous empathy with the artist. I can remember the examination at the end of the first quarter; he told us to go to the library and look at all the stuff he had laid out for us, none of which was anything we had studied. When we came to our final exam he had little wires strung all around the classroom and clipped to them were little prints, sometimes torn out of books or magazines, of paintings, and a few sculptures, none of which we had studied. The examination was to identify the painting as a school of art, the period in which it was painted and probably or possible painter, and if we could do that we really knew something about it. Well I passed the exam and by the second term I was as much in love with it as he was, but that first term opened a whole new world to me, it really did. That's one reason I think I like being a docent so much: I have always liked doing public tours. I have a lot of people dragging around behind me who have come in to get out of the wet and who don't know why they are taking a tour except they will hear somebody talking and they will find out what it's about, and I have watched them, and if I can crack through to them, even get one little spark, I feel I have given them a wonderful, priceless gift, and maybe they will come back and pursue it. And every once in a while somebody does stop and talk to me and show me that I have really opened windows for them and I think it's a wonderful gift and I'm eternally grateful that I had that. Then I had to go home and be surrounded by those awful paintings again. So my parents never changed their taste nor did I. I sold all the paintings that were in their house, and practically everything we had from my grandmother when I moved into this house and I have made my own collection, some of which is better than other parts, but I like it all, even some of the paintings that I bought that were inexpensive when I bought them and whose artists have never fulfilled the promise that I thought they showed. I still like the paintings that I bought.
SUE RAGEN: Well Joanna, your parents then were involved in civic and philanthropic and musical involvements, but not in the fine arts?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, my father was on the art museum board at the time he died, yes. Now of course, after the art museum came into being, the whole picture of the visual arts changed.
SUE RAGEN: Well I wanted to ask you about that; maybe this is a good time. What was the art scene in the late '20s, early '30s, just before the museum opened?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, there wasn't much of an art scene; there was just a glorified arts society which many people claim was the forerunner of the museum, and I suppose it was. The Fullers joined it and from that day they got the idea of having a museum. I was not in that; my father had belonged to it at one time but was never active. My general impression of it is that it was more social than civic. The Henrys were the leaders; they had a very nice collection which they subsequently gave to the university. There were a few odd paintings around the city. My family had one painting I loved that my sister finally ended up with, though it belongs to me because I saved it from the old house. It is a picture of a German monk who was a scholar poring over a great tome. Anyway, there were very few collections of any kind of art, sculptures, Oriental, or painting. There were no galleries; there were no dealers. It's hard to believe it, but when Zoe Dusanne opened her gallery in the early 1950s that was the first one. There had been one before Dusanne, in the Arcade Building, up by the old tea room, and my parents had bought a picture of a shoe-shine boy from themÿ-- I can't remember the name of the artist, he was a turn-of-the-century American. That gallery was a very small one and was there for a very short time, then it went out of existence. And there were literally no galleries at the time that the museum opened. There weren't many art magazines being printed and the few that were printed only went to artists and people who were deeply involved. Color photography was very expensive and not very good so that people had no access to learning about the arts. Wealthy people went to Europe and to California where there were some museums-- to San Francisco-- but most people simply couldn't afford to do it. It took four to five days to cross the continent each way and more than that or about that to cross the Atlantic both ways. Most people's entire two-weeks vacation would be used up in just getting there and back if they went to Europe or even to New York, and besides most people couldn't afford it. The vast majority of the people here in Seattle (it's hard to realize it and it was hard to realize it then) had never been to New York and to Europe and I would say a majority of them had never been to California. All this easy mobility has changed the whole world. You hear about something and you can go and look at it. In those days you couldn't. Or if you can't afford to go or haven't the time, you can get magazines and you can get books. You can find out about things through the television or radio. You have lectures. We didn't have the lectures or the theater; we didn't have anything much because we were a full day's journey away from another city by railroad. Portland and Spokane were the closest and Portland-- the best part of the day was spent getting there. Spokane was a full day. And traveling companies and traveling artist just didn't want to come here; they wanted to go where they could move on in a couple of hours and make another fee and move on in a few more hours. There were people painting here all the time and working in the arts and that has been probably why the legend of the Northwest School, if there is a Northwest School, grew up. They say now there is no Northwest School; I don't agree with that. I think there is a Northwest School; exactly what it was I don't know. I don't think that just the four artists who were included in the Life magazine article, which gave the first publicity to it and started the general use of the term-- Tobey, Graves, Callahan and Anderson. And that interview was given to Life magazine, I suppose this should be a fairly privileged statement, but that interview was given by Bertrand Collins who was a great friend of Guy Anderson's, because Guy Anderson at that time was not in a class with the other three, and everybody in the art world knew that. But it was prophetic because Guy Anderson has turned out to be a very major artist since then. He lived up to his billing but he had not yet earned the billing. But I think there was a school because here were these people painting away. Tobey had come from New York but it had been a good many years-- he did travel around some. Callahan didn't move around much. Most of the artists didn't get very far afield. And they had built up a kind of painting which did have a few things in common-- most of them painted at that time in rather somber tones and they were influenced by the light and the climate and the Oriental influence here. I just don't think there's any question about it. They weren't limited to that; most of them broke loose from it and of course the whole picture has now changed. When the museum opened-- I have told this as a docent so many times but I think it's worth recording again-- Dr. Fuller and Mrs. Fuller gave the museum to the city- - -Well, I think this is a good place to tell really a little about the history of the museum. There had been no art museum in Seattle. Dr. and Mrs. Fuller had come here, Mrs. Fuller, the mother of Dr. Richard Fuller, Mrs. Eugene Fuller, had come here with her two sons and her daughter. I cannot remember if they came west before her husband died or after he died; he was a medical doctor, and the oldest son who died was also a medical doctor, and they had lived in Victoria and they had traveled extensively in the Far East where they had very good artistic connections, particularly with [Yamanok]? and Company. I don't know too much about Dr. Fuller, Sr., but I know Mrs. Fuller came from a Scottish family; she was born on Staten Island.
SUE RAGEN: McTavish.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: McTavish, yes. She was a very strong-minded woman. I knew her quite well. They lived in Victoria for a while and then they moved down to here and she decided, I should say they decided-- I don't know, I always thought probably the idea originated with her but I'm sure that Dr. Richard Fuller went along with her very readily-- to build a museum for the city. They decided to do this in 1932, which was the absolute bottom of the Great Depression. The museum cost $250,000 to build and furnish complete-- it's almost impossible to imagine-- donated by the Fullers. The arrangement was that the city was to donate the land and maintain the servicing of the museum-- the janitorial service, the upkeep of the exterior, and the replacement of things that needed to be repaired-- and the Fullers were to establish the museum which would maintain itself. They gave the original donation and they gave most of the original collection because they had a fine Oriental collection. The museum was the single largest building project in this area in 1932 and 1933. It gave the greatest amount of employment and spread around the greatest amount of money, and the Fullers insisted on having the best quality of everything in the museum, anything that went to building it as well as the contents, and they also insisted on having everything procured locally if it was possible. The museum looks as though it's marble but it isn't; it's Wilkinson stone which comes from very close to here in Seattle. The ironwork connected with the museum was provided by Seidelhuber Bronze and Ironworks; in fact the beautiful decorative silver doors on the outside were made by Frank Seidelhuber, so Colleen Willoughby, his niece and a docent, told me recently. I know that all the hardware was procured from Seattle Hardware Company which is a wholesale firm owned by the Blacks. Instead of searching the country for an architect who was best informed on museum building, they engaged Carl Gould, a local architect, and aided him in obtaining the knowledge necessary to build a proper museum. I think that statement should be privileged for the present too. I don't think Annie Hauberg would like it. But I think it's important that it be known. I only know this because I had a close friend of theirs who told me years ago. I think it's interesting though because it tells you more about how thorough the Fullers were when they didn't like the first set of plans, or the first two sets of plans-- they sent the architect off to study museums with other architects of museums. I think that's important information.
SUE RAGEN: I understand in his original plan there were two side wings that- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, originally-- I don't understand why they never find those plans-- I was always told that there were three units planned and this was the first one and the other two could be added.
SUE RAGEN: It makes me wonder, with this talk of moving it somewhere else, that it's not big enough- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I also believe that Kay Baillargeon has the plans, because I heard her tell John Hauberg so, but I don't think anybody wants to see the plans. [sic] That's privileged obviously. Eventually, maybe it can come out, because I think they're kind of interesting but they shouldn't be brought out now.
So Mrs. Fuller took her own netsukes and put them in the cases herself. When the museum opened it was very thinly occupied by objects d'art. I thought it was lovely because I could sit and look at one artist without seeing another, you know. It was wonderful, nothing impinging on it. They didn't have enough to fill the galleries so Dr. Fuller told us that he was so pleased he was able to find such good facsimile reproductions of modern paintings. We wouldn't consider them very good today but for that time they were, they had a little texture and the colors were reasonably true and they were quite large. He had them handsomely framed and he filled two octagonal galleries with them. And that, in 1933, to most Seattle citizens who cared to even go into museums, was their introduction to the 1910 [1913--Ed.] Armory Show and anything since, because they got just as excited about those paintings as the people in New York did in 1910 [1913--Ed.] and most of them had never heard of Picasso or Braque at that point.
SUE RAGEN: And this was twenty years later in Seattle.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Twenty years later and it was tearing people to pieces, although there was a very active department at the University of Washington teaching fine art, producing artists. Every year the Northwest Annual was largely filled with works by the artists and you could tell if they had been in the department when Isaacs was teaching, or when Patterson was teaching, or when Archipenko was there, because they all had the mark of their teachers on their work and some of them had gone ahead and have become artists of small note. At least one I know of is earning a living as an artist in New York; I never hear of him but his sister told me that he earns a living at it.
SUE RAGEN: Well, Joanna, I am interested in the early days of the museum in the sense that it seems that it was fairly elitist at the beginning.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: It was never as elitist as people want to make it out to be. It was partly elitist because nobody went near the museum. I've told this story so many times, but I'll tell it again anyway. The first board was composed largely of the Fullers' friends, which is understandable, a few officials, and several of the university professors. Mostly the people other than the Fullers' friends never attended any meetings and never opened their mouths when they did; they didn't have enough money to support the museum so this was a very unsatisfactory experience. The Fullers thought that the museum would be immensely popular and the public would come pouring in to see these wonderful things. I'm sure of this because they put a charge on for Friday afternoons. Only members could come in free on Fridays; everybody else had to pay admission and Dr. Fuller told me that was done so that the people who supported the museum enough to put up the money and join would have one day a week when they could walk through the museum when it was quiet and uncrowded, and look at things at their leisure. They really envisioned the first few days as being filled with mobs of the general public. Well the general public knew nothing about an art museum, had less interest. Half of them thought the building on the hill being so modern was an abomination. Some of the elite group did too; I heard one art collector say he would never go into that monstrosity. And he didn't ; it took a long time to get him to come around. It must have been very heartbreaking for the Fullers, and what they ended up with was their own friends, that was about all.
SUE RAGEN: And the previews were very formal affairs- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: The previews were nice, they were formal, everybody dressed, they made something special of it. And ladies poured, and Mark Tobey came to the preview, and Kenneth Callahan came to the preview, and Morris Graves came to the preview years later, trying to attract attention to himself. A lot of young university artists came to the previews. The previews were only for members and there was not a very large membership. It was many, many years before they got over 3,000 members, many years.
SUE RAGEN: But it's moved from this intimate museum to a very broad-based, public-supported- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: It's a very broad-based public museum; it still isn't very well supported though- - -I want to go back and finish about the early days to begin with. I never quarreled with that as much as other people did, because I think if people put up the money they have a right to call the tricks, and as long as the public wouldn't even join for five or ten dollars and the Fullers picked up many thousands of dollars deficit every year, I felt they had a right to run it any way they wanted. The flaw in it was that the Fullers didn't let anybody know that they were picking up the tab every year until Norman Davis came on the board in the late 1940s or early 1950s. At the annual meeting of the museum, which was very poorly attended, those attending the meeting always heard a report that showed the budget in balance and it was very simple. Dr. Fuller would see the budget before the meeting, he would see what the deficit was, and he would deposit to the museum account an amount exceeding that, and then he would bring it into balance. Norman Davis thought that was not only outrageous but was unfair to the museum as well as the Fullers, because the Fullers couldn't last forever and they might have lost their money-- lots of people did. And he brought this out in the open and immediately began trying to get the support broadened. Mrs. Thomas Stimson, who had as much to do with the founding of the museum as anybody except the Fullersÿ-- she was their intimate friend, and the collection she established there is second only to the Museum Memorial Collection, everything is absolutely top quality-- kept starting membership drives, but they were always on a kind of small scale and mostly for the people we knew too. I used to go out and try to get big subscriptions of twenty-five dollars in the Depression days, and Mrs. Fuller, Sr. always objected. She didn't want people going out begging for the museum.
After Dick married and Betty Fuller was broadening the base insofar as she was encouraging various kinds of people to be active in the guild-- she would have them into her home; she babied everybody along so that they felt they were part of the museum-- she was very split over whether she wanted all this public in the museum and having anything to say with the operation of it or not. There was a lot of elitism about her too. I don't think people realized it, but she said to me once when some PTA or educational group had some kind of convention or meeting there and the museum was just chockera-block full of-- not very fashionable women-- she turned to me and said, "Isn't it awful to see all of these women in here?" And I thought it was absolutely wonderful. And she objected to things that happened at the previews, which sometimes weren't very nice during the sixties, but I kept pointing out that we'd been trying to get the young into the museum for years and if this is what it took they would get over it and they might stay with the museum. So there always is this pull. Well now the museum is very much broader-based. It is a community, in the sense that the community is aware of it, and the support is much broader, even the large donations come from unexpected sources from time to time. The museum has gained a great deal but it has also lost a great deal. Some of the standards I think have been lowered considerably, but you can't blame it all on it having become more public; times have changed. It's a very different museum today than the museum that I knew so well.
SUE RAGEN: Well I know Dr. Fuller in his own memoirs describes himself as a benevolent dictator and he was the accessions committee; if he wanted something purchased- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: That's right, but he went and bought it. That's why I say as long as he put up the money, nobody should- - - And Miss Emily Tupper, who was the registrar, said to me once-- I think it was apropos that the Portland Museum was getting its third director of four years or something like that-- she said, "Well, all these museums have so much trouble; good directors are hard to find and harder to keep. That's one thing about this museum that makes it very pleasant to work here. At least you know who the boss is." And I've never forgotten that because there was a certain cohesive quality that the museum no longer has. And Dr. Fuller was always for top quality; there were none of the sort of backings and fillings that are necessary in a large public museum.
[Break for lunch]
SUE RAGEN: I wanted to ask you, Joanna, about Claire Falkenstein, who did your firescreen on a commission in the 1950s, I guess. She was not a Northwest artist was she?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: She was born in Coos Bay, Oregon, but she is a California artist. No, I met her in Paris. I was in Paris in January of 1958 as curator of a U.S.I.A. [United States Information Agency--Ed.] art show. The Seattle Art Museum asked me to go there and relieve the Callahans who wanted to come home for Christmas. There was a show of four New York sculptors and four Northwest painters, and there was one traveling through the Far East and one traveling through Europe. And I went to relieve Kenneth Callahan in England. I had the show, I stayed seven months with it, for England and France. And I met Claire in Paris; I met many people in the artistic world there naturally, as I was working for the embassy.
There is a very funny story about the screen. Claire had a show in a small gallery, I can't remember the name of it now, and she had a great big piece of sculpture which was brass wire on squares. To me it looked like a small size bedsprings, and I thought it was just terrible; I just wasn't up to that kind of art but naturally I didn't say anything. I met Claire in the gallery-- I had already made her acquaintance-- she was in there with a gentleman one day when I went in, after I'd been in Paris a few weeks, and she introduced me to this man who was an Italian Member of Parliament and a manufacturer of very artistic fabrics, for draperies and decoration of various sort, [sic] and he was also a collector. He had just bought this dreadful looking piece of sculpture from Claire for a large price, and she told me, "Signor has just bought this. Isn't this wonderful?" Well I was called upon-- they were both looking at me expectantly-- I was called upon to say something better than "Yes," or "I think it's awful." I always have been quick at getting ahold of some kind of phrase to get out of a tight place and much to my amazement I heard myself saying, "Wouldn't it make a wonderful firescreen? The flames from the fire could come dancing through it onto the hearth." And Claire said, "What a wonderful idea. I'll make you one." And this evolved from that. The glass got in it because a young artist from New York whom I had come to know in Paris had said when I said that Claire was going to make me a firescreen, to tell her to put some of the colored glass in it which she had used in a previous phase of her sculpture. And the thing worked out. She was called home to lecture in the first Ashland Festival, so she flew home just a day or two before I came home that spring and she said, "I'll make it for you in California; it will be easier to get it to you there." Then when I was down in California the following spring she was still in this country and I went to her studio and I saw the screen. Instead of being square it was higher on one side than the other because she was building that side first. And I love asymmetrical things anyway, and I said to her, "Oh, can you make it asymmetrical?" She thought that was wonderful. She carried it a little farther and she made it in the shape of a flame.
SUE RAGEN: It's beautiful and it works. Right? It's very functional?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, moderately. The fire department whenever they inspect my house have a fit about it. She made the wire denser at the bottom than the top, she used three different weight wires, but if I use any wood that pops, it comes over the short side, so I never burn a fire in that room unless I'm in there every minute. But that's a small price to pay for that beautiful screen- - -
SUE RAGEN: It's lovely.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Which now needs washing.
SUE RAGEN: I was interested in your letters with John Koenig. There was some mention in 1960 of a one-man show that he was going to have in the fall and then it was cancelled; you somehow intervened and it came to be after all. What was all that about?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: No, that's kind of routine; it was in those days. People were always pressuring Dr. Fuller into giving them shows. One of our local artists whom I would rather not name-- he wasn't a very good artist anyway-- sat at his desk and cried once until he finally said he would give him a one-man show. They were always getting him to promise it and then he was always trying to get out of it because other people, board, staff, public and so on, maybe wouldn't want it. John Koenig is a very good painter and is a very old friend of mine and I think the world of him, but he is very aggressive also and he gets shows every place in the world. He's a good businessman. He had a show at the museum and it was moderately successful. Now he came from Seattle originally, before he went to Paris and I also met him in Paris when he was living and working there. Then he wanted another show and I don't know what the ins and outs of it were, but I have a pretty good idea. He was promised a show and then it didn't work out. Was that after Tom Maytham was here as the assistant director or not? I can't remember.
SUE RAGEN: Yes it was.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I think he may have taken over from Dr. Fuller. Anyway it didn't work out; shows often don't. They have to be cancelled or something, a matter with the scheduling or something.
[Tape 1, Side 2]
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: And they wrote Tom and the show was cancelled very late, maybe not late for the museum but late for the artist who has to paint enough pictures to make a show. And John was frantic and very upset because he had a lot of shows coming up-- you see, he always does, he's very active about this-- and he had scheduled this in for a certain time convenient with other things; he had no other way of filling in between the two shows he had on either side of it. He had made the paintings for it and it was going to be a great inconvenience for him and I think something of a loss because he had planned to sell a certain number of paintings. The show was fully committed and he said to me, "You know a museum can't do that, can't go back on its word. Can't you do something because you know the people up there?" Well I don't like intervening on a personal basis but from what I could make out the museum was obligated to have that show if the artist wanted it because they had a contract. And I went up there and I said, "I don't know anything about how you came to book the show or anything about why you want to cancel it, but I think you have a contract and John wants you to fulfill it and I think it would be very unwise to cancel it because aside from anything else it would be very unfavorable publicity and I'm sure John Koenig would see the museum got plenty of unfavorable publicity." So when they talked it over with me they said I was absolutely right and they put on the show. I think they figured they lost a little time, maybe they had somebody better to book in. I think these things happen often and the artist always asks somebody to help them. Something that came up recently: within the last six months Arnold Jolles called me about something John wants and wants me to do. And I told Arnold, "You know, in this case you're right and I don't have anything to do with it. I think it would be establishing a very bad precedent if you do what John wants, and see if you can prevent him from asking me to do it, because it would be very awkward for me to tell him." In fact I made a spontaneous comment before I even knew who it was, so that worked out; you see these things happen frequently.
I've forgotten now, I was into letters, I don't really think I read the letters very much before I gave them to LaMar. I was glad to get some stuff off my desk other than into the wastebasket.
SUE RAGEN: Joanna, what are the museum's collecting policies now? Does it vary with who's on the board or how is it determined what they purchase?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well I don't know. I'm on the Committee on the Collection. We act upon what is brought to us. The stated objectives are to build the best possible collection with the best available materials in certain areas which are spelled out and which are changed from time to time. We are now really trying to buy only first quality things and to get away from the policy of buying whatever came on the market that we had sufficient money for in any area, which is what we used to do. If Henry Trubner found something for $7,500 and that was all he had, he would buy it. He has now been persuaded-- and I don't mean to pick on Henry, any of the curators-- he has now been persuaded to put the $7,500 away until he gets another $17,000 and then maybe another $20,000 and then look for something for the total that is really worth adding to the collection, and then bring it to us. But that can change with a new committee or a new board. It's very hard to have a fixed policy in that relation for several reasons. The market changes, the source of supply dries up in certain areas, things that Dr. Fuller bought for a song twenty years ago no longer come on the market at any price. And then another thing happens. The museum is going in one direction and something unforeseen pushes it in another direction. We were not doing much with ethnic art and nothing with African art until we inherited the Katherine White collection; that changes the whole focus of the museum and you can't overlook anything as major as that. So I don't think a policy like that should be too firm, or cut and dried. I think it should be flexible; the only thing that should be standard is whatever way you go you should endeavor to get the best-- not the best you can afford, the best that comes on the market-- and try to raise the money to meet the price.
SUE RAGEN: When you buy things for yourself what criteria do you use? Is it just a personal thing, what you like and what you don't like?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well I stopped buying a long time ago because the whole art market got out of control so far as I was concerned, everything got too expensive and everything was too manipulated. But when I was buying you could look at something, go home and think about it and go back and buy it later in the week. Now, if you don't get that red sticker up at the opening, preferably before the doors are open, you're dead in the water. And the prices are too high and the dealers make the market, they make the artist. I bought things that I like.
SUE RAGEN: And directly from the artist in many cases?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, I bought directly from the artist, from many artists. And that was largely because many artists didn't have dealers. There weren't many dealers here when I first started collecting. Well I didn't start to collect; I started to get something to hang on my walls. I fell in love with a Tobey at a Northwest Annual in 1946, and I bought a couple of Callahans from Callahan. He and Margaret were friends of mine. But I never started out to make a collection; I started out to get things to hang on my walls and I bought things that I felt I couldn't live without and could afford. A lot of things I felt I couldn't live without I didn't get because I simply couldn't afford them, but the artists I knew were always very nice about giving me very good prices too. And I suddenly had, you know, three Callahans and a dozen Tobeys.
SUE RAGEN: It sounds as though the dealers, even though artists complain about them, really helped them a great deal, setting prices that they could make a living on- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I have no patience with the artist complaining about the dealers, except I sympathize with them when the dealers sell the painting and don't pay the artist. I don't think that happens any more; I think we mostly have reputable dealers. For a long time we had a lot of fly-by-night dealers who didn't pay the artists. And the other thing I object to which one dealer did, that I think no longer does, the artist had difficulty in getting the unsold paintings back. Otherwise I have no patience with them. The artists always complain because the dealers take such a big hunk of what they sell. After the dealers take 20, 30, 40, or even 50 percent, the artist is still getting two or three times more than he ever got without the dealer. And even allowing for inflation he would never dare charge what he's getting; he would never think in those terms on his own. He might now but he couldn't get it. The dealers-- all the artists are eating, and they're warm and most of them are traveling and living pretty well. When I first knew them they were literally hungry, and they didn't have good warm clothes and they really didn't have any money. I can remember Mark Tobey told me once- - - I used to buy paintings, I would pay so much down and then give him so much as I went along-- almost everybody did. I was going to Europe one year and I owed him three or four hundred dollars for a painting and I said, "I want to pay you off because I'm going away and I think it's better." Well he said he agreed but he said, "I really feel badly because I have four people each paying sixty dollars a month, and I just felt so comfortable knowing I had the two hundred dollars a month coming in regularly." You see if you pay them two or three hundred dollars he would go off and give it away probably. When Leo Kenney did my portrait I paid him for the whole thing at once and I never did that again because three days later Kenney was very poor. Three days later he didn't have a penny left. He took it and put it all in paints and materials.
SUE RAGEN: There were a couple of people I wanted to ask you about from the earlier days. One was Mrs. Young in the Education Department. She seemed to be the forerunner of the docent program in a way.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, she was the first education director. She was still going when we were docents. She was a wonderful woman. She had grown up in India and she knew a great deal about Oriental art. She was not a tremendous scholar, but she had a lot of information, a tremendous amount of charm, and she could communicate with the public better than anybody I've ever seen and particularly with children. She had a most charming way; she was good looking, gracious, and whole generations grew up interested in art or the museum because of Mrs. Young and the Saturday morning classes she had there, the lectures she gave to the school. At one point, when she was quite an elderly lady, she would get into her car and take those same facsimiles I mentioned earlier, drive all around the state, and show those to the children in the different schools and give lectures on art. She was just a marvelous person. You can't make anybody like that; they're born.
SUE RAGEN: Then how did the docent program begin?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I don't know. I wasn't in on it originally. All of a sudden I knew there were docents there. I can find out, a friend of mine was the second docent chairman-- she always tells me. She's an old lady, even older than I am, and I took her to a docent meeting once a couple of years ago. She couldn't believe it, absolutely couldn't believe it. Had nothing to do with anything she'd ever had anything to do with. All I can tell you is when I became a docent, Mrs. Ernest Patty, the first Mrs. Patty, was chairman, and all I can remember is somebody asked if I would like to be a docent and I said yes and they asked me if I could take a tour on Saturday. And I guess I did. I always thought Bernice Soth was a docent before I was. The docent program wasn't very old when I came into it, but it had been going a couple of years. She told me once, she told the docents, you may have heard her, that when she was asked to be a docent or asked if she could be, they assigned her a tour and they told her before she took it she should follow me around on one tour and that was her training.
SUE RAGEN: That was her training and now it's two years.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Yes, but then we had one museum and much less in the collection and a very, very unsophisticated public.
SUE RAGEN: Well I remember you telling about Dr. Fuller asking you on short notice to take a tour of an Egyptian show that was going that day or something.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: That's right. He was just putting it up and I said I had the time, because he had a call for two o'clock that afternoon. But I said I don't know anything about Egyptian art, and he said, "That's all right, come on up and I'll tell you about it." And I went up and he told me about it and I came home and ate lunch and went back and gave a tour. And I don't suppose it hurt the people any more- - -
SUE RAGEN: I'm sure they knew more when they left than when they came in.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: That's right, and if I made some mistake, if I got them interested it didn't make any difference because they can look it up. I'm not advocating people going out and deliberately making mistakes but I'm not sold on this idea that you have to give a short course on the history of art in a 40-minute tour to the general public. I think what we want to do is arouse some interest in them so that they will have this wonderful thing in their lives for the rest of the time they are on earth.
SUE RAGEN: And just look at it.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: That's right. Even if they do never get a complete grasp of it. Artists don't always completely understand what they're doing either. I was looking at some Mark Tobey paintings once and I asked the price of one, oh well I'm not sure if I want this one or that one, and finally I came to one and he said, "You can't have that one; it's not finished," and I said, "What do you mean it's not finished?" "Well," he said, "I don't know but something's the matter with it. It isn't quite right." So I said, "Well what are you going to do?" He said, "I don't know; I'm going to work on it some more and see if I can't make it look right." So I looked at it a while and I said, "Mark, have you ever thought of turning it on its side?" He turned it on its side and he said, "That's it."
SUE RAGEN: Well, I love that story about, in his Brooklyn apartment, when he tore a painting up and put it in his wastebasket- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Took it out and said, "Two nice small paintings, one bad large one, two nice small ones."
[Break in tape]
SUE RAGEN: What do you think about the system like the Metropolitan has now, where they have two directors, two co-directors, one does the business end of things and one does the artistic end of things?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I didn't know that the Metropolitan had that, but I suggested that years ago when Dr. Fuller was there, when Tom Maytham first came. I said this is two positions; we need a business manager and an art director and the next time we look for a director we should look for two people. And nobody ever paid any attention. I'm the wrong person to have these ideas. I'm a woman, I'm not wealthy enough to back it up with enough money to count, and I'm the wrong generation, and I had one fatal flaw much of my life and I know about it and I don't know how to get around it-- my timing is bad, I'm usually ahead of public opinion. And timing is so important. I have made more ideas and suggested them and been booed absolutely off the record and then five years later somebody else suggests it and- - - Like Paul Thiry has that trouble. He wanted to lid the freeway long before Annie Hauberg was active and nobody would listen to him. Then Annie Hauberg comes along at the right moment, so she gets the lid on the freeway.
SUE RAGEN: It takes the idea, plus the timing.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: That's right. I know you'll edit this out so I don't mind telling you, but when they were having so much trouble appointing a new director and they had nobody after Bill Wood got sick, I went to two board members because I figured if one of the men suggested it it would be better than if I did, officially, and said to get Charles Odegaard [former President of the University of Washington--Ed.]. He is the most brilliant person here, he's retired, I've taken the trouble to find that he's just finishing a job and doesn't have anything else in the offing-- I happened to sit next to him and I asked him, and I said he would be an interim director and he would be wonderful. And the first man said, "He doesn't know anything about art." I said, "That doesn't make any difference. He knows how to get money from the legislature, he understands public relations, he can do all the things this museum needs as an interim director and the rest of the staff and the board can take care of the art." Well this person didn't think so. And then I suggested to somebody else who said, "But he's an old man; he's already retired." I said, "He's retired, but he's not old and he's the finest person around." So then they both thought I was crazy, they did nothing, and then Bagley Wright stepped in so there was of course no hope. Now, five years later the symphony has Charles Odegaard and what has he done? He saved the day. And all the art museum people think how wonderful. I told Charles that I had done this. After he took the symphony thing I said, "You know, I don't want you to think you've gone completely unappreciated all these years." But you see, the timing was wrong.
SUE RAGEN: I know that makes a difference.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: It makes a tremendous- - - You watch this, in everything you do timing is so important, and so when you have an idea you have to suggest it, you can't sit back and wait three years and hope that's right.
SUE RAGEN: That's right, well I think New York has done it now for five or six years.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: But I suggested they have two directors. It they'd done that you know they might have kept him on as the business director for a long time and got an artistic director who could take care of art, because I think that Arnold [Jolles--Ed.] could do a whole lot of things he's not doing and there's a lot of discontent up there now. They're complaining that the galleries are closed too long to change shows and so many galleries are closed for so long and they have to take the admission fee off so they lose money. Well I can't blame him for that, he's told to save money. It's expensive to get more people and change in a hurry. And the main thing that everybody on the board hammers away at to Mr. Jolles is get that budget in balance, which he's done and I don't see how he did it, I think that's wonderful.
SUE RAGEN: I wanted to ask you, Joanna, about art in public places. I know you have said elsewhere that art used to be in the palaces and the churches until the seventeenth century when it went into museums and now it seems to be out of museums to all sorts of places. Do you have any comments on that-- do you like that, do you feel it's going to make the cycle again, or- - -?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I like that theory; I think a little judgment should go with it. I think the people who are in charge of it should consider what kind of thing to put in which place. I think in a way they do disservice to the cause of art appreciation by putting something that is too far advanced in too mundane a place. For instance those stones in front of the Public Safety Building [Federal Building-- Editor's correction] are really lovely, but the way people see them, or the kind of people who go by there, in a hurry, just average people, have not the time to contemplate them; they take a dislike to them when they're raw, they never look at them when they're once grown up again. Something like that possibly by the museum in Volunteer Park would be a great success. Something a little more easily understood or a little more obvious in that place I think would have been better. I think that that fountain or whatever it is with all the water spouting out down by the water company, or the electric company- - -
SUE RAGEN: The Seattle Center, you mean?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: No, no. The one down in the south of town, and I think it's the water company. It's just perfect, everything about it is just right. And everybody seems to like it. I think art in public places is good. I think that personally I'm kind of fed up with art in museums, because too often it ends up in the stacks. I'm all for people getting art in their homes, but next to the homes public places are the best because many people don't have much room for it in their homes or don't have the money or the time to give to selecting it. I also think that art that is put into airports needs very careful consideration. Anything that requires contemplation should not be put in an airport. Something people see going by quickly should be there. Art in hospitals again can be wonderful, but I was in one hospital room where I complained to the director and he said, "Well, it's just a print." I said, "I don't care what it is while I'm here looking at it it's driving me nuts, so think what it does to somebody else." It was too bright, too abstract, you know. I think you just have to consider what the use is, but I do think getting out into public places is fine. Of course that really isn't new because the palaces were more public and they always had art in the courtyards outside. And the churches too, you see. Churches were public places, even if the palaces weren't. So that isn't that new. - - -But when I spoke about having got into the museum, then I was thinking the logical next step was to get it out of the museum and into the homes.
SUE RAGEN: As the next step would be, I see.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: To me, I know how much I've enjoyed, for instance, this dining room now only has Tobey on three walls, two walls, well two-and-a-half walls-- anyway I used to have Tobeys on all the walls and nothing but Tobeys in here, but I've given three to the museum which depleted this room. But the three at the museum have never seen the light of day.
SUE RAGEN: Well Tobey is another one I wanted to ask you about- - -
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: It isn't just because they're Tobeys, though. The other things I've given to the museum are down in the stacks; they don't have enough room. And also directors are more interested in certain fields than others, and whoever is in charge, the directors and curators largely dictate it, whereas if you have something in your home that you see every day, I think you get more out of it.
SUE RAGEN: Yes, I understand that. I did want to ask you, Joanna, about Mark Tobey. I know you feel talked to death about Mark Tobey, probably. I especially wanted to ask you what the outcome of the Tobey Trust Committee was?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well that's a very good question. A few people are beginning to think that the Seattle Art Museum was more or less rooked, if you will pardon the word. It's very difficult to tell because I was on the original committee but now there have been other committees in charge, and I don't seem to be able to get any kind of a straight answer. I know we had to pay enormous taxes and I'm not sure that the things that we got warrant paying that much taxes. Mark [Ritter] took what he wanted first. I guess he didn't, I guess he came to the - - - I don't know, I have very mixed feelings about that, I cannot help feeling that the collection was milked long before we ever had a look at it.
SUE RAGEN: By whom?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well I don't know. There was a lot of talk [in ] about a truck driving up and taking things out and a lot of people point the finger at , Tobey's dealer there.  insisted he paid cash for every Tobey he owns and he has records to prove it and I hardly believe that a man could be a reputable Swiss dealer and do anything else, but you just don't know what happened in those few days in between. I know that everybody to whom I have spoken who went to Tobey's home was disappointed at not finding certain things there and the paucity of material. But Tobey was a very strange man, and he many have just given everything away, just the way he decided he didn't like that will that he signed before John Hauberg, which John and Anne should have known he wouldn't stick by; you could never force Tobey or twist his arm. It was the worst possible proceeding, because eventually he would just get tired of the whole thing and say yes to anything and have no intention of doing it, which was exactly what he did. It wasn't very nice of him to let them pay him a stipend and then not come through with what they thought was the other half of the deal, but I can just hear him saying, "What difference does it make. The little that they paid me, they wouldn't even notice it, they had so much more. And I needed it and I spread it where it did some good- - -" Anyway what was left was choose-and-choose-about between the nieces and Mark Ritter and the museum. Mark want quality; the nieces wanted things they could sell quickly-- that was obvious from their choice-- and they flooded the market. So has everybody else since Tobey died. We got some good things but we had to give up so much to get enough money to pay the Swiss taxes. And I don't know what the final result is, and I don't think anybody does.
SUE RAGEN: Where are they?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, some of them are here, they are all here now I think. We sold off a lot of the material; you know it wasn't all paintings, there were things in his personal effects that there were big arguments about accessioning or not, and this again is privileged material because I am on the committee on the collection. But there were pieces there that the staff in general recommended against taking, said they were not of top quality, or they were not important, and Bill Rathbun would say, "But a piece like this never comes on the market; you never see any anymore. It's good enough, or maybe it's better than you think." But in almost every case he was voted down, partly because we needed money. So, I don't know; I think it's kind of a sorry story, but the answer is not yet fully in.
SUE RAGEN: I had another question about a small painting in the 1959 Retrospective, a painting of yours that Tobey said something in Time Magazine about.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: It's that one, yes.
SUE RAGEN: And I wasn't clear reading the letters about it.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Oh, Tobey was a very notional man you know, and he could be mean, too. And I was furious at him because he said that painting didn't amount to anything; he could do a dozen like that in one day.
SUE RAGEN: He said that in Time Magazine.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Yes, and of course that writes down the value of my painting tremendously. Now, I don't know what the value of the painting is because I went over there with Joan Escobosa one day in 1959 to pick out a Tobey painting. We each wanted to buy a late one and we couldn't afford the prices so we settled on small ones, and as we were leaving Tobey said, "I won't take any payment for them now because I don't want to pay any more income tax. You can pay me for them next year." So that was fine, it was late in the year, like November anyway, October, November. So we left and at Christmas he wrote us both letters and said he was giving them to us, so I can't say he is depreciating the value of something he charged me for, but at the same time it wasn't very nice. So I confronted him with it afterwards. I said, "What do you mean by saying that about my paintings?" He said pretty good about Berthe Poncy Jacobson's, but two of them he really knocked down. Tobey said, "Oh well, that young man made me very angry, dear; the nerve of him selecting which paintings to reproduce and write about without even consulting me. I was mad at him and I wanted to cut him down." But what he did, you see, is cut down my painting and of course he doesn't make that explanation in print.
SUE RAGEN: I read your article in Northwest Arts about Mark Tobey in July 1977.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: That wasn't much was it?
SUE RAGEN: Well, it was some nice little anecdotes about him, but one I wanted to ask you about was The Scavenger Birds in the 1959 Retrospective.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: No, not The Scavenger Birds, Skid Road Characters. Ed Thomas changes the names on things and puts wrong names on things.
SUE RAGEN: That's what I wanted to ask you about.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: He has mislabeled consistently the big Tobey that I have hanging over my bed. He insists on making it a watercolor. Tobey never used watercolors. I even asked Tobey about that painting specifically, if it was a watercolor, and he said, "No, it's a very thin tempera." And it keeps coming out, every time anything is done with it they go to Ed's catalogue and put it down watercolor, but it isn't. And for some reason, I don't know why he didn't want to name those Skid Road Characters. Tobey painted a series, he painted three of those. I know where one is and I don't know where the third one is, but anyway, he said that was a synthesis of Skid Road men who were scavengers in a way, because at the time he was painting them they were darting out into the street to pick up cigarette butts and cigar butts and so one. And seagulls which were then plentiful on the waterfront, which came up with scavenger birds, and if you look at them they are men's faces and birds' claws and so on, and he called them Skid Road Characters; he didn't label them either men or birds, but the title was changed in that show, for what reason I don't know.
SUE RAGEN: Oh, I see. Okay. Well my last question is about the growth of the museum and moving downtown or moving somewhere, and what your thoughts are on that.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Confused. Personally, I don't like downtown museums. I can't think of any museum in the world that I particularly like that is in the heart of downtown, maybe on the fringes of it. Some of my friends say the Metropolitan is downtown but that is a long way from downtown by a half. And they talk about the National Gallery in London; it's close to the downtown area but it really isn't downtown. The Louvre certainly isn't downtown, and- - - I remember that this museum was put in the park because the Fullers consulted some museum expert before they decided upon where the museum should be. And this man said he thought that the museum should always be placed where people go in their leisure time, and I think that that still holds true. If it doesn't for the momentary phase in art history it will again, because I personally can't imagine a woman who's shopping and has a baby in a go-cart stopping by to look at pictures in the museum. When I'm downtown, if I'm marketing or I'm shopping or I'm doing an errand I'm in no mood to go in and contemplate art. I don't want to take the time. I don't think there is much drop-in in museums.
SUE RAGEN: Have you been to the Bellevue Art Museum that is in the middle of the shopping center?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: No, people keep asking me that. But that's a little different than downtown in a big city, too, because after all Bellevue is kind of suburban sprawl; it really isn't exactly the heart of the city. And it may be that times have changed, that people do go shopping and go into museums, but I just can't see it. I also think that it will change the character of the volunteers very much; in fact I think it will end up by requiring more paid staff because many volunteer women cannot take the time and spend the money for the parking to go downtown and I don't know what they say they will do about the parking but they never do in the end. It doesn't work that way. So I would like to see the museum expand in Volunteer Park as it was originally planned. I think moving museums is very touchy anyway, and all the people connected with the museum say that it's impossible to expand in Volunteer Park because the mayor [Charles Royer--Ed.] doesn't want it and the Parks Department man, I can't remember his name, doesn't want it because he wants to expand the conservatory-- but that's a long way off. And the Capitol Hill people don't want it. Well, first, of all I know that Mayor Royer doesn't want it, but I'm tired of pulling his chestnuts out of the fire, which is what we were asked to do with the Westlake Mall, and he's not going to be mayor forever; the next mayor may be crazy to have it there.
As far as the people on Capitol Hill go, not everybody agrees with the Capitol Hill Community Club-- they happen to be very well organized and the other people aren't very well organized, and the people who don't agree with them haven't said very much, and they also have said the museum people have made no effort to contact them. But besides, the personnel of Capitol Hill is about to be changed. Every ten or twelve years, houses are resold, people with young families move in, and they don't want more parking, more cars, more this and more that, but the children grow up and their homes are either in the hands of older people or new people with different ideas. The main reason they don't want it is because they don't want all that parking. If it were ever explained to them that nobody is asking them to give up the green or anything. They can go underground like the university did. I just feel that if the men on the board sincerely wanted a museum in the park they could put it there. I know a lot of board members want it there, some men as well as women. A lot of the members want it there, but on the other hand the museum board today consists chiefly of the businessmen of the moment, the younger men, most of whom are wheeling and dealing in real estate. I don't mean to say that they are wheeling and dealing and using the museum, but that is just the way they think. They really do, they think in terms of real estate deals. I'm not even sure that some of them really spend much time at the museum-- they don't know who's there. I think often people on boards are kind of detached from the general public. I think over the years we have gained many supporters and members and people who were-- because it is a leisure time place in the park. They drift in because it's too hot or too cold or they get curious, and that's a good way of reaching people we couldn't find otherwise.
But I always come back to the fact, I'm not going to fight this [downtown museum] very energetically. Almost everybody concerned with the museum knows how I feel (if they don't they could find out easily enough) but I wouldn't fight it very energetically because I realize that my generation is about through, and we had the museum we wanted and we liked it. There's another generation now. It's not the next generation, it's two later really. And, they know what they want and they should have it. I didn't want my parents or grandparents to tell me what kind of a museum I should have, and there's no reason I should be dictating to this younger bunch. I think they're making a mistake. I think the generations do tend to make the same mistakes that earlier generations have. That's one of the reasons that I was always opposed to rotating boards with limited number of terms for people, because I have always felt there was enough attrition on every board to get some new people in, and what happens when you have a limited number of terms everybody who knows anything gets put off eventually, so you get a whole bunch of green people who make the same mistakes as the others have made, and who also are under the thumbs of the paid executive who is the only continuity. And I don't think that's healthy.
SUE RAGEN: You lose that continuity.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: I think that continuity is very important, because every new bunch of people who come on every new board come up with the same brilliant suggestions that four or five generations have tried and found wouldn't work, and sometimes you can explain that to them.
[Break in tape]
SUE RAGEN: I've watched people as they reach sixty and over-- I mean I'm going to get there, I hope-- and so many of them seem to narrow into themselves and lose their interest in other things and just concentrate on their own little world. You seem to be someone who has kept up your interest in a broad range of things outside of yourself; I just wonder what your secret is?
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Oh, I don't think there's any secret to it; I'm just interested in things and I was born with curiosity and I still have it. I think a lot of people were really not very whole-heartedly in things; a lot of people do things because it's expected of them or they think they should, or they think they want to find out, I don't know. So they're very glad to give up. Then a lot of people-- a great many women are married and their husbands retire and they have to do what their husbands want, which may be a narrow lifestyle and travel. Some people get tired and think, "Oh, at last I can give up all this rushing around." I have several friends who pulled out of everything and they would love to get back. I have one friend who told me many times, she used to be on several boards with me, at least one of which I have stayed on- - - Now I have narrowed down tremendously. I think I'm now only on three boards, three-and-a-half because I'm sort of half on the opera board, and I used to be on maybe, you know, fifteen at a time, because I'm really interested in these particular things and they're things I can do. I couldn't go on working for some of the things because I couldn't do what was required. But I don't have a family demanding my- - - Oh, as I say, I never looked forward to getting out of things and doing nothing because what do you do with your time? It's hard. I just think it's something that comes from within. A lot of people aren't very well when they get older, in fact some of them slow down mentally. I'm very lucky I'm still clicking along pretty well and I can do these things. You know, look at Virginia [Denny], she's just as active as she ever was. She never had much interest in community things, but I mean Virginia is no different than she was, except she was narrower when she was married to Victor because she did what he wanted. Now she's more like she was when she was a younger woman, doing what she wants. She has a completely different kind of focus than I have, but she hasn't really pulled in, though I think lately she's beginning to be very- - - Well she has always been concerned with herself.
SUE RAGEN: Yes, but it seems to me that you have had a youthful outlook all along. You seem to have adapted and changed with changes rather than resisting them.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well you have to. So many of my friends say, "You're so lucky, you have so many young friends." Well you know a lot of my old friends are dead and gone and if they're not dead and gone they're not doing very much, and you know it's either a choice of doing nothing or making- - - I was lucky that I have been in things and I have stayed in things where I meet a lot of young people. And I keep meeting a lot of young people, and I keep meeting new young friends and that's good. But I don't know, I don't think it's anything that I ever planned. I never thought about 65 being a milestone. I never think of anything, it's just the way they happen, and I think it's just the way you are. There are a few other people who go along too. You know I'm not the only one.
SUE RAGEN: But they're rare, Joanna.
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: They are but you know the majority of people don't live to be as old as I am. And the people who are worn out and finished at 75 begin to slow down earlier. I don't know what it is. I'll just say what my father always said, I was lucky I had the right ancestors, which you would now say I was lucky I had the right genes...many things, but still he was regarded by most people outside his own circle and the members of the museum as being slightly strange. He was very modest, that was part of it. He always insisted on being called Mr. Fuller; he explained to me often that Doctor was only used as a title for a Ph.D. in Europe, and not in America. Well when he got married his wife changed all that. She immediately had him change to Dr. Fuller; it was printed on all his cards, on all the museum publicity. That immediately gave him some kind of stature. And she kept projecting him into the public. It was done quite subtly, but a definite change came about so that by the time he died he was the beloved grand old man of the community and in the meantime he had become a very respected, highly regarded citizen by people in all walks of life, and people were always referring to his judgment and his knowledge in many matters connected with the arts, philanthropy, many things in the public sector. After all the museum put the beautiful sculpture out in front of the museum and that was accepted by the museum board and placed out there. They had in the very beginning put out the Oriental sculptures. It was a great contribution towards the beautification, I think, of public places and Mrs. Fuller, Jr., emphasized all of these things and by opening her house to many groups of people, anybody connected with the museum sooner or later, almost anybody got into the Fuller home- - - And she also welcomed all the staff, which by this time had grown to be considerably larger than in the early days when there were only four or five on the staff. And this was all very helpful to the museum.
Now we've gone beyond that phase; the museum has a very much larger membership than in Mrs. Fuller's day. Until the time of the King Tut show I think the museum never exceeded 6,000 in membership; in fact I think 6,000 is what they aspired to and they had about 3,000, and since then they have had many, many times that, consistently. So that the character of the museum has changed and one has to go along with that. It is not possible to do the private entertaining any more that was done before, because homes aren't large enough to take care of the vast number of people who would be involved. I know I myself, having been a docent for many years, formerly entertained the docents once every summer. I would have them come to my house and I would have a party for them in my garden. Well, there would be thirty or forty docents, then it got to be fifty, it got close to a hundred and I still continued the parties. When it got over a hundred I had to discontinue. Now there are about two hundred docents and in the foreseeable future there might be a thousand, who knows. So one has to change and adjust as these things arise.
But Mrs. Fuller came in at a time when the changes that she engineered were really beneficial to the museum and she carried the role off very well. Now the museum is more of a public institution and there is much less of the personal touch to it. Also, the board, the character of the board has changed considerably over the years; it's been broadened. I mentioned earlier that the board originally consisted of friends of Dr. Fuller and his mother Mrs. Fuller, Sr., and a few outside people, chiefly faculty members from the university. It later was broadened to include some public officials, but today the museum has many, many different types of people on its board. It has artists, which is always a moot question, but they're on now, younger people, older people, there are the ones who can work hard for the museum but can't give much, there are the ones who are potential or actual very large givers but never lift a finger and rarely go inside the museum but make a great financial contribution. There are many different kinds of people. The board is larger and the same thing can be said of the guild board and of the docent group too. The museum has in fact become a great public, civic, cultural asset to the city, where formerly it was a small, elitist group. Originally the Fullers wanted it to be a public kind of thing; they wanted everybody in on it, in a way. And in a way they wanted to keep the reins in their own hands. One has to either go one way or the other it seems to me; it's very hard to combine the two.
One of the things that has contributed very much to the museum-- the broadening of the membership-- has been the formation of the various councils. There is now a council-- the first one was the Contemporary Arts Council, then there was the Asian Art Council and then the Northwest Arts and Crafts was taken into the museum as a council, and there is the Ethnic Arts Council and the Photographic Council, and there is the newest one, the Decorative Arts Council, then there is the Regents council [membership category only--Ed.] - - -There is some duplication in the membership, but on the whole each one has its own personality and attracts different people, and different people have joined the museum just to belong to some of these councils. The Decorative Arts Council is turning out to be very popular and people who had never any interest in the museum before are now coming up there quite regularly and are attending those meetings and taking a general interest.
As the museum becomes more widely based in the general community and there's participation of more different kinds of people, the former elitist group which more or less dictated policy in the museum-- now there always is such a group in every community whether one faces it or not, and there is one in the arts here too. In my view, it's a little old fashioned outlook, but there are many people who still believe in that sort of thing. And those people can be well satisfied by joining the Regent's group which is not an active art participation group in the same sense as the others are. The names of each of the others specifies in what the people are interested, what they partake. The Regents, as of today, originally they paid $1,000 per year, as of today they pay $1,200 per year dues-- what it will be in the future I don't know but I'm sure it will go up-- for which they get nothing in return except the pleasure of being a member of the Regent's group. They have their own parties, very elegant dinners and evening affairs for which they always are assessed, they prorate the actual cost. They meet with the artists who come with shows or the lecturers, usually before the public does. They are a fairly small group, there are something over a hundred of them, and of course that makes a larger group with their spouses- - - I don't know whether that hundred was counted by couples or individuals, but anyway it is a fairly good sized group, but it's not too unwieldy. And they are on the whole a very congenial group. They meet with these artists and lecturers in one of their social functions in the evening in a small enough group so they get to know that person personally and can have a special viewing and conversation with him before he gets to the general public and gives a public lecture at the museum or speaks for one of the other councils, or whatever may be going on. So this fills the place, it seems to me, that was formerly taken by the board members or the friends of the Fullers in the very beginning who more or less ran the museum.
And then there is this very large membership of a real cross-section of the general public. Where the previews used to be attended by a few people dressed in evening clothes, with ladies pouring at one end of each table and polite tea sandwiches and so on, or little pastries in the evening, whatever, now the previews are frequently in the afternoon or the very early evening. Sometimes, depending where they are and what the show is, sometimes they just have bowls of popcorn or potato chips or something like that and a glass of punch or a glass of wine. Sometimes they are selling liquor by the drink which picks up a little money for the museum and serving little bits of sandwiches or cheese or various snacks, maybe Japanese food if it's a Japanese exhibit, something of that sort. Lately there has been some cutting down on the food at the previews because so many people were coming in to eat that the museum really couldn't afford to continue it. They were not people who really came to the previews. Maybe they were members; it's not always easy to check out if they were student members or minimum members; sometimes they would come in and eat everything in sight and it just got out of hand. Many other groups were having the same problem, I hear, continually, so it's not unique to the museum. But the previews are now great big crushes and usually there's one in the afternoon at which minors can come and at which they don't serve alcoholic liquor, and then after 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. they open the bar and no minors are allowed. But they both are very crowded, and of the people who come to them I would say the vast majority really go to the galleries and look at the exhibits, and this is one way of getting the museum to the people. It's one thing to join the museum and it's another thing to patronize it, bring something to it or take something from it. The first thing in getting people interested usually is the giving something to take from it, and then they become interested in putting something into it.
Would you like people to ask questions? Maybe you'd like to know more about Mrs. Fuller, Sr., or Mrs. Fuller, Jr., or the operation of the museum. I've mentioned the guilds; I've mentioned the docents- - -
SUZANNE RAGEN: [Inauduble]
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: Well, the Asian Art Council consists mostly of people who are interested in Asian Art. Many of them are collectors and many of them are interested in that field. They have meetings usually in conjunction with an exhibit in their area, and they have somebody who's come with the exhibit to meet with the Asian Art Council in a meeting or they may have their own private tour beforehand. They have suppers and cocktail parties and so on-- these are people with a community of interest-- and they also take trips. The ethnic arts group took people who were interested in the ethnic arts and they take trips. Whereas the Asian art group may go to Japan or may go down to California to see another Asian art show, the ethnic group mostly seems to go to Arizona and New Mexico to look at ethnic art there, or they may go to Ozette [a Northwest Indian archeological site on the Washington Coast--Ed.] or someplace around here. The photographic group is quite new. They have speakers who are photographers and they have people who are interested in photography, not as a historical or personal record, but as an art form, and they take it very seriously. The decorative art group is new and has the most devoted members of any group that I think I know. It actually was created by popular demand and most of the people who belong are collectors of some sort or another. They are the ones who are interested in early American furniture or old English silver, the porcelain collectors. There are many people who are specialists in fields which are really very important and these people are very knowledgeable, but they really are classed as the decorative arts. They don't fit in well with the fine arts, and this council has become very active and they have had several shows in their line. There was a show recently of English porcelain and old English silver and two speakers came with it from England and of course the group was very active with that. Where they are going to go before they are through I don't know, but they are certainly taking a very active participation in the museum and many of them were either not museum members at all or not very active originally.
The first of the councils that was formed was the Contemporary Arts Council. I was in on the founding of that and so I happen to know a little more about it than I do some of the others. There were quite a few people in the city, there was really quite a large group connected with the museum, who were very interested in the contemporary arts, particularly interested in the fifties and the work of the Abstract Expressionists. It's hard to believe, but the museum never had any shows on this field. Dr. Fuller did not care very much for that kind of art. He didn't care much for the Abstract Expressionist painters at all, wasn't particularly interested in building up a collection. The University of Washington with the Henry Gallery was far ahead of the Seattle Art Museum in that regard. Dr. Fuller's various assistant directors, from time to time, including Ed Thomas, also weren't interested, so we never had any contemporary art here. The only time there was any interest in it was during the brief period right after World War II, in the middle 1940s when Sherman Lee, who later became a very distinguished director of the Cleveland Museum, was our associate director. But of course he left to go to a museum with a fabulous Far Eastern collection, and a wonderful salary, and he has become one of the most distinguished museum directors in the country. At that time he was a very young man, just completing his army service. He not only was a great expert in the field of Asian art, but he was very much interested in the total art picture and he was interested in contemporary art and building up the museum collection and broadening it.
There was a very active group at that time who were very interested in contemporary painting, the Abstract Expressionists in particular, some of whom were collecting some of the very best paintings. And this group was led by Virginia Bloedel Wright and her husband Bagley Wright who were building one of the most distinguished collections in the country of Abstract Expressionist painters. Ginny Wright interested her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bloedel, in the formation of a Contemporary Arts Council, and she called me and Kayla Skinner, Mrs. Ned Skinner, who was also interested, and asked us to help her in starting a Contemporary Arts Council. Her parents had offered a sum of money, I do not remember exactly what it was, it seemed a large sum at the time, but in retrospect it doesn't seem very large, but they would put that up annually if the council could raise that much in membership and various ways to get the council started. So we made up lists and found many other people, some from the docent group, some of them people who weren't really connected with the museum, and we formed this council with the express intention of bringing to the museum, to Seattle, some contemporary art shows. Well we were all very naive because, through the collection of the Wrights, we were able to find out what shows were available and were traveling around and the Wrights wrote and asked to book some of these collections and of course the word came back- - - We originally were starting to found a separate organization not that closely connected with the museum. Well of course the various people managing these shows wrote back and wanted to know who was going to pack and unpack the shows, and who was going to carry the insurance, where it would be displayed and what the security [members] would be, none of which any of us had thought about at that point, so it became apparent that instead of being a separate entity we would become the Contemporary Arts Council of the Seattle Art Museum. Everything would be consigned to the museum and they would be responsible for insurance, packing and unpacking, and the Contemporary Arts Council would be responsible for paying for the show, the catalogue, and extra curatorial help we needed, and all the expenses connected with it. It would be our donation to the museum. And the first exhibition that we brought here was I think in 1963. It was what was known as Op Art, which is short for Optical Art, and it included also some Abstract Expressionists and some people who would later be known as Pop Artists. It was a sort of transition period. It was a very big and very important show, probably the most important show traveling the United States at the time. It was quite expensive and we did many, many things to raise enough money, but we did get together enough money to purchase that show and arrange to have it shown at the Seattle Art Museum. And from then on at least once a year the Contemporary Arts Council always brought a large show. As the years passed the museum began to bring in more shows on their own so the purpose of the Contemporary Arts Council changed a little. They began to sponsor the creation of special objects, sometimes in very far out fields, and we would offer those then for museum members and for the general public, such as one [that] was outdoor art in the form of cutting grass in a certain form or a certain shape. I can't think of the terms of some of the different kinds of art, they come and go so fast, but whatever was the thing that was arriving on the scene and being discussed, why the Contemporary Arts Council usually does make some arrangements to have some of that show here in Seattle while it still is new and controversial. They also bring lecturers and they raise a lot of money for the museum; they make a contribution every year to the museum and help finance some of the museum shows in their field.
That council has changed a lot over the years. The other councils coming later were formed a little differently, but the Contemporary Arts Council-- membership was originally by invitation only and that created a lot of bad feeling, but the people who were behind that council would not change it and it took a long time-- it was really in existence for quite a few years before we were able to get it opened up. Charles Cowles was here then as curator for contemporary art. He later went back to New York, but he felt that that must be open to all museum members. It really had quite a lot of discussion and quite a lot of bad feelings were generated about opening this up. For one thing, the Contemporary Arts Council, being a rather cohesive group, had always met in homes, and they had very nice parties for very modest amounts of money-- usually the hostess picked up most of the tab-- and some of them didn't want to give up that cozy feeling. But by the time the museum had come of age, it was necessary to open it up. The minute it was thrown open, the membership about tripled and it's been growing ever since. All kinds of people, young people, people we know, people we don't know, people we've come to love, and people who get in our hair, are joining and being very active in taking part in it, and it's raising a lot of money and has been a very beneficial thing for the museum.
The Asian Art Council was the next one to form and originally it was also by invitation, not because everybody wasn't welcome, but because people who started it thought they knew the people who were interested in Asian art, and they went around asking people to join. People didn't feel free to volunteer, but anybody who ever asked about it and said they were interested was immediately asked to become a member, and since then all the other councils have always been open to general membership. The only restriction is that the person joining the council must be a member of the Seattle Art Museum, and there are a great many people who have joined the Seattle Art Museum for the explicit purpose of belonging to a council. I foresee that there will be many more councils and many specialized fields in the future.
You asked the question about the Decorative Arts Council- - - That really was a wonderful thing to have formed because two members of the Seattle Art Museum, Mr. and Mrs. Henry [Isaacson], have a very notable porcelain collection. They know a great deal about it and they have the means to buy the finest pieces available, which they have always done, and they have given I am sure more than $100,000 worth of art objects to the art museum and are continually giving more. But they were feeling very unhappy because largely due to the pressure of space and partly because nobody on the staff was really very much concerned with that kind of art; they were feeling very unhappy because their collection was rarely or never shown. Many years would go by and maybe one or two pieces would be shown in conjunction with something else. The minute the Decorative Arts Council was formed, in conjunction with it, there was a show of porcelain and a show of old English silver, and the porcelain that was at the museum originally  came from private collections here in Seattle.
[Tape 3; Side1]
JOANNA ECKSTEIN: by their coming in here, because there was a lovely rose pergola where the museum now stands, and we all begrudged the loss of it. However, once the museum was here some of us felt better about it, but a great many people didn't. This museum was frequently referred to as "that abomination on the hill" or "that monstrosity in Volunteer Park," in the early days. One wonders now why anyone felt that way but it was considered so far out modern as to be an offense.
[Break in tape]
- - -the brainchild and the gift of Dr. Eugene Fuller, who in those days was always called "mister" because he was very modest about his Ph.D., and his mother, Mrs. Eugene Fuller. Their reason for giving the gift was double faceted: Seattle had no museum and they felt that that would be a very great asset to the city, and also we were in the deeps of the Depression and building the museum gave very much needed jobs to many people. The museum was built at a cost of $250,000, laugh that off, one quarter of one million dollars total cost. It was the single largest building project in the state of Washington at that time and it gave much needed employment to many very hard-up people, so it was philanthropic as well as a cultural boon to the city. Now, the climate in which the museum came into being was very different than it is today. There were no art galleries in this city; in fact when Zoe Dusanne opened in 1950 I think that was the first one we had. There were very few books on art. There were I suppose some magazines published but they weren't generally circulated. There wasn't the color photography we have today and there wasn't the instant communication, so most people here knew absolutely nothing about contemporary art or even not-so-contemporary art. Few people went to Europe. Few people even traveled to the East Coast because, aside from the expense, the time consumed getting there was more than working people could possibly afford to take off. So everything that was shown up here opened new windows to these people.
I want to tell you a little bit about the Fullers before I get into more about the museum. Mrs. Fuller, I suppose at the time the museum was built was in her 70s, probably her middle 70sÿ-- she lived to be 90 and died after 1950. She was a little woman, very small and kind of round, and unless you looked at her face very sharply, she looked rather grandmotherly. But she had a very intelligent and a very determined face. She was a very bright woman. She always was very softly spoken and very mild, but she had a will of iron and she always got her own way. I think she dominated her children-- maybe a nicer way of putting it would be to say that she made them what they became-- but she was the strongest character in the family during the years that she lived. She practically always accompanied her son wherever he went; they were almost inseparable. Dr. Fuller at that time of course was a young man, very handsome, the greatest catch in the city; all of the girls were crazy about him. He was very athletic, he rode a big black horse called Midnight, he rode every morning, he rode as though the devil were chasing him. He drove his automobile in much the same fashion, and he danced about the same way too, only it was less effective on the dance floor, let us say, than it was on the athletic field. He was a many facted man. He was a geologist by profession-- he taught at the university for awhile-- and when an unexpected volcano appeared in Mexico he went down frequently to see it, to measure it, and when it disappeared he went down to see its demise. He told me once that he had been elected president of the Society of Vulcanologists and I couldn't imagine what he was doing with an anvil but it turned out that he meant Volcan with an O, not with a U.
The museum opened with a fair amount of fanfare. The city gave the property and agreed to maintain the museum. It was quite a long time in building.
Another thing the Fullers were insistent about for the museum was that everything in the museum as far as possible should be locally produced. the exterior of the museum-- I know many of you think it's marble but it isn't-- is Washington State Wilkinson stone. All the hardware in here was purchased from the Seattle Hardware Company and the Blacks, who owned the Hardware Company, became some of the earliest, very generous patrons of the museum. Everything in the place was the very best, and wherever possible it was obtained locally and if there was a local product manufactured that was suitable, that was used. Now the museum is very crowded and we have long since outgrown it. However, when it was opened, the museum was virtually empty. Mrs. Fuller gave her snuff bottle collection and several other things to the museum. Furthermore she came here and arranged them herself. Dr. Fuller, and his mother to some extent, provided much of the Oriental collection. They had been collecting Oriental pieces for many years when it was not so fashionable and one could obtain things at a price that one could afford. So they set up the museum and there was presumably plenty of room to grow. In fact there were two galleries, the octagonal gallery and I think one other small gallery for which they had nothing. So Dr. Fuller told me, with great delight, that he had been so fortunate that he had been able to acquire some very good facsimiles of Impressionists and post-Impressionists, beginning from the Barbizon school up to date paintings. He had them nicely framed and he had two galleries filled with these facsimiles, and they were a wonderment to everybody who looked at them. I wish you could have heard the comments. Many of them were reproductions of paintings that had been shown in 1913 in the Armory Show. This was 1933 in Seattle and people acted as though this had just been painted yesterday and was scandalous and outrageous.
The best attended functions in the museum in this period were always the Northwest Annual, because people knew many of the artists and they were very interested in what they could do. Many of them who were very well known then are long since forgotten, though some of them are still around, after all. Kenneth Callahan is still around and so is oh, I can't think of her name, Fitzgeralds' wife. Anyway people like the Camffermans have been forgotten I think pretty much. Jimmy Grunbaum went on to New York where he has had some small fame. Tobey and Graves and Callahan and Anderson were young men just beginning to be known and they were still exhibiting in the Northwest Annual. The Annuals were interesting, in one way particularly interesting-- you could almost tell when anybody had gone to the University of Washington by they way they painted. There were the people who had studied under Ambrose Patterson and they painted like Impressionists, and there were the people who had studied with Walter Isaacs, and they used the same colors Walter Isaacs did, and then there were all the people who were painting and sculpting long necked ladies and you knew that the person had been there to study with Archipenko. But it was all very interesting and very educational and people took it all very seriously and enjoyed seeing all this.
The attendance at the museum in general was practically nil at this point. When the museum was opened Dr. Fuller had decided to put a small entrance fee on on Fridays so there would be sometime when the museum members could come in without being jostled and bothered by crowds. Well, actually, there were no crowds ever, so the pay day was a complete and total failure. He was very glad to have an excuse to get rid of that when World War II was declared. He felt that in the interest of national unity he should remove that.
The guild lectures were attended by fewer people than are in this auditorium
now. Mrs. Fuller's friends used to telephone around the day before a guild lecture
and ask everybody to come, and then they would try to fill up three or four
front rows, or at least get people spaced so they looked fairly full, so that
the speaker would not be talking to an empty auditorium. Of course we didn't
have many traveling speakers, we mostly had Dick Fuller who was the director,
and Kenneth Callahan who was the curator.
The museum had a very small staff and it was a very close family. Mrs. Fuller always worried about Kenneth Callahan's health. She was always giving him halibut oil pills because he had so many colds. She would bring them up here to the museum to him. Of course his wife took very good care of him at home, and of course Kenneth is still around, though he no longer is very young, so his health must have been better than she thought.
The first board consisted, contrary to what a great many people think, of a mixture of people. There were the Fullers' friends and the people who had been in the old Fine Arts Society, who were mostly a rather limited social group, but there were also people like Glen Hughes, and there was an architect-- the Fullers really tried to reach out into the community and get appropriate people. Unfortunately very few of them every came to board meetings so that changed around a little, and also unfortunately, the board never was asked to do very much except to vote approval of the things that Dr. Fuller had already executed. That went on for many years, as long as he was president.
The previews were quite formal; everybody dressed for them and they were reasonably well attended. The men wore tuxedoes, believe it or not, and the ladies dressed up. And Morris Graves at one time absolutely scandalized people by coming in a black tuxedo and blue tennis shoes. Who would notice today? And nobody thought it was accidental; he said he forgot but everybody thought that was a way for him to get attention. I'm coming to the docent program eventually but I wanted to give you some of the background of this.
Fund raising was practically nil; Dr. Fuller always reported every year that the museum was operating in the black. I think the books were reasonably well kept, and whatever deficit there was he simply picked up, threw the money in the account, and then reported that the museum was solvent. Mrs. Stimson who was a great friend of the Fullersÿ-- Mrs. Thomas Stimson, who was one of the greatest assets the museum ever had, not only founded the Thomas Stimson Memorial Collection and kept adding to it-- it's all first quality-- but she helped in all sorts of ways. As a matter of fact she ran the museum for two years, which hardly anybody realized. During World War II Dr. Fuller was in the army and Mrs. Stimson very quietly took over the operation of the museum. Now Dr. Fuller was only as far away as an office on Second Avenue because he had steel plates in his back-- I think he had injured himself playing football or something of that sort at Yale. Already in the First World War he was an ambulance driver because he was not able to get into the army, but nothing would ever dampen his zeal as a patriot.
I've lost my thread of thought, I'm sorry to say. Anyway, the previews were very well attended as I say.
The people felt that the museum was sort of a closed corporation; the people in the city felt they had to be invited to join, and Mrs. Stimson thought that we should go out and raise money for the museum, that there should be a committee from the board who would ask people to join and ask them to donate. Now you must understand that in those days a donation of $25 was classed as a major donation. I can remember getting a $25 donation, I guess I got a $100 donation from a banker who was going to pay $25 quarterly, and he paid the $25 and never paid the rest, which was typical of what was going on because times were really very bad. This was in the deeps of the Depression and Mrs. Fuller objected very strenuously to us going out and asking the public for money. She thought that was very undignified and she would rather that she and Dr. Fuller put up their own money than go to the public. On the other hand they wanted members and they wanted it to be a public museum. It was a very split kind of thinking, and sometimes very hard to cope with.
Mrs. A.M. Young was the Educational Director and she influenced-- well I was going to say a whole generation of young people, but more than that. She ran Saturday morning meetings, I will call them, for young people. They would come here, sometimes without shoes-- they were required to take their roller skates off when they entered the door-- and they were also required to take their dogs out of the museum. Otherwise they could do as they wished and they did come in in larger numbers than the general public. They adored Mrs. Young, who had a wonderful personality, and I can still see them racing through the galleries every Saturday morning. She would describe something to them-- a laughing sun, or a camel that has only one hump, or something of that sort-- and she would give them no clue as to where it was. And they would go through the whole museum looking until they found this object, so of course they began to get a taste for some of these other pieces. Then when they would find it they would come back and tell her, and one little girl rushed up to her once, she was the first one in, and she had found it, and she wanted to know what she got and Mrs. Young said to her, "Nothing but the satisfaction of knowing that you found it," which was a whole new idea. But anyway the children adored her and they came up here in great numbers, and she told me once long years after she had these classes, that a young man had come to her recently and told her that she had influenced his whole life, that he was a poor boy, he was one of the boys who came up here in whatever boys in those days wore-- it was before the jeans era-- and no shoes, and he listened to her and he became so enamored of painting that he had managed to get some instruction and he had become a very successful commercial artist.
The museum really did fill a void here and it eventually did get through to the public. The docent program was established early on. When you think of it today, when I see what the docents do today- - - For instance I think I am the oldest living docent and I've been a docent forever. I don't know really when I started but I do know that during World War II I was conducting tours of servicemen, and I was not a brand new docent. But I was not one of the original docents. I came in a little later, and the first Mrs. Ernest Patty was chairman when I came in, and I became a docent simply by being asked if I was willing to be one and I said, "Yes," so then I was assigned a tour. Bernice Soth told me once that she became a docent soon after I did. She said she had a little more training-- when she said she was willing to be a docent she was told to follow me around on one tour, and then she was assigned a tour. In fact much later than that-- well not much later, I suppose in the late 1940s, it was after World War II anyway-- Dr. Fuller called me at home one morning, I suppose around 11 a.m., and wanted to know if at 2 o'clock I could conduct a tour on the Egyptian exhibit which he was then putting up. I said, "Well I have the time free, but Dick, I don't know anything about Egyptian art." He said, "That's all right. You come on up here and I'll tell you." So I trotted up here and he took me around and showed me part of what was up, and he made, oh he was very helpful, he patted one animal and he said- - - I said, "What are the most important pieces that I should stress?" So he patted one large carved figure and he said, "This porphyry bull is very important," and I said "What's porphyry?" and he patted it again and said, "This is." So Kenneth Callahan, who was still the curator and was helping put it up, came to me just before I went home for lunch and he said, "Jo, I realize you need a little more help." He said, "When you go home for lunch get out the Encyclopedia Britannica; they have a very good article on Egyptian art," as indeed they do, about forty pages, double columned, on India paper in small print, which I couldn't possibly get through and if I could have I couldn't have digested it. Anyway we had a very successful tour, because in those days anything you told the people was a wonderment to them. They just loved it and it was all brand new and even if you made a few mistakes who was to know the difference.
Well I could go on almost indefinitely. I want to tell you one other anecdote though, because we think we are so sophisticated now. At the time we had the big Van Gogh show in 1959, I was out selling at the desk and one lady came running up to me and she said, "I want to know about those pictures in the big gold frames." Well it took me a few minutes to realize what she was talking about and I said, "Oh, you mean the paintings- - -," and she said, "It's the frames I'm interested in; I want to know about those big gold frames." And so I tried to think what she was talking about and finally I said, "Oh you mean the Kress Gallery," and she said, "Oh that's where you get them," and trotted off very happily. So, I thought we had come a long way from that, but not too long ago, sometime within the last five or six years, when I was taking tickets one Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in the entrance hall here and you know that's a gold leaf ceiling out there. I don't know if any of you have bothered to look at it but it's real gold leaf. A nice looking couple came in and-- this is twenty years later than the first episode-- and went back into the gallery and pretty soon the lady came out again and she said to me, "I wonder if you could help me. I came up here to see (what she called) the Tiepolo ceiling. Is that it up there?" pointing to the gold leaf. So I guess people don't get all that much more sophisticated in a hurry.
Well time marched on. The guilds and docents were both greatly expanded and far more professional than they had been. The museum had a great many loyal volunteers. In fact I was very interested in looking at an old clipping I have to see who attended the opening of the museum as reported by the Seattle P-I [Post-Intelligencer--Ed.], which largely stressed what the women wore. I saw that Mary Robinson was there, and Annie Hauberg, who was listed as Miss Ann Gould, and of course I was there. There were three or four people there that night at the opening in 1933 who are still very active in the museum, which I think is very greatly to their credit and really says something about the museum.
A change started in the 1950s in the museum. Several things happened. Old Mrs. Fuller died and Dr. Fuller married Betty, who had very different ideas than her ex mother-in-law. She opened up the museum a great deal to many more people, and she entertained the guilds and the docents and the various museum committees very extensively and was helpful in expanding it, and also made Dr. Fuller into a very venerable public character. Before that he really had been considered kind of a joke by the general public. Esthetes were not in fashion in those years, and people didn't understand much about him at all. The activities of the museum were greatly expanded too, and another thing that happened was the Betty Bowen came on as a part-time publicity woman. Of course Betty was a most wonderful person-- she only worked here half-time; the other half of her time she worked for Trader Vics and she managed to get the two together very nicely, so that Trader Vic would contribute various things to the openings which was very helpful. Betty had for many years, beginning when she was a very young girl, been interested in artists. Now this in a time when the artists were really hungry; there were no galleries, there was nowhere they could sell their paintings. Betty literally would go around to people with paintings of these artists-- she would come to me with Tobeys for instance-- with the artists' paintings under her arms. She would figure out who would be most likely to buy a Gilkey, who would be most interested in a Tobey. She would go to these people and she would say, "Dear, I have the most wonderful painting for you, and it's only (whatever it was)," which sounded expensive but they were very very cheap in those days, in the hundreds not the thousands of dollars, mostly under five hundred. And she would personally sell these paintings or get the people together with the artist. She never stopped doing that all her life, though there was little need for it in the last years. When she came up here as publicity person she was a wonderful mixture of efficiency, resourcefulness and humor. Emmett Watson once said she was the fastest hang-up in the city. She phoned anybody she could think of, the mayor, Emmett Watson, you or me, or if she could get to a senator that was fine. She would phone and say, "Dear, I want those three old houses on Cherry Street moved out to Magnolia Bluff. Thank you so much. Goodbye." And bang down the phone. Nobody ever had a chance to demur, and she did get all kinds of things done. She also knew everybody in town in the radio and TV stations and she finally projected the image of the museum to the general public. She would have pictures taken of anybody who was doing anything. She got pictures in the Argus, in the daily papers. She was wonderful about it, but she never did lose her sense of humor. Millard Rogers was curator for Oriental art at the time that Betty married John Bowen, and he said that the first he knew about Betty's intending marriage, the first that anybody on the museum staff knew was when he found a note on his desk that said-- I may not have the words exactly right, but this is about it-- it said, "I'm leaving now to look for a kangaroo in whose pouch I may put flowers for my wedding. Back in two weeks."
Anyway, she did wonderful things for the museum and she was a great character and she began to bring about a change insomuch as the museum began to be publicized.
Then several other things happened. Virginia Wright moved back to Seattle and began- - - And she was very interested in the Abstract Expressionists. She talked to the docents about them and she also agitated a great deal to have some modern art shows. It's hard to believe it but we had no shows of any kind of contemporary art before then, and Virginia was very influential in starting, in fact it was her idea originally, to start the Contemporary Arts Council, which was the first council, and she persuaded her parents to put up matching funds if she could get a certain number of people to join and raise a certain amount. And the Contemporary Arts Council brought the first contemporary shows that came here, with "The Responsive Eye" which was in the 1960sÿ-- that was the first big one, and it, well it was almost a scandal but it was very successful, and it continued to function in that way until the museum came into the second half of the twentieth century. Then they got into Pop, Conceptual, and you know where we are today. And the museum has really been a great spurt to art here.
Now art is going off in many different directions today, with the outdoor art, and art in public places. We are going through a transition. I think many of us don't realize that art was not always in a museum. It was a big thing when art was taken out of the churches and the palaces and put into the museum where everybody could see it. That was a great step. I suppose that was in the seventeenth century or eighteenth century or thereabouts. Now we are going on to do something else this afternoon, so I'm going to show you a few slides and explain about them as I go along. I can bring a few more things in by doing that.
This is a picture of Volunteer Park as it looked before the museum came in. If you look to the right you can see the rose pergola and that nothing in the park was very grown up. It was a nice peaceful place where I rode my bicycle as a child, and where all of my generation entertained themselves by running up and down the water tower.
Well, when the museum construction began it was very interesting. I used to
come up often to see it and so did many other people, and this is a picture
of Mrs. Fuller and Dick Fuller in the construction. I think it's the day of
the dedication, judging that Mrs. Fuller has on a corsage. And you can see that
Dr. Fuller is young and quite handsome.
And here is the museum finished, with very little growing up around it, not all of the sculptures in place. But, oh, it was such a beautiful thing; everybody thought it was simply marvelous. The night it opened was a nice balmy night and we all could come in without wearing wraps, no rain on us, everybody enjoyed it very much. Part of having the museum built entirely of local products was also the choice of the architect. Carl Gould, who was a local architect and a great friend of the Fullers, designed the museum.
This is the dedication of the museum. That's the biggest crowd they would see at the museum for several years I think. The mayor is making a dedication speech and I suspect that this crowd, well it's well filled out with people who just happened to be in the park and didn't have any place else to go, and city employees, because I don't think there was all that much interest. Of course there were many of the Fullers' friends there.
Incidentally this museum was designed as the first and central wing of a three-wing museum. Nobody seems to be able to find the plans for the rest of the museum, which would be out of date today, but I think would be very interesting to see. There's supposed to be a wing at each end of the museum, running in the opposite direction, vertical against this horizontal.
When the museum opened it was really a lovely place to spend an afternoon. It was very uncrowded and very uncluttered and one could browse around and sit and contemplate the sculptures and muse with one's soul, whatever one wanted. This is the garden court, the way it looked for many years. You can see there's nothing on the walls and not too many statues and there's a beautiful Fountain of the Winds which is now out on the lawn. Down at the end, the little fountain dripping water; it was a lovely restful place.
Now this isn't a very good picture, but the museum was really cozy. Every Christmas they had a party for children, and here's a picture of the Christmas tree, with Dr. Fuller dressed as Santa Claus, surrounded by the children.
I'm now going to show you pictures of some of the people who were very active in the museum and contributed a great deal.
[Tape 3; Side 2]
- - -Dr. Fuller's martinis, some of you may remember, were really something to raise your hair, but she never showed any signs, she just got brighter and brighter as she went along.
And this is a picture of Mrs. Thomas B. Stimson, who I told you before ran the museum in Dr. Fuller's absence, unbeknownst to most everybody else. She did a great many other things for the museum. She not only talked it up and influenced many people into becoming interested in it, and some of them who were able to give quite a bit of money to the museum, but she took an active part in the guild; she attended all the lectures. And when World War II came, before she was running the museum, she arranged with Dr. Fuller to quietly have some of the museum's finest and most valuable pieces spirited inland into Salt Lake City where they could be put away safely. Now I doubt if many of you realized it, but in the early days of World War II the citizens of Seattle were expected to be bombed. We were told by the Air Force that there was no air cover, no protection available to us, and that the Japanese might well get through. In fact, I think most of you have seen the [Thorne Rooms], the collection of miniature rooms at the Chicago Institute. They were on display here at the time of Pearl Harbor and they were attracting what were for that day tremendous crowds, and the lady who was in charge of them was so frightened when war broke out that she had those things packed up and caught the first train out of Seattle. I remember talking to her the next morning and she was shaking with terror for herself and fear that the rooms would be damaged. Anyway, Mrs. Stimson got a great many things away from here. She always did everything very quietly with no fanfare, so that nobody was alarmed, and nobody realized these things were gone but they were protected. She did everything that way. She took good care of things, she was kind to the staff, she was a great friend of Mrs. Fuller's as well as of Dr. Fuller's, and I think she as a great influence on us. She was a great lady, and she was very active in everything in the community, and we could use more like her now.
This is Mrs. A.M. Young who was the original educational director. Mrs. Young
had been born in India and she had a great background for Oriental art. She
could tell the most fascinating stories. She always had a little anecdote to
go with everything. In fact I learned a great deal from her about how to reach
the public. She knew a great deal, but she was not in the truest sense of the
word a very deep scholar about these things. But she had that wonderful gift
of being able to communicate with everybody, people of all ages and all walks
of life. She was a lovely looking woman with a lovely voice, a charming voice,
a charming, delightful, warm personality. And she would take people through
the galleries and she always seemed to know exactly what was the right thing
to say to each person. And then she went around the state speaking, mostly to
groups of students. Later, when the museum began to acquire more fine objects
to fill up the galleries, Dr. Fuller took down the facsimiles and Mrs. Young,
who was not very young in those days, by that time, piled them into the back
of her car and she went driving around all through the state of Washington speaking
to school groups and showing them these paintings. They were eventually given
away to the schools in poor districts in Eastern Washington where I'm sure they
are probably still serving, and doing very well.
This is a picture of Norman Davis; many of you may recognize him, he is still on the board though I think he is now emeritus. Norman not only gave the gallery that bears his name and his wonderful collection of classic art, more of which he has announced he will give to the museum eventually or they will get on his death, but he was a good businessman and when he came on the board sometime in the 1950s he was absolutely appalled to find out the financial chaos that was going on up here. He and a great many board members were appalled at the low salaries that the staff was being paid, and the lack of any kind of security they had in the way of pension funds and so on. So the first thing that had to be done was to correct that was to get the museum on a more realistic financial basis, and Norman took it upon himself at one of the meetings, much against the wishes of the Fullersÿ-- at least they protested. I imagine in their heart of hearts they must have been happy about it because I think the idea of the way it was being run was very worrisome to them; they both knew they couldn't live forever and who would pick up the checks when they were gone, for the deficits. Norman stood up at a meeting of the-- at an annual meeting-- and told the members what they had never known before, that the museum had been operating at a substantial loss every year, and that it had never showed because Dr. Fuller out of his own pocket had always made it up, and he, Norman Davis, thought that was disgraceful. It was a disgrace to the community and it was a very poor way to run the museum, very unbusinesslike, and he made every effort to get it on some kind of a better financial basis, which it still is. Of course we still operate at a deficit but at least we know it's our own deficit and we know that it's there, which we did not, of course, before.
This is a picture of Sherman Lee. I don't know how many of you know that Sherman Lee, the distinguished director of the Cleveland Museum, was here in the 1950s at the end of World War II. He was the associate director here and he did a great deal for this museum. He really started the painting collection. Dr. Fuller had little interest in that, but Sherman did and he was instrumental in getting the Kress Foundation to give us paintings. He had first choice on the paintings that came into this area and he selected the ones we have here. I asked him once why he had selected the particular paintings he had, rather than taking some with maybe bigger names on them which some of the other museums in this area got. I don't choose to be very specific, but I was with him, and he said he wouldn't take anything that wasn't exactly what it was purported to be. And some of these other paintings maybe came from the studio of the painter, and the painter painted in the little finger on one hand or something of that sort, or they were very poor examples of the painter's work. He wouldn't have it. He took nothing but the best that was available and he did set up the nucleus of a very fine collection. He did wonderful things for the museum; he was very bright and energetic and controversial young man. But of course when he was offered the opportunity to go to Cleveland he could hardly turn it down. He has become one of the most distinguished people in the museum world today, but he has never forgotten Seattle. He is always very friendly and been very gracious to any of us that he knew during those years, when we meet him elsewhere, as is his wife. There he is, giving a lecture on Venetian paintings to some people. Now you may recognize some friends there, I don't know, but you can see it's a small group and very informal.
This is one of the guild boards. There's Mrs. Stimson and Mrs. Patty, and I can't identify the other two, and it's not marked on the slide, so I don't know if any of you can tell them or not. The guild board had a great many different functions than it has today. The guild worked differently. It was smaller, it was more personal, it was not involved with the total museum as much as it is today, and of course it was not in on the money raising projects. This was taken long before the days of the architectural tour for instance, which Dorothy Brink originated sometime in the 1950s. We had nothing of that sort in the early days.
And this is a picture of Dr. Fuller and his wife, Mrs. Fuller. They were married in the 1950s and this was the first major change I feel that came about in the museum. Betty was a much more worldly person than the Fullers, and she had ideas about stretching out in the community. She still liked to keep things pretty much in her own hands. She liked to control the reins pretty much as her mother-in-law had in her day, only she wanted to control things differently. She wanted the museum to have more public support, to take a more major position in the community. She had a great deal to do really with it expanding and bringing in many people. It became the in thing for young women who were newcomers to Seattle to join the guild and become active in the museum, and because of that the museum has acquired some of its very best workers. I know some of you docents have come to Seattle at one time or another as strangers and it's very nice to have something really interesting and really pleasant to work with in those early days and meet the kind of people that you really enjoy being with and- - - Nobody had really paid much attention to the museum on that basis before, but Betty helped raise the prestige and got a great many people in. I know we should be motivated by something other than prestige, but I think the combination of that and the deeper motivation is a very good combination, and I think we all really do enjoy it.
Now we started late and it's been a long day, and I'm going to wind this up with one more anecdote and one more picture and if any of you have any questions I would be glad to answer them.
I want to tell you about this. In 1934 when I was considerably younger than I am now, the Fullers and Mrs. Stimson went to Japan and they left Kenneth Callahan in charge of the museum. Kenneth was very, very eager to do well so that he could give a good report when they came back. Well the museum had just received its first inheritance, which I believe was $1,000. It was the first time anybody had died and left anything in their will to the museum. Now it may be that some of the people who were intimate friends of the Fullers had done so, but I don't think any of them had died yet. Anyway, some woman, who was just a woman who was interested, died and left a small bequest to the museum. It seemed a bit larger bequest at the time. After all, $1,000 in a $250,000 total museum is a good proportion. And this old Chinese bronze beaker was purchased with the money. That's a laugh too, because today it would cost many times that. So Kenneth Callahan called me one day and he asked me if I would come and have my picture taken with it. And I said I didn't particularly want to but if it would help the museum I would do it, and he said he so much wanted to make good while the Fullers were gone, and show them what he could do, and in those days we got very little newspaper publicity, except about what the ladies wore at openings, and who poured. But anyway, he said that he had approached the papers to write a story about the bequest and show the beaker, and they said that they would do this only if someone active in the museum and acceptable to the paper would hold the beaker and have their picture taken, and he went over a long list of people and he said they finally said they'd accept you, and would you please come and do this for me. Well, Kenneth was an old friend of mine, the Fullers were old friends of mine, and I loved the museum dearly and I only lived a block away, so I said, "All right. I will do it." And I got my hair neatly combed and I put on a new dress and I put myself together well and had my picture taken and I thought it just came out lovely. For once in my life I was really pleased with the whole thing-- until I saw the caption: "Relics of Ancient Days." But now when I look at it I realize that now after almost fifty years, time has made the headline writer right.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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 Joanna Eckstein, 1983 April 7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.