Podcasts: the Archives of American Art Oral History Collection

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Monuments Men series

Excerpts from interviews which discuss World War II and the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, also known as the “Monuments Men.” See also: World War II “Monuments Men” Archival Collections at the Archives of American Art

Edith Standen and Rose Valland with art to be restituted to France, 1946 May

Stanton Catlin on Rose Valland’s heroism (4:24 min.)

Stanton L. Catlin (1915-1997) was assistant director of Yale University Art Gallery and later the gallery director and professor at Syracuse University. Before the World War II, Catlin was introduced to Rose Valland, who was the assistant to the director of the Jeu de Paume Museum. During World War II, Valland spied on the Nazis who used the Jeu de Paume Museum as a storage location for looted art before transporting the artwork by train to various German repositories scattered throughout Germany and Austria. In this audio excerpt, Catlin talks about Valland’s contributions to the recovery of artwork plundered by the Nazis.

Play it: 3 MB Mp3 excerpt (4:24) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Stanton L. Catlin, 1989 July 1-Sept. 14

S. Lane Faison, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, and Karl Staley, 1953 Jan. 29

S. Lane Faison on working in the U.S. Office of Strategic Services Art Looting Investigation Unit (8:36)

Samson Lane Faison Jr. (1907-2006) was an art history professor at Williams College, Massachusetts. During World War II, Faison enlisted and served in the Naval Air Force. From 1945 to 1946, Faison was a member of the Office of Strategic Services Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU), finding and recovering art stolen by the Nazis. In this audio clip, Faison discusses his exploits as a Monuments Men, starting with the phone call asking him to join the ALIU and later working as the director of the Munich Central Collecting Point, one of several locations established by the U.S. State Department to gather the recovered art for repatriation.

Play it: 3 MB Mp3 excerpt (8:36) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with S. Lane Faison, 1981 Dec. 14

Walker Hancock, Lamont Moore, George Stout and two unidentified soldiers in Marburg, Germany, 1945 June

Walker Hancock on locating the repositories of art looted by the Nazis (24:01)

Walker Kirtland Hancock (1901-1998) was a prominent sculptor who taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1929 to 1967. Hancock was drafted into the Army in 1942 and initially trained as a medic. After being transferred to military intelligence at the Pentagon, Hancock requested to join the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives (MFAA) section of the U.S. Army where he felt he could do the most good In this audio clip, Hancock talks about locating and recovering looted art repositories found in the salt mines.

Play it: 16.5 MB Mp3 excerpt (24:01) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Walker Hancock, 1977 July 22-Aug. 15

Stephen Kovalyak, Lamont Moore and Thomas Carr Howe in Berchtesgaden, 1945 July 25

Thomas Carr Howe on looted art repositories and postwar restitution efforts (34:54)

Thomas Carr Howe (1904-1994) was the director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco for nearly four decades. During World War II, Howe enlisted and was a U.S. Naval Lieutenant before being assigned to the MFAA Section, serving from 1945 to 1946 in Germany and Austria. In this audio clip, Howe talks about locating large caches of art work that had been looted by the Nazis in the salt mines and the postwar restitution efforts and returning the artwork to their countries of origin.

Play it: 24 MB Mp3 excerpt (34:54) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Thomas Carr Howe, 1976 June 2-3

Charles Parkhurst letter to Perry Rathbone, 1954 August 17

Charles Parkhurst on Nazi art looting and the Weisbaden Manifesto (14:03)

Charles Parkhurst (1913-2008) was an art administrator and curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. During World War II, Parkhurst was a U.S. Naval Lieutenant and was later appointed Deputy Chief of the MFAA section in Germany. He helped organize the repatriation efforts in postwar Germany at the Munich Central Collecting Point, where the art was collected for restitution to their countries of origin. In this audio clip, Parkhurst talks about art looting by the Nazis and the Wiesbaden Manifesto, signed by Parkhurst and many other Monuments Men, protesting the removal of German-owned artworks to the United States for safekeeping after the war.

Play it: 9.7 MB Mp3 excerpt (14:03) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Charles Parkhurst, 1982 Oct. 27

Aerial view of Altaussee salt mines, 1945

Andrew Carnduff Ritchie on the MFAA Section (13:00)

Andrew Carnduff Ritchie (1907-1978) was an art administrator and art historian. He was a research assistant and lecturer at the Frick Collection, then the director of the Albright Art Gallery in New York from 1942. After World War II, Ritchie served as a MFAA advisor at the Munich Central Collecting Point where he supervised the restitution of artwork, notably Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, which was owned by the Czernin family up until the war. In this audio clip, Ritchie talks about the highlights of his MFAA experiences, especially the fate of the “Czernin Vermeer” and his experience transporting the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire from Nuremberg to Vienna.

Play it: 8.9 MB Mp3 excerpt (13:00) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, 1977 June 16-17

George Leslie Stout, circa 1965

George Stout on his experiences as a Monuments Man and the conditions in the salt mines (44:40)

George Leslie Stout (1897-1978) was a museum director and prominent art conservator in Massachusetts. Stout was one of the first U.S. soldiers to be assigned to the MFAA Section and played a prominent role in the recovery of art work stolen by the Nazis. He was appointed Lieutenant Commander of the MFAA unit and supervised the inventorying and removal of looted artwork hidden in the salt mines of Merkers and Ransbach in Thuringia, Germany and in other repositories in France and the Netherlands. In this audio clip Stout speaks of his experience as a MFAA officer, especially the poor storage conditions in the salt mines.

Play it: 30.7 MB Mp3 excerpt (44:40) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with George Leslie Stout, 1978 Mar. 10-21

Otto Wittmann and Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet at the Toledo Museum of Art, 1973 Nov. 12

Otto Wittmann on the Art Looting Investigation Unit and postwar restitution work (4:13, 25:27)

Otto Wittmann (1911-2001) was a curator and director of the Toledo Museum of Art from 1959-1976. During World War II, Wittmann served as a Major with the Air Force but was later transferred to the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) in Washington, D.C. under the Office of Strategic Services. As an ALIU official, Wittmann assisted with looted art recovery in Paris and Munich, investigated transactions in Sweden and Switzerland, and worked with the collection centers in France. In these audio clips, Wittmann talks about his work restituting art looted by the Nazis.

Play it: 1976 17.5 MB Mp3 excerpt (25:27) Listen | 1981 2.9 MB Mp3 excerpt (4:13) Listen
Read complete transcripts: Oral history interview with Otto Wittmann, 1976 Aug. 19-20
Oral history interview with Otto Wittmann, 1981 Oct. 25

Latino artists series

Exhibtion catalog for Los Four: Almaraz/de la Rocha/Lujan/Romero held Nov. 10-Dec. 9, 1973 at the Art Gallery, UC Irvine

Gilbert Luján on the “Los Four” exhibition at LACMA (1:15 min.)

The “Los Four” exhibition—considered the first Chicano art exhibition in a Los Angeles museum—opened at the Art Gallery at University of California, Irvine in 1973 and then traveled to the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1974. In this interview, founding member of the Los Four art collective, Gilbert “Magu” Luján, described the show’s unexpected success.

Play it: 1.16 MB Mp3 excerpt (1:15) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Gilbert Sanchez Luján, 1997 Nov. 7-17

Exhibtion catalog for Los Four: Almaraz/de la Rocha/Lujan/Romero held Nov. 10-Dec. 9, 1973 at the Art Gallery, UC Irvine

Frank Romero on the “Los Four” backlash (1:45 min.)

The 1974 “Los Four” exhibition at the L.A. County Museum of Art received a scathing review in the L.A. Times from art critic William Wilson. The critic argued that the Los Four artists Frank Romero, Gilber Lujan, Carlos Almaraz, and Roberto de la Rocha could not legitimately represent a Chicano street style. Wilson wrote that the four educated artists, “by the very act of leaving the barrio, ceased to be authentic folk artists.” Romero defends the exhibition in this interview with Jeffrey Rangels.

Play it: 1.62 MB Mp3 excerpt (1:45) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Frank Romero, 1997 January 17-March 2

Exhibition Pamphlet, ASCO 83 at the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery at the University of California, Santa Cruz, May 18, 1983

Willie Herrón on the “Los Four” exhibition (1:30 min.)

Willie Herrón, one of the founding members of the Chicano Avant-Garde collective, ASCO, criticized the “Los Four” exhibition at L.A. County Museum of Art in 1974, which displayed graffiti infused murals inside the museum. In an interview with Jeffrey Rangel, he recalled how the “Los Four” exhibition set the stage for an ASCO interventionist performance.

Play it: 1.39 MB Mp3 excerpt (1:30) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Willie Herrón, 2000 Feb. 5-Mar. 17

Luis Jimenez postcard to Robert Graham, 1972 December 26

Luis Jimenez on taking a risk in New York (1:17 min.)

Pop sculptor Luis Jimenez moved from El Paso Texas to New York in 1966, where he apprenticed with Seymour Lipton and rented a studio under Richard Serra. Discouraged by the malaise of rejection from several galleries, he impulsively tried to garner attention of Ivan Karp, the famed director of the Leo Castelli Gallery.

Play it: 1.18 MB Mp3 excerpt (1:17) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Luis Jimenez, 1985 Dec. 15-17

Carmen Lomas Garza participating at the Califas conference on Chicano art and culture held at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1982

Carmen Lomas Garza on dedicating herself to art (1:09 min.)

In an interview with Paul Karlstrom, Carmen Lomas Garza discusses how she made two major life altering decisions at the age of thirteen. Watching her mother paint lotería tablas and monito still-life drawings in her Kingsville, Texas home, Lomas Garza decided to sacrifice the prospects of a family life in order to commit herself to the arts.

Play it: 1.06 MB Mp3 excerpt (1:09) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Carmen Lomas Garza, 1997 Apr. 10-May 27

Interview excerpts series

A series of excerpts of oral history interviews funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Response to What is feminist art?, ca. 1977, by Joan Snyder

Joan Snyder on adding words to her abstractions (6:18 min.)

Artist Joan Snyder often includes text in her large, emotionally evocative, abstract paintings. In this excerpt from an oral history interview conducted in 2010 for the Archives of American Art, Snyder considers her conflicted feelings about adding words to her abstractions.

Play it: 11.6 MB Mp3 excerpt (6:18) Listen
Read about this interview: Oral history interview with Joan Snyder, 2010 Feb. 25-26

Louis and Susan Meisel in their loft with Photorealist artists at a party for Photorealism since 1980, 1993 Apr. 22

Ralph Goings on a turning point in his career (18:08 min.)

Ralph Goings is celebrated for his highly-detailed photorealist paintings of diner interiors, countertop still lives, and antique pick-up trucks. In 2009, the Archives of American Art interviewed Goings for its oral history program. In this excerpt he talks about a turning point in his career in 1963, when he began photographing subjects for his paintings. Through photographs he found a different way of seeing the world.

Play it: 33.2 MB Mp3 excerpt (18:08) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Ralph Goings, 2009 Sept. 10-11

Judy Chicago, ca. 1975

Judy Chicago on the act of dicovery (1:55 min.)

Feminist artist, author, and educator Judy Chicago inspired a generation of women artists to find a place for themselves in the art world. In this segment of an oral history interview for the Archives of American Art conducted in 2009, Chicago talks about the act of discovery as the central motivating force in her life and art.

Play it: 3.5 MB Mp3 excerpt (1:55) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Judy Chicago, 2009 Aug. 7-8

Response to What is feminist art?, ca. 1977, by Joan Snyder

Joan Snyder on her shift from social work to painting (9:21 min.)

In the course of a life, there is often one teacher who changes everything. For painter Joan Snyder, that teacher was Billy Pritchard. Snyder was on the path to becoming a social worker when she took an art elective with Pritchard in her senior year at Rutgers. In this excerpt from an oral history interview conducted in 2010 for the Archives of American Art and funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, Snyder talks about her shift from social work to painting and renting her first studio in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1962.

Play it: 11.5 MB Mp3 excerpt (9:21) Listen
Read about this interview: Oral history interview with Joan Snyder, 2010 Feb. 25-26

Dennis Oppenheim, 1982

Dennis Oppenheim on public vs. studio art (8:28 min.)

Looking back on the 1950s, artist Dennis Oppenheim talks about Abstract Expressionism as a sort of “scientific pursuit” that was solitary and esoteric. It was pure fine art, created in a studio, as opposed to sculptors making public art in the real world. In this excerpt from an interview conducted in 2009 for the Archives of American Art, Oppenheim talks about the tensions between what he calls “pure studio art” and public art.

Play it: 15.9 MB Mp3 excerpt (8:28) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Dennis Oppenheim, 2009 June 23-24

Judy Chicago, ca. 1975

Judy Chicago on controversy about The Dinner Party (4:54 min.)

Judy Chicago’s bold do-it-yourself attitude empowered her to make her own reality in the art world. In this excerpt from an interview conducted in 2009 for the Archives of American Art, she talks about her major collaborative piece, The Dinner Party, an installation of place settings for 39 mythical and historical famous women. When The Dinner Party was first exhibited in 1979 to critical acclaim, Chicago was surprised that it also generated controversy. The first voice you will hear is interviewer Judith Richards.

Play it: 9.2 MB Mp3 excerpt (4:54) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Judy Chicago, 2009 Aug. 7-8

Robert Bechtle, 1989

Robert Bechtle on photography as a visual aid (7:11 min.)

From the mid-1960s to the present, Robert Bechtle has created sharply-focused pictures of people and street scenes with a special attention to automobiles. In this excerpt from an oral history interview conducted in 2010 for the Archives of American Art, Bechtle talks about using photography as a visual aid, as well as the value of seeing his subjects from different vantage points. The first voice you will hear is interviewer Judith Richards.

Play it: 13.16 MB Mp3 excerpt (7:11) Listen
Read complete transcript: Oral history interview with Robert Bechtle, 2010 Feb. 8-9