Draper, William F. (William Franklin)
Painter, Illustrator, Portrait painter
Active in New York, N.Y.; Hyannis Port, Mass.
Size: Transcript: 91 pages
Format: Originally recorded on 3 tape reels. Reformatted in 2010 as 5 digital wav files. Duration is 4 hr., 50 min.
Collection Summary: Interviews of William F. Draper conducted 1977 June 1-28, by William McNaught, for the Archives of American Art.
Biographical/Historical Note: William F. Draper (1912-2003) was a painter and educator from New York, New York. Full name: Willian Franklin Draper.
These interviews are part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Funding for the transcription of this interview provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Women's Committee.
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 William F. Draper, 1977 June 1-28, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Interview with William Draper
Conducted by William McNaught
At his house on 160 East 83rd Street in New York, NY
June 1, 3, 6, 24 & 28, 1977
June 3, 1977 session
June 6, 1977 session
June 24, 1977 session
June 28, 1977 session
The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with William Draper on June 1, 3, 6, 24 & 28, 1977. The interview took place at his house on 160 East 83rd Street in New York, NY, and was conducted by William McNaught for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Funding for the transcription of this interview provided by the Smithsoinian Institution's Women's Committee.
The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.
WILLIAM MCNAUGHT: This is William McNaught talking to William Draper on June 1, 1977 at Mr. Draper's house at 160 East 83rd Street in New York City. Mr. Draper, shall we begin the interview with your telling us when you were born and where, something about your childhood and growing up.
WILLIAM DRAPER: Fine. Hello, Mr. McNaught. We have to have the formalities.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: Well, I was born in Hopedale, Massachusetts in 1912, December 24th, a Christmas baby or a Christmas Eve baby.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Christmas Eve.
MR. DRAPER: And as a matter of fact I was a blue baby they said, that I had -- I don't know, I was -- I guess they always used to say William was a blue baby.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Huh.
MR. DRAPER: But anyway, I grew up in Hopedale. My father was a manufacturer of textile machinery and we had a big house, as a matter of fact a tremendous house, a lot of servants. I hade five brothers and sisters and I was the next to the youngest. So when I grew up I had a younger brother Harry and an older sister Lilla and three older ones, George, and then Grace and Claire was the oldest, my oldest brother. We lived in this tremendous house and we were the Drapers in Hopedale. We were very well known, as the company was owned by the family. As a matter of fact --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you know the name?
MR. DRAPER: Yes, it was called the Draper Corporation.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In Hopedale?
MR. DRAPER: In Hopedale. And father as a matter of fact was the head of the Hopedale Manufacturing Company too and then they all joined up. It was all -- I won't go into a family fight and this and that. But anyway when I was a little kid mother had an electric and we would drive over to Milford, Mass and go to church over there. When I was about three or four I wanted to dance. I danced naturally and I know -- and I was damn, I don't remember. I think I was three. At the Milford Golf Club they were having a quartet of people playing, I mean a little Chopin and Mozart, and I suddenly leapt out on the floor and danced around on my toes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: At age three?
MR. DRAPER: They said, "Where did William learn to dance?" I remember walking up and down -- we had moccasins on -- on my toes when I was a little child. When I was five I started playing the piano. I was just very artistic from the start. We went to a private school tutored by this lady, Mary C. Moore, and I never went to public school until I went off to [inaudible]. It was a very strange upbringing because I didn't know any of the other little kids in town. I only knew -- my best friends were the cook and the maid. It always sounds so pathetic, but it wasn't.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Except your brothers and sisters.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, the same, except my three year old -- my oldest brother and sister they went to public school.
MR. MCNAUGHT: They went to public school.
MR. DRAPER: And then they went on -- when I was around they were off at St. Mark's and Westover. I don't know, I just was not interested particularly in athletics, although I think I would have been a good athlete. I had scarlet fever when I was 12 or 13, which made me very near-sighted. My eyes got very near sighted. I couldn't play tennis very well. I couldn't see the ball. Then I was called four eyes and I was teased all through my childhood. I was really teased until I got to college, so it was a very unhappy childhood in a way. So I would go and practice the piano five hours, five or six hours a day.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You played the piano the whole time?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I started out -- we used to go to Sagamore Beach in the summer. When I was three or four I remember because we moved from Sagamore Beach when I was five years old to Hyannis Port and I remember the hotel very well in Sagamore Beach where there was a player piano and I tried to fit my fingers into the keys and pump. I was fascinated. So I started out just about five and they finally gave me lessons, I think probably --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you take lessons the whole time then?
MR. DRAPER: From six years old --
MR. MCNAUGHT: From six on?
MR. DRAPER: I started out with my sister with a Ms. Harding and after about six months I was way ahead of Lilla, and then we had to have separate lessons. We couldn't have them at the same time.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You took naturally to the piano?
MR. DRAPER: Very naturally, and then suddenly I had shifted from Ms. Harding to Alex D'Antonio who was a much better teacher. And then finally when I went off to school I was sent really to Pomfret -- one reason was because of Mr. Hadley who was a very good piano teacher.
MR. MCNAUGHT: At what age were you went off to Pomfret?
MR. DRAPER: Thirteen.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Thirteen.
MR. DRAPER: I went to [inaudible]. But I -- and I gave a concert when I was 12.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: And everyone -- I think I played better at 12 then I ever did after that. But I was interested in music right up until I went to Harvard, and I studied my freshman year at Harvard and -- because the New England Conservatory of Music was in Boston. I didn't go to Yale because father had gone to Yale. I wanted to go to Harvard. Then I got -- well, I used to paint too. I painted -- I know a sculpted a little head of my sister. Mother said, "Oh, William, it's so good of your sister, Lilla. We'll have it cast." It used to sit on the mantelpiece, a little head done in clay, and it finally fell off the mantelpiece before mother could get it into have it cast. So I've never -- but I could sculpt and I used to paint. I went off to Provincetown when I was 16 to study there in the summer.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, really? Was that at age 16 then the first formal art --
MR. DRAPER: No. Well, there was a --
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- lessons that you had?
MR. DRAPER: Mr. Ernest E. Perry who was a great friend of father's and he used to come over from Milford to Hopedale and he would give me -- I would paint with him. I went to --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Would you say on the whole that you were more musically inclined in your early ages than artistically inclined?
MR. DRAPER: I would say both, but --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Both.
MR. DRAPER: -- I know that at about 12 I guess, 14, I went with my uncle to Nantucket and there I saw a painting by T. Vernon Bailey of a ship foundering at sea. And so I asked mother for some watercolors and I copied an envelope when I got back and then I asked her and I got some paints for Christmas. But it seems to me we had -- I had paints before that, but right after that I started in with oil paint and Mr. Perry painting. So I had been painting too since quite a time.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I see.
MR. DRAPER: I used to paint little -- play little people with Lilla. My sister Lilla and I would take clothespins and wrap them up with plaster and make little arms and dress them. So I was always making things and doing that kind of thing.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What made you go to Provincetown at age 16?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I wanted to paint and I had a car then. My brothers and sisters were all very social in Hyannis Port, all having friends their age, and I always felt -- and my sister Lilla was two years older, and then George, Claire and Grace were older and my younger brother Harry, and I always felt that none of -- being artistic, so I was told all the time, "You're artistic. You're not like my other sons." I was playing the piano. I didn't particularly like sailing, which Harry liked. So I always felt all these friends about my age and Lilla's and Harry's were all Harry's friends or Lilla's friends and felt sort of out of it because I was teased and called sissy all the time. So at 16 I had a chance to go up to Provincetown to study for two weeks and stay with Ennis Perry and his wife and study with Hawthorne.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Hawthorne?
MR. DRAPER: Charles W. Hawthorne. So I went up there for two weeks. That's a very interesting story because I went up there to study painting, and mother had brought me up and mother was a grand dame. She was absolutely a beautiful Kentucky belle from Lexington, Kentucky and was -- until she was 72 she had a figure like a girl 18. She was just beautiful in every way. She went up you see and introduced to me Hawthorne's class, and you can imagine from Hyannis Port mother coming up and saying my son William here wants to study with you. I can just see the whole thing. Provincetown with all the people there, well -- and Hawthorne probably resented this little rich boy supposedly. I mean, that's obviously what it looked like, coming up with a chauffeur. Then I had my own car and so I started in the class. The first week I noticed everybody was -- you had little figures, little Portuguese children were posing against the light, so you would see them against the light and paint rich shadows. We used to call them nut heads. Well, I started out looking at what everyone else had been doing and they all looked very badly drawn, small heads, big shoulders. You had to use a palette knife to put the paint on and do one little, 20 x 24 inches, one in the afternoon. Mr. Campbell who was Hawthorne's brother-in-law owned the paint store. So we were shoveling on this paint. The first week I thought, well, they don't know how to draw. So I drew, sort of outlined the figure more or less the way it was, this little boy, and filled it in with color. I thought mine was brilliant. So criticism Saturday when mine came up, "Whose are these?" I raised my hand, blushed purple. I was 16 but I looked younger. All the others were about 19 up to 30, you know. I don't know. And so I blushed and said, "Mine, sir." And he said, "Mr. Draper, I don't believe you understand the point of this class. This is not a drawing class. This is a color class and I see that you have been drawing so I cannot criticize these. Next." So the next week I went out and I drew -- I looked around at the others and so I drew a little head, big shoulders, and filled that in one day with orange ears. Then the next day I would do a big head, small shoulders, and did the same thing, looking at the color. I think the color relations with the very light background, pink sand, were very good. Then criticism came around the next Saturday. "Whose are these?" I raised my hand. "Mine, sir." He looked at me and said, "Mr. Draper, I don't believe you caught the idea of this class. This is not a drawing class. This is a color class. I cannot criticize these. The only thing I can say is that your drawing certainly hasn't improved in the last week. Next."
MR. DRAPER: And he was -- the Hawthorne method I mean as far as color spots went I've been using ever since.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really? So you did learn from --
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes, and I've taught it. I've taught it to students. [Inaudible] I tell them to get Hawthorne's book. It's a very good system of painting I think.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So your study began at age 16? You were there for two --
MR. DRAPER: Not at all. Then I went every summer.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And did you go every summer and continue with Hawthorne?
MR. DRAPER: Well, Hawthorne died that November.
MR. MCNAUGHT: That very year.
MR. DRAPER: Which I believe was November '29. Then I went back in '30 and '31 with Henry Henche who was Hawthorne's assistant and studied with him. One of those years I studied with John Frazier one of the summers and with Alfred Wilfrey. It would change. It would -- one month in one class and one in the other.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I see.
MR. DRAPER: But Henche was a big influence, I would say.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you were very much exposed to all that was going on in Provincetown?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, and Huffman was there at the time. But I had told Huffman that I didn't want to go in his class because I didn't understand why they were painting this cryptic paper. I think today I might have. I knew old -- Frederick Wall was up there and he was a marvelous -marine-scapeist, the way the marine painted. I would say he and Winslow Homer are the only ones I know who really knew how to make a wave move without stopping. You see paintings of waves today and they're raised up and they're going to be there forever. They're never going to crash. But Winslow Homers' crash, Frederick Walls' crash. I think mine crash when I do them, some of them. But I think that they're so photographic and just -- now he would make them all up. He studied, he knew the anatomy of a wave. Well, there were lots of people and I studied with Richard Miller there too who painted beautiful nudes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you went there for a number of years?
MR. DRAPER: I went there until about 1930 -- the summer of 1934 I guess.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So for about five years?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Even while you were at Harvard --
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- you went in the summers to Provincetown and studied?
MR. DRAPER: I made many friends and we raised hell up there too. I played the night -- I played the piano in a nightclub up there just because the pianist was an alcoholic and would get drunk.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Were you still taking piano lessons at this time or just playing for your own?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I went to Harvard you see --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: -- from Pomfret and went to study. I ought to be -- still, I still wanted to be a concert pianist in my freshman year.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see.
MR. DRAPER: Through the freshman year -- I tried out for the Gold Coast Orchestra and the instrumental club. So I accompanied the instrumental club, the vocal club and I accompanied a violinist and also played in the Gold Coast Orchestra. I did that my freshman and sophomore year until I left Harvard to study painting seriously. So I could play the piano. When this -- at the place -- what was it called -- not the White Whale but the Ship, there was a pianist there that I learned an awful lot. I got to know him. So he taught me a lot of things from gaieties and all these old songs. Then when he was so drunk I would come over, be flashed on the screen if I would be in the movies. Would William Draper go to the Ship at once. I would -- all my friends would --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You would take over for him?
MR. DRAPER: And I would go over there. Fitzday and [inaudible] and Kipsell [phonetic] were there who is a marine painter today, and Southbond [phonetic] is dead, but we would all go over to the Ship and I would get free drinks for my friends while I played the piano.
MR. MCNAUGHT: For your friends. You said now that you went to Provincetown while you were still at Harvard, but when you first started at Harvard you had the intention of being a concert pianist but then you left Harvard to study painting seriously. When did it change from being a concert pianist to being a painter?
MR. DRAPER: I would say my freshman year.
MR. MCNAUGHT: At Harvard?
MR. DRAPER: At Harvard, and then the next year I went on to Harvard again and by the end of the sophomore year -- and I was taking these courses. Well, it was ridiculous at Harvard. It was fine for somebody who wants to be a museum director like Perry Rathbone and Joe -- I can't think of -- many of them, many people, Charles Cunningham, who are all the directors today.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Were they all there at the time?
MR. DRAPER: They are all a little ahead of me, the class of '33, '34. But -- and Joe Philips I think was '36. But I was taking -- in Fine Arts 1A which was painting I got an A and it was simple. I didn't do any -- they had given me -- for instance there would be an exam of 30 people and there would be -- everyone to paint an orange. They had given me a glass of water and a book, an open book to paint instead. I felt that was very unfair because it would take me longer. Otherwise I could have painted the orange in 15 minutes and left the class and had some fun. Then in the History of Art I got a D in Fine Arts 1D, a C in Fine Arts 1C, a B in Fine Arts 1B and an A in Fine Arts 1A. But B and C were history of Art and I would say what I thought instead of it being what the teacher would say. The teacher would say this is very -- this so and so is very good and note the active flowing line and this and that, the dynamics, the symmetry and all that stuff, and I wouldn't agree. So I wouldn't remember it in the first place, I never had a good memory, so I would write my own papers and get poor marks.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Who was teaching Fine Arts then?
MR. DRAPER: Well, Mr. Pope was teaching Fine Arts and I can't remember what his name was. It didn't impress me.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Would the other people --
MR. DRAPER: Oh, Mr. Fields was teaching there too. But I wasn't impressed by it and I -- so I left Harvard to go down to the National Academy of Design.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Why did you choose to be a painter instead of a musician?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I think that I realized -- all right I'll tell you exactly, I remember now. I was trying to learn the Winter Wind Etude by Chopin and it's a very difficult Etude and I found I could play it perfectly. I got to play it to perfection except for the fact that after every eight measures I would have to stop and rest my wrists. It wasn't because I couldn't remember it or couldn't do it because I could but --
MR. MCNAUGHT: It was the physical action.
MR. DRAPER: The physical thing, my wrists would cramp and I knew, realized then that I had to change my whole way of playing, more from the shoulders and I was moving my wrists too much when it should have been fingers and shoulders. So I told -- I was -- there was a guy named Chiney [phonetic] in the class too who was very good and I was better than he was. I was really very good but I decided -- and then I was getting more interested in painting.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yeah. And you were equally good at that.
MR. DRAPER: And I think I was equally good. I just was born to sculpt or paint. I mean, I could do it. I've always been able to do it.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, before we finish up with your career at Harvard who was -- was Paul Sacks there at the time and any influence on you or did the art history side --
MR. DRAPER: No, I think if I had stayed on Paul Sacks I would have known. He was -- I didn't get in any of his classes but I know in 1935 I went to study in Spain with Harry Zimmerman who was a protégé of Paul Sacks.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I see.
MR. DRAPER: Arthur Pope was the one I had and Paul Sacks was a great guy, but Harry Zimmerman -- well, that's another story which is very interesting and I'll tell you about it later on.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So in other words in this period of your life it was Provincetown much more than Harvard and the [inaudible] --
MR. DRAPER: Yes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- which were an influence?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, it was Provincetown for me and not the [inaudible]. Then I thought I might go to Yale Art School and then I thought, well, Savage is teaching there and I would look -- after being in Provincetown and seeing all this marvelous color and seeing Savage's brown gravy things to me -- I said, oh, I don't want to go to Yale.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you decided against Yale. So you decided to go to New York --
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- and study where, at the National --
MR. DRAPER: At the National Academy of Design which -- and I went down and at that time they were over at 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Beautiful studios, right between --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Right on -- no, opposite --
MR. DRAPER: No.
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- on Amsterdam.
MR. DRAPER: Between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue on 109th, on the north side of the street. A tremendous building with beautiful studios. When I got down there I didn't know where to live. I knew nothing about New York. So I found -- the Old Explorers Club had just moved out of this building and moved down to, some odd place down further south and somebody had taken it over for apartments or rooms. It was on 110th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, just a block away, and it was great. I had a room and a bath and I lived there the first year. Then the second year I went to the Academy I moved down to 67th Street and had a studio there. Then the next year --
MR. MCNAUGHT: On to the West Side.
MR. DRAPER: On the West Side, yes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The famous studios.
MR. DRAPER: And then the next time, the next year I moved over to the Sherwood Studios.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Sherwood Studios was 57th Street or --
MR. DRAPER: 57th and 6th Avenue. Then I had a studio there for a year. I don't know when that was. It may have been much later, it may have been 1937 I guess. Then I had one on 48th Street right off 5th Avenue and then ended up about 1938 or 9 over at 430 -- 534 East 52nd Street which is right across from the River House. It was a wonderful because it was people who drove into the River House that -- it was right opposite. So there was nothing in front and it was a beautiful studio. So that's where I ended up before the war came and I got out of New York.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What about --
MR. DRAPER: And you know how much I paid for that in 1940?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Which, the one near River House?
MR. DRAPER: The one across from River House. It had -- it had a bedroom. Well, you added -- you added this room, which was three windows. Well, I had one wall -- three windows. I had one partition made between one window, making a kitchen out of that part of it. Then I had the two windows, which were studio. Then there were five steps up to a little bedroom and bathroom. It was $110 a month. In that area, 534 --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Incredible.
MR. DRAPER: -- and today I understand its 6 or $700 for just the one room or more.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Easily. Certainly. Well, did you find the National Academy of Design to your liking when you came down after Harvard? Did you --
MR. DRAPER: Well, as a matter of fact --
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- learn there as much as you had learned at Provincetown? Did it suit you?
MR. DRAPER: I thought I was much better than anyone thought I was.
MR. MCNAUGHT: At the National Academy of Design?
MR. DRAPER: Because they were painting in sort of brown gravy and I thought my paintings were much better than theirs in color. I mean, because I would -- the face was a different color than the hands and I did that. I never got any prizes in painting at all. The first year I was there -- well, it's very interesting. I went -- the first month I was put into antique in full. There were four classes -- antique and probation, antique in full, life in probation and life in full. I understand you did one or the other and antique in probation was drawing with charcoal from the head, from the classic head of sculpture. Then antique in full was doing the winged Venus or this and that. Then life on probation was drawing from the mood model and then the top class was painting life in full. Well, some people stay a year in one, a year in the other. Well, I went and I was put into antique in full, drawing the full thing. I remember Mr. Hinton was teaching there and I was doing the winged Victory all day, tickling with charcoal. You would spend about two weeks on it. The first week I had it all blocked in and Mr. Hinton came around and said, "Mr. Draper, this is very good. I think you've got the spirit of the thing completely. But your proportion is wrong. You've got it too fat. It's too wide for its height and you must start again." Well, I didn't change a single line on it. Then he came back the next week and it was finished and he said, "That's excellent and I'm so glad to see you started over because this -- but now I feel it's a little bit too thin for its height." And I said, "Oh, but Mr. Hinton, this is the same drawing and I haven't changed a single line." Well, he was furious. Then Tom Fogerty -- there were eight promoted to life on probation and Tom Fogerty and myself were promoted but we had little stars by our name which I understood meant that if you didn't do well you would go back.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Uh-huh [affirmative].
MR. DRAPER: Then the next month we were in drawing for life and Tom Fogerty and myself were the only two promoted to life in full which is the top class. So in two months I was in the top class, which I stayed there for two years painting the nude.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you feel those were productive years?
MR. DRAPER: Not particularly. Yes, I was painting but now I went in a sculpture class the last six weeks of the first year there and never sculpted at all except that head of Lilla that crashed off and got squashed. I got -- one model was posing for six weeks and Kay Trip who was a sculptress who is a good friend of mine persuaded me to come into that class. Well, we were there -- I got -- she got first prize for the year but she had been studying there all year. I got second prize and it was the first thing I had ever done, and of course it made the sculpture class furious because I hadn't even been in it. It was the first -- the model posed for six weeks and I did it and yet nothing in painting when I thought my painting deserved something. Nothing.
MR. MCNAUGHT: No prize.
MR. DRAPER: No prize at all because I don't think they particularly cared for Henche and Hawthorne. Oh, and I must tell you that I had done a still life that --
MR. MCNAUGHT: In the class?
MR. DRAPER: No, in class in Provincetown.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Uh-huh [affirmative].
MR. DRAPER: I think it was in John Frazier's class in one month. It was a still life that I had done. I showed that -- that's one of the pictures that got me into the National Academy School because it's a free school and you're accepted. You have to have the talent supposedly to get in. So I was going to put something in the National Academy show and my teacher said, "How much are you going to charge?" And I said, "$75." He said, "Add another zero," which I did. There were only three pictures in the National Academy show of 1933 that sold and mine was one of them which was a great feather in my cap of course.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You must have been thrilled to see that you could make money by painting.
MR. DRAPER: And it started me off. From that on, that painting introduced me to a guy named Bill Fen [phonetic] who had bought my painting -- it's all fate -- who was a broker, who was a friend of George Merck, a friend of a lot of people. I met him through the painting and then he introduced me to George Merck who asked me to paint his two children, Bambi and Judy Merck, who were about, only about six years younger than [inaudible]. Then I painted Bill Fen's mother and father. He was a minister in Berlin. From that I started right in making money and selling, doing pastels, I think $75.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And this was from portraiture?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, now what was the very first portrait in painting that you had done? You had done this sculpture of your sister.
MR. DRAPER: Well, you mean --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Had you been interested in portraiture right along?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. Yeah, I had.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You had.
MR. DRAPER: Well, it was because at Pomfret School Dr. Olmsted who had been painted by Ellen McGrant [phonetic] and when I was a student there I was just amazed. He had had cataracts removed and he was enrolled with his eyes, glasses with the cataracts. They looked -- and he looked just like Dr. Olmsted. That inspired me to want to be a portrait painter. I thought Lewis was magic, marvelous. It looks just like him and look at those glasses. You could see him and his eyes because he had -- you know how cataracts make you wear these great thick lenses. Well, it was fantastic to me. So really I would say that Ellen McGrant's portrait of Dr. Olmsted was the thing.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It was a real inspiration.
MR. DRAPER: It was an inspiration.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So during the time at Provincetown and the time at the National Academy of Design were you doing portraits all along?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I did a portrait of my sister when she came out. So I was younger -- I must have been a freshman at Harvard or -- and that -- she still has it. I think that was very successful. Then I did a wedding present for my brother's wife, and mother, et cetera. I was doing portraits.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What was your first portrait commission? Was it --
MR. DRAPER: That was -- I came to New York to paint Mr. -- and it's so funny. I painted Mitten DeCesaro Verdi [phonetic], Mitten DeCesaro Verdi, who was a cousin of the LaSalles who lived very near us in Hopedale. They were in Whitensville. I came down to New York and stayed across from the Harvard Club and rented a studio which was a dance studio. It had mirrors all around it. I used to leap around and have a great time. I lived there and painted Mitten DeCesaro Verdi. The strange thing is it was the first one I had done. Years later I painted his ex-wife and then she commissioned me to paint her new husband, General Young, and she was first married to Mitten DeCesaro Verdi. I think it's so funny because I got to her quite differently, with no connection at all because she hated Verdi. But it turned out -- and I was painting her and she was first married to this guy, my first commission. That was I would say about 1935 or 6, something like that.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And then --
MR. DRAPER: Maybe -- I think that was the first. Then I think that --
MR. MCNAUGHT: The first real commission?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. Then I think that the Berlin, I call it -- whatever that --
MR. MCNAUGHT: The Fens did you say?
MR. DRAPER: The Fens. They looked like -- what was the one that -- American Gothic. He looked very much like it. He was in a high collar and it was done very detailed. She was in a black lace dress with glasses with a pinched face. I had never painted lace before and it worked out fine. Then I went on --
MR. MCNAUGHT: So things naturally led one to another, one --
MR. DRAPER: From one portrait to another. Then I had a one-man show at Portraits Incorporated.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What year was that?
MR. DRAPER: That was 1940.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So this was --
MR. DRAPER: It was called -- it was called 460 Park Avenue Gallery then.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh.
MR. DRAPER: That was I think very amazing to have had. Then I had another one in 1950 of portraits and landscapes. But that first one to have in 1940 --
MR. MCNAUGHT: That was a fairly short while after you had come to New York.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, no, I had come to New York in 1933.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In 1933.
MR. DRAPER: Then I had moved back to Boston in 1938. I don't know. But I was mostly in New York you see.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, what -- now you came to New York in 1933 and went to the National Academy of Design and you stayed there for two years.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Then what did you do?
MR. DRAPER: Then I went to Paris.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You went to Paris in 1935?
MR. DRAPER: Thirty-five, yes, for a year.
MR. MCNAUGHT: For a year.
MR. DRAPER: I studied, went over there to study at the Grand Cahumiere and I couldn't understand a single word the teacher said. So I got bored with that. Oh, and then this I said I would say later about Mr. Zimmerman. Now Jack Stevens who is a friend of mine who I knew in Provincetown I ran across in Paris at some -- was it the Dome or someplace.
MR. MCNAUGHT: [Inaudible.]
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. And he said, "Bill, for heavens sake what are you doing here?" And I said, "Oh, I'm here studying at the Grande Cahumiere." And he said, "Oh, well come with me. I'm going to be studying with Harold Zimmerman down in Torremolinos [phonetic]." And so I said, "Okay, I would love to." I had an aunt, Princess Vunkenpatty [phonetic] who was living in Paris at the time and she met Harold Zimmerman and she advised -- she and this man, Mr. Glenn -- Mr. Glenn had -- they said, advised me not to go. Well, I should have taken their advice because he -- it was a very disagreeable time. Well, I went down with Jack Stevens who was Mr. Zimmerman's favorite artist. I mean, he thought he was fine. Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman and Jack had planned to be there. Well, I came along then too. I don't think I was wanted, particularly by Mr. Zimmerman because he -- I did two watercolors. I have them in the kitchen and I'll show them to you. I did -- the first two watercolors I did and I thought they were pretty good. Zimmerman told me they were lousy, that I should cut my paper in fourths and do them only six by eight inches. So I was doing that, not even being able to make a wash. I mean, it wasn't -- I like to work broadly and this was tying me up. Then he would criticize me all the time and say how good Jack's paintings were and how lousy mine were. I would look at Jack's and I would think, well, mine is better than Jack's. [Audio Break.]
MR. DRAPER: This sounds like a rather silly, conceited thing to say but I did really seriously at the time think that mine were much better than Jack's and I didn't see that Jack's were so much better than mine because I didn't understand. Harold Zimmerman had studied with Paul Sacks and he never painted one picture the whole time I was in Spain. He would criticize and drink. This poor man is dead. I can tell you it was unfortunate. He would sit there and I remember one meal when Jack and his wife and I, the four of us sitting around. He dropped a fork on the floor and he asked his wife to pick it up and she said, "No, Harold, you pick it up." "I'm not going to eat until you pick it up." So here we all were sitting around the table and he wouldn't pick it up and it was the most dismal meal while we all ate and he refused to eat because his wife wouldn't pick it up. I was cheering for her. I said, "Now don't give in," and she didn't give in. It was very -- he was just very neurotic.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Now how long did you stay down --
MR. DRAPER: Well, finally we couldn't stand it. We stayed -- I stayed about four months. Then we went over to Seville. Jack and I decided to leave and we went over to Seville during Holy Week. At the time I think Franco was coming in. He was -- there was a lot of people running --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Was this -- this was 1935, '36?
MR. DRAPER: Thirty-six, the spring of '36 I would say. And then I got out and all the things I painted I left. I remember one time -- I remember having this gypsy model that looked just like Katherine Hepburn with her child. I was doing this picture and I would say it's for the autumn salon. Then these friends of mine, Bert Wilkinson who was at Cambridge and Ben Kaiser and George Haskins came down at Christmas. This was at Christmastime. They were going to go to Nice and I -- they said now if you can make it why don't you come over and meet us in Nice and we'll go down to Italy on their Christmas vacation. Oh, no, they were -- no, they were in -- they were in Torremolinos at Christmas. This was the Easter vacation when I was to do this and meet them in Nice. Well, I remember I decided I wanted to finish this picture of this gypsy lady, beautiful gypsy with bones like Katherine Hepburn really. So I told them I couldn't meet them and hadn't planned to. But then the gypsy -- I paid her an extra peseta because I didn't have change, which was about a quarter in our money, and the next day she never came back. That payment just -- she decided to -- I gave her an extra one for -- I mean, I lent her or gave her something so that she never wanted to come back. She ran off with the peseta. Then it was too late for me to go to Nice of course then and I hadn't had the -- and I could have and then I didn't know how to get a hold of them. Then I finally got back to Paris.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How long did you stay in Paris?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I started -- I want back to the Grand Cahumiere. Now here is my -- at this point with Zimmerman my -- which he probably was trying to destroy my ego. I don't know what he -- I heard from Bert Wilkinson later that he said, "Bill paints too easily." I was -- "He paints too easily. I was trying to discourage him." Well, he had me so discouraged that I was ready to stop painting. Then when I went back to Paris, I went back to the Grand Cahumiere, went in another class, and I remember going in the first day and started painting this nude. The first -- this sounds awfully conceited but I guess you have to have some conceit maybe -- at least this is what happened. I started in painting this nude at 9:00. The class was 9:00 to 12:00. About 9:30, 9:45 this girl next to me came over and said, "Where did you study?" And then a couple of other people stopped and came over and watched me. By around 11:45 the whole class had stopped and they're all watching me paint. My confidence came right back, all wondering how -- they all thought it was very good you see. But this was what -- Zimmerman had gotten me so discouraged I wasn't doing anything. I was doing terrible. All of that, all of the paintings I did there were lost anyway because they were given to this woman to bring back, I mean to send, and then Franco came in and all -- the house was burned with all my stuff and they escaped to Gibraltar and came over.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Back in Paris at the art school who were the other students? Were there lots of Americans, or were they mainly French, or were they all sorts?
MR. DRAPER: Mainly French and I would have never gotten -- I knew one girl, I can't remember her name, Virginia somebody, a pretty blonde, and they were very few Americans that I remember.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, how long did you stay then the second time at the school?
MR. DRAPER: I think probably a couple of months. I came back that summer anyway.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Back to --
MR. DRAPER: Back to the States.
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- back to New York?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And then?
MR. DRAPER: And I'll tell you a very interesting thing. When I left -- this has nothing to do with painting but I think it's funny. My brother and I, Harry, used to play last touch you see, last touch and then you have to touch. I said last touch to Harry and rolled the windows up to the car when I left Hyannis Port to go on this trip and he couldn't touch me. So when the boat came in, the Queen Mary, as soon as I landed Harry ran up and said last touch a year later. But I think that was great.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you come back to live in New York or go back to the National Academy of Design or what?
MR. DRAPER: No, I decided -- no, I went up, I studied with Corbino, John Corbino.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Where?
MR. DRAPER: John Corbino up in Rockport one summer about 1937 and that's all the studying. Then I decided to just paint by myself.
MR. MCNAUGHT: When you came back from Paris did you come back to New York or what city did you decide to settle in?
MR. DRAPER: I came -- I think I went home for a little while, but then I came to New York. Then about 1940 I moved from New York to Boston until the war started. For two years I was in Boston doing portraits. I had a studio, the Fenway Studios, and painted up there. I went into the Navy there, entered the Navy.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Entered the Navy in Boston?
MR. DRAPER: In Boston, yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Now do you want to begin the story of your career in the Navy?
MR. DRAPER: Is there time now?
MR. DRAPER: Well here we are in Boston. I've moved back and doing portraits there of different people until then I wanted to -- then the war -- I remember the war started December 7th you see in 1941. I was having an exhibition of my portraits in March or April or maybe February of '42.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In Boston?
MR. DRAPER: In Boston at the Grace Horn Gallery. No, I guess this was going to be at Fosse's [phonetic]. I'm not sure. I can't remember. I think this was the Grace Horn Gallery because I had one at Fosse's later. The Margaret Brown Gallery I had a show there later. This was the Grace Horn and I remember being in the Speed Club and talking to a stuffy cousin of mine who was father's first cousin, old Evan Draper who ran for the United States senator. This was at a Speed Club dinner. He was so insulting to me. He came up -- this was -- and I said, "Cousin Evan or just Evan, have you gotten an invitation to my show?" This was probably the winter, mid-winter dinner probably in the beginning of February. War had been declared in December and my show was going to be the next couple of weeks. I said, "Have you gotten an invitation to my show?" He said, "What do you mean an invitation to your show?" I said, "I'm having an exhibition at the Grace Horn Gallery." "What do you mean you're having an exhibition at the Grace Horn Gallery? Here the country is at war and you mean to say you're having an art exhibition when the country is at war. You should be in the Army. You should be -- look at your brother Harry. He came to me trying to get out of the draft. Look at your cousin Tommy Gannett. What has he done? Look at -- I'm the lieutenant or I'm a lieutenant colonel in the" -- what is it that you are, oh I should know -- "I'm in the National Guard. I'm a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard." Well, I got so mad I wanted to hit him except he was much older and they had to take me out of the club. The next morning, that Sunday, there was a brunch there and I went in. I went up and said, "Evan, you owe me an apology," and I was going to hit him if he didn't. He said, "I apologize," and said nothing more. He was a dreadful man I think.
MR. MCNAUGHT: He was a cousin?
MR. DRAPER: He was a cousin. Well, I just didn't like him because he was so rude to my family and my brother Harry. My brother Harry wanted to really get into -- he was a pilot and didn't want to be drafted because he could be a pilot. That's what he was trying to do.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, when did you decide -- how did you end up --
MR. DRAPER: Oh, I tried as soon as the war started, December 7th. I tried as hard as I could to get in, into something where I could use my painting. So I went to 150 causeway, street, and volunteered my services as an artist and also tried to get in as a combat artist because I had heard about it in Washington. So having volunteered my services I was doing things for the Navy, painting, doing drawings of anti-submarine. They asked me if I could do it and I said sure I would, donating my time to draw these -- the wakes of submarines, as the submarine went down what the wake looked like at certain depths so the planes coming along could tell where the submarine was by the shape of the wake you see. So I was doing this and then I got permission to go, I could go in the Navy Yard. So I went in the Navy Yard and I painted destroyers --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You would do this as a civilian?
MR. DRAPER: A civilian. I went in and I would draw -- I went in -- in the foundry, did things with the men working in the foundry. Then I did one of a destroyer at night. I did a couple of a cruiser and then I painted a lot of bar scenes around with people in the Dan Scully Square [phonetic] and sailors and girls rushing around. I didn't [inaudible] portraits and sent them all into Washington. I was one of the five picked to be a combat artist because of my work. It was so funny. I will tell you while I was doing this one picture in the Boston Navy Yard there's a shift that all of the people moving -- I mean all the people who were working in the Navy Yard had a shift and a new shift would come in. Just at that time, at 12:00, I was sketching or doing this painting. I had my easel up painting the destroyed. I think this was not the destroyer, this was a cruiser. I needed -- these two sailors came up and started making fun of me and started saying, oh, you know, teasing and what are you doing painting this ship you see. And so -- and I have crowds of people behind me because this was the shift of the -- but I was painting anyway. I didn't give a damn. I was embarrassed but I wanted to get my things for Washington. These two came up and I said, "Oh, I need two sailors in the foreground about 20 feet in. Would you two like to stand out there because I need a model?" And it was the most miraculous thing. They disappeared into the crowd. They stopped bothering me completely, because everybody looked at them expecting them to go out and stand. Well, they didn't. They got embarrassed and I found all through my Navy career that if anybody bothered me I would ask them if they would go out and pose for me.
MR. MCNAUGHT: They always disappeared?
MR. DRAPER: They always disappeared. Well, anyway, that was part of it. Well, then I worked doing that that spring. I had orders -- well, I had my show of course at Grace Horn. Then I was -- I went in the Navy and on July 1st I was supposed to be at Harvard College for the 60-day wonder course, July and August. I was commissioned as a lieutenant JG and I want to Harvard on a Friday and was given my books and blankets, Saturday something else, Sunday, and classes started on Monday. My roommate was going to be Eddie Duchin [phonetic].
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: Draper Duchin you see, right, next. And he was three or four days late, so I never met him because on that Monday there were three classes, two in the morning and then there was going to be the third class after lunch at 1:00 and then marching with your platoon in soldiers field, which I was looking forward to doing that. They told me -- Perry Rathbone told me it was the end, that he was there and they couldn't stand that marching or any of that. But anyway I was -- in the third class, 1:00, and suddenly this officer came in and said, "Is student officer Draper present?" I raised my hand and they said, "Oh, you're being withdrawn from school. You're wanted in the front office at once." Well, I didn't know what was -- why I was being withdrawn from school but, my God, what have I done. Isn't this terrible. They wanted me back at 150 Causeway Street to do -- to make cartoons for this cartoon manual, for the manual of anti-submarine warfare, to draw cartoons of the same thing with the wakes of the submarines and that I had to have submarines thumbing at planes and this and that. I'm not a cartoonist and it was very difficult, but I spent the next two months instead of learning how to be an officer drawing these cartoons at 150 Causeway and then at the -- and when I was supposed to be -- having had supposedly two months training at Harvard I had orders to go to Washington. Well, I didn't have the training at Harvard. So I got down to Washington to the combat ops section and within two weeks I was sent out to the Aleutians.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you never in other words went through the officers' training program?
MR. DRAPER: I had none. So I didn't --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you ever have to go through the basic training?
MR. DRAPER: I had no training. I would call --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You had none whatsoever?
MR. DRAPER: -- I would call the deck the floor. The walls -- I didn't know a thing. I didn't even know how to go aboard and salute and say permission to come aboard, sir, and salute the quarterdeck and all of that and I was a deck officer. I got up in the Aleutians and I didn't know a single thing. It was pathetic. I tried to get -- I mean, it was so ridiculous. Now as soon as I arrived in Kodiak my first experience, I hadn't reported in to Admiral Reeves yet, I was so anxious to start painting I took out my easel and I looked up and I saw this glass structure with a lot of things turning. I though, oh, how pretty. I started and I was arrested by two Marines. I was evidently painting the radar base, the heart of the Kodiak air place and then I was -- I had a hard time trying to explain to them that I was a combat artist. They all thought I was a spy.
MR. MCNAUGHT: A spy.
MR. DRAPER: And then of course I did explain it. And I found it very difficult to get around. Nobody would pay any attention to me. To get a jeep to go anywhere to paint I would have to wait two or three days for the transportation office to deign to give me one, you know. So the Aleutians was very interesting. It was a terribly interesting period and it was -- I got there in October and I was there all through November, January. I went, landed at Amchitka on the -- I think it was the 12th of January.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you have specific duties as a combat artist then?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, I had to send in --
MR. MCNAUGHT: I mean, specific assignments?
MR. DRAPER: So many pictures.
MR. MCNAUGHT: But could they be of your choosing?
MR. DRAPER: Of my choosing, yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see.
MR. DRAPER: Just go around and paint what I saw and then if there was --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you have other duties as well? I mean, you've said you were a deck officer.
MR. DRAPER: Well, no, they tried to -- they put me on watch and went on this transport going up. I remember I saw this red and green light flashing up in the sky and I thought it was a plane and I wanted to sound general quarters. I thought I better first talk to the second and said -- and he said, "Oh, that's a" -- and I'm nearsighted anyway, terribly nearsighted -- and he said, "Of course it's not a plane. A plane wouldn't have its lights on anyway, an enemy plane. No planes would have lights on." It was a star flashing red and green. It was so bright I really -- I was ready to sound general quarters, a plane coming in. Well, I learned a little bit more than that. Then we had to fly from Kodiak to Cold Harbor. The worst -- in November we tried five different days to fly and we turned back. You know, PBY had to go back again and then finally the fifth day it stormed. We had a forced landing at Cold Bay and we finally reached Dutch Harbor seven days later. It was really dangerous flying up in the Aleutians. I just -- there were clouds and fog. Then I took a boat from Dutch Harbor to Umnak trying to get out to Adak. I got out Adak a month before -- no, I guess in December for the landing in Amchitka. I went on that with Sam Hammill who was the second officer of the base. He happened to be a first -- married to Johnny LeFarge's [phonetic] sister, Peggy. When I came in he said -- I think he thought I looked sort of like my brother Clare who knew him. So I moved in with the executive officer, into his Quonset hut until we both left to go on the landing there at Amchitka. I roomed with him there with six others in Amchitka. That was the most dreadful landing. We landed -- we were on the George Kline. No, George Kline was later on in the South Pacific. This was the Arthur Middleton, a big transport. We came in on D-Day in the worst storm you ever could imagine. A destroyer off to the right suddenly went on the rocks and broke in half. I was trying to paint -- I was painting, taking something -- a jeep --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Painting in the middle of all of this?
MR. DRAPER: Yes, I was trying to. Well, I had to do something. I had my canvas up and this jeep, it was swinging back and forth and moving the stuff out. Well, I was trying to paint and all of this is going on and they're bringing in these men who were -- in the water five minutes you would die. It was in January up there. You would freeze. I mean, you just couldn't -- Well, they brought -- we finally -- we went in closer and we saw the destroyer break apart and then the Arthur Middleton went aground.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The ship you were on?
MR. DRAPER: The ship I was on. Everybody was told to abandon ship except for the gunners and the crew that were absolutely necessary. So we all had to get off the Arthur Middleton and I had my paint box and they had ropes going down to the landing boats to go in. This colonel in the Army said, "What's that?" I said, "It's a paint box. I'm an official combat artist." He went running down the deck saying, "My God, what next," because everything was -- most of the landing boats broke apart too and then they had to bring a little sub chaser up to work because all the electricity went out. The whole Arthur Middleton was flooded so they couldn't work the winches to -- and then they got, finally did get a lot of wood they had brought with them to build a dock. Well, the tide went out and they threw all the wood into the Bering Sea. Then we left -- then we got in and I was in a tent with the head of the Seabees, Sam Hammill and a couple of others on this tundra. There's no wood except for a few Russian graves, which were soon burnt up. You start -- we had a tent and you would start the fire in the tent, I mean start the stove, and it would sink. The whole inside of the tent would become mud. The stove would sink further and further down as the ground melted. It was the most awful mess there for the first two or three weeks. Then they flew over all this meat to feed the Army. Then it was warm, it was above freezing for three days in a row, and all the meat spoiled. The stink, it was just like dead bodies you know. And the landing boats broke apart and they found money all around the beach because the paymaster's boat broke up. It was a fascinating experience. I was there for a month. They were trying to build this airfield. They drained a lake and built an airfield there. Every night we would come, we would be bombed by the Japanese from Amchitka and -- not Amchitka, from Pisco and Attu [phonetic]. They would come over to Amchitka, which was the next island. Is it time to stop? Well, I was painting this and it's quite interesting. One of the pictures in the National Geographic that came out later, I was painting one day and the people -- it got very dark, very dark, and I was wondering, well, this is very strange. It got dark, almost black, and I had painted this picture and then it got light again. Then the next day somebody said, oh, there's going to be an eclipse. Well, there was no eclipse. Then I suddenly realized that the eclipse was the day before because we were over the 180th meridian. So we were into another day. So they had the timing wrong. I don't know how it worked but I painted the eclipse at that time at Amchitka.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The whole time you were painting?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, well, I had to -- mostly painting. And then -- well, of course then they had to move things. But this meat, we had to bring the meat and get rid of it. I chipped in and -- at times, but the main thing that was later on in Guam you had to really stop everything and bury the dead. That was in Guam because it was becoming a health hazard. I stayed there on Amchitka a month and you see the planes would come over and drop a bomb and it would go right in the tundra. It would go and nothing would happen unless it hit a foxhole. I will tell you, I had a foxhole that was the latest foxhole. These enlisted men seemed to like me, you know, and thought I was helpless running around. They all tried to help. I said, "Well, how do you do the foxhole?" "Well, let me show you, lieutenant." So they would dig it and then another one would come up and I would say -- I said, "But I've got to have a place to sit down, to look out to see." So they dug the most beautiful foxhole. It was just like Tom Sawyer painting the fence. They made a little seat, a seat in it. It was the most magnificent foxhole on the island. They were all very nice. They were very understanding. Everybody was understanding of me I would say except for the pilots, the Marines, the submarine men. And the PT guys who were the most adventuresome who were the ones who really like me and realized why I was there and everything else. The destroyer men, some of those they would just -- they wouldn't even -- in the South Pacific they wouldn't even want to go to see a native village. They would want to just sit on their duffs. They had no imagination. They couldn't imagine what I was doing. But I remember up there in the Aleutians this guy wanted to -- Sam Hammill at Adak went with me to Amchitka and a new executive officer came in who was a nasty little man with pig eyes who got drunk the first night and never gave anybody a drink. The next day in the head he was sitting next to me on the john and he said to me, "Are you in the Navy, Draper," in the most insulting tone. Not just a question, "But why are you in the Navy? I can't understand an artist being in the Navy. You ought to be a correspondent. Let me see, are those really -- are you really in the Navy?" And he was a lieutenant commander and I just disliked the man terribly. Then somebody else --
[End Tape 1.]
MR. DRAPER: Now we've turned over the reel. I'm continuing with the story about the lieutenant commander. Well, as I said, we were sitting in the head and he had said are you in the Navy and all of this. Then I -- somebody must have overheard our conversation because the next -- when I was walking around the base after about an hour or so, I may have even walked longer, a couple of enlisted men would come along and sort of smile at me and wink and say, "Are you in the Navy, Lieutenant," in sort of comforting, sort of a nice way. It went all over the base, what this lieutenant commander had said to me. Then of course I went off to Amchitka, which I've told you about, but when I was on Amchitka I just thought, well, I can go on with Amchitka later. I'll stop now and continue. This is a good place.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The end of session one.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Friday, June 3, 1977, William McNaught talking to William Draper.
MR. DRAPER: Well then I told about the Captain, just trying to get going, being at Adak and the unattractive lieutenant commander. Well, then as I said Sam Hammill and I who was the assistant executive -- the executive officer of the base, we left on the Arthur Middleton. Didn't I tell about this, the Arthur Middleton and the boats breaking apart? I think I did, didn't I?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes, you did.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, well, there's no point of going to that now. Then I came back to Washington. Did I say -- where did I end on that Amchitka note I wonder?
MR. DRAPER: Now I know where to go. We were on Amchitka and I told about the planes dropping the bombs each day and my -- and how if it hit the tundra the bomb did no damage unless it made a direct hit.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: Well, I was there for about a month and they were draining this lake, turning a lake into an airfield, and it was amazing the Seabees the work they did there. There were no Japanese on Amchitka as I said. We expected them but they weren't there. They were on Kiska and Attu. For 30 days they worked in putting down the steel sections and made this airstrip. One day nine or ten Japanese planes came over to bomb and our air cover you see would go back to Adak to get back before dark. So they would come over late thinking that the planes must have gone back to Adak. This time we fooled them. They came over and our planes came up off the Amchitka field and shot them all down, every one. So they didn't -- they realized then there was an airport, which was right very near Adak and Kiska. So we had -- I mean, near Kiska and Attu. So that helped later in covering the landings, which I didn't go on those. I went back on a transport. Now I'll tell you on this, trying to get off Adak after I got back this little captain or little executive officer -- I don't know whether I told you how he pulled my beard. I had grown a bear in Amchitka and when I came back I went in to report to him. He yanked me by the beard and said, "Why have you got that beard? You shouldn't have a beard. You know it's against regulations." And everybody who had been in Amchitka had grown a beard because you didn't -- you weren't allowed to shave and -- well, you weren't allowed, you could shave but it was so difficult to get the hot water. We were all living in tents. It was the most insulting thing that could happen. If I had gone to Harvard and known Navy regs I would have known that anybody who touches you physically, whether it's an admiral or anything you can hit them. I being a boxer anyway could have really -- could have knocked him down, smashed his face. I don't know why it was so insulting. Well anyway, I was there for about three days and my orders, I got orders to return to Washington. So there was a big transport out and refueling out in the bay, out in -- about 12 miles out in the Bering Sea. I asked if I could go out, have a boat bring me out there. He said, "No, you'll have to wait for the mail boat." And I said, "Well, that's ridiculous. I may miss the transport." "I don't care, Draper. You're going to have to miss the transport then. You'll have to wait for the regular mail boat." Oh, I was furious because he could have sent me. The captain of the port he told me that this boat was there. So I finally got on the mail boat when it took off and it went out, chugging out to sea on these tremendous waves, I mean big swells. They must have been 20 feet high, wide you know, big as you got out into the Bering Sea. I saw this big transport and a big, whatever they were, oil refueling ship. Just as we were coming up to it the lines dropped and they got finished their refueling and the transport started getting underway. So we came along side the transport, and this was in February or March. I mean, it was very cold.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Of 1943?
MR. DRAPER: Nineteen forty-three.. Well, the landing at Amchitka had been in January, so this must have been in February after I got back. I got up alongside and they threw over a little rope ladder over the side of the transport. I had on heavy sheepskin pilot's boots and a big heavy sheepskin coat and Army gear, and my paintings and down a little boat. So I saw this ladder and I grabbed at it and got the last rung in the ladder. Then of course the little boat I was in slipped away from under me, I mean because it just went down. Here I was hanging on the side of the transport and I couldn't -- I never was very good at chinning myself anyway but with all that weight, hanging on the side, and I was really -- I could have -- if I -- I could have dropped into the sea you see and gone back under the propellers. They never would have found me and that water was just like it was in January and those sailors, less than five minutes when that destroyer broke apart. Well, I hung on for dear life and looking down hoping that the boat would appear underneath me. When I saw it right underneath I let go and dropped back into the boat, which was lucky. Then they sent over a cargo net, swung it out on a boom with a net and lowered that. I stuck myself through like toothpaste into the cargo net. And then, zoom, I came up and landed on the deck. Then I remember saying, "Where are my paints? My paints, where are my paints," yelling around for all the paintings I had done.
MR. MCNAUGHT: They were still in the boat?
MR. DRAPER: Still in the boat. Well, then I saw them -- and Grady Cochrane who was the captain of the ship I had come to Adak with said, "What did you do?" He said, "What are you doing here, Draper," having seen me come over the side. And I said, "Don't talk to me now. I have a splitting headache and I'm looking for my gear." I remember that. Then suddenly over the side it came in the net, the paintings and all my gear.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Where did you keep getting canvases and supplies?
MR. DRAPER: I brought it all with me.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You did?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, it was a big --
MR. MCNAUGHT: It must have been big.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yeah, it was a terrible nuisance. Well, then I got back to Washington and this I think is the most amazing thing. I was walking down a corridor in the Navy Department, talk about fate. I was walking down the corridor and as I went by this door I heard this phrase, "But Draper is not a portrait painter," just as I went by the door. So I opened the door and looked in and saw two commanders talking and I said, "My name is Draper and I am a portrait painter," not taking it as a criticism. So they said, "Let's see some of your work." And I said -- showed them portraits I had done because I had shown none when I wanted to get in as a combat artist. They sent me down on temporary additional duty to paint Admiral Beardall at the Naval Academy. After I had done that they gave me specific orders to paint Admiral Nimitz in Pearl Harbor and Admiral Halsey in Newmire you see. So that was very lucky. Well, then I did, then I went on out to the Pacific and saw Admiral Nimitz in Pearl Harbor and I painted him. He posed for one hour for five days. It turned out very well at the time until I later saw it at a distance and it sort of fell apart. I'll tell you it was -- well, later on I was having a show in Boston and I had Admiral Nimitz's portrait hanging in the hallway and people said, "Why do you got Admiral Nimitz's in the hallway?" And I said, "Oh, well, you know the war is over and we don't want to concentrate on these things." There was one of Admiral Halsey in the big room so this one I had left here. The real reason I did that, if you get away --
MR. MCNAUGHT: People couldn't see it.
MR. DRAPER: And you couldn't see it far away because I painted him, I had to sit down and paint him being away, about four feet away, and he was sitting at his desk. There's no room to back up and see what it looked like.
MR. MCNAUGHT: On the ship?
MR. DRAPER: No, this was in Pearl Harbor, on land. But he was too busy. He wasn't going to make a model stand and do all of that, which Halsey did in the South Pacific. So it looked fine to me but I never could get off to see what it looked like at a distance and people would come in and look over and say, "Oh, that's great." Well, in five days I did it but it wasn't one of my best because you had to look at him so close. But then Admiral Nimitz told me all kinds of interesting things. I used to do target practice with him. He told me there were going to be these two landings in November. This was about October I guess I went out again to the Pacific. He told me there was a landing in -- I may have gone in September, but he told me there were two landings taking place in November, one in the South Pacific at Bougainville, I believe it was the 12th of November, and one in the Central Pacific at Terawaw [phonetic] on the 1st of November. You see I was in public relations. I had to sort of get all this information myself. So he told me this and I said, "Well, I would prefer to go to the one in Bougainville so I can go down to Namur beforehand and paint Admiral Halsey." It's a lucky thing I did because if I had landed at Terawaw I wouldn't be here to tell the story because that was a terrible landing as you know. I would have waded in from the landing boat up to my neck and had to walk in for half a mile and then I would be shot as you walked in. If you turned around to swim out to the ships you would be shot as a deserter. So it was a terrible landing. And so then I went to Namur, painted Admiral Halsey with the Japanese -- in the Japanese consulate's house where he had a studio built, I mean had a model stand built and posed an hour each day too, but he would sit up in the model stand and I had perfect light. I had a Japanese screen I remember that was there of these Japanese running for shelter from the storm and the storm was Halsey I said. So I put that in the background. Life Magazine wanted it for a cover and the Navy wouldn't release it to them when it got back because they couldn't understand why I put a Japanese background behind Halsey. I suppose they wanted the American flag, I don't know. But I didn't explain to them. I thought it was quite obvious what it was all about, you know. So --
MR. MCNAUGHT: When you would finish a portrait, say the one of Admiral Halsey, what did you do with it? I mean, did you --
MR. DRAPER: I would let it dry and I had to write a report every day more or less or every week. I would send a report to Washington of what I had done that week.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you send the work, the painting actually to Washington or did you take it with you?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes. I would have it sent. It would be -- they would be flown every so much. About every month a group of eight or ten pictures they would be sent into Washington.
MR. DRAPER: Eight or ten pictures I would send them back and each time I would -- well, I had to write a written report also every week of these things, of what I did every day, if I painted such and such you see.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see. How many other people in the Navy were doing what you were doing?
MR. DRAPER: There were five others in the beginning.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Five others.
MR. DRAPER: No, four others.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Four others.
MR. DRAPER: And then later on two other guys came in or three other guys. Do you want to know the names of the people? I'll tell you. Dwight Shepler -- the first one who -- Admiral Hepburn started it with Griffith Baily Coale, a lieutenant commander who was the first combat artist. He was a mural painter. Then Dwight Shepler who was a Boston artist who was a very famous water colorist, very good; then Albert Murray who was a portrait painter and excellent; then Mitchell Jamieson who was a Washington artist and myself. Those are the five. Then later on they took in a guy named Millman, I didn't know him very well, and Stan Backus from Santa Barbara, and John Whitcomb who was an illustrator who was a very good illustrator but this wasn't his dish I didn't think at all. He did glamorous ladies from Saipan. They looked like the cover of Redbook or something you know. Well, then I landed -- then I went on and painted Halsey, and then I went up to Guadalcanal. Then I went up from Guadalcanal, looked around there, and then I went to Munda. By that time the landing at Bougainville was taking place, was to take place. So I was put on the ship called the George Klimer [phonetic] with General Vandegrift in charge, Admiral Wilkinson who is in charge of the operation of the Navy, and it's amazing to me when we landed in Amchitka there was a volcano erupting at the time. It was -- we were climbing down in the boats and there was this pink sky and this flame coming out, smoke coming out of this volcano. Well, I had planned to go in on the third wave so I would be sort of established and I could go in and see what was going on you see. Well, unfortunately the first wave was sent off and went in and just at that point all these planes came over from Rabaul, Japanese planes, and so we had general quarters and all the ships went out circling around at sea. By the time we got in again it was the time for the third wave to go in and I was a little bit confused, and so I didn't realize I was -- I climbed down the boat and I was in the second wave which I hadn't planned to go in at all. So suddenly I had to go in --
MR. DRAPER: So I got back on the, back on the third wave -- I thought I was on the third wave but I was on the second wave. I jumped in the landing boat and we went in under machine gunfire from [inaudible].
MR. DRAPER: Well, I went in under machine gunfire from Perry Water Island [phonetic] and another island and I can't right now think of the name. I don't know. And I saw boat number five next to me, which I painted the picture later, being hit by a bomb and blowing up. I ran in and jumped into a foxhole. So there's a strip that the Japs had to defend. We had pushed them out. So I jumped in there and waited until things quieted down. Then I wandered back afterwards, maybe an hour later, and I found a little Jap hut that I think must have been where the Japanese combat artist lived because I found a book on Toulouse Latrec written in Japanese, which I still have. I think it's at the studio. Well, then that was all very exciting and I stayed there for a few days and came back to, I guess back to Namur eventually. There I had orchids -- well, I had gathered these orchids around from different places. I think this is an interesting story. As I had gone through Munda and Dover, places, I had gotten some orchids. I used to have them behind the hut at Guadalcanal. I had a lot that I had collected. As a matter of fact I used to get some enlisted men to climb up to get the orchids by bribing them because I didn't dare climb up. I got vertigo and got very dizzy. I would see an orchid up in the jungle up in the tree and I would say, "Do you think you can get up to get that up there?" And they would say, "Sure, we would do it, but if you do a picture or a drawing of my wife in the nude." So I would -- they would show me a photograph of the wife and I would draw it in, a little face in pencil and then just take the clothes off and they loved it. I started that in my early career. My first money I made was at Pomfret when I would charge a dollar for each picture of Jean Harlow. She would be in a sexy white dress and I would just paint it leaving the dress off.
MR. DRAPER: Well, back to the war. Then I collected all these orchids and I brought them down to Namur. Then I would run out of paint and I was putting the orchids up in a tree at Quonset Village. I believe that's where it was. Perry Rathbone was out there who was a first priority officer in the Pacific, giving orders -- I mean, giving priority to those who had to go fly to this place and that place. He had started out in the combat ops section but there was a guy who -- Perry had been the director of the St. Louis Museum and Bob Parsons was only the curator at the Cochrane was above him. So Perry didn't like that particularly and I don't blame him. So Perry finally left the combat ops section and went out to the Pacific as a priority officer. Well, I got back there to Namur and put the orchids up and then I had run out of paint. So I decided to -- I'm going to let the dog out.
MR. DRAPER: And so I went to Perry, Lieutenant Rathbone and said, "I have to buy some paints." And he said, "Well, I give you first priority to fly to Sydney, Australia to get some."
MR. MCNAUGHT: Perry said that?
MR. DRAPER: Perry said this. And so I had orders to go to Australia because I could -- he wasn't going to send me back to California or to Hawaii. So I flew to Australia with Perry. Perry gave himself first priority too and we had great time in Sydney. There I saw two good friends of both of us, Randy Kidder and his wife Dottie who they were out there in Canberra. We were there for a week-and-a-half and had the best, relaxing time as you can imagine. Then coming back we missed the boat, missed the plane three days in a row and finally Perry was given orders to bring back some pay to Namur and so he had to come back here. Orders said he couldn't miss the plane. I think it was pay, what do you call it, the pay account, just to pay the men, money. Not -- being an artist, I don't know too much about those things. Well, so then in Namur I got back an went to get my orchids and they were gone from this Quonset hut. I went in and there was -- the housing officer was in there who was a lieutenant commander and I was merely a JG at the time. I went in and said, "Have you seen any orchids around? They were up in that tree there." He said, "Orchids? Why, lieutenant, no, I haven't seen any orchids at all." So I left and then I had orders to go up to Afadi [phonetic] to catch the Yorktown. Well, I got on the Yorktown. It was to catch the Independence I think first. Independence doesn't sound right. I can't remember. So I had to go tell him I was leaving. So I went in and I couldn't find him in the front of the Quonset hut. I went back looking for him and I walked into the back the Quonset hut in this room and there were all my orchids and pots and dirt all turning yellow, dying. I said, "Oh, there are my orchids." He said, "They're not orchids and they're not yours. Period." And then at that time he was being a lieutenant commander and I was a JG without any information. I just took it, but today I would have said, "Now, look here" -- I told Admiral Halsey when I was painting him all about the orchids I had brought back, which I hadn't -- I had painted Admiral Halsey before but I'm sure he would have given them to me and I would have had them growing today. If I could have gotten them back I would have brought them back. I would have the suitor bulbs and had them now. I discovered one orchid, which I found now that was named the 101st Regiment. It's a Drandobian [phonetic], a white Drandobian with a perfume and a purple lip. It was a beautiful orchid, which I could have named Drandobian Draper. But anyway after -- then I went on to Afarti and then back to Espiro Santo [phonetic]. I did the command of the base at Afarti and painted there. Then I went to -- I got aboard the Yorktown, which was Task Force 58. We went to the second striker truck and I was to take off with this commander of the squadron, a bomber squadron, named -- over the second strike truck named Upson [phonetic]. I was in the plane at pre-dawn take off. This is another time fate is amazing. I got in the plane and we were just about to take off when word came over the loudspeaker from Admiral Ginder that Draper was to get out of the plane. He had just heard that Raymond Klapper had been killed, he was in the reserve, and a plane had crashed with him, and he didn't want anything like that -- only those who were absolutely essential to the flight. So I got out and Upson was shot down. He didn't come back. That I felt, well, God, isn't that extraordinary. Well, I felt as if I had just been yanked away. I was on the Yorktown for quite a time after the strike at Hollandia. When I first got aboard I roomed with a guy named Joe Christophek [phonetic] who was a pilot, the fighter squadron, or maybe the bomber squadron. I think it was the bomber squadron. Then I found I was -- Upson, this was before he was killed, told me he was the head of the squadron. I would work in the war ready room painting and working with my things. He said very nicely, "Oh, Draper, you know, the Admiral has moved and why don't you take the Admiral's wardroom and you would have more room there and it's air conditioned." So I said, "Fine." So I moved in there and had my own entrance to the flag deck. Then later on -- I'm not sure Upson told me this and I'm thinking it -- I think he had been killed because I think that Admiral Ginder was there to get me out of the plane. But the Admiral had moved off and somebody told me I was in the way there. So I moved into the Admiral's wardroom. And then another pilot came aboard and they needed my bunk. So they said, well, since you have the Admiral's wardroom why don't you take the Admiral's bedroom. So I was in the Admiral's bedroom, a great double bed, and I had my own head with a livery shower, all these things, and my own Marine guard and entrance to the flag deck, the best quarters on the ship. It was terrific, so I tried to say on as long as I could. Then finally we came back to Pearl Harbor. There I wanted -- from there this Captain Drake who was the head of public information was sort of jealous of the way I was moving around with these orders, just detach this date, continue with your verbal orders. He wanted to put me on a cruiser, a fast cruiser with Task Force 58 and I didn't want to go on that. I wanted to be with -- I met this old roommate of mine who was in charge -- did I tell you this? I don't think we've done this. He was in charge of -- was going to land at Saipan. He was in charge of support aircraft to shore, Price Baron. He was -- I used to room with him at Harvard. I wanted to go with him and Commander Cooper and cover the landing at Saipan. But Drake said, "No, Draper, you're supposed to go on this fast cruiser with Task Force 58." I said, "But I've already been with Task Force 58 and I must say there's nothing much to paint on a cruiser when you have -- compared to a carrier. It would be like being on a destroyer." And so I finally -- another friend of mine, Frank Littlefield who was aide to Admiral Kauffman arranged that I have lunch with Admiral Kauffman because he had a son Draper Kauffman and thought we might be related. So I had lunch and Kauffman, Admiral Kauffman said, "Well, of course Draper you ought to cover the landing at Saipan. You're the only artist out here in the Pacific." And so he gave orders that I should go to Saipan. So I was very pleased and was given these orders. Drake was a sour face. So I went off to Saipan on the Tennessee and I played the piano aboard the Tennessee with happy hour. The captain evidently knew I could play or found out I could and he asked if I would play happy hour. They would wheel the piano out on the deck for the enlisted men.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see.
MR. DRAPER: And then I played the piano and sang songs. And another funny thing was that on the same ship when I was 12 years old in the Boston Navy Yard father's -- let's see -- Admiral -- well, he was my first cousin and he married Edith Blair. I've got to think of his name. It's ridiculous, my first cousin, because I'm so excited by trying to remember things, Adolfa Statin [phonetic]. He was captain of the Tennessee when I was 12. Mother and father and myself and Lilla and Harry all went to the Navy Yard and went aboard and had lunch on the Tennessee. After lunch mother said, "William, dear, will you play the piano for the officers?" So I played a Chopin waltz or something. Then it was sunk at Pearl Harbor and pulled up again and fitted out. You could never go back through the Panama Canal because it was two feet too wide. Here I was on the same ship and playing the piano. Well, I think that's quite a coincidence. Then we finally came to Saipan. D-Day I was ready to go ashore with my camouflage uniform, which was a mark of distinction because it came from the landing at Bougainville you see and I was offered $300 for it by other people, some other men, who only had green -- the green was issued at that point to the Marines. I was ready to go aboard, I mean go ashore. I was told you can't leave the ship. Your orders say you're attached to the ship's company and when you leave you're to report to the commander for what area who was Admiral Hoover who was 2,000 miles back at Anawetok. So Price and Commander Cooper went ashore. I was on the ship and I was furious because I was -- maybe mine stopped to. Mine has.
MR. DRAPER: And, well, I was back saying that my orders were to return -- I mean, when I got off the ship to report to Admiral Hoover. Well, I was furious because I couldn't go ashore and so I painted on the way. I had done this charcoal sketch of Admiral Kingman who was aboard the Tennessee. So I went up to Admiral Kingman and I said, "Admiral, I can't get ashore. The Captain won't let me off the ship. He says I'm attached to the ship's company. Can you do anything about it?" He said, "Draper, do you expect me to send a dispatch to Admiral Turner to get you off the ship and attached to General Harland Smith?" I said, "That's exactly what I expect you to do." He said, "Well, I can't do that." Then he said, "Yes, I can and I will." He sent a dispatch to Turner and orders came back for me. But this took all day and finally around 5:00 I got orders to be attached to General Harland Smith, the Marine who was in charge of the landing ashore. I was then ready to go ashore and I had to go over to the Appalachian or the ship first to bring these orders so I could go in. I went from the transport over to report with these orders so I could go ashore and I was -- had all my insignia hidden you see because you don't wear your rank aboard. So I looked like an enlisted Marine and this ensign came up behind me and they waved my boat off and brought the ensign aboard. Then by the time I was coming up to get aboard the ship went out to sea. I mean, there was an air raid and all the ships went out to sea. It was about 5:30, 6:00, getting dark as I remember and I found I was the only officer in charge of all these landing boats. There were about 15 landing boats around circling and I was the senior officer present. They all went out for the night these big transports and boats. So I didn't know what to do. The chief petty officer, one of them, he told me one thing only a sailors [inaudible] that I should go out to a buoy seven miles out and tie up. I said, well, that would be a perfect -- we will never find the buoy. How do you find a buoy seven miles out and then get lost. So I said -- we all tied together making a nice target. Meanwhile, before we tied together, as soon as the big ships went out they got the range of where the ships had been. All day they must have been working at that. Then suddenly these bombs started falling from shore around where we were, so we just went out beyond. But they had -- all day they could have -- it took them that long and then the air raid came from planes, so the ships went out and then of course they escaped being hit. Then we stayed out beyond the range in sight of the island. I set watches for each one to keep the boats in a certain section.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How big were these boats?
MR. DRAPER: Landing boats. They dropped the front and you would go run off. So the next morning I went ashore and then I found Commander Cooper and Price in an old Japanese village, moved in. I had to move into the kitchen and there was a blind duck with sort of infected eyes that used to roost in there every night. I had a hammock to lie in and this duck would come in. Finally he disappeared one day and I think the Marines must have eaten him. But I went around sketching there, and there I had my paints. Going, landing, I didn't have any paints. I had -- well, for instance when I landed in Guam, Bougainville, I just had a pad and I lost the one at Guam anyway in the landing. But --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You did have your things? You did sketches of things and waited until later to do the painting?
MR. DRAPER: And then I would write blue or purple blue and do a sketch of the shore, a lot of sketches. Then of course later I would --
MR. MCNAUGHT: In other words making sketches and notes for future paintings?
MR. DRAPER: Notes. But the main thing was that I had studied with Corbino as I said and I could make up figures doing things. I would have to compose them and put them in -- my figures were mostly all just made up the way they would be. But, okay, I stayed -- I got I think Dengue Fever in Saipan. I was there for almost a month. I got very sick. I lost a hell of a lot of weight and I threw up everything. I couldn't eat anything but liquid things. Any other thing -- the rations were terrible rations. Well, rations or rations, they were disgusting. I couldn't keep them down. Well, then I went back, finally got back to Anawetok to report to Admiral Hoover and I was on a boat called the Lone Star, I can't remember, for a while. Henry Fonda was aboard that. I got to know him quite well. Then I reported to Admiral Hoover and then he said your orders say after reporting to me you're to return to CINCPAC, which is back to Hawaii. I said, "But there's a whole fleet leaving for Guam out in the harbor." And he said, "I don't care. You have to go back to CINCPAC. These are the orders." Well, when I got out I was again frustrated. This captain said, "Let me look at your orders, Draper." I showed them to him with 45 endorsements from around the South Pacific and everywhere. He said, "Listen, take my advice. Forget going back to Pearl Harbor. Just go out and get aboard one of those transports. They're leaving before dawn tomorrow for Guam and just sleep on deck and you'll get to Guam." And so that's what I did. We took off for Guam. This was a month later. I think I'm the only person to land in both Saipan and Guam because they were supposed to take place two days from each other.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see.
MR. DRAPER: But they had to pull in a lot of Guam troops because at Saipan it was such a hard landing that it was put off. And at Guam I had landed with the assault troops practically. I was -- this is one thing I do not remember and I can't remember how I was on this transport and I remember talking with a group of officers and it was sort of a meeting and people asking me what type of ship I was going to be on and I said I'm going to be on a destroyer. My mind is blank but I remember this fact that I said, oh, I'm going to be on a destroyer and watch a thousand yards out. This guy said to me in front of a lot of people, "You can't -- you won't be able to see anything from there, Draper. You ought to come in with me. I'm leading the assault troops in." And I said, "Do you think I'll get a better view?" And he said, "Yes." So I said okay and went with him. But I don't understand how, and then I got -- I was on this sub chaser going on and one was hit. I got on -- we got to the line of debarkation where they had the first in the landing -- they first had these tanks go in through, right over -- over water tanks. They would go right over the reef and on in. Then they had tanks filled with soldiers open that would go in and over the reef and in. Then they had landing boats, the next wave was landing boats who went up to the reef. They couldn't go over the reef. But then the boats -- the tanks that held the men would go out again to the reef and then they would hop over and climb in and go ashore. They kept ferrying them because the landing boats -- because of this reef that they couldn't go in. Well, I was at one end of the reef and I saw these -- I thought, well, heavens, I would have jumped up into one of the things and went ashore thinking, well, it won't be that bad. As I got closer it was and I saw some Japs running around in flames and flamethrowers. I had a 38 pistol which I fired as we went ashore. Then -- so I did shoot a pistol in the war. I jumped down into a foxhole and I stayed there, scared to death, until it all quieted down more or less. At that point suddenly somebody said they're using gas. All the Marines were fighting for the gas masks. I luckily had my mine right with me. They weren't using gas at all but it was quite frightening to see how -- because when they landed they left their gas masks on the beach. They all ran to get them and they said this is mine. No, this is mine. It was really quite an amazing thing. So I was at Guam making sketches for seven days. There were so many people killed that finally I had to help, stop painting and help collect them and dig them in because they were a health hazard. It was really -- and I got very emotional seeing these -- they would pile these bodies into these command cars and take them off to be buried and plow them under. The ones that had crew haircuts really upset me terribly I suppose and the other ones who had long hair like we wear today just looked like Japs to me. I had no emotion. But the ones with the crew haircuts reminded me of my college friends I think because we all wore crew cuts then. I guess I just couldn't take the whole thing. Seeing a crew cut head hanging over just, was sickening to me. Well, then I got off Guam having painted.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you have time at Guam to actually do paintings or was it sketching all the time?
MR. DRAPER: I painted there too.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, when you --
MR. DRAPER: I didn't bring -- oh, I'll tell you what happened at Guam. When I came in I had lost my sketchpad in the landing and I didn't have anything. In the excitement I left it in the landing boat and ran ashore. So when it quieted down I went over to where the medical unit was and there were doctors. So they had paper and I got some paper there. Then the next day I got my things off the transport.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, you could go back and get your paints?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, I went back and got it.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Exactly.
MR. DRAPER: Then also when the transport was leaving to go back to Pearl Harbor I got on that and flew, went on that to someplace and then flew from there to Pearl Harbor. Then Drake said, "Oh, Draper, you've done a magnificent job." And I felt like saying no help to you. You really fouled the whole thing up, but I didn't. I thought -- I went against his orders the whole time.
MR. MCNAUGHT: This is William McNaught talking to William Draper, our third session. It's June 6, 1977. Mr. Draper, you were talking just about the -- with no help to which Admiral was it, Drake?
MR. DRAPER: No, I was talking with Captain Drake --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Captain Drake.
MR. DRAPER: -- and telling him with no help of his I had performed my duties by painting at Saipan and Guam. But anyway, after that I got back and things of course were reproduced. All my paintings were reproduced in the National Geographic magazine in four different issues. The first issue on the Aleutian was in March -- no, it was in August 1943. Then there was the landing at Bougainville in April of '44, then all aboard the Yorktown and Task Force 58 in October of '44, and finally in November of 1945 the landings of Saipan and Guam came out with a story on each one that I had given to the National Geographic. As a matter of fact the portrait I did of Halsey in the South Pacific, I had a picture -- I think maybe I told about that I think with the Japanese running for shelter from the storm and Halsey was the storm and Life wanted to use it on the cover.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes. Yes, you did.
MR. DRAPER: And of course the Navy wouldn't release it because they didn't understand it. And yesterday I got this whole thing from Life magazine advertising 2,000 covers of Time magazine and I said, hell, I don't want any of these but I had the cover I would have bought them you know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Exactly.
MR. DRAPER: Well, anyway --
MR. MCNAUGHT: But did the Navy release the portrait for use in the National Geographic?
MR. DRAPER: Not the portrait. I mean, no, it wasn't. They released -- I mean, they released all my work to the National Geographic. They reproduced 69 pictures in all of my paintings of the war years. Then I -- then after that -- I got back in August. I was married in October '44 to Barbara Cagiati, C-a-g-i-a-t-i, whose father was librarian of the Vatican.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: Yes, she was half Italian.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How fascinating.
MR. DRAPER: And I -- well, she met me and we fell in love. I had known her before but we got married in October. We lived in Washington. Then I got temporary additional duty. I was still -- I think I was a lieutenant commander by then. I had been raised in rank from a JG to lieutenant, a lieutenant commander. Then I went -- was commissioned to do three murals for the Naval Academy in Bancroft Hall in the dining room.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In Annapolis?
MR. DRAPER: In Annapolis. I was sent on temporary additional duty there. But I painted them in Washington, which was great. So I could go over to studio, I rented a studio in the Northeast part of Washington, a big studio. General Vandegrift gave me a platoon of Marines to pose for me. They loved their duty. They were sitting outside drinking beer and I would get each one at a time to pose for different subjects. My murals were of the landing at Guam. So I had all these characters running in and sat and pretending they were falling down, dying. It was great fun. My sketches were -- I still have the sketches -- were one inch to the foot. So I had 18 inches, each one was 18 inches long, but they really were 18 feet long you see. An inch, the heads were about an inch in size but in the final thing they were big you see. So they were quite heroic in size.
MR. MCNAUGHT: There were three of these murals?
MR. DRAPER: Three of these murals which I thought were going to live forever in Bancroft Hall. They were the best position. There were three as you came down --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Were they painted in fresco or canvas?
MR. DRAPER: No, they were painted in canvas and they were in the best position. There was a long, very long thin, like a ruler. The mess hall was shaped like a ruler and there were -- two of Dwight Shepler's at one end and two of different Baily Coale at the other, and I had three in the center of the ruler you see as you came down the steps. But then they made a T shape to the ruler because they needed to enlarge the dining hall. So just where the T would come in on the T shape, that was the -- that was where my murals were and that wall came down. Then they rolled it up and put it in the Naval Academy museum, and some foolish captain gave them to some commander and they were put up by a local artist and cut up and plastered around and it was just too bad. I wasn't going to make a big fuss. I just didn't -- why bother. Well, anyway, then that -- then I got out of the Navy and started my career. We lived in Washington.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What year was it you got out of the Navy?
MR. DRAPER: Nineteen forty-six, I would say.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You were still living in Washington?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. Willie was born in 1946 and then we moved up to Ogunquit. I think we moved to Hamilton, Mass and then to Ogunquit for the summer. Then we moved down to New York. No, we were at Cedarhurst the first summer and then a couple of summers out in Oyster Bay. Well, I can't remember. It's all very difficult to get, but I know in 1948 we were in New York and I was living in Daniel Chester French's house at 125 West 11th Street. The landlord wouldn't let us leave the baby carriage outside in the hall going out near the second and third floor of the house you see. So we would have to carry it. I would have to drag the baby carriage up to the second floor and that drove me wild. So finally we bought this house here that we're in now in 1949. That's why you see all those bikes in the hall. I'm not going to object to them putting bikes in. So from then on then I had -- the same year I got the studio at 535 Park that used to belong to Lydia Emmet who was a great portrait painter and I think a great painter of children. I was very lucky to have gotten it.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's a marvelous space.
MR. DRAPER: It's a great space and beautiful light.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's marvelous.
MR. DRAPER: I've had --
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you've had both the house and the studio since 1949?
MR. DRAPER: Nineteen forty-nine.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How lucky you are.
MR. DRAPER: Well, I was. In the summer we bought a house in Wainscott about the same time, maybe about 1955. So then I had Debar [phonetic] which was a studio right there. So I've been very lucky to have my studios and a place to work because I found it very difficult to go out someplace like Minneapolis to do a portrait. Then you can't find the correct light. I remember going out to paint Lucy Dayton whose husband was the head of the Dayton Department Stores and I went out there and we searched all over the place trying to find a light to paint her in. Out in Minneapolis it's so cold there anyway to find a north window in this place is impossible and to find one big enough to paint from. So I started this portrait and then -- started it Monday and they had a big cocktail party on Friday to invite everybody in to see the finished product. It was a great cocktail party.
MR. MCNAUGHT: But no painting.
MR. DRAPER: But no painting. There was no face. The first day I painted the hands, the head, everything, and spent three days on that head. So I said finally you'll have to come to New York to pose. She came one day to New York and I painted her head in and it was fine, a great success, because the light was just so awful with the snow on the ground and reflecting all around, the white walls. I couldn't do a thing with it. That's true of almost everywhere I've gone unless I make a big fuss and have ceilings 10 to 12 feet high facing north, you know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you have a perfect situation with your studio.
MR. DRAPER: I'll tell you one time I went up to paint the headmistress -- not the headmistress, the president of Wellesley, Margaret Clap. This was probably about eight or ten years ago, maybe 12. I can't quite remember because they all go -- I can't remember the time. Maybe it was only six years ago. But she was a lovely person. She died recently. They had just built this $2 million building, art building in Wellesley, with all the studios supposedly for the artists. It was the most terrible light. Evidently they built this building and then put cement shades in the south to keep the lights out, big cement blocks to shadow the windows. Then to balance it they put it on the north side too, to make the building look equal. Then they had the skylights. They were six feet thick and slits in them. So all you would get was sun reflecting on the six foot of -- shining on the six foot of cement going down these slits, reflecting down on the floor. It was the most dreadful light I've ever seen. So I finally had to go around to a gym across the campus and paint Margaret Clap there. Well, she was hysterical about it. She thought it was funny to put $2 million into architecture and not talk to artists about a studio. Well, that's happened all my life, poor light.
MR. MCNAUGHT: But then did you find -- when you were finished with the Navy you moved to New York, you bought the house and the studio. Was it easy making a transition back to civilian life in terms of your art, getting -- did you start out right away getting commissions? Did you teach, did you --
MR. DRAPER: No, I was very lucky. I found right away I got commissions. I know that Al Murray stayed in for two or three years painting a lot of admirals and people in the Navy and he would call me and ask me how it was in civilian life. I said great.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It was fine, you had lots of commissions?
MR. DRAPER: Well, they had this big show at the Metropolitan Museum of combat artwork of all the five artists and then "Men At War" in Washington. I was suddenly known from all of that.
MR. MCNAUGHT: They included your name in the [inaudible].
MR. DRAPER: And then I was in Who's Who in America, whatever that means, but about that time in 1949, '45, '46, and of course that helped me, although I had to produce the goods. I started out doing that. I had been with Portraits Incorporated and I had --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Before the war?
MR. DRAPER: Before the war. It was called the 460 Park Avenue Gallery and I had show there of portraits in 1940.
MR. MCNAUGHT: During the war you had done portraits of civilians, friends, et cetera?
MR. DRAPER: Not during the war years. I would do sketches everywhere I went. I would get a jeep. I don't know that I was told. You just would get a jeep. In the Aleutians I couldn't get a jeep at all. I would have to wait two or three days and get something from the transportation officer and I would be idle all that time. But finally when I did Admiral Nimitz in Pearl Harbor he said, "Well, Draper, anything I can do to expedite what you want -- what you're doing?" And I said, "Well, I would love a jeep." So I got one right away. So everywhere in the Pacific when I was ashore I would go to the commanding officer and say, of the base and say, "I have orders here to paint you for the historical record." And so he -- not to paint them, to make a drawing of them. I would do a charcoal drawing in an afternoon and then he would say what can I do to help you. I would say I would love a jeep. So I got a jeep everywhere I went. Go to the top I always say.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Tell me about life in New York when you got back, who you painted, when you had exhibitions, and so on.
MR. DRAPER: Well, I started out earlier by painting -- I had done portraits before and I think the first portrait commission was of Bill Fen. I don't know whether I told you that I had had this painting that -- did I say what I studied and had this painting in the National Academy, did I say that? It was a still life that I sold for 750 on it.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: Through that guy, Bill Fen, I had painted George Merck children. He knew Bill Fen so I painted Bambi and Judy Merck about 1937.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: And then when I came back -- I had been doing quite a few portraits and I guess -- I'll tell you the most significant portrait about 1950. I was asked to Bill Salkstall [phonetic]. It was here with Henry Cabot Lodge and Eisenhower. Bill Salkstall came up to see me. I asked him to come up and see me. Portraits Incorporated said why did you ask him to the house, Bill? You shouldn't have. That wasn't right. And I said, "Well, it certainly was right. I got a commission." So it turned out to be fine because he wanted me to paint him for -- I think it was Exter Academy, which I did.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I see.
MR. DRAPER: He was the headmaster. Then that started some more and then I went out to do the Pillsburys in Minneapolis, and from there I did Dr. Mayo. I mean, it all grew. I did John Foster Dulles.
MR. MCNAUGHT: This was all early on? And obviously one brought another.
MR. DRAPER: I'll tell you the funny thing about John Foster Dulles --
MR. DRAPER: The funny thing about John Foster Dulles, it's not so funny it's sort of pathetic, it was quite a few years ago. I had painted Douglas Dillon commissioned by his father Clarence Dillon to paint him when he was -- he was ambassador to France and I painted him up in Dark Harbor. Clarence Dillon then asked me to do John Foster Dulles who was dead by that time. This was for the Princeton Memorial Library in Princeton. It was called the John Foster Dulles Memorial Library of Diplomatic History. But they hadn't built it yet. So I was commissioned to paint it and I worked on it from photographs and this and that. I was rather -- I felt very lucky because I had a marvelous photograph -- I hate to work from photographs, but I had gotten his will, I got a chair from Washington sent up by Mrs. Dulles, his clothes, everything, and a lamp. I set it up in my studio with a fake thing looking like his table. I got a model and really recreated the photograph except the face in the photograph was lousy. It had no light and shade. It had nothing. Then I thought I would write to Kosh [phonetic] and ask if he had any pictures. He said, well, for $25 he would send me a lot of little blurbs. Kosh Canada, you know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I do know him.
MR. DRAPER: I found one in almost exactly the same position, beautiful light, paid him the $25 or $50, whatever it was, and then I got this thing and enlarged it and put it on his head. I never told anybody. That was -- this is the first time it's on record. Everybody who looked at it said, my God, how did you do this from that dreadful photograph. It worked out very well. Well, anyway, I finished it and they put it away for a couple of years until the building was finished. I thought -- then I didn't think anything of it. Suddenly I woke up one morning and looked in the New York Times and there on the front page was my picture of Dulles with Eisenhower, Drohene [phonetic], Alan Dulles and Mrs. Dulles all -- and Eisenhower was the President then -- all standing in front of the picture and it said the picture in the background is of the late statesman. It was the unveiling of the diplomatic library in Princeton. I hadn't even been asked to it. But the picture was unveiled and they had forgotten all about me in the two or three years and never even asked me to come. Well, I think that was ridiculous and I was quite upset because it would have been nice to say the portrait in the background of the late statesman is by William Draper you see. That happens quite a bit with architects and artists. Then let me see. That's going back quite a ways. Well, you can ask me some questions.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Now you're in New York, it's the late 40's and the 50's. So you're getting very well established, getting lots of important commissions not only in New York but around the country and internationally as well. Now tell me more before we go on and talk about some of these important people that you've painted and your reactions to them, tell me a bit more about your family. I believe you have daughters as well as your son, Willie, who you mentioned who was born in 1946. When were your daughters born?
MR. DRAPER: My daughters -- well, let's see. Well, Willie was born in 1946 in Washington. Then Francesca came about three years later, I think 1949 -- '48 or '49 and was born in New York. Maggie came about three years after that. No, more than that because she is 23, Francesca is 28. Three, four, five -- five years later. They're all very great kids and I love them very much.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Your life was really established in New York and has remained in New York.
MR. DRAPER: In New York and the kids went to school, Lee and Chapin, and St. Paul's, and Farmington, and Milton, et cetera.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you begin to exhibit on a regular basis too in New York? Did you have any more exhibitions of portraits?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. Well, I did there and then I had a show at Mirdler's [phonetic] in 1950.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In 1950. Of your portraits?
MR. DRAPER: Of portraits and landscapes. Then I used to send to the National Academy, but I would send portraits and it made me so mad because having been invited by them in the early years, since 1933 having one of three sold in 1993 and in those shows I would be invited. My picture was about a third of the show and would be invited out to Chicago Art Institute, The Carnegie Institute and this and that. Then when I would come back to New York and I'm a success then I would send the portrait to the National Academy and was turned down, zing, because there were portrait painters who were in the National Academy who were jealous. I know this is a fact. I'm not going to go any further and say any more. I can say a lot but I won't. So that -- so I've never shown at the National Academy of Design and I don't think I ever will.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In 1950 your exhibition at Mirdler, you said that you had not only portraits but landscapes as well.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: When did your interest in landscape painting or had you been painting landscapes right along? Certainly during the war there was --
MR. DRAPER: Oh, I had been painting landscapes all my life and always have.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Had you ever shown them before the Mirdler?
[End Tape 2.]
MR. MCNAUGHT: This is the second tape. Bill McNaught speaking to William Draper on June 6, 1977. We were talking, Mr. Draper, about your exhibition at Mirdler's in 1950 and the fact that there were landscape paintings. Now had you in fact shown landscape paintings anywhere before?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, I had always --
MR. MCNAUGHT: In an exhibition, in an exhibition?
MR. DRAPER: Yes. Well, all the years that I painted I've shown them, landscapes. But when I was a portrait painter and I said at the National Academy I would send a portrait in because I felt I was a portrait painter. But I've been always painting landscapes. As a matter of fact in the last few years I've been doing, exhibiting them because I was -- somebody about 12 years ago said, oh, but Draper is merely a portrait painter, which sort of got my dander up because I've always been painting landscapes and painting wherever I've gone to do portraits and I'll paint. I've always painted. I don't consider -- well, I do know that I'm a good portrait painter but I also feel like a landscape painter.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: And so --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Your last exhibition in New York, just very recently, you showed landscapes.
MR. DRAPER: All landscapes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: At the [inaudible] Gallery.
MR. DRAPER: Yes. And then I've had four, well I guess three at the Graham Gallery in the last eight years.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Of landscapes?
MR. DRAPER: Of landscapes, no portraits. I've had three in Palm Beach. I had one portrait show in Palm Beach, but three other landscape shows.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So in fact recently most of your exhibitions have been of your landscapes?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes. Two in Saratoga, three in Nantucket, one in Northeast Harbor, always landscapes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Always landscapes.
MR. DRAPER: No portraits. I haven't shown a portrait for years. There's no place in the first place. This is one of my things that makes me very angry today.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What's that?
MR. DRAPER: That you cannot -- there's not a place to show a portrait. Now I'll tell you very frankly I was furious -- well, in the first place I have two portraits in the National Portrait Gallery and I have one of President Kennedy there and I have one of Richard Rodgers, both commissioned, one by Jackie who wanted, Jackie Onassis gave that one to the National Portrait Gallery, and Richard Rodgers commissioned me to paint him because he had to have a picture there. I don't think his can be shown until after, ten years after he dies so it can be on special exhibitions there but I don't think many people know of its existence. Then I had one of Paul Mellon in the National Gallery. But mostly -- there's no place I can show portraits at all. I mean, I can show at the Century Club, I'm a member, so in the professionals show I put a portrait in or a landscape. But you can send a landscape anywhere. Nobody wants a portrait.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, could it -- part of the reason might be that in exhibitions at galleries where the paintings are for sale presumably most of the portraits you do are commissions which means there will be nothing in it for the gallery for showing it if the work has already been sold.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, I see that point of view. But I also have done many portraits. For instance I did send one up to the Allied Artists of America of my mentor -- not mentor, what do you call them? At the Arts Students League he was in charge of my -- what do you call them? In charge of the --- getting the -- now I'm getting embarrassed because of this wheel turning and it's stopped.
MR. DRAPER: I've got the word, my monitor, the monitor at the Art Students League. Eric, I painted him with a turtleneck sweater, white -- and Irish turtleneck sweater with a Navy coat thrown over his back. It wasn't a portrait. It was sort of a nice composition. Well, I got the Grace Peterson prize at the Allied Artists recently, about two years ago. But that's the only place that I've shown and you can't -- now this is why I was saying I was getting angry. The National Portrait Gallery where I have two portraits there, Gardner Cox [phonetic] has portraits there, Al Murray has. I mean, all the best portrait painters in the country who are painting the people in the world today who are of importance, which is part of the historical record, and we had our works, well in General Motors and the Chrysler Building and this and that, the heads of schools, colleges. I had one of Puzey [phonetic], one of -- I mean, in all the colleges.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Many heads of state.
MR. DRAPER: Heads of state. I've done Ambassador Annenberg, you know, the whole thing. Then to have a show -- I don't know who arranged it at the National Portrait Gallery of portraits, self-portraits by artists by portrait painters from Stewart Stein to the present day. Not one of the well-known portrait painters was in it. They had self-portraits up, from Stewart up for the 20th century and then suddenly when it comes to this time they had Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jamie Wyeth with a pumpkin over his head. If that's a self-portrait I would like -- well, maybe it is. I'm not going to say a word. But none of us had -- I've done a self-portrait. I would have done a brilliant one for the show if I had been asked. Here we have our own works in the National Portrait Gallery and we're not included in an exhibition of portraits of artists from Colonial times up to the present day. Now I think that's rather shocking. Whoever got that show up makes me made. Nobody, none of us showed, can show portraits anywhere. I can show, send a landscape somewhere, but if I send a portrait -- I wont' send it because I know damn well it will be turned down anyway.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's extraordinary.
MR. DRAPER: And you think it out.
MR. MCNAUGHT: They're the ones always being asked to do the portraits.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. I'm not -- well, you can go to the Whitney and you'll see one done by Pearlstein that's usually nude and it's a good, very photographic likeness. Then there's a guy named, is it Ross or somebody, I can't remember if it's Close.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Close.
MR. DRAPER: Close. Who does enlargements of heads, great big heads, which are rather fascinating.
MR. MCNAUGHT: He's just had a show.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. Well, I think that they're interesting, but I must say that then there's Alice Neale. Well, if you do something this little ugly, this little -- it's drawn funny, now I'm beginning to think maybe I should just do from now on like Pearlstein. They said -- I saw in Time magazine Pearlstein's studio is always -- he has his friends sitting around nude which he paints all the time. Well, I think nothing could be more fun than to have a lot of nude friends around in my studio to paint them. I think -- but maybe that's already been done now you see. What can I do? I know I can paint flesh beautifully. I would love to paint nudes. I'm not a bit conservative in that way. Maybe that's what I should do instead of portraits.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Have you painted nudes?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, sure, yeah, plenty of nudes. I think I'll do a nude of myself except that's been done if you think of it.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's interesting the way you say it now, the lack of opportunities to exhibit portraits. You find it much easier exhibiting the landscapes. Tell me, have you -- you mentioned just all the exhibitions recently that you've had of landscape paintings. Was it like that in the 60's and the 50's as well? Did you have a lot of exhibitions then?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I didn't -- well, I didn't show much then. I was so busy painting pictures, portraits. It was only when I suddenly heard that I was merely a portrait painter that I got these.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You decided to prove that that was just one facet of your art.
MR. DRAPER: And so then I took all of my paintings and had a big show of -- I had been all over and I had painted the Shah of Iran, I've done the rug washing in Ray and the Persian rugs were laying out. When I was in Africa, in Kenya, of Kenya, I don't what it is, I painted all the animals. I painted, well, just elephants this place and that. I did a lot of nice studies in Kenya.
MR. MCNAUGHT: At this point you're probably most well known as a portrait painter but also known by virtue of the fact that you had this many exhibitions as a landscape painter, but --
MR. DRAPER: I would say I'm internationally known as a portrait painter.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Certainly.
MR. DRAPER: And nationally known, maybe not even -- on the Eastern Coast --
MR. MCNAUGHT: A respectable reputation certainly as a landscape painter.
MR. DRAPER: A landscape painter.
MR. MCNAUGHT: But it is as a portrait painter that I think that the historical record that one would be interested in learning something about the people that you painted, who you painted and some stories about them. But first off I would like to ask you about painting itself without your art and who you felt was the great influences on your art. You've told us already about your early interest in art, your training, the schools you attended and so on. Can you tell me as a portrait painter which artists of the past, which well known portraitists of the past influenced you the most?
MR. DRAPER: Well, it's not very difficult, although I don't think my painting particularly looks like any of them. But I would say -- most people -- I would say almost Robert Henri I look more like than anyone and yet I've never studied him. People say, oh, that looks like Robert Henri.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: And --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you ever go -- constantly think about him, that's how you wanted to paint?
MR. DRAPER: No, I can't say anything, nothing -- no, not at all. I just admired -- I like his paintings but I never studied his paintings.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You did.
MR. DRAPER: It just seemed to come out and that's sort of in that general way I would say, except it's quite different. I think that -- well, ones I admired mostly were [inaudible] and France Hall, Van Dyke, Rubens, Valkan, Augustus John, Sargent of course more than anything.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Sargent?
MR. DRAPER: Sargent I think is great. I think that Mancini -- do you know Mancini, an Italian artist? He's a terrific painter. Then of course -- my mind has gone blank but you know the one with the long necks.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Vodini [phonetic]?
MR. DRAPER: Vodini. I think Vodini is great.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Vodini is wonderful.
MR. DRAPER: Vodini's sketches and Vodini's little interiors are absolutely beautiful. Nobody knows that Vodini could even do those but they're almost better than his portraits. He is a great painter and so is Sargent.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's interesting taking it to Sargent and looking at the landscape of yours and seeing -- I mean, Sargent who I think of as both a portrait painter and a landscape artist. I can see how your work is getting into the same thing.
MR. DRAPER: Well, even this picture right here is in the vein of Sargent. I mean --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Exactly.
MR. DRAPER: -- although it's not like Sargent but it's -- it's realistic.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you consciously ever as a student look at Sargent's think and about painting that way, in brush stroke for example?
MR. DRAPER: When I was -- no, my brush stroke, my technique just developed by itself. I think I was probably influenced by it because I loved brush -- I loved the way France Hall's, and I like -- I remember seeing a -- I forgot which portrait it was but Sargent had done a chain across some guy's stomach, a gold chain across -- I could see -- I was just, how in the world. I studied how he had done that chain. He had obviously put a little yellow, bright yellow on one end of the brush and darker. He must have just tell the brush and twisted it this way across because there was a little flick. I'm sure that that's the way he did it. It looks like one stroke. I remember painting my sister Lilla years ago and the mouth looked too small. I said, oh, there's something wrong with it. I've got make it bigger. So I took my brush and went it's got to be bigger, plunk, and luckily there was a little darker paint and a little lighter paint on the brush, which was a complete accident, and I took the brush away and there was the mouth completely done. That happens a lot. I will call on God, I will ask God to paint for me. This is what he does. This sounds sort of supernatural but --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Explain that further.
MR. DRAPER: All right, he does. I found that -- I used to get so discouraged and would make -- the paintings would get worse and worse and they would look like a complete amateur, one of my students who after five days fussing on the thing. It would be just awful. And I would say -- well, it's sort of like every day and every way you're getting better and better like an apple. You know, that -- what is it the -- every day and every way I'm -- not Christian Science but it's thinking along those lines. And then I just say I can do it. God, help me do it, and ask God and suddenly everything would be right. I would have to think that everything is going well and then it does. If you think, God this stinks, it will just drop down and be the most God-awful looking mess you've ever seen. So you have to voice it to yourself.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's optimism.
MR. DRAPER: You have to be optimistic and think. It's got to flow I think. Gee, isn't this good. Oh, hot dog. I was doing that when I was painting Cardinal Simmons and I felt a little wrong. I was painting him about two years ago. He had flown over from Brussels to pose for me and he's the primate of Belgium and a very liberal cardinal. I was having such a good time with him. I was telling him that sometimes I call on God to paint for me and he looked a little surprised. I said, "Well, do you want me to do it for you now?" And I did. I said, "Come on, God, paint." Then he gave me this book called The Power of [inaudible] after he finished. He wrote in the front of it, "To William Draper whom God has given so many marvelous gifts to in painting," or something of that which -- and then I felt a little guilty because, I mean, I'm not taking advantage of God but I do ask him and God has taken care of me I can tell right from the time I was pulled out of that plane and walking down the corridor and hearing that thing.
MR. MCNAUGHT: These instances --
MR. DRAPER: I just have faith in God.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you ever -- well, when you're painting pictures say on a given day and it's just not going right do you ever just quit for the day, tell the sitter to go home and say I'm sorry but you'll have to --
MR. DRAPER: No. I'll usually work.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You know when you just feel it's not going right.
MR. DRAPER: I go on anyway until it goes right.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Is that [inaudible].
MR. DRAPER: I'll destroy it. I mean, I won't scratch it out. I'll paint on it until the time comes to stop and then it will look awful and I'll come back in the afternoon and look at it and say, God, doesn't this stink. That eye is all wrong. I would paint it out.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You would just paint it out?
MR. DRAPER: Take it out. It's the way -- I never work over two hours. I do on landscape, but over two hours on a portrait at a time because after two hours I find that -- you'll find everything is wrong. I mean, you think everything looks right but an eye can be half an inch too high and you don't see it, or a head will be turned like this.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's best to get away from --
MR. DRAPER: Getting away and looking. I always have the telephone, answer the telephone. When Cardinal Cook was posing for me he would have his hands posed and the telephone would ring and I would go over and answer it. He would get furious with me. I said, "Well, Your Eminence," I think that's what I called him. I would say, "Don't get angry because every time I answer the phone it gives me a fresh look when I come back and also if I don't answer it and it rings I'll be wondering who it is and won't be able to concentrate." That's perfectly true. I don't mind being interrupted. I'll go over and say hello and then I'll say somebody is posing. I can't talk long. I'll come back and when I come back I get a completely -- and when I work I -- it's a terrible temptation to work on the head, you just keep working on the head. You've got to force yourself to look down and work on the hand or work somewhere else. Then you look up and you see what's wrong. You look down here. Another thing you'll find, if you look at somebody, I'm looking at you now, your head is a different color than your hand. Your forehead is a different color than across through your cheeks. Your neck is a different color. Well, so many artists have skin tones, flesh, mixed up, light, dark and medium. They put it on and it looks just like a wax model to me. Well, a hand is hanging down in the first place and it will turn pink. The blood rushes to it. If a hand is up over the forehead or up on the top of the head it turns it blue or white. The blood runs out. All around, the neck is usually greener than the checks. If you put all these variations in it will look alive you see.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Fascinating.
MR. DRAPER: And nobody -- and these big general areas of colors and -- for instance a wall behind is gray. Well, the gray on one side will be quite a different color because it might be purple gray on one side but because of sun reflection it will be a warm yellow gray on the other side. Yet the whole thing together if you paint it right will just look grey. Or a suit will have different colors all through it. It depends. Well, that's the whole thing I feel to make a thing look alive. Then you have to also think of the in and out. Everybody is talking about two dimensional form today, and minimal art, and they want the thing to look flat as if it doesn't come off the wall in any way. Well, in the old days it seemed to me they liked perspective and you would get in and out. I know that myself you have to have -- I can see you sitting there and I see that your knee is about two-and-a-half feet in front of your nose and you have to show that. The knee has to be made big enough so that it's two-and-a-half feet out in the picture. That's -- a lot of times I will have to admit it's not done. An artist I know, a well-known artist who I think does beautiful charcoal drawings, I won't say his name, he will turn -- and he goes -- it's somebody with an arm over a chair like this you see. The arm -- as he measures it's perfectly right. He'll measure the length of the head probably from the top of the head to the chin and then from the chin down. It's probably where the elbow is if you measure. But really it's because the elbow is sticking out forward. Then he will end it there, but not make the elbow come forward so the arm looks as if it's down, straight down and cut off here, cut off about -- well, let's see, about eight inches down from the shoulder when it measures that way but then the elbow has got to be bigger to come out. The arm has to be bigger so that it's coming out and then it looks as if it's on the same plane as the shoulder. Do you understand what I mean?
MR. MCNAUGHT: I do.
MR. DRAPER: I think I don't explain it very well. All of that I think is very important, at least to me, and today that seems to be the least of anybody's worries because they -- and this talk of two dimensional form, I don't -- I think form in the first place if you look in the dictionary, form is three dimensional. Isn't that what form is? But I've seen that phrase, two-dimensional form.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yeah.
MR. DRAPER: That's a lot of rot. I don't understand a lot of the art criticism today and I've been painting for a hell of a long time. You would think I would understand what they were talking about.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Who are some of the other portrait painters today who you respect whose work you know?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I will tell you. Gardner Cox I think is an excellent portrait painter. Then there's Ray Kinsler. Edward Raymond Kinsler I think is very good, a good friend of mine. Dick Sipert, another very good friend. And Travert Watts [phonetic] of course who just died this year was one of my very good friends and a marvelous painter. I think he was one of the best landscape painters I've ever known and very good at portraits, but his landscapes really of his chateau -- he had this chateau in Roche Montere [phonetic]. Beautiful paintings he did around Brittany and also around Bowanwald [phonetic]. David Swayze is another one.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Are these people who are all living now?
MR. DRAPER: Yes, yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: We were talking about --
MR. DRAPER: Al Murray is another. He was a combat artist when I was.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes. You mentioned Sargent and Vodini. Between the group -- between those artists, that sort of the turn century artists and the ones that you mentioned now who were the portrait painters say over the last 50 years or so, 50 or 60 years --
MR. DRAPER: Well, the ones that I know of --
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- who do you think of as important to portrait painting?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I think -- well, I don't know how far back I can go. I mean, my knowledge of the history of art is very poor. That's what I got a D in in Harvard. But Arpin for instance, when was Arpin? He was about -- I don't even know. He was about the time of Sargent I would say or a little earlier, or maybe about the time of Augustus John. They were all --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yeah.
MR. DRAPER: -- Augustus John. And before that -- I'm trying to -- well, Reynolds was further back.
MR. MCNAUGHT: No, I mean other twentieth century.
MR. DRAPER: Twentieth century. Zahn, Zahn. Do you remember Zahn? I'm just trying to think of other twentieth century ones.
MR. MCNAUGHT: No, any -- but there were particular --
MR. DRAPER: Hawthorne of course. Hawthorne was very important to me, Charles W. Hawthorne. William Chase was a very important --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, William Chase, yes.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, and I'll tell you something quite interesting. Mirdlers had a show recently of William Chase.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes, I saw that.
MR. DRAPER: This old man was overheard by Jamie Androtti [phonetic] who is a good friend of mine who works a Mirdlers. He suddenly heard this old man saying to somebody else, "Why, look, that hand -- that's a Draper hand right there." And so he went up and talked to the old man. He was -- he had studied with me at the Art Students League. I was so flattered to hear him say, "Look at that. It's a Draper hand. It looks just like Draper." That was William Chase, William Merritt Chase. But I guess I'm very influenced by that school you see because that's who I was studying with in the 30's and all. I like that type of painting. I mean, I think mine has gone on. It's a little more contemporary, particularly my portraits I would say. My portraits -- I think -- now this is true. As you paint you develop, not necessarily you don't try to develop a style but a style evolves I think.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It becomes your style.
MR. DRAPER: People look at my pictures and any one they see they know it's me.
MR. MCNAUGHT: They know it's by William Draper.
MR. DRAPER: And it's very interesting in my class, one little boy one time came up to me. He had been in about two months. He said, "Mr. Draper, do you think I have any style now?" And of course I was -- when people are paying me to criticize them I can be quite nasty. I said, "What do you mean do you have any style?" I said, "No, you have no style whatsoever, and if you think about style at this stage in the game you'll never have any. If you just don't think about style and paint sincerely and go for ten years and work hard you might if you're lucky develop a little style." I know I'm right because he was trying to do these different things to get -- to be stylish, something or the other, and it didn't work.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Now tell me, you mentioned him and you mentioned students before. Where have you taught and how often have you taught?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I haven't taught much at all except --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Were these in classes or private students or --
MR. DRAPER: I've never taught --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You taught at the Art Students League.
MR. DRAPER: I never taught at all until I taught at the Art Students League.
MR. MCNAUGHT: When did you first teach there?
MR. DRAPER: And I think that was about 1969 until about 1975.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You hadn't had any students before 1969?
MR. DRAPER: Never.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And did you enjoy that?
MR. DRAPER: I loved it and I had -- I loved coming in. They would say, oh the Maestro is here. They all called me Maestro. I had a big class. I had about 40 students.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: And it was the largest class. They would all flock in and I was very popular. They still want me to teach there and people still call me up.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you just find you don't have time for it or --
MR. DRAPER: Well, I found I didn't have time. If you take two mornings a week, that's what I was doing, and then somebody would fly from Indianapolis or from the West Coast to come in, arrive Monday morning, I would have not even met them. They knock on the door at 10:00 and come in. You say good morning just to, whatever it is, and then -- I'll tell you who came there, Norman Chandler for instance who was the head of the Los Angeles Times, I painted his wife Buffie Chandler for their music center too, and they both came to New York to pose. Well, if they come and pose and they're going to go back, I would tell them I can do it in a week, which I can no matter what size, Monday through Friday, well then if you're teaching two mornings a week, Tuesday and Thursday mornings --
MR. MCNAUGHT: It takes that --
MR. DRAPER: -- you suddenly realize, you get rather nervous toward Friday and I found after doing it for the last two or three years I just decided I couldn't do it and so I haven't.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you think of these students at the Art Students League as different from the people you remember, the students you remember at the National Academy of Design 30 years before? Was it just --
MR. DRAPER: No, I felt very relaxed with them, and then of course there would be lots of old ladies and then you would find very talented ones who you would be more interested in. I tried to be very fair, to go around and talk to each one and have it come out at the end of the morning. I will tell you a funny story about one time I came in -- I had the first hour from 9:00 to 10:00 they're supposed to sketch fast sketches, drawing five-minute sketches of the model, quick sketches. You're supposed to walk, look around, see whether the body is in a circle or any shape and watch the lines as they carry through this line. The hand would come down for instance into that line you see and all around. So I came in one morning and there was this ballet dance who was posing and she tried to -- she was standing in all these different positions, number five, and number one, and all of this, very stiff. And I said, "Now, come on, loosen up. Let's get some, a little emotion in this." And she said, "Why Deadaliff [phonetic] would roll over in his grave." No, she didn't Deadaliff. She said, "Degas would roll over in his grave, Mr. Draper." I said, "What do you mean?" And then she got furious and sort of very uppity and nasty. Then it came along to 10:00 to 12:00 and she got a pose and was posing for a week in this pose you see. Then about 10:30 there was a break and we all went in to have coffee. It happened there was an empty chair right next to hers. I mean, they had been saving it for me but the model was right there. So I had to sit next to her and I wasn't getting on with her at all. She said -- and I tried to be nice. I sat down and said, "Tell me, where did you study ballet?" And she said, "Oh, I studied with George" -- what was his name -- "George Zurich [phonetic]. But of course you've never heard of him." And I said, "Now listen my dear, not only have I heard of him he posed for me. I painted him in Laprimidi Dufawn [phonetic]." And the class laughed, they loved it. It was just such a -- I mean, it was so amazing because she was being so rude and saying I knew nothing about the ballet and I had painted him. I also had studied ballet also. As a matter of fact I was offered a job in the World's Fair in 1939 with the Fourth Ballet.
MR. MCNAUGHT: To dance?
MR. DRAPER: To dance.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you take the job?
MR. DRAPER: No.
MR. MCNAUGHT: No. Why were you offered? Had you been studying ballet?
MR. DRAPER: Now this is interesting I'll tell you. I had studied for a year. I had never even told the family because in those days it was considered sort of flooty, I don't know. But I wanted -- I always loved to dance and Paul Draper, a cousin of mine, I was going to paint the ballet. He said, "Bill, if you're going to paint it you ought to know the positions. You can't just go paint the ballet. You've got to know the first position, the fifth position, and all of the things." So he said, "I'm going to the School of American Ballet. You should" -- what?
MR. DRAPER: All right, I'll finish this story. And Paul Draper told me I should study to know the positions. So -- and he said, "I'm going there myself." He was dancing at the Persian Room at the time. He was a famous dancer as you know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Paul Draper?
MR. DRAPER: Paul Draper. And he used to dance --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Any relation --
MR. DRAPER: -- tap dance -- yes, third cousin once removed.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: He used to tap dance at the Persian Room to Bach. He was great, almost as great as Fred Astaire. I mean, his reputation was very good. And so I started out three times a week in the fall of 1938 or 9, I forget. The World's Fair had started. There were little girls and boys about oh, 10 and 12 years old. I would do it from 4:00 to 6:00 three times a week. By the half year I had gotten to be quite good and I was promoted up to the top class in the school and then I was allowed to go in the men's class which had -- was once a week with Vilzak and Sholer [phonetic], and they were all the Broadway stars. There would be Igleski [phonetic], Uskavich [phonetic], Paul Draper, William Dollar, Freddie Franklin. All of them would come in, and there were 16 of us, and I, myself and two other guys in the school -- Nickie McGallinis [phonetic] who just died, he was with the New York City Center Ballet but he just died recently but he was a star for years there, Nickie McGallinis, and this other guy and myself. We would have to jump up and turn in the air and do all of this. Nobody could laugh you see. But imagine having to do all of this with these stars.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Amazing.
MR. DRAPER: And then that summer they tried to pick a corps de ballet for this Ford ballet company which was selling Ford cars. They had a performance and then another shift, another performance, and I was one out of the school who was picked to be in the corps de ballet and I was about 25 I guess then. So I thought that was pretty good, wasn't it?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Very good.
MR. DRAPER: And yet the only --
MR. MCNAUGHT: But you declined?
MR. DRAPER: I declined. And the only trouble was when I tried to pirouette and I was sweating my glasses would fly off across the room and that wouldn't have been very good on Broadway. Well --
MR. DRAPER: Okay. Well now talking about glasses flying off, I wanted to get some contact lenses about that time and I knew this girl who was named Tubby Wells whose family was the head of American Optical Company. She had some contact lenses, which were -- in those days they were --
MR. MCNAUGHT: When was this?
MR. DRAPER: About 1930, about that time 1938 I guess.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, just before the war?
MR. DRAPER: About '37. Before the war. The contact lenses they had then had to be very large. They fit in the whole eye and they had to take a cast of hot wax of your eyeball and then make it, make the lens. Well, I went to the doctor and they put Novocain in my eyes and took the hot was cast of each eye, and in taking the hot wax cast out they -- well, I would say it didn't hurt or anything so I went back to my apartment which was at 434 -- I said 534 before this -- 434 East 52nd to my studio. They said in two hours you'll be able to see all right. Well, in two hours I felt as if I had been crying with that lump in your throat although I wasn't crying. I thought I better call the doctor and tell him. Well, I couldn't even find to see the name in the telephone book and everything was blurred. So I called up and asked information. They said you can find it in your directory. I said, I'm very sorry but I'm blind. And they were, oh, I'm so sorry. So she gave me the number. I've used that ever since. So the nurse came running. She closed the office and the doctor wasn't there. She came down to the studio and took me in a taxi down to the eye and ear hospital in New York, down on 22nd Street or whatever it was. They bandaged my eyes and I was there for two weeks in the hospital with my eyes bandaged. I only told my sister Grace. I was so ashamed of the whole thing, that I was trying to get contact lenses. It really was because I felt silly getting them. I didn't want the family to know. After two weeks they took the bandages off and I could see. They were afraid it might grow into scar tissue you see, but it grew in clear. Then my one eye, the left eye, I could see much clearer than before. It was almost -- and the guy said, oh, we've got a new cure for myopia.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Hot wax, it's extraordinary.
MR. DRAPER: Then I went down to do a portrait in Baltimore, Fen Kaiser's wife, it was a wedding present. Fen had commissioned me to give it to her. I went to John Hopkins, went to the doctor there. I forgot his name. He was a very famous eye doctor. He gave me new glasses to do the portrait in and halfway through the portrait I began not to be able to see very clearly again. Then I got out my old glasses and they were perfect. You see the muscles had been rested or something and the pupil had grown in perfectly round. But then the muscle started pulling around the way it was and so it went right back.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see.
MR. DRAPER: And so I was very lucky.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Particularly for your profession, very lucky.
MR. DRAPER: And I still --
MR. MCNAUGHT: If it had done permanent damage with that early eye contact lenses --
MR. DRAPER: Well, I have -- I've got them now. They're soft lenses. I never wear them anyway.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yeah. [Audio Break.]
MR. MCNAUGHT: As a portrait painter, Mr. Draper, you've painted many of the leading figures in the world of the arts and politics, international smart set, international heads of states an so on. Now I think it would be interesting for you to record now some of the stories that you think would be of interest, some of the insights that you alone having spent a week or longer with someone like the Shah of Iran, or the President of the United States, or a senator or a surgeon, or a society figure that you might be able to tell or would like to tell.
MR. DRAPER: Well, did I tell a story yet about Dr. Mayo and going out there and all standing on our heads?
MR. MCNAUGHT: No, I don't think you have.
MR. DRAPER: Well, that was very funny. I was going to paint -- this was a long time ago. Dr. Mayo came to town and went to Portraits Incorporated looking for somebody to paint his father, Charles Mayo, from photographs.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Charles Mayo was dead by this time?
MR. DRAPER: He was dead by this time. Charles and Will Mayo, two great doctors. And Chuck, this is Charles Mayo, was a very good surgeon and he was the head of the Mayo Clinic at this time. He came to New York and went to Portraits, Inc. and they told him about me and that I would do this thing from photographs. He came up to see me at the house here and Barbara and I were sitting around getting coffee or something. Willie came home from Buckley School and Willie was very good at walking on his hands. He could walk around the gym on his hands five or six times. He was famous for walking on his hands. When Willie came home here he would walk down the hall on his hands and come into the room. I said, "Willie, this is Dr. Mayo from the Mayo Clinic and this is my son, Willie." Willie still stayed on his hands and said, "How do you do, Dr. Mayo." Then Dr. Mayo said, "Oh, I can stand on my head." So he proceeded to stand on his head. And I said, "Oh, but I can stand on my head too." So I stood on my head. Well, then my wife said, "I can stand on my head." So all three of us stood on our heads and Willie was standing on his hands.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Standing on his hands.
MR. DRAPER: And then we stood there for a while and we had a chat a little bit and then we all came down. He said, "Well, this is great. I think you should do my father. You can do that too, but I think you should come out to Mayo with me and paint me." And so that was great.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you?
MR. DRAPER: So I did go out there. Then in arriving --
MR. MCNAUGHT: What year was this?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, 1960 I would say, 1964. It's had for me to remember. I went out there and in arriving at the house -- a lot of things about Dr. Mayo. When I came in it was Sunday afternoon and they were all -- he had about 11 children from the ages of -- seven were adopted from his brother who died -- 17 to 30 or 33 and they were all doing the Conga around, there was Conga music. I heard this Conga music and nobody answered the door. So I opened the door and walked in and saw them. And he yelled, "Join the line, Bill." So I put down my bags and Congaed around with them.
MR. MCNAUGHT: This was in his house?
MR. DRAPER: In his house. I wasn't introduced to anybody, just get at the end of the line and Conga. Well, that's sort of crazy. Then that night I sang a Tom Lehrer song called "Be Prepared." It was the Boy Scouts' marching song "Be Prepared", "Be prepared. That's the Boy Scout's marching song. As through life you march along. Be prepared to hold your liquor very well. Don't write naughty words on walls if you can't spell," and that type thing. He had an organ there and I played the organ. The next day I went down to see an operation he was doing on a gall bladder, to take the lady's gall bladder out. She weighed I think 300 pounds and he said you've got to get down some weight and come back in six months. Well, she had lost 40 pounds but he couldn't see any difference. I was up in the balcony and this woman was brought in. He had on a blue operating coat, sort of light greenish-blue, which he invented. He starts to slice her open and I saw these layers of sort of yellow white fat. He cut deeper and deeper and then he cut about four inches deep and then he suddenly said to the nurse, "Bring the larger retractors sterilized." Then he had to get the six-inch retractors. Then when he did he looked up at me and said, "Be prepared," which was very thoughtful right in the middle of the operation to remember be prepared and look up because he was unprepared you see. And then -- what's the matter?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you end up doing a portrait of him and his father as well?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, I did. But painting him he wanted to be standing in his robe not in his operating clothes. The thing I found the most difficult of all, he was standing by a tub in the picture, in the hospital with one glove, rubber glove, as if he had been operating. I did it in his house you see leaning against a very beautiful carved Italian oak table, which was -- and I had the worst time. I would go down and look in the hospital and draw a sink and I had to paint the sink back in the house. That was the hardest thing, to make the white sink look like a sink and not like a piece of foam rubber, you know. I finally got that. Then when I was working on it every night, it was in the living room, we would do the Conga line and everybody would --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Every night?
MR. DRAPER: Every -- all the kids and myself and painting the picture and they would dance by. But they were --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Why did the family have a Conga line every night?
MR. DRAPER: Because they loved to Conga. They loved to dance. So we would go around, dancing around the picture with a brush and paint it. They would also -- there was paint somewhere where I had been painting. You see it didn't hurt anything. Then Dr. Mayo suddenly took a lot of -- went up in a place where I had painted and made sort of a squiggle and he said that's the umbilical cord and I left it there. It's in the painting today. It's sort of a wiggle of brown. It's over to the left. It looks very -- well, he did it. That made it a lot of fun. He was so proud of his umbilical cord.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Is it hanging in his house or at the Mayo Clinic?
MR. DRAPER: At the Mayo Clinic. I painted a Dr. Priestly out there who I met when I went out to paint Dr. Mayo.
MR. MCNAUGHT: On the Conga line.
MR. DRAPER: And he was out there at the time and I thought he was older than God, Dr. Priestly, because I couldn't -- I didn't know him well. He was a great friend of Chuck Mayo's. But they would talk differently and he sort of made me uneasy and I thought he was so old. Then the next year when he was a year older, two years older, he commissioned me to come out and paint him. Then I got to know him very well and through the week he got younger and younger and younger. You see, isn't it funny, you get to know somebody and they change.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Absolutely. What about --
MR. DRAPER: I told you about the Shah, didn't I, holding --
MR. MCNAUGHT: No, we haven't spoken yet about the Shah, which I think is very interesting. You painted him recently, in 1970 or so.
MR. DRAPER: I painted him for his coronation, which was in '69.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Sixty-nine.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, I believe that's the date. I went over there to paint him, to Iran, to Tehran, with my wife. Yes, it was before we divorced so it might have been '67 even when I think of it. Well, anyway, the time of his coronation.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Had you been to Persia before?
MR. DRAPER: Never, no. And he had seen a picture I had done of President Kennedy and I think that's why --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Is that why he asked for you?
MR. DRAPER: I think so, yes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did he do it through the Iranian Embassy here or did he contact you?
MR. DRAPER: Through the Iranian Embassy and he didn't do it at all. It was the Bank of Iran who were giving him a gift.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, they commissioned it?
MR. DRAPER: For the coronation, so they commissioned it.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I see.
MR. DRAPER: So unfortunately I was never a pal of his. He didn't -- I mean, that way. I was a hired hand coming to Iran to paint him so he would pose every other morning. I know I tried very hard to get -- so he would ask me for lunch and so we would be friends when I was painting him. I would say, "Did you ever know my aunt, Princess Vunkenpatty?" No, he didn't know her. Then I had a brother-in-law who was the Earl of Gossford [phonetic]. He used to be a pilot when he was at Funkingall [phonetic] and the Shah was a pilot so I thought maybe they might have known. So I said, "Do you know my brother-in-law, John Gossford, the Earl of Gossford?" "No." Then I had an old roommate, Alessandre Tolanio [phonetic] at Pomfret who was Price Alessandre Tolanio who had married the King of Spain's daughter, Infanta Beatrice. So I thought, oh, this is going to get me in so I'll be no longer a hired hand. And I said, "Do you know my old roommate, Alessandre Tolanio?" "No, I never heard of him." So that really -- so I was still a hired hand. Then when I got back, a month later, I saw my nephew Chuck who married my brother Harry's daughter Heidi. He said, "Oh, Uncle Bill, why in the world didn't you let me know you were going to Tehran. I roomed with the Shah's nephew, Shiran, all through Rose School at Harvard and he's one of my best friends."
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, no.
MR. DRAPER: And he had a palace there. I could have told the Shah, well, do you know Shiran. My nephew and your nephew roomed together. That would have gotten me for lunch. I finally did tell them that later on when I was invited to the White House by Johnson at a dinner for the Shah. I then told him my nephew and your nephew were roommates at Rose School at Harvard. He said, "Oh, really, you know." It was a little late then.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How long did he pose, how often?
MR. DRAPER: Well, he posed every other day for an house. He kept the English ambassador waiting a couple of times because he would pose an hour-and-a-half. I got along with him very well. I know when we first came in I had -- I had him sit down in this chair and he said, "Oh, no, I'm not going to sit down." He had on his uniform with his medals and he said, "This is the way I will be," and he stood in sort of ballet fifth position with his feet and his hand on the back of the chair looking like Edward, you know, the king.
[Interruption to proceeding.]
MR. DRAPER: The Shah was telling -- when the telephone rang it interrupted me. He was standing by this chair and he said, "This is the way I will be painted." Well, of course it was a great pose so I painted him just that way. As he stood there I was -- he had a very good build at the time. He looks a little -- he's aged an awful lot in the last four years I would say, but he had -- he looked as if he were pumping iron you know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: I mean, he had, you know, that Pumping Iron movie. He looked like a weight lifter because he had very big arms and he was quite short. He was about 5'8" or less.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, really?
MR. DRAPER: And short arms but very wide. So I was measuring by comparing the length to the width and I said, "You have very" -- he said, "What's your trouble?" And I said, "You have such big arms." He said, "Oh, yes, very big. Do you want to feel them?" So I came over and he tightened his arm up like that and I felt this big muscle. Then I looked at him and I said, "And you have such a small waist, Your Majesty." And he said, "Oh, yes, very small. But you should have seen it a few years ago." He was very pleased with himself and his figure, you know, and I don't blame him. I would have been too.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How interesting. So in other words he was a pleasant man?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, very pleasant. And the first day I had given him this -- my wife had suggested, Barbara had said -- you see my -- this all came out in the war. I think I've told -- the National Geographic had bought issues, did I tell you that?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: And this was the August issue of painting history in the Pacific, on the Aleutians that I had, but the article before that was Iran in wartime. So I decided that I would have the book bound, beautifully bound and present it to the Shah, not really realizing when I looked at it later it -- I just thought Iran in wartime would be great and then I would have my pictures there which were 16 pages of full color of my paintings. So we had it bound and not going through official channels. I just thought, well, I'll just give it to him on the first day he posed. So he came in to pose and I said, "Oh, Your Majesty, I have a gift for you." He took it and I think I should have done it through the channels. He opened it up and looked and saw Iran in Wartime and read that for about five minutes, looking through, not looking very pleased because later on I realized it said that his father had been pro-German and that finally England and America had taken the father out somewhere and put him in because he was pro-American. That was sort of what it was all about. Then the next article right at the end of Iran was mine, Painting History in the Pacific." He got to the end of that and slammed the book and said, "Time to pose." I wanted to say, oh, but Your Majesty, right on the next page is me, me, me. I've got 16 pages of full color. Well, he never saw those and I was so in awe of him anyway. So when the sitting was over he started to walk out of the room and I said, "Oh, Your Majesty, you've forgotten the book." So I ran over and gave him the book and he strode out with the book and he probably gave it to a valet. I don't know what happened. I never brought it up later on that I had done these things, that he had the book. I should have but I forgot all about it. I painted him in the banquet hall. There were six or eight windows, big, large studio windows all the way down this long, long room and he just -- we had just one big screen put, cutting out the rest of the banquet hall. Marvelous chandeliers and the walls were inlaid with mirror, little mirrors.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Very Persian.
MR. DRAPER: It was beautiful really.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And was he pleased with the painting?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, very, yes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Good.
MR. DRAPER: As far as I know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And were you pleased?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, I think it's one of the best things I've done.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Good. And where does it hang now?
MR. DRAPER: In the palace.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In the palace?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. And -- lift your head --
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you painted the Shah of Iran. The most famous head of state probably that you've painted was John F. Kennedy.
MR. DRAPER: Well, today I think the Shah of Iran is just as -- well, I guess he was. Well, I painted Kennedy -- I'll tell you how it happened. It's very interesting. In the first place I get a call from George Bundy in Washington asking me if I would come to Washington to see the President.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you know George Bundy?
MR. DRAPER: I didn't know George Bundy. I've met him since and he was at Harvard in a couple of classes around my time but I never knew him. I've known many friends of his who are friends of mine. But I got this call to come down, that the President wanted to talk to me about painting his father. Evidently the old man, old Ambassador Kennedy, had never been painted because he was not very popular at the time and never had a picture hanging in the embassy here. Well, then the President became President and they suddenly though, oh, my God, there's no picture of his father in the embassy and if he ever --
MR. MCNAUGHT: The embassy in --
MR. DRAPER: In London.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yeah.
MR. DRAPER: And David Bruce suddenly felt there better be a picture of him. So they talked to Johnny Walker who was head of the National Academy -- I mean, the National Gallery in Washington and he recommended me to do it because he knew I painted very fast I suppose because I only take usually a week but they have to pose a lot. And so I was commissioned to paint him and I was supposed to talk to the President about his father and then go down to Palm Beach to see him. By that time he had a stroke.
MR. MCNAUGHT: He had had the stroke, okay.
MR. DRAPER: He had a stroke. And then a little history before, I had known President Kennedy years ago. I grew up in Hyannis Port.
MR. MCNAUGHT: At the same time the Kennedys were growing up there?
MR. DRAPER: Well, the Kennedys were there, yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So you knew the whole family?
MR. DRAPER: I know old Joe Kennedy. I never saw much of Rose. She was sort of in the background. She wasn't as much in the foreground as she is today. I knew -- the ones I knew best were Joe and Kathleen. They were my age. Joe was maybe -- Kathleen I guess was my age and Joe was a little younger than I am. Jack was about five years younger than I am and my brother Harry knew him better. Harry was only two years older. But we all played together and we used to sail. One time when I was about 12 and Harry -- maybe Harry was 10 and Jack was 8, or maybe I was 14, about that time, we were sailing, Joe and Jack and Harry myself out in Hyannis Port Harbor. Suddenly this amphibious plane came in and landed. They said, "Oh, that's Gloria Swanson coming to visit Daddy." And I said, "Oh, goody. I'm going to meet Gloria Swanson." So we went into the dock and ran over to the Kennedy's house and I met Gloria Swanson in 1928 I think --
MR. MCNAUGHT: How exciting.
MR. DRAPER: -- at the height of her career. I've met her since but I've never said, oh, I met you in 1928 when you came to visit Ambassador Kennedy at Joe Kennedy's. I don't know how -- I mean, evidently it was very well known they were having an affair I think. I don't know how Rose felt about her coming to visit in Hyannis Port. But he was the had of Fox Booking then or one of the big people there. So I've known the President and he was in the same club at Harvard, but he was five years younger so I didn't know him at Harvard but going away in the Speed Club he would be there when I would go in for mid-year dinner after I had graduated, you know. I would see Jack and I knew him fairly well obviously because I've known him all my life.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You had -- because you used to spend summers --
MR. DRAPER: As we got older I think the family, we had the Kennedys come over one time for cocktails and we sort of introduced them to Hyannis Port society. This sounds awfully snobbish but it's perfectly true because nobody knew the Kennedys. Momma and Pappa Kennedy, they were in the golf club but nobody knew them. Even when he was ambassador to England Mrs. Hayward and mother and father, they went -- they just weren't the in because I suppose they thought they were Boston Catholic Irish you see which is very funny but that's the way it was in those days. They were Democrats and everybody else was a Republican, you know. But they kept to themselves.
MR. MCNAUGHT: That all mattered.
MR. DRAPER: Evidently it must have then. I like them all and the kids, we kids played together. Then I didn't see much of Jack at all you see. Then when I went down to Palm Beach to paint Ambassador Kennedy I -- oh, I'll tell you before this Alex Williams who was one of the Speed, graduates of the Speed Club -- I mean, graduate of Harvard and was in the Speed -- now Dylan was in it too. He was in that. So Alex said, "Bill, would you ever paint pictures of the president for the Speed Club? We would love to have it and we can pretend it's a commission. We won't pay you but you could do it for us." And I said, "Fine, if you can arrange it, Alex, I'll be glad to paint the President," hoping he would. And he said, "I'll write Dylan a letter. Maybe Doug can do something about it." I had painted Doug Dylan anyway when he was -- for the embassy in Paris and it's hanging there today. But nobody got to Doug Dylan evidently. I got down there first to Palm Beach and when I saw the President I saw his father was in a wheelchair. He would laugh when he was supposed to cry and vice-a-versa. Everything sort of -- just his mind wasn't right.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: And I was supposed to do color sketches of him. So Ann -- what was her name, Logan, not Logan -- Ann Garland [phonetic] who was a cousin of Kennedy was taking care of him. She said, "Now when Ambassador Kennedy drops his foot" -- he was paralyzed you see -- "around this room that's where he'll sit and you can paint him there, make some color notes." I had my easel set up and the canvas and they wheeled him out and he was -- he looked terrible but he didn't drop his foot. They wheeled him round and round this room and they finally said he's not going to drop his foot. He won't pose. So they started wheeling him back up the hall. When he was about eight feet behind my canvas he dropped his foot off. So they turned around and he was eight feet behind me looking at the canvas. So then I tried for half an hour to paint him from behind me, and I still have the sketch, which I would love to give to the National Portrait Gallery, but I also would want to get a deduction. All I can get is $20 so I'm keeping it. I think I can sell it for a lot more than that. But I did the sketch of him, leaving out while he was watching -- I didn't want to show the drawn look of his face but obviously a half hour sketch of Ambassador Kennedy was -- he was downhill I would say, but you could barley recognize him, very thin. And so I did that over the weekend and I showed this to Jack. Now Jack of course I had to call him Mr. President.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Had you reestablished your acquaintance at this time?
MR. DRAPER: No, when I went to Washington --
MR. MCNAUGHT: I mean, he remembered you?
MR. DRAPER: When I went to Washington I was supposed to -- oh, yes, he remembered me. But Mrs. Lincoln said, "Now remember, Mr. Draper, he's not Jack and you can't call him Jack. It's Mr. President," which of course is true but I would think when we relaxed in the President's office, which was probably bugged, that he probably -- it was just Mr. President all the time and he was very formal. "Bill," he would call me Bill, but he was rather formal. He would come down and he would go, fly down to -- and I was supposed to fly down with Jackie and with the family in the Columbine I think it was called. But at last I had come to Washington. At the last minute I got word to get out to the airport to go on the first plane, which is a sister ship of the Columbine, with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln and a couple of other secretaries and a cook and a valet and not with the family. I arrived and was put up at a hotel with Mrs. Lincoln nearby. Then I went over to see the father. Then when I had done this picture as I told you --
[End Tape 3.]
MR. MCNAUGHT: William McNaught talking to William Draper, tape 2 side 4.
MR. DRAPER: Well, I had finished the sketch of the President's father and so I was going to show it to the President and they were having -- they were going out on a boat called the Fitzgerald, I mean --
MR. MCNAUGHT: The Honey Fitz.
MR. DRAPER: The Honey Fitz. But then they were all having cocktails and I thought they could have been more -- the only one who really was still delighted to see me was one of the sisters. Oh, God, it was so long ago. I'm trying to think.
MR. DRAPER: Eunice and Eunice finally got me a cocktail and this and that. Then I showed the picture to the President. Then they were going out for the day on the yacht, the gang, and I wasn't asked. I showed the picture and as I was leaving -- oh, and I talked to the President and said, "By the way, did you ever hear from Doug Dylan about posing for the Speed Club?" And he said, no, he never had. I said, "Well, will you?" And he said, "Why don't you come up to Hyannis Port this summer and paint me?" And then just as I was leaving he yelled, "Bill, I'll pose tomorrow for you." And then at that point Teddy Kennedy, you know, "Hey, why don't you paint me for the Owl Club." It was pretty funny, I mean, you know. And so the next day he posed for me and I -- he was worried as a matter of fact about his jowls because his face -- when I met him in Washington he really, his face had really gotten very heavy and thick because of this -- I think it was cortisone he was taking for his back or something.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, for his back.
MR. DRAPER: He didn't look well. And then all the swelling had gone when I painted him. Luckily I painted him in 1962. He looked very young. Boy, did he age the next year after that. But my picture I think is one of the best I've ever done and I think I caught him really right. I have him looking almost straight ahead and he kept turning his head when I would look up to be sideward. I would -- then he would look around and I would say, "Look at me, Jack," or Mr. President. I'm sure I never said Jack. He would look around and then I could see his face full forward you see, full face. I painted him -- at the time he was in a skivvy shirt out on the patio of the house that they were --
MR. MCNAUGHT: In Palm Beach?
MR. DRAPER: In Palm Beach that they had been given to live in as a Palm Beach White House. And so he posed there, but talked to Mrs. Lincoln all the time in his skivvy shirt, reading his letters and doing that, and then Salinger would come in and there was a Captain Shepard who was in the Navy I believe, in the Army. I've forgotten. He was a captain. Obviously he must have been in the Navy because he was high ranking.
[Interruption to proceeding.]
MR. DRAPER: Okay, now where was I? I was so rudely interrupted.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You were talking about President Kennedy posing and how Pierre Salinger and some --
MR. DRAPER: They were all there. He was remarkable because he would suddenly say, "You know, Mrs. Lincoln, have you got that -- has so and so answered that letter I sent off two weeks ago?" Like that he remembered different things and she would say, "Yes, I've got the answer here," or this and that. He was very businesslike. I was very impressed. But he was in his skivvy shirt. When I finished it he said, he told me that it had to be -- I couldn't show it until clothed, that he had a tie and a coat on. Well, when I -- I did it on a small 20 x 20 foot canvas but I had plenty around. So I stretched it into a 25, 30 and painted it in after. It was all done and I had come back and I had painted in a blue suit and a Speed Club tie. Well, then I showed it to him when I finished. He was up -- I went over to the Carlyle. He was at the Carlyle Hotel and I went over and showed it to him there. He was very -- he loved it. He had Hallmark Cards reproduce it, a big picture. Well, not big, maybe 14 by 17 which he -- when he went to South America he gave it away to the head of state and I was very pleased. Then I was commissioned by the class of -- some class at Choate to give a picture of the President to Choate and he was going to come up and pose for one hour for me in my studio after I had -- LeMoyne Billings was going to come to the studio and see it. I had worked, got a professional model to sit in a chair and I got the chair over from the Carlyle Hotel, all the paraphernalia, and whipped this thing out. He was to come and sit for it. Well, LeMoyne Billings came in and looked at it and said, "Oh, Bill, this is wonderful. We don't need to do anything." He called the President up and said, "You don't have to come." I was so mad. He said, "It's fine the way it is." I had just copied the head from my picture. So the one at Choate could have been from life. The body and everything was painted from the model from life and painted in my style, and then I used my own head to block it in. I wish I had never finished it. I wish I had just blocked it in and let LeMoyne Billings see it that way then the President would have come and sat for an hour and I would have had it. Well, anyway, it turned out very well, the one at Choate. Then from that one --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did he ever see that one?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes. He couldn't get up to the unveiling but we all went up and he would -- he -- they had a tape of him saying I'm so sorry I can't be there in person but my voice is here and I'm so delighted to -- and said good morning, Dr. St. John and all of the, you know, and a little speech at the presentation. Of course I was up in the dais with Dr. St. John, the headmaster. Then they said, "Now we have -- the President of the United States will now speak," and then suddenly [fast talking]. The tape evidently got going too fast and so they had to turn it off and rewind it and then slow it down. They finally -- they had John Kennedy talking and saying hello to everybody in his voice. But that was very funny. It got everybody hysterical. Then the picture was hung at Choate.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What happened to the first picture? Did it go to the Speed Club?
MR. DRAPER: No. Oh, I'll tell you another thing. I had suddenly thought, well, why should I give this picture that I've arranged completely for -- that I had arranged and the Speed Club had done nothing. Why should I give this to the Speed Club? I'm going to keep it. So I made a replica of it and presented that to the Speed Club, which they have, but I've got the original you see.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And you still have it?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. As a matter of fact Kocur [phonetic] who was alive then said, "Well, Bill" -- the Met sort of interested and Bob Hale was at the time a curator of American paintings. He was getting quite interested in buying it, not an absolute offer but they were really interested in getting it. Kocur told me, "Don't sell it to anybody. Insure it for $60,000 and keep it." Well, I've never insured it but I've kept it and I think that it's worth something but now I'll probably have to pay taxes on it. So, God, I don't know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Tell me, did you also do a portrait of the President for the National Portrait Gallery?
MR. DRAPER: I did. Yes, Jackie Onassis commissioned that and I gave it -- I mean, she gave it to the --
MR. MCNAUGHT: National Portrait Gallery.
MR. DRAPER: -- National Portrait Gallery. And then I also did one for the Harvard Club.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Both of these after his death?
MR. DRAPER: After his death you see. And so I'm delighted that I have this picture of him. You know when he was shot I knew C.D. Jackson who was one of the heads of life quite well. He had roomed with a cousin of mine, Bill Blair, at Princeton I think. I knew the Jacksons. I thought maybe I better call up and see if they could use this picture. But then I thought, well, how disrespectful, how wrong to call up like this when the President has just been shot. So I waited two or three weeks before I did it and then when I called C.D. said, "Oh, for God's sake, Bill, why didn't you let us know you had it. We could have used it. Now it's too late. Maybe Horizons might do it or American Heritage. Why don't you call them." But I called and they had already put their baby to bed they said. So it was never used at all and then the next year -- again I never thought they would all come out, every magazine with a picture of the President again the following year. So it never has gotten the publicity that it should have. But it's the only one done from life of the President except I think Elaine DeCoonan did a lot of sketches which we promised the President --
MR. MCNAUGHT: This is the only done from life?
MR. DRAPER: Except Anagoni [phonetic] did one, which he despised for Time magazine. He sat an hour while he was working for Anagoni and they didn't get on. It looks -- it's a terrible picture I think. One eye looks, it's shooting off in the wrong direction. Unfortunately I had -- you know in Paris Sphere [phonetic] and Newsweek they -- in Paris Sphere they have these different things called Paris Sphere telling about people. It had William Draper is painting a picture of President Kennedy. The President is not fond of this kind of thing. What he said about the last painter, he said the last painter he should go back to painting pizzas, and that was Anagoni you see. But if you looked at it it said William Draper and then it ended up go back to painting pizzas. The way it was worded it sounded as if it was me and he was really talking -- it said the last person who he posed for he said should go back to painting pizzas. Well, I didn't like that at all. Well, the picture, the President liked it very much and of course as I said he gave it away.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And that picture is not on view anyplace?
MR. DRAPER: I have it in the studio. I send it to exhibition once in a while. When I have a show somewhere, like I'll have a show in Atlanta this fall, I'm going to have the President's picture down there, with the Shah of Iran, I have another one of the Shah, a sketch of the Shah that I did. Well, now, let's see, what else? I think that's --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Now you wanted to talk about painting a judge in Wilmington.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, well, that's --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Who is that?
MR. DRAPER: -- that's -- Judge Sutherland.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Sutherland.
MR. DRAPER: And this is -- I had painted this Judge Rodney before, about three -- oh, about nine months before down in Wilmington. I had a marvelous -- I mean, this office had marvelous light. It was a perfect studio and I did a very good portrait of this Judge Rodney. When it was finished this Judge Sutherland, Chief Justice Sutherland came in and looked at it, Chief Justice for Delaware. He said, "Oh, I want you to come down and paint me, Mr. Draper." And he -- and I said, "Well, I can come down next fall." He said fine and we made a date. He was a rather large man with big cheeks and sort of very white skin, skin you love to touch, like a rose. When I got down there he said -- he was -- I went in and he had his office fixed up like a studio. He said, "Well, now, Mr. Draper, good morning. Come in." I went in and he said -- I said, "What are you going to wear?" And he said, "I think -- my sister tells me I should be in a gray suit with a blue tie." And I said, "Well, fine, that sounds good to me. Why don't you go put on your gray suit," because he had a brown suit with a red tie. And he said, "Well, can't you put this brown suit gray and the tie blue?" And I said, "Well, I can but it would be very difficult and I wouldn't be able to see the colors, the changes in color. Why don't you go put on the gray suit." "It's in the country." I said, "Well, go to" -- "I'll get it this afternoon," he said. He said he would get it. So then he started out posing and I had turned him sideways so that he would --
[Interruption to proceeding.]
MR. DRAPER: And I turned him sideways and I said -- and he sat there, this was on Monday morning, with his stomach -- he was looking very sort of dignified with his head turned toward me. Then he started speaking this strange language going, "Oh, di, bo, du, du." And I said, "What's that?" He said, "Don't you know?" And I said, "No." He said, "Homer of course." And I didn't know any Greek, I had never studied it. And then he decided I was an absolute imbecile. So he decided he wouldn't say anything. So he just sat there. Then I noticed as I was painting he started to go to sleep and he slept there all morning more or less. Then we had lunch or he had lunch and went and got his gray suit and he put that on in the afternoon.
MR. MCNAUGHT: He did go get it?
MR. DRAPER: He got it, yeah. He didn't say much of anything, just sat there, and I tried to get him to talk. He wouldn't say much. Then he would go off to sleep. Well, this all day Tuesday he posed and Wednesday morning around 11:30 I looked it and I thought, my God, even if I finish it it's going to be terrible because his stomach had rolled way out and I had just been painting what I saw more or less and this great stomach is in profile. His jowls, as his head sloped down these jowls were around his neck.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, because he was sleeping.
MR. DRAPER: And so I suddenly thought, well, God, if I finish this it's terrible. So I started to scrape it out because when in doubt take it out, lift the head up. So he opened his eyes and said, "What are you doing?" And I said, "I'm scraping it all out." And he said, "Well, that's rather a drastic way of waking me up, isn't it?, the funniest thing he ever said. So he said, "Now, Mr. Draper, what are you going to do? Are you going back to New York?" And I said, "No, I've got until Thursday afternoon. You told me until Thursday afternoon at 4:00 when you were going to Washington you could pose and I have all this afternoon and tomorrow." "You can't do anything then." I said, "That's up to me to decide." And so he went off for lunch and I went out to lunch. But meanwhile I talked to his secretary and I said, "Is there any way of getting the Judge's robes over from Dover?" At first I didn't say that. I said, "Is there any way of getting any robes? I think the Judge should be painted in robes." The secretary said, "Yes, I agree with you, Mr. Draper. I think that it would be much better. Because of his fat stomach you could hide everything." And so I said, "Well, let's get some." She said, "Well, unfortunately the Judge will never wear a borrowed robe, borrowed clothing, he wouldn't do it. It would have to be his own and his are in Dover." I said, "Well, what about calling up Dover? Is anybody coming over?" "Well, I'll call and see." Luckily somebody was coming over from Dover, which is about an hour's drive from Wilmington. So they were brought over. Meanwhile I went out to lunch.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The Judge knew nothing about this?
MR. DRAPER: No, the Judge knew nothing about this. And so I went out to lunch at the Wilmington Club and there I ran across Felix Dupont who was a friend of mind. I had painted his father and also his wife, Marka. He said, "Well, Bill, I think -- you know, I think" -- well, I had had a couple of martinis too at that point with Felix. He was telling me the Judge loved Conan Doyle and Sheila Combs. If I could get on that subject we would be all set. So when I got back he said, "Well, now, Mr. Draper, are you leaving for New York?" And I said, "No, I'm going to paint you in these robes," and I went and got these robes and held them up. He was absolutely stunned. He said, "Why I never wear" -- first he said, "I never wear borrowed clothing." And I said, "Oh, but these are yours, sir." He said, "What?" And he grabbed them and his hand shot out like [inaudible]. So the embroidered initials, he said, "These were brought over by police escort." And I said -- in a furious voice -- and I said, "No, they weren't. They were just brought over."
MR. MCNAUGHT: A police escort.
MR. DRAPER: And then I said, "You're mad, aren't you?" And he said, "You're God damn right I'm mad. Paint, God damn it, paint. You're too God damn temperamental." And so I said -- and he got in the robe and sat down. I said, "I'm painting as fast as I can." And I started to paint, waving the brush around, and then I said after a few minutes, "I've sort of forgotten the plot of The Speckled Band by Conan Doyle. Do you" -- "Do you mean to say you've forgotten the plot of The Speckled Band? I certainly know it. I can even recite it by heart." So he sat there for the whole afternoon and recited The Speckled Band by Conan Doyle.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The entire thing, word for word?
MR. DRAPER: Word for word, as if you're reading the book. And of course I was entertained the whole time and I was having a great time and he was talking.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And he was into his mood.
MR. DRAPER: And telling the story and talking about The Speckled Band. He went on all afternoon. Then the next morning when he got up again, in the robes, I said, "I don't know the story of the -- I've sort of forgotten The Hounds of the Baskerville." "You can't remember that? I can recite it." So he recited that and I finished the portrait Thursday afternoon around 4:00 and then he went to Washington. It was a great success. So I painted the whole thing all over the old canvas, the whole thing. I mean, let's face it it was nowhere like the way it was so the whole thing was painted new over this thing in a day-and-a-half.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And he was pleased and you were pleased?
MR. DRAPER: He was pleased, yes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: But this must be a major part of doing a portrait is capturing the sitter in the right mood.
MR. DRAPER: And the right position too.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And the right position, yes.
MR. DRAPER: Because I can't tell you --
MR. MCNAUGHT: I mean, it must be difficult having someone who's not being cooperative or seems not interested.
MR. DRAPER: Well, then it is. It's very difficult but usually --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Or is falling asleep.
MR. DRAPER: Usually I can get them interested. Now I remember years ago I was painting a man for the University Club. I've forgot his name. Well, let me think. I can think of it. He was the head of some big company here. This must have been in the 50's. He wouldn't -- he just sat there and he wouldn't pose well at all. He didn't seem interested. You see, he was a hunting, fishing person, which I knew nothing about. Then when I talked a little he could see I knew nothing about that. Then he got bored and went to sleep. I would try and make him look alert and smile you see and he would -- and he would get up and look at it and he would say, "It looks sour. It looks uninterested. It looks dopey, sleepy, and all these things." And I said, "Well, of course it does because that's the way you are. If you would only try and cheer up or try and make an effort we would get this thing done." And it dragged on. It was one of the longest times I've had, over a week. I finally called his wife and told her this will be a failure and it will drag on unless he just tries to cooperate. Because he would say to me, "That's not my problem, that's yours." And I would say, "Listen, we're in this together."
MR. MCNAUGHT: He was unpleasant.
MR. DRAPER: He was very unpleasant but the last -- he came in one morning smiling and said, "I understand you had a talk with my wife." And I said, "Yes, I did." And then I guess his wife was the boss because that morning he was very pleasant and I finished the portrait. It's hanging in the University Club now. I can't remember his name.
MR. MCNAUGHT: That sort of thing often happens. If you get a person interested, pleasant, attentive, it must be much easier to paint.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, certainly. Now -- and then I find that people will -- well, I painted Buffie Chandler. Now this is --
MR. MCNAUGHT: In Los Angeles?
MR. DRAPER: In Los Angeles. I wouldn't ever dream of having -- I know Jerry Zerbi [phonetic] wanted to put this in when he was writing Mr. Knickerbocker's column. I told him the story on the condition it was off the record and he said, "Bill, I want it for my column." So he just wrote it in the column anyway and not using any names and saying it was Sargent who had done it. Then he said, "See the publicity you missed, Bill, by not telling me." Well, I'll tell you the story.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, good.
MR. DRAPER: She came from Los Angeles to pose and this was for the music center. She had raised $18 million for her music center was on the cover of Time magazine, et cetera.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, from the newspaper?
MR. DRAPER: Yes, I painted her husband too, Norman Chandler. He's now dead. But -- and that's out in the -- it must be in the Los Angeles Times Building. She came East to pose and it was a fully length standing picture, nine feet high. The canvas was nine feet high. I had to stand on a stool to paint her face. You can imagine because to reach up there. Even when it was way down low it was very hard to get to her face. She was in a gold lame dress, which was awful. I started out in gold because she wanted it gold and then it showed all the contours of her body, which was not that good. It was not -- it was very poor as a matter of fact, rather busty and big waisted, bigger hips. So I said we can't do it in that. I worked a day with the gold. And I said, "You ought to have a white satin dress." And she had a white satin dress that had a lot of purple. It looked like amethyst, all sort of sewed on the front by her breasts. You know, a big -- well, it was rather -- I didn't mind that, that was sort of decorative, but she had these fat arms. I said, "You've got to have a stole." She had no stole so we went off to Bergdoff Goodmans and we found this beautiful purple, royal purple stole. It must have been eight yards long and about two yards wide and it was doubled you see. She threw it around her shoulders and it reached to the floor on both sides. Part of it covered up part of her hips. It really was sensational and fun to paint you see. There were little feet sticking out of the bottom of the canvas. Then the parquet flooring, my studio was owned by Lydia Emmett and where the models stand was parquet flooring. It's the only time I ever used it. Well, I used it one other time with somebody sitting on the floor, a little girl. But she posed there and she looked very regal and looks very splendid. I was looking up. But the only trouble was again the jowls, you know. In a hard north light with light and shade they showed. They looked -- she had about four or five -- well, I may be exaggerating but it looked to me double chins, at least two, and I was trying to get them out and she was trying to get them out too and holding her head way up high. Well, then of course the proportion would change and her ears were below her chin. I said, "Put your head down," because the nose would shorten when her head went up you see. And so I would say, "Now look directly at me." And then I was trying to take them out, this was about Thursday. She got down and I had really tried to flatter her, taken out a couple and it still looked pretty good. She got down and looked at it and said, "Have I got those jowls, Bill?" And I said, "Buffie." And she said -- I finally said, "I'll have to admit, yes, you had them. I've taken out a lot. This is very flattering. I've taken out a couple of double chins any way." And then she burst into tears. I said, "Oh, Buffie, I didn't mean to upset you, but I have been trying to flatter you and I have been making this -- this is much -- go look and the mirror." And she -- well, I finally got her over there and we finished on Friday. Then she had this -- well, she went back to California. Then she wanted Mr. Dreyfus, D-r-e-y-f-u-s, who was a good friend of hers who was also like Raymond Loie [phonetic]. I think he was an inventor.
MR. MCNAUGHT: An industrial designer.
MR. DRAPER: An industrial designer to come in and look at it. So I met him there at the studio. He came in and looked at it and then he said, "That's terrific. That's awfully good, but I've got to call Buffie and tell her because she wants to hear." But he said, "The only thing I feel is that it may make her the laughingstock because she looks too young. She looks at least ten years younger than she is." And so I said, "Well, that doesn't matter. That's fine." And so he called her up in California and told her this. He said, "The only -- my only criticism is that it makes you look much too young. Then of course it might make you the laughingstock." Well, then she was terribly upset and wanted to fly east to have me put in the jowls.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, no.
MR. DRAPER: And I said, no, I wouldn't do it because this is the way under the soft evening lights, this is the way she would appear, and I was going to leave it just the way it was, which I did, and it's been a great success.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Was she pleased? She was very pleased in the end then?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, she was pleased in the end, yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Have you often done paintings that large or is that your normal portrait size?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, no, this is the biggest. That's the only full length standing figure I've ever done really.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, really?
MR. DRAPER: With the feet. I've done the Shah of Iran but he ended below the knees you see. I've done people standing, but these the feet were included you see and about two feet below the feet. And Sargent would do them and I know I was in Spain with Travis Klotz [phonetic] years ago and we met this Spanish artist and all of his pictures were full length standing duchesses and this and that. He had done Franco's wife. And all those palaces there, they all had full length standing pictures. I felt -- I thought isn't it too bad nobody does it here in America.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's an interesting thing that I've never thought of. But you're absolutely right. We rarely see painted portraits that are full length.
MR. DRAPER: Well, the people say they haven't room to hang it. Well, it's stupid. I could hang one right there if I took that little thing away. You could hang -- people can hang much bigger pictures than they think they can, you know, at least one 30 x 40 they could hang just as easily as one 20 x 25.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Exactly.
MR. DRAPER: I could hang a big one here and I have, but with the sofa here I think it's fine.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So the one of Mrs. Chandler that was painted is the only one you've done. Does it hang in her music center in Los Angeles?
MR. DRAPER: It hangs in the music center in -- yes, in the public hall and it looks great. I saw it two years ago. Oh, and I'll tell you talking about -- another story. This is interesting because it comes also into my being sick. Oh, maybe 15, 12 years ago, I can't remember the date, it was about that long ago, I had this commission to paint a Mrs. John A. Kennedy who was from La Hoya, California. She came east on a Sunday night and we started in Monday morning. This was in the spring at the studio. She had a leopard skin throw around her that she had shot in Africa. It was all -- it started out very well. But Monday afternoon my muscles started to hurt on my arms and particularly the deltoid. When you're trying to paint and move around it really became quite painful. So I guess Tuesday we went again and this time it was worse and my left arm hurt and my knees hurt. So at lunch we went out and had a couple of martinis and I felt fine that afternoon. I didn't feel any pain and so I went on painting. On Wednesday morning I woke up and I could hardly move. I got down to the studio and started in. Well, I was in such agony that she said, "Well, Bill, you remember yesterday when you had those martinis at lunch you felt better. Why don't you have some gin now?" So at 10:00 I started gulping down the gin and by 12:00 I couldn't practically move, not because of the gin. I was still in such pain.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It wasn't working this time.
MR. DRAPER: And then I went home and they called the doctor and I went to the hospital. I was in the hospital for two weeks. Then I had to have -- well, I had to stop painting for a year. I had rheumatoid arthritis and my knees swelled up and I couldn't move. I had to be lifted off -- out of a chair and out of bed. I hobbled around like --
MR. MCNAUGHT: For a full year?
MR. DRAPER: For half a year anyway. I had to cancel all my appointments. They gave me gold shots and I had these gold shots once a week in my gluteus maximus, which is the big muscle in the fanny, your ass so to speak, or your cheeks. I got it more in the left cheek than the right it seems. But it's a long needle. They put it in, jabbed it in. Then this went on for a half a year and I -- all of my tendons shortened and so I could hardly -- after -- well, I couldn't lift my hands higher than this, which was just above my knee just a little bit.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did you have to be fed?
MR. DRAPER: No, I could eat, I could eat. Then I finally got better. The pain went, but I had to have a massage every day. I would have this water thing in the bathtub and I had this water therapy at the hospital. I would go -- I was in terrible shape. This guy at Portraits Incorporated got it, and it was about the same time, and right today he can hardly move.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really? Your cure seems to have --
MR. DRAPER: The gold evidently worked with me. My brother evidently had it a long time ago and had the gold shots and was cured. And so my doctor, Dr. DeMartini at Presbyterian had the same thing and gold sometimes works.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Gold?
MR. DRAPER: It's a gold emulsion of some sort. It's very expensive. No, I'm teasing. But then it was -- well, really, literally my tendons shortened up and I finally could only get my arms when it was gone, I went into remission, up to about the level of my shoulders. Then I would lie -- that summer I would lie on my back and exercise and just pull my arms up, and oh it would hurt, until I finally could get them over my head you see like that. That went on and then in about a year I was back to painting. Just about four years ago it came back for half a year, very little, when I was painting Ambassador Annenberg, and I had to get more gold and then it went away again.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How lucky you are that the cure works.
MR. DRAPER: And now my hands sometimes swell up in the middle of the day. But now a year later I had figured -- she had come East, Mrs. Kennedy to pose, and she wanted a picture. I figured, well, I'll go to California and paint her out there. Barbara was invited so I had to pay for the trip going out and she would pay for her coming east. So I had to pay to go out there. We stayed with her and I painted her out there. Meanwhile her husband had been painted by Simon Ellis. We had -- this was before, maybe four years before. We had been in Capri, Barbara and I and the children, and he was being painted by Simon Ellis up there. We saw his picture you see and he knew me. So his picture was hanging up there and we wanted to have an unveiling party when I finished it, which was very good. It finally turned out well. I painted her in her house and I also did a portrait of the house, in the water standing out, looking up at the cliffs. So they put it on a Christmas card. We were having an opening, an unveiling, and I made a frame, went to the -- got this frame. I stained it and carver it to make it look really good when it was just from the wood, paper mill there, you know. Then we wanted a light for it and Mr. Kennedy's was hanging very near the window. He didn't want to move his. He was a stuffy old man. Hers was down sort of in the dark down here. We wanted to get the light off his picture and put it on hers. He was so selfish he wouldn't let us take the light off his and put it on her picture to be unveiled. Well, I was very irritated with him but the picture was a great success. Then do you know what happened afterwards? About a month or two later people would all come in the house and rave about hers and say they didn't like his at all. So he finally came and he had, commissioned me to paint him. So I painted him. Then just two years ago on the fiftieth anniversary, wedding anniversary, he commissioned me to paint her again ten years later. So that was right, about two years ago and -- so it was about 12 or 13 years ago. I had her in this ruby red gown as they called it. I painted her down in Del Ray Beach and they had a big party for their fiftieth anniversary and she was posing in a ruby -- ten years older. As a matter of fact she looked better than ten years earlier. That's another story.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did --
MR. DRAPER: And it -- oh, yes, go ahead.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Another person who I know posed for you and I think more than once is Paul Mellon.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Can you tell me about that?
MR. DRAPER: Sure. I painted Paul -- as a matter of fact now it may sound like I'm boasting but I'm not -- five times.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Five times?
MR. DRAPER: Yes. I first painted him for Choate School and this was commissioned by this lady in Palm Beach who wanted to give it to the school. No one -- somebody had told me her name but it was a very difficult name and I never remembered it. I met her in Palm Beach after the picture was given and hanging and I was telling somebody I had painted Paul Mellon at this cocktail party and she was standing right next to me and she turned around and said, "Oh, are you Bill Draper? Well, I'm the donor. I was the one who gave the portrait." And so we had a good time. And it's terrible. She has a difficult name. I wish -- I could go run upstairs and look it up but I don't see -- I see -- she lives in Indianapolis or someplace and I see her very seldom.
MR. MCNAUGHT: When was this first portrait that you did?
MR. DRAPER: This was about five years ago.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, so fairly recently?
MR. DRAPER: Quite recently, yes. I've had Kennedy's there anyway and I think that's how -- and then of course after I painted Paul Mellon there he was in robes and it was a great success for the Mellon Building. Then I also painted Seymour St. John for -- who was the headmaster for Choate. So I have quite a few. Then I've done another one for Choate of -- that Worthy Johnson gave. That's up there also. I never could quite understand that. That's a story I want to tell after I finish this. Well, then Paul Mellon liked this picture very much and he asked Bunny to come in to see it when it was finished. Bunny said, "Oh, why I think it's wonderful of Paul. Why isn't that marvelous. I didn't expect anything like this. Why, why haven't we ever gotten a hold of Bill Draper before," you see, and said exactly those words. "Oh, and I want one. I would love to have an informal one for myself." Well, that was the conversation. So a few months or maybe a year later I was commissioned by Paul to paint him for the Mellon Foundation, a small one, 25 x 30. He was in a brown suit this time holding his glasses. I got him to get contact lenses because -- well, I was talking to him and I told him I had contact lenses, which I wore at times when I wanted to look well. I always had a complex because -- I told him that story I think about the lenses anyway.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: When I was 13 I had to wear glasses. None of the rest of the family did. Well, anyway, he posed the second time and that was a great success and it hangs in the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Then he later, or maybe another year went by and I was commissioned to paint -- he commissioned me to paint one for -- well, no, he said this might be for Yale University and I didn't know what he meant by Yale because I didn't know anything about the British Art Center at that time.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Ah-ha.
MR. DRAPER: And he said he didn't know where but he wanted me to do this one. He came again. Each time he sat for a week you see, morning and afternoon. Very good at doing that. Two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon and he wouldn't let anything stop him. I got to know him very well. This third one he was in a gray suit with red sort of checks. I don't know how to -- what do you call it, plaid, sort of a plaid suit, very good looking. As a matter of fact I liked it so much I tried to get one like it, which I finally found one. I very much like it. He posed that week and this was a -- the first picture I did was 40 x 50. The second one was 25 x 30. This was a large one. This was -- it may have bee 38 x 45. I'm not sure, but it was quite big. When I finished this he said, "Well, now you have to go see Golda Heinrichs and see about framing it." When we got over there he said, "Well, I would like to have this framed just like my sister Elsa's is in the National Gallery in Washington." And he got a sample of that, a photograph sent up and had Heinrichs carve a frame just like it. He didn't tell me where it was going but sort of jested, and then suddenly he told me that it was going to go the National Gallery. He was -- the reason he had been so hesitant about it I think -- you see he had posed for Jamie Wyeth for months, months. He told me it was -- he would have to pose all the time and he really didn't like it at all. It was for the National Gallery. The trustees of the National Gallery commissioned Jamie Wyeth to do it. As a matter of fact I've seen the picture and it's very well painted but it's a young man looking at Paul Mellon and he looks old in the first place, like when I painted my Aunt Edith. I'll have to tell -- did I tell that? I haven't told that.
MR. MCNAUGHT: No.
MR. DRAPER: I'll tell that. Remind me because that's important. This was a young man looking at an older man and he's looking, opening a door. The curtain is swinging. Like his father painted those curtains, you know, the beautiful one of the window open with lace curtains flying?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, yes, of course.
MR. DRAPER: Well, he has the door open and has a curtain blowing in it. Then he has Mill Wreath [phonetic] the horse up behind, although it's sort of cluttered and just -- and Paul looks as if he's opening the door and his hand is on the knob but it's hidden by the door being opened. It look as if it were cut off and it looks as if he's in great pain or sort of startled, as if he was caught opening the door. It just wasn't right.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Where is the picture now?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I guess Jamie Wyeth has it in his show here.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see.
MR. DRAPER: But it hasn't been very well liked. I know -- I'm not talking down Jamie because I think he's a very good painter, but this one just -- I think mine was much better naturally and so did Paul Mellon because it was sent down and Jamie's was taken down and mine was put up in the National Gallery and there it hangs and right with his sister Elsa on one side and then I'm delighted because it has Sargent's and Hawkins, very good painters there. It's in the Founder's Room.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Marvelous.
MR. DRAPER: And so after that evidently the class of '29 wanted to give a portrait through the British Arts Center, a picture of Paul, because he had donated the building and his paintings. They got in touch with Paul and said we want to give a portrait in your honor of you to the --
MR. MCNAUGHT: To hang in the British Arts Center.
MR. DRAPER: -- to hang in the British Arts Center. And he said fine, he would love it, he said, but I would like to have William Draper paint me and told them. So they commissioned to paint him. So I painted him. He came around last year for another week and he had this -- people wonder why he's in tails and he has been criticized for that until -- and I've got, I meant to call up Ted Pillsbury and tell him to tell people when they ask why it is because somebody was up there the other day who asked and Ted Pillsbury said, well, he didn't know why I painted him in tails. That's stupid.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You painted him in tails?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, I painted him in tails because Paul thought it would be fun to do it anyway, white tie and tails. He had a medal that the Queen of England had given him, the British -- the Order of the British Empire, which he wanted to hold in his hand. I thought, "That looks awfully silly, you holding the British medal in your hand. I think you should wear it." He said, "Well, I can only wear it with tails, formally." I said, "Well, put it on and wear it formally. I think that would be great." So he has it around his neck, against the white, and it makes a marvelous portrait and it has style and everything. A lot of people sort of think it looks too stuffy to have that, you know, but it got great acclaim. Well, I painted --
MR. MCNAUGHT: And you want the British Arts Center to have [inaudible]?
MR. DRAPER: The what?
MR. MCNAUGHT: The fact that it's on -- in the British Arts Center, the fact that he's wearing a British medal is fitting.
MR. DRAPER: What did you call it, the Order, OBD?
MR. MCNAUGHT: OBE.
MR. DRAPER: OBE I guess. But anyway, then that was -- they had the unveiling of it. Now this is an interesting part of this whole thing. Ted Peabody is the director of the British Arts Center.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Ted Pillsbury?
MR. DRAPER: I mean Pillsbury, I meant -- did I say Peabody before? I said Pillsbury.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You said Pillsbury.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. Well, I painted a lot of Pillsburys. I even knew his father.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Out of Minneapolis.
MR. DRAPER: Minneapolis. I painted Kitty Pillsbury, Ella Crosby. So I knew -- that's a slip of the tongue. You see I'm getting names all mixed up. That seems to be my failing and it would fail right now as I'm telling the story because I can't remember the name of the director of the -- or the curator of British painting on the fourth floor of the British -- his name is Malcolm. I mean of the -- I'm getting all mixed up -- of the --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Malcolm Cormack [phonetic].
MR. DRAPER: Malcolm Cormack, yes. And this is an interesting story. It hung -- when I was up for the opening of the British --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You went to see it?
MR. DRAPER: I was asked -- they had 800 people at dinner and it was fantastic, delicious food. My picture -- I had flown up with Paul and brought it up earlier in his plane. We went and found -- we looked all over and we found a room on the third floor, which was sort of a lounge where people could sit. It looked very well there except it wasn't hanging there. We brought it and they said, well, this would be a good space for it. And I thought fine and I thought it would be good against -- no light on it, I mean light reflecting on it. Then I went up to the opening and I went up to the third floor and they had a bar across the door while they were serving drinks. The picture was in the room behind and it was hung too high. The holding along the room was so high that when you got in it was about -- his fanny was just a little below eye level and his head was way up near the ceiling. It didn't look right. I was terribly disappointed. I looked and I probably -- I got a drink at the bar and moved away. I didn't want to have people -- I didn't want to say to people, oh, that's fine, you know. Just like when President Kennedy's --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You had to look behind the bar into the next room?
MR. DRAPER: Well, you could see it. It was in the room. Nobody could get into the room but I did get in and I fussed around and climbed in a chair to see how it looked. I had the head of the Art Center -- not the Art Center, the head of the Mellon Foundation, Jack Sawyer and his wife Anne came in. They didn't particularly like it. Then they climbed up on the sofa and looked at it and said, "Oh, Bill, it's a wonderful picture. You've got to be" -- and I said, "Well, now up here it looks just the way it did in my studio." And they said, "Well, he looks cheerful here. He has a nice smile, a twinkle. He has no twinkle down here when you look up." It was absolutely true. And so --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Fascinating.
MR. DRAPER: -- everybody saw it and nobody made much comment and nobody did really see it. They all were interested in getting drinks. Just like when President Kennedy's picture was unveiled at the opening of the National Portrait Gallery, I went to that and it was in a round room, all white with a little door with a rope across it. You couldn't get in and you would look in and I looked in and saw this picture I had done of the President with this dreadful white reflection. It looked 180 years old. I looked at that and went to the other end of the place and got drunk. I didn't want to go near it or listen to what people were saying because I knew it looked so lousy. Today it looks fine because it's not hanging in that place of honor. It's hanging on another wall.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The lighting and the painting in the portrait is --
MR. DRAPER: Oh, because any light across it reflects and it ruins. Like President Fusey's [phonetic] was unveiled and it was on an easel. It was hanging back at the Harvard Club and looked like a wet palette. Not a wet palette, like a wet sidewalk. It looked terrible. It had been put up this way --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You ought to make it part of your contract.
MR. DRAPER: I should. Well, to go back to this picture, then the class of '29 wanted to present and therefore it wasn't unveiled at the opening of the building. So about a month ago - the building opened two months ago, about a month ago there was another dinner for 200 at the British Arts Center with Paul Mellon.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In the new building?
MR. DRAPER: In the new building. We had just finished --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you like the new building by the way?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, I think it's beautiful, inside fantastic, outside, I like it outside. I think it's great. This was downstairs and where you enter. They were talking about the cement, how beautiful, they couldn't -- marvelous cement, not hanging any pictures on it you see. But my picture they wanted to bring it down and put it on an easel in the room where the dinner was you see so they could unveil it. Mr. Brewster who is now going to be the ambassador to England was there with his wife and all these dignitaries. Paul Mellon spoke. It was supposed to be put up on the easel. I came along and decided it would look better on the wall, the gray cement wall, and there were holes in the wall. So I said why not hang it up there. It will be much better than on an easel. So I got them to put it up on the wall you see.
MR. MCNAUGHT: On the wall.
MR. DRAPER: And it was unveiled and, oh, it was -- the enthusiasm I've heard from this picture has been amazing. That night there was a tremendous burst of applause and everybody ran up and looked at it and said how great because it was at eye level. It was the right --
MR. MCNAUGHT: It was the way it ought to have been.
MR. DRAPER: The way it looked in my studio. It even looked better. And the [inaudible] I was so proud of because it looked -- it was really -- I think that's wrong with painting. It's awful for me to boast about it.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Not at all.
MR. DRAPER: Just that ribbon. And it doesn't interfere with the face and it comes across the right line. But let me tell you, so the next day -- oh, Eibert I had come in earlier and was going to meet Paul there to fly back to New York.
MR. MCNAUGHT: This was the next day?
MR. DRAPER: The next day because we were flying back to take another one I had just finished over to be framed and I'll tell you about that. And Malcolm, I saw Malcolm Karmack there and Ted Pillsbury while we were waiting in the lobby there where the picture was hanging. He came up and said, "Oh, Bill, I'm so sorry I couldn't be there at the party last night." He evidently wasn't invited or had a date or something. He said, "I'm so glad you found a temporary place for the painting, for your portrait." And I said, "Oh, I like it where it is. I don't -- this shouldn't be temporary. This should be" - And he said, "Oh, no, we can't possibly have it here. You can't hang anything on that grey cement. The architects won't like it."
MR. MCNAUGHT: Where was -- where is the spot that you're talking about?
MR. DRAPER: As you enter the door, as you entered -- as you go in there's a big room with plants and there's a plaque on the door here to the left and you look, you're looking into the museum. It's right there greeting you. Then there's a place where they sell pictures.
MR. MCNAUGHT: There's no other art in that space?
MR. DRAPER: No, there's that big -- in the middle there's a big lead sculpture.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What is the sculpture?
MR. DRAPER: It's -- don't ask such personal questions. Well, it's a large lead statue. I don't know who it is of. It's a beautiful thing in the middle.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So there's that and your portrait?
MR. DRAPER: It's right in the middle of the room and I think there may be some boxes that were taken out with trees that Bunny had put in. It's very good and mine is the only picture I think as you come in. But anyway, well, Malcolm had told that it was only temporary and it can't possibly hang there. So I went over to Ted Pillsbury and I said, "Well, Malcolm says he doesn't like it there and you like it there. You liked it -- last night you said you wanted it here." He said, "Yes, I did." Ted Pillsbury said, "Yes, I did like it there and I think it looks great. I think it should be there." And then I think he went over and discussed it with Malcolm and they were discussing it when Paul Mellon came in the door. I greeted him first. I said, "Good morning, Paul. How are you?" And he said, "The picture looks fine over there, doesn't it?" And I said, "Yes." And then I said, "But, you know, Malcolm has told me it's only temporary there and that it can't hang there because it's -- because it's going to destroy the wall surface and he wants to hang it, put up notices there instead." And Paul said, "Well, I don't see how Malcolm has any say about it at all. He's a curator of the British paintings on the third floor and it will stay there." So I felt I had won my point so I didn't say anything more and then it did stay there. So it's there now.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, I'll see it next time I go.
MR. DRAPER: Unless Malcolm is still arguing to get it out. I don't know why, I think that he had some feeling about the architecture and the gray cement was so beautiful and the architect didn't want pictures hanging on that. There's something which I think is silly because it never -- it looks wonderful against that gray cement. It just looks better than I ever thought it would really and it looked worse than I ever could imagine it could at --
MR. MCNAUGHT: At the night of the opening.
MR. DRAPER: -- the night of the opening. And I've had repercussions, people have gone, busloads have gone up, you know, these charity things to go see it and people call me and say, oh, I've seen that marvelous portrait of Paul Mellon there and congratulated me. So that's fine.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's nice to have a painting hanging in that building along with all the marvelous paintings.
MR. DRAPER: Oh, it is. It was such an honor with all the Gainsboroughs.
MR. MCNAUGHT: [Inaudible.]
MR. DRAPER: And the best picture in the place I think, there's a Rubens that's an absolutely fantastic sketch.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, maybe I'll see it.
MR. DRAPER: Yes. I think that's beautiful. And then of course I love the Turner, there's a big Turner.
MR. MCNAUGHT: [Inaudible] Turner.
MR. DRAPER: Yes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It's the greatest Turner. It's one of the great Turners.
MR. DRAPER: Well, it is a great Turner. I mean, it's fantastic. But now -- oh, and then I was going to say, talking -- oh, I haven't finished because we flew back in Paul's plane to get my painting, the fifth one that I did a month ago for the --
MR. MCNAUGHT: A month ago now or a month ago --
MR. DRAPER: Well, just
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- after the opening?
MR. DRAPER: The opening was only a month-and-a-half ago.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I see.
MR. DRAPER: We flew back to -- because he had just posed for me -- between the opening of the building and the opening of my painting he posed another time for me in New York for the Saratoga Racing Museum. In that one I had him with a black velvet cap with a visor. I don't know what -- I'm not a horseman so I don't know what you would call it, a cap, and he has a blue turtleneck sweater and a tweed coat and he's holding, he calls it a bat. It's not a baseball bat. It looks like a piece of bamboo made into a whip of some sort. So we flew back and had that brought to Heinrichs to be framed. I thought that was sort of fun, to come from one unveiling of my portrait to --
MR. MCNAUGHT: To another.
MR. DRAPER: -- to fly back in his plane and then the other, another one.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Is that one hanging in Saratoga now?
MR. DRAPER: It will. It will be framed and hanging up there this summer I hope. I'm going to go up there sometime in August.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I assume you might be getting your sixth portrait.
MR. DRAPER: Yes, because I've never done the informal one for Bunny.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Have you done one of her as well, are you going to do her?
MR. DRAPER: No.
MR. MCNAUGHT: No.
MR. DRAPER: Well, now, I was talking about Jamie Wyatt's. I thought it was a good picture but he did look old and it was a little contrived because I think he's done some awfully good painting and I think he's a good portrait painter.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes, indeed.
MR. DRAPER: I admire him. But the reason I want to bring this in is that he looked old and Jamie Wyeth was young. I painted my Aunt, Mrs. Montgomery Blair, Edith Blair, my father's sister, years ago when I was about 22 and she commissioned me to paint her. "My seven children are grown up and I'm empty handed now." I had her sitting like an old lady with white hair and her one hand open on her lap, the empty hand you see, empty handed. I thought it was a terrific picture and all the children thought it was good. Mother and father saw it and said, "Oh, but William, you've made your Aunt Edith look 85 years old if a day. It's a dreadful picture."
MR. MCNAUGHT: How old was she?
MR. DRAPER: She was 63.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Sixty-three.
MR. DRAPER: One year younger than I am today and if I had painted her today she would look like a young chicken probably. She would look pretty good, you see. And Paul Mellon is about a contemporary, he's a little older, he's five years older, and he looks young. All the people -- now I'm having - well, I was going to say I'm having lunch with somebody who's 81 and he looks about 60. It's amazing. Probably to somebody who's 20 he will look 90. I probably look much older to somebody young you see. For instance to you I probably look like an old wreck.
MR. MCNAUGHT: No, I think you look young.
MR. DRAPER: It's not that I wasn't an old wreck.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I thought that you were 64.
MR. DRAPER: Sixty-four. You thought I was 24. Well, now the other thing I was going to say was about Worthy Johnson commissioned me to do this picture for Choate, so this is the fourth picture I have at Choate, of a master named -- I never did know his name because it was done through Worthy Johnson and I just had photographs. I had said I would never -- I don't like to do things from photographs which I seldom do, but he had commissioned me to do a Mr. Goldstein, a judge, if I would do this for him, a favor for him to do this one from photographs of a master at Choate, his old master at Choate. So I said, yes, I would. Well, I will tell you I did Goldstein in a week and that was fine. I worked on this other one from photographs. It was terrible. I worked on it and worked on it and it had a desk in front of him in the photograph with papers and things. I got models to pose and it was awful, a dark suit. Well, I finally gave up for a year and yet I owed him. He had paid me for both because he wanted to get it paid, do something in '75 I guess. Here I had this in my hands. I didn't want -- I had spent the money. I didn't want to pay -- have to dig in and pay him back. So I worked on it, put it away for a year, and he would call up and ask how it was. He had seen it and he had admitted that it was pretty bad.
MR. MCNAUGHT: This is William McNaught speaking with William Draper, June 24, 1977. This is the third tape, the fifth side of this interview.
MR. DRAPER: Now we were talking about Mr. -- oh, about painting Mr. Goldstein and doing this other, very difficult --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes, from a photograph and it wasn't working and you had --
MR. DRAPER: And it was a lousy photograph of this uninteresting, dull looking man from my point of view from the pictures. Because when somebody poses for me -- he would have been great to pose you see for me.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Working from a photograph you have no idea of that's --
MR. DRAPER: I had no idea. And Mr. Johnson came in and looked at it and admitted that it wasn't very good at that point, but I said -- he said, "But can't you do something. It's not that bad, Bill." Well, in the first place I was having -- his eyes were looking off this way from the picture and I had to turn his eyes straight at me when they were looking off, and the whole thing, there were no shadows on the side of the face. It was impossible. Then he wanted me to come up, after a year had gone by he still wanted the picture, to see the old one that was hanging there of this master that somebody had done from life. And I'll tell you who did it because this is just for historical record and I think he's a very good painter and a good friend of mind is Ray Kinsler, Everett Raymond Kinsler. He had done this and when I came in I looked at this gorgeous picture of this man. I thought it was marvelous. I though, oh, my God --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Why did the want another?
MR. DRAPER: Because nobody liked this. Evidently it didn't look like the master to them, it wasn't the master. But I thought it was a terrific painting. So that even discouraged me more, to get something to look better than that up there. So I took an old sports jacket of mine and painted that and got Freddy to pose and painted that behind the desk which had a little more jazz in it. Then I fussed around and got more inspired and then I thought, well, this is all right. This might -- so I asked Mr. Johnson to come and look at that. Worthy came in and said, "That's terrific. That's going to really make that room much better, Bill." And he got some, three friends from Choate who had gone to school with him and they raved about it. Then they had an unveiling up there. They took down the other one which was, I thought was sensational really, very good, and put mine up and everybody was saying how good mine was and what are they going to do with this old one. Burn it. I thought, well, they can't burn it. I said, "Why don't you send it back to the artist?" And I said -- and they said, "We can't do that. He would be very upset." And the sister didn't want it. I don't know what they did with it. But that was so said, wasn't it?
MR. MCNAUGHT: How extraordinary that no one wanted it.
MR. DRAPER: And so I don't know what happened and I'm not going to tell Ray because I've done this and he would be upset and there's no reason of letting him even know it because I think he's a very good painter. Then let me see what else was it, what else was there that I wanted to say? Oh, yes. Oh, yes, why I don't remember names, wasn't that it?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes, you did.
MR. DRAPER: And it's a lousy system I have for remembering names. Every word has a color to me and this sounds crazy but it's absolutely true. I remember the colors with a person by the letters in the name. I get a color thing but it's only with the vowels. So I can get the vowels of the name perfectly but the consonants are completely unremembered. So like Steadman and Draper are almost -- except Steadman isn't quite as intense but it has an A and an E in it and Draper has an A and an E but reversed. But the A is red to me and E is yellow, and A & E together make sort of an orange color. So Steadman is sort of a deep -- just because dead man and not a -- it's sort of the color, apricot color. Draper is quite bright orange yellow you see. But Steadman, or the D or the R or the P and that doesn't exist. So when I'm introduced to somebody, like Gloria will be sort of a purple color. Gloria Steadman, purple and yellow. I can remember that but I don't remember the names.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How extraordinary.
MR. DRAPER: And I've only met one other person who --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you think the color thing every time you meet someone?
MR. DRAPER: Yes, I see -- names are colors. It's sort of crazy.
MR. MCNAUGHT: If I said McNaught would you think of a color?
MR. DRAPER: McNaught, yeah. It's sort of purple. It's sort of a rusty purple because the A is red and the O-U is sort of a deep purple and O, O is sort of blue and U is you see. But I do -- but right away I don't -- I mix it in my mind. This thing with the color comes. That's, well, it's crazy I think. But it really throws me as far as names go, and as far as Russian names --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You're thinking color instead of --
MR. DRAPER: -- and Russian names they all have about four vowels and all end in "e", which is white to me. I is white, sort of white. It ends in white and a flash of white, Ronluski and Baronaski, and all -- it could be Kovaluski. I just do not get the names. I have to say them over and I should rhyme them with -- like my -- I tell people to remember my name by a little poem, like Draper, Draper, toilet paper. I should have -- I should think of every name like that you see. That reminds me of the same old uncle I had described earlier in the tape, not my uncle but a first cousin who was so mean.
MR. MCNAUGHT: The one at the club.
MR. DRAPER: At the club.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: His wife -- he was running for United States Senator and I remember we all kids driving down to Hyannis Port. Along the trees we would see [Inaudible] Draper running for United States Senator and his wife had written this little jingle, which they would sing on the radio, which was perfectly pathetic. Put your vote upon the paper vote for Draper, Draper, Draper. I remember that jingle. You would hear it over the radio. He was -- well, I won't go back to him.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Can you think of other people that you've painted that you might like to say something about or --
MR. DRAPER: Well, I'll tell you --
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- you had difficulties in painting?
MR. DRAPER: Well, I painted Leonard Bernstein for the demonstration at the Boston Arts Festival at the museum years ago. I have that still. That's one I would like to give to the National Portrait Gallery. They would take I'm sure, an old sketch by me of Leonard Bernstein done at the Boston Arts Museum and it's sitting somewhere. I've got Carlos Mantoya too. But you can't -- as I say you only get a $20 deduction why -- maybe I should give it anyway. Let's see. Well, I've painted Daphne Hellman who is a harpist. Oh, and I'll tell you the story about that. I painted this girl Carole McDonald and she was a very pretty girl, 18 or 19. Her parents live in Hope Sound and they commissioned me to paint her. Then they went to Europe and I thought, well, hot dog, they didn't tell me what they wanted, just a big picture. So I -- she loved raising parakeets.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How old was she?
MR. DRAPER: Nineteen or twenty, close to twenty. And she came to the studio in a dark blue, navy blue dress with a flaring skirt and white cuffs and a white thing here, which was nifty looking. And she -- and I have to have a big green Persian pillow, what do you call those big round things stuffed that you can sit on?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Ottoman?
MR. DRAPER: Ottoman, yeah. And she -- I was raising parakeets here and I thought, oh, we'll make a picture out of this. And I had a little parakeet stand with steps on the floor and she was leaning on this ottoman and I had a parakeet perched on her shoulder. She was sitting on the parquet flooring you see and it looked great. The only thing that was difficult was her foot was quite small, coming out forward, it had high heels at you. When I would measure, I would measure the size of her foot. According to her head it was about -- when you -- it was 12 inches long from the heel to the toe. Well, you can imagine how big that would be. So I had to paint a small foot so it would be in proportion according to -- it was much too small but it didn't look too small, it looked all right. I painted it and the family -- and it was a big 40 by 50 canvas. It's one of the nicest things I've ever done. The family came and said, "Oh, we didn't want that. We wanted her dressed up in an evening dress. She's coming out this year. We don't want that at all. That looks like -- that's all wrong." So then they wanted me to do it again. So I started another one with her sitting in a formal Italian chair. She would sit there. She hated to pose again. She hated the second one. She said, "Do you have some tea? Will you have some tea, Mr. Draper," as if she were being a hostess pouring tea. I did that one and the family loved it and so they bought it. It was in changeable taffeta, sort of purple, lavender and pink. It was awfully pretty material. So I had that above my studio, above the mantelpiece in my studio for years. Finally somehow -- oh, she got married maybe 10 years later, 10 or 12 years later when she was probably 30, 32. Evidently the family asked her what she wanted as a wedding present and she said I want that portrait that Bill Draper did. So they came by and saw me and saw it and said, gee, that's a terrific picture. They wanted me to -- they said they would like to buy it. I said, "Well, I wouldn't dream of selling it because it makes my studio. : "Oh, you wont' sell it?" I said, "Well, there's a price." So I sold it for the price that I was charging that day for the biggest picture that I do which was 10 or 12 years later, so it was a lot more than they paid for the first one.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Right.
MR. DRAPER: And that wasn't highway robbery. I mean, I really wanted it myself and it was fair I feel and they were stupid enough not to have bought it in the first place, you know. And, let me think, what else could I talk about as far as portraits go? I've painted people -- I've never painted -- Paul Mellon is the one I did the most.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Have you painted many other government figures? You mentioned the President.
MR. DRAPER: And John Foster Dulles.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You painted John Foster Dulles?
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. I told you that, didn't I, about painting him, that Clarence Dylan commissioned me to paint him from photographs?
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, from photographs, not from --
MR. DRAPER: Oh, I never told this? I'll tell you. This was quite a long time ago. He had just died I think. I was commissioned to paint him and I got all this, I got his map, big world map sent up to the studio and I got his clothes and all this paraphernalia he would have on his desk. I had a picture, a lousy picture of him but it was a wonderful pose, he was leaning forward, that I was going to work from and try to make a picture of it, which I did. And then I wanted -- [inaudible] told me, "Well, why Bill, why don't you call up Kosh and write a letter to Kosh in Ottawa and he has taken pictures of John Foster Dulles and he probably would sell you a print of the head more or less in that position." So I wrote to him and he sent me back little pictures like this and I found one in exactly the right position. I've never told anybody this because I didn't publicize it because when I finished the picture everybody said how great it was and how could you do that from such a lousy snapshot. It was a beautiful head from Kosh and I used that. It was like light and shade so - But then it was done and put away for two years, two or three years because it was supposed to go to the Princeton Library of Diplomatic History. It was a large canvas, 40 by 50. About two years later I was sitting here with my wife looking at the New York Times and there on the front page was my picture of John Foster Dulles with Alan Dulles in front of it and Mrs. Dulles, President Goheen [phonetic] of Princeton who since then I've painted, and President Eisenhower. It said and the picture in the background is of the late statesman. It had been unveiled and the building unveiled out at Princeton and nobody remembered me or even sent me an invitation to the unveiling, which always happens. This happens I think quite a lot, not now because I'm -- but I've heard many times of this happening and it has happened to me quite a few times. And architects, architects and artists they always for instance put a plaque under a picture of the name of the person, a place for his death, the date, and not when he was born. Yeah, they put when he was born but never put the artist's name on the plaque at all. But now the opposite thing happened with Paul Mellon's in the National Gallery. It was sent in to be done and the plaque had William F. Draper in tremendous print and Paul Mellon in very small print.
MR. MCNAUGHT: How fascinating. Was that the way they do the labels for their pictures?
MR. DRAPER: For their pictures. And so I think he's changed it now, but at the time it was William F. Draper and Paul Mellon.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It should be the same way as the other pictures.
MR. DRAPER: So I don't know what they all are like that now.
MR. MCNAUGHT: John Singer Sargent's portrait of so and so.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah.
MR. MCNAUGHT: So why not --
MR. DRAPER: Well, I think -- I don't know what has happened. I hope they haven't changed the plaque. He was telling somebody -- I think he was telling Malcolm about it at Yale. "Oh, we must change the plaque. Remind to do that," says he. I said, "Oh, don't. Leave it the way it is." Well, I don't -- really I
MR. MCNAUGHT: Do you find it easier to paint men, or women, or children? I mean, what seems easiest?
MR. DRAPER: I think they're all -- I think men and women are equally --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Now you don't have a preference?
MR. DRAPER: No, I think in some cities they say, oh, Draper is a better painter of men than women and then in St. Louis I'm a better painter of women than men. It just matters who you have done more of. I used to like to do children but they really drive me nuts trying to -- I have no patience of having to look and keep them still. I used to put a little paint of red, paint on my nose, and that was a great idea because they said, "Mr. Draper, you have some paint on your nose." This is about the last minute when I wanted to get them animated and they would say that and I would say, "Oh, don't be ridiculous. I have no paint on my nose." "Oh, yes, you do. Oh, look." They were trying to tell me. I would say, "Of course I haven't. I'm a professional. I get paint on my smock but I'm not an amateur. I'd never get a piece of paint on my nose. How could I?" "Oh, but you do." And that would last for about 20 minutes.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: I would get them talking and animated and then I would get the nice expression.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Have you painted in America much, everywhere, people from every geographic --
MR. DRAPER: I would say --
MR. MCNAUGHT: You're not mainly a New York painter.
MR. DRAPER: No, I painted I would say many more out west, in Chicago.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: I haven't done many in Texas, any in Texas, which is very strange.
MR. MCNAUGHT: It should be wide open.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah, I should think it would be but I've never been to Texas. I've been to Los Angeles, to San Francisco, Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Virginia.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Pretty much the whole country.
MR. DRAPER: Yeah. Tennessee, Atlanta.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Have you painted -- we know you've painted in Iran. Have you painted much in Europe, commissioned portraits that is? I know you've done landscapes.
MR. DRAPER: I did -- I was commissioned to paint this Mr. -- what was his name? It was --well, he has a Château Du Brant [phonetic] in Antwerp, Mr. Treglander [phonetic], and he had had this beautiful chateau in the middle of a park in Antwerp with a moat around it, a castle, and an orchid greenhouse. They changed the gardens every two weeks. They would come in, gardeners would take things out. He left it to the city when he died, but it was a beautiful spot. I painted his daughter here in America. She was -- and then he commissioned me to go over there. Then another daughter-in-law, the Countess DeVire [phonetic], I painted her over there. Then -- this has nothing to do with it but it might have, I painted Cardinal Simmons of Brussels who came over last year to pose for me.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes, you told that story.
MR. DRAPER: Did I tell --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: I have no idea. Maybe he had seen Mr. Treglander because that's Belgium again you see. In France, I don't think I've done anyone in France. I've gone over there to do them.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You've done a lot.
MR. DRAPER: I did Ambassador Annenberg. Did I tell you that?
MR. MCNAUGHT: You've mentioned it in passing.
MR. DRAPER: And Lee Annenberg.
MR. MCNAUGHT: For the British Embassy or --
MR. DRAPER: For the British Embassy.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And are those portraits still there?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes, it's there. And I'll tell you an interesting story. All right, this is an interesting story. It's about the Kennedys again you see. Well, Rose Kennedy wanted -- when I had done this one of President Kennedy's father for the embassy, I never finished it. I don't think I've told how I finished that, how I --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, yes, and you -- I do believe you did, whether it actually ended up in Regents Park or --
MR. DRAPER: Well, you see, then I got photographs. I was doing -- I went down to paint him from a couple of color notes and then I got the photographs and I found one -- every photograph had his mouth, all the teeth, grinning from ear to ear which would have been ridiculous. I found one with his mouth closed but his eyes were crossed. I used that one and straightened the eyes, hoping they would look right. Rose liked it so she said. Oh, she looked at it and then she said she wanted 14 copies of it, color, 8 by 10's, I think they're 14 by 17, for the children, for all the family. Well, not one of them ever wrote me and said anything about it all.
MR. MCNAUGHT: You made 14 -
MR. DRAPER: I didn't paint them. They were reproductions.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, color reproductions.
MR. DRAPER: Color reproductions for the children. I would have thought having known the Kennedys when they were given one of their father painted by me they would have -- like Pat could have written me a little note. "I love that picture of father," you know, some kind of a something. I heard nothing from any of them. So I thought, well, the picture must be a ghastly failure. So when Ambassador Annenberg asked for some material to decide whether to have me or not I sent over photographs of different people I had done, leaving out Ambassador Kennedy. When I went over there, when I got there, he was walking down the hall and I was hoping, gee I hope Ambassador Kennedy's isn't up there because that's going to ruin my chances of painting him even after I had gotten over there. He walked down the hall and then he stopped in front of me and he said, "Bill Draper, why didn't you ever send me a picture of this?" It was Ambassador Kennedy. He said, "This is -- this is really the one picture that made me decide on getting you to paint me."
MR. MCNAUGHT: Really?
MR. DRAPER: And isn't that interesting? And another time I -- well, this may be -- I had known Pat, she was younger but I certainly knew her in Hyannis Port. When I brought the President's picture down to show old Ambassador Kennedy down in -- Jack said, "Oh, do go down and show this to father. He's at the rehabilitation center down at 23rd Street." So I went down one day to show the picture to the old man that I had finished -- no, Jack's picture and he had a stroke you see.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Was it in New York or Palm Beach?
MR. DRAPER: He was up in New York having treatment and I had put the coat on so Jack wanted me to show it to him. I went down and there was Ted and Pat visiting him. And Pat didn't say, "Hello, Bill. How are you?" She said, "How do you do," very distant, and called me Mr. Draper all the time. And I didn't understand her doing that. I thought it was very rude because she knew me well enough, unless she just didn't -- maybe I'm so rude to people I don't remember them and maybe it's the same way, you know, except for the fact that about three years later I was at Lincoln Center and she came running across the hall at Lincoln Center at the ballet and said, "Bill, how are you?" Quite different. I said, "Hello." "I understand you have some photographs or some reproductions of my brother's portrait. I would love to have one." And I said, "Pat, I will send you one." And I wrote out to Pat Lawford, "Best wishes, William Draper." I rolled it up in a tube and sent it to her. I never got thanked, nothing. So I just -- I saw her standing in a movie line the other day and I didn't go up and say hello because I just don't -- I didn't want to give, have her give me the cold look, "Mr. Draper, how are you?" I mean, I think it's rudeness and I think they are rude. I think they have their little group and they just think they're in and they are. They were -- it used to be out. I don't -- it's sort of sour grapes, as if I have a chip on my shoulder but I really haven't. But wouldn't you be annoyed too if you had done that, you know? So I don't think I'll probably paint any more Kennedys, although really I did like Jack very much and I knew him. I like Kathleen and Joe, the old man. It is just that Pat seems so rude. I shouldn't have brought this into the thing at all. I think really she probably doesn't know who I am. I've probably changed a hell of a lot since Hyannis Port. That's the real thing and she probably thinks, she probably thinks that William Draper the artist has nothing to do with the William Draper she knew in Hyannis Port.
MR. MCNAUGHT: [Inaudible.]
MR. DRAPER: Well, I did. I said, "I haven't seen you since Hyannis Port." Maybe she thought I dropped in at their house for cocktails one time, but I wasn't getting -- you know you couldn't go in there too much. So I think maybe she was just as vague as Aunt Margaret with Muriel Powells [phonetic] in the elevator. That may have been it. I know that I've hurt some people's feelings by not knowing them. It's the last thing I would want to do. Maybe I'll write Pat a letter now and just say let's straighten this thing out.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Is there anything else, Mr. Draper?
MR. DRAPER: Well, let's see. I think we've covered about everything. Oh, yes, I wanted to tell you -- in the first place I think I did call the American Embassy the British Embassy. The painting of Ambassador Annenberg was not done for the British Embassy.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Of course it was done for the American Embassy in London.
MR. DRAPER: In London, yes. But I think I kept calling it the British Embassy.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In Grosvenor Square or in the Ambassador's residence?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, it's in Grosvenor Square.
MR. MCNAUGHT: In Grosvenor Square in the embassy?
MR. DRAPER: And then when I painted Mrs. Annenberg it was done for the residence and I painted that in the residence.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, really? Tell me about that.
MR. DRAPER: Well, it was quite amazing. She had -- she was -- she had great taste I would say and so did the Ambassador as far as all his paintings go, you know.
MR. MCNAUGHT: They had the embassy, the residence there completely redone -
MR. DRAPER: Yes
MR. MCNAUGHT: -- for upwards of a $1 million.
MR. DRAPER: And they had left an awful lot of beautiful things, beautiful mirrors and furniture in the residence, which I think was great of them.
MR. MCNAUGHT: What do you mean, even after they left?
MR. DRAPER: Yes, they kept, took the paintings naturally, all the Monets and Manets, et cetera, but they left an awful lot of very nice things there. I know they had put in this beautiful Chinese wallpaper that they had found in some castle in Ireland and put that in one of the main rooms of the residence. It was beautiful green paper with these birds, which I used in the background of these portraits. She posed in a pink satin dress holding a carnation but it was a porcelain carnation. She had it all planned. She knew how she wanted to be, which was fine, and wanted the wallpaper. Well, upstairs -- I painted it upstairs in her room that had a good north light, but I had to have a green screen behind it. I couldn't set up with everything downstairs in the beautiful room you see with the wallpaper.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Sure.
MR. DRAPER: So I had a terrible time. That was the hardest thing about the thing, to get the design, about the painting to get the design of the birds and the flowers and the leaves to work into a good composition behind her.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Yes.
MR. DRAPER: And I would bring my easel down when nobody was around paint the wallpaper. Then I would run upstairs and paint her up there to get the whole thing coordinated so that the wallpaper looked as if it were really behind her and not just stuck in. It did some doing and I was very proud of that.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And it worked?
MR. DRAPER: I'll tell you how it worked. She said -- and when I finished Ambassador Annenberg's in June or maybe -- it was in June I guess she said, "Oh, I love that wallpaper. It's marvelous." Then when I finished her, her portrait in November, I came back to do her, and she said -- or maybe I painted him in November. When I finished hers -- hers was 40 by 50 and his was only 32 by 40, so she said, "Oh, you know, Walter, I like mine much better than yours and it's bigger too," which is sort of fun.
MR. MCNAUGHT: And that painting hangs now still in the residence at Regents Park?
MR. DRAPER: His does.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Hers --
MR. DRAPER: But I did another one. And hers, no, hers has been moved now. Hers -- both hers and his are now in Philadelphia. But I've done two of him you see and one does hang in the embassy --
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, I see.
MR. DRAPER: -- you know, with Kennedy, et cetera, et cetera.
MR. MCNAUGHT: I see.
MR. DRAPER: And so I think we've covered everything.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Well, I would like to thank you very much.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Thank you. It's June 28, 1977, the end of the interview with William Draper.
[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 William F. Draper, 1977 June 1-28, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.