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Oral history interview with Kate Schaeffer, 1975 June 18

Schaeffer, Kate Born, 1898?-2000

Gallery director


Collection Information

Size: 40 Pages, Transcript

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hr., 57 min.

Summary: An interview of Kate (Mrs. Hanns) Schaeffer conducted 1975 June 18, by Paul Cummings, for the Archives of American Art.

Biographical/Historical Note

Kate Schaeffer (1898?-2000) was an art dealer and gallery owner from New York, New York. Born in Germany. Died Dec. 20, 2000, at age 102. Co-founder with husband Hanns Schaeffer, of Schaeffer Galleries, New York, New York.


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.

Language Note

English .


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.



The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Kate Schaeffer on June 18, 1975. The interview was conducted by Paul Cummings for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose. This is a rough transcription that may include typographical errors.


PAUL CUMMINGS: Anyway, let's put the sticks on here and say it. It's the 18th of June 1975 and it's Paul Cummings talking to Kate Schaeffer. Why don't we start with some just kind of general background, you know, about you?

KATE SCHAEFFER: My background is as a singer. I did that before I married Hanns.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, really?


MR. CUMMINGS: What did you study? What did you play?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I was a singer.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I was a singer and wanted to be a Lieder singer and knew Hanns very well and then suddenly we decided to get married.

MR. CUMMINGS: Where did you meet him at?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Oh, in Berlin and he actually studied Dürer at the time. He was one of the youngest judges.

MR. CUMMINGS: He studied art?

MS. SCHAEFFER: He studied law and as all good art dealers, and art historians at this time, beginning with Bolder, when Bolder was angry, he always threatened to retire and he, as he called it, [inaudible], which was in [inaudible], you know, where he came from, the old type of a man, who was at the court.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yes.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And [inaudible] was a man who studied law and so --

MR. CUMMINGS: Fascinating.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- he went into the study of the History of Art -- that was the study of law. He loved law.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Walter got into the -- I don't know.

MR. CUMMINGS: That's fascinating.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Because I came into this business, Walter was a very well-established --


MS. SCHAEFFER: -- man and already an old gentleman and even then, he took a great liking to my husband and Hanns spent afternoons and afternoons at Walter's villa and he always claimed that he learned more in these afternoons than in any university. He took courses in art --


MS. SCHAEFFER: -- while he studied law always [inaudible], and his exams in law were so fantastic that my father-in-law always said, well, why don't you want to do anything else when he had these good exams.


MS. SCHAEFFER: But he hated law and finally decided to be an art dealer and established himself and then he loved music.

MR. CUMMINGS: When did you meet him?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Oh, in the early '20s, and I went to Prague and wanted to be a Mozart singer and he went to Italy and went to all the museums and took these trips and studied the history of art and studied pictures and travelled a great deal. No, that's not for you, definitely not. Then we got married and it was --

MR. CUMMINGS: When was that? That was --

MS. SCHAEFFER: That was in '25 and he opened a little gallery in the center of Berlin, really a very little one, and I think he bought his first picture in [inaudible] between Munich and Berlin. It was a picture [inaudible] and it was a very good picture, but he -- of course, it was not Lady In A Silk Dress. It was an early picture and he had it for quite awhile and he said afterwards, "I'll never buy a picture in a sleeper again" because he was very disappointed after all. He bought a big name and --

MR. CUMMINGS: Right. Nothing happened.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- nothing happened for awhile. He was very disappointed, but finally he sold it for a profit.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why do you think he did --

MS. SCHAEFFER: That was a very interesting story, really. The first picture that was before he married, he had -- he told that there was a Russian refugee in Silesia and he wanted -- that was just after terrific inflation that we went through, the inflationary Mark was --

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, right. Was a million.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- billions changed into Norman Marks, and he went to Brest a lot and he called me, we were not yet married, and he said, "I will have a terrific night because I made an offer for a picture by Buchet and I don't think it will be accepted because one of the few great collectors is interested in it. He's an idiot if he doesn't pay the price." The next day, he called me and he said, "You know, there's a change of billions into Norman Marks. He doesn't want to pay the price. I bought it." It was a sketch by Buchet for a picture in the Louvre, fully signed and dated. It was in the departure for [inaudible] or something.


MS. SCHAEFFER: One of the famous pictures, and because he was talking about Ganpel.


MS. SCHAEFFER: That's how I met Ganpel for the first time, who was terribly fond of my husband, saw the sketch, which was [inaudible]. The man, his father or grandfather was working in the mines in the Ural Mountains and had gotten it from Catherine The Great as a present, and with it, a little case came and silver and all kinds of things. Hanns bought everything he could buy and Bolder came -- well, Hanns went to the gallery with him and Bolder said, "Schaeffer, if I wouldn't be so fond of you, I would buy this sketch for the gallery, but I cannot pay what the French will pay for this sketch. Call on Mr. Ganpel who is the brother-in-law of [inaudible]. He is the man to buy the sketch from you and he will pay a crazy price." Ask so and so much for it. So Hanns took this sketch, it was after the First World War in '20, we got married in '25, must have been the beginning of '25, and they met in Holland and Ganpel bought it. We married on this Buchet.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, marvelous!

MS. SCHAEFFER: And that's how I met Ganpel for the first time and I bought the book by Ganpel and he never mentioned this sketch in his diary--

MR. CUMMINGS: In the book.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I mean maybe -- I mean, they took the part that they're interested in because --

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah. How did your husband meet him in the first place?



MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, he went to the [inaudible] with him when he had an interest in the picture, as I called John Walsh if I have a very beautiful Dutch picture, you know. He went with every interesting picture to Walter that was Dutch.


MS. SCHAEFFER: So -- and Bolder was a great help to every dealer and also he wanted to see everybody's picture.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Also, he educated the collectors in Berlin. He wanted to have good collectors and he advised them. He was a great help to everybody, to collectors as well as good dealers. He wanted to have good dealers and he wanted to have good collectors. I remember the first big exhibition Hanns made was the Landscapes of the Flemish 17th Century. It was a very big exhibition and the first one that was made of Flemish Landscapes of the 17th Century in Berlin and Bolder called up on Sunday morning and said, "Schaeffer, come and look at this." Of course we said yes. So we both went to the center where the gallery was and he came with his wife and looked at it for two hours, very solemnly. I'll never forget it. He said, "This and this and this and this, send tomorrow to the [inaudible] Museum." Hanns was a little bit disturbed and said, "Your Excellency, I'm opening the exhibition tomorrow. Bolder said, "Don't you understand, they are bought." Hanns said, "But I didn't mention any price." He said, "Did I ask you?" He left the pictures finally until the exhibition was through, but that was his way. It was wonderful. They were seven pictures.

MR. CUMMINGS: My goodness.

MS. SCHAEFFER: But they were missing in the -- hardly known masters. They were missing at the museum and he wanted them.

MR. CUMMINGS: That's not bad. So what kind of things -- did you deal in the same things in Berlin as you did here?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. We were more or less specialized in Flemish and Dutch paintings.


MS. SCHAEFFER: More than Italian paintings. We had Italian paintings, too, but the --

MR. CUMMINGS: How did that specialization come about? Were they particular --

MS. SCHAEFFER: He liked --

MR. CUMMINGS: -- buildings or --

MS. SCHAEFFER: He liked them very much. Also, the Germans, reacted very much to the Dutch, the Flemish in the 17th Century. The Flemish were more or less introduced by my husband to -- of course, they all knew Rubens --


MS. SCHAEFFER: -- and the early 16th Century which at this time you still could get.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Today, it's practically impossible.


MS. SCHAEFFER: At least in good pictures. But at this time, you still could get them. It's difficult but you could.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, today it's almost impossible.

MS. SCHAEFFER: In this exhibition of Flemish Landscapes, we, of course, with the help of Bolder and Friedlander, we had loans. We had enough old Pieter Brueghel. We had also from great English collections. We could have been better prepared. I could get the catalog. There were fantastic things from English collections.

MR. CUMMINGS: Was it easy to borrow paintings like that for an exhibition in those days?

MS. SCHAEFFER: We borrowed, but we also bought quite a lot of paintings. It was possible. We had landscapes from England and all kinds of paintings.

MR. CUMMINGS: How did you find things in those days? Is it much the same as always or --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, the market was much more open in those days and there weren't so many dealers and collections. Actually, it was more limited.

MR. CUMMINGS: People specialized in particular areas?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes. It wasn't this difficult. You knew where things were and could find things. I remember I always was fascinated. Of course, I came into this thing absolutely dreaming, you know, and I was -- I always thought that restoring and cleaning pictures was the most beautiful thing about the whole trade. I still think so.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. I don't think selling is a great thing. I still think buying and cleaning and discovering is a great thing, and Hanns realized that I had so much fun, he said, "I'm going to buy one day a terribly dirty picture and you can clean it," and he really found in a small sale in Belgium [inaudible], an early German painting that was so dirty, he said, "I found a picture that you can clean," and he invited Ludwig [inaudible], who was a great Ruben connoisseur at the time, and really at the time the only great Ruben connoisseur who just has at this time -- was a little boy, --

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- [inaudible] wasn't yet probably born, --

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- and I remember after dinner, we put the picture, it was a panel, on the dining room table and we went at it. Everybody in the corner. It was terribly dirty and I said "why did you buy this picture?" He said, "one hand, it was so beautiful, I bought it," and everybody cleaned one corner and it became more and more beautiful until it became so beautiful, that we decided suddenly enough. Somebody serious has to go at the rest. They took it away from me. They gave it to [inaudible], the man who afterwards went to the National Gallery in London, and he cleaned it and the picture came out beautiful, really beautiful, and these things are possible at the time. We sat together in the gallery and when it came back from cleaning, [inaudible] "This is a darn good picture. It's a German picture, 16th Century" and while we're discussing it, a client came in who was really actually advised by [inaudible] and he looks at it and he says, "How much is it, Schaeffer?" So we said, "If you buy it anonymously, it's this and this much." He hesitated, looked at it for quite awhile. We sat together and he couldn't make up his mind. Finally, we're sitting together. The secretary came in and she said, "Friedlander is in front." He was the expert on this picture. Hanns went out with the picture and he turned around and he said, "Make up your mind, now." The man said, "Hmm. I wait." Hanns said, "In 10 minutes might be too late." He didn't say anything. After about a half an hour, Hanns came back and he said, "Friedlander said it's by Green, very definitely." The man said, "Hmm. I guess I missed my chance." Hanns said, "Yes, you did." He said, "How much is it now?" Hanns said, "It's 10,000 Mark more." The man got kind of pale. He was very rich, and I don't know what got into Hanns. He said, "All right. I made a price for you. You can have it for the price I quote before." The man said, "Very decent of you. All right. I take it for the price you quoted before" which was not decent of the collector. He never bought a picture afterwards.




MS. SCHAEFFER: It was the stupidest thing to do because it absolutely had the feeling this man is going to get it from me afterwards.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right. One has to be a great psychologist, I think.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. It's -- one learns by going and the wealthier the people are, the shrewder they are.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. True, true.

MS. SCHAEFFER: But we had the fun of cleaning this picture, at least I had.

MR. CUMMINGS: How -- what got you interested in cleaning pictures?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's fantastic.


MS. SCHAEFFER: It's fantastic. I bought a little picture the other day here at Park Place which is terribly dirty. [inaudible]. You have to buy once in awhile picture for fun.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, I see. Oh, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And it's going to come out brilliantly. It's painted on metal and it's going to be brilliant.


MS. SCHAEFFER: I love it.


MS. SCHAEFFER: And I want to be there when it's cleaned.

MR. CUMMINGS: The discovery.

MS. SCHAEFFER: No, that's not a discovery.

MR. CUMMINGS: No, but, I mean, it's --

MS. SCHAEFFER: By now I know.


MS. SCHAEFFER: You know how it's going to look, but it's so much fun when the colors come out.


MS. SCHAEFFER: And that's the fun of art dealing, I find.

MR. CUMMINGS: You can look and see.


MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, how available were people like Friedlander and the other critics or connoisseurs and experts?


MR. CUMMINGS: They were there. Yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: If you are -- you get so passionate, you don't want -- you don't want to miss it. People ask me why do you do it still? I couldn't live without it.

MR. CUMMINGS: So it developed into a great passion.

MS. SCHAEFFER: It developed into a passion. To be vulgar I say it's like drinking or playing cards, you know.


MS. SCHAEFFER: You cannot be without it. I'm very tired at the moment, but there are the sales in London.


MS. SCHAEFFER: I want to see what's there. I don't know what I am buying. The prices are very high, but I want to see.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: If I can, I want to have it.

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, you know, I think it's very interesting that you wanted to be a singer and you married and you got into the visual arts.

How do you find that? Had you interest in them before?

MS. SCHAEFFER: To a certain extent, yes. I mean, education does a certain amount. You go to the school. You are taken to museums.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: though my father always said, "You are an art dealer. I took you to the museum, you always fell asleep. You are going to marry an art dealer. You always fell asleep when I took you to a museum." Anyway, obviously going with my own husband, and going over a picture line by line and seeing it with his eyes was a different and new experience than going with my own father. It's -- and I missed it terribly when I finally was alone in my life.

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, what -- you know, what kind of -- what was the world like in the late '20s in Berlin and the early '30s? You were dealing in a very specialized area with lots of dealers and all sorts of people. Did you travel a great deal?

MS. SCHAEFFER: We traveled. We traveled a great deal. Of course, he did more of the traveling, but it -- Berlin was kind of the center really. It was extremely alive. Things were happening in the '20s. We were very young then and really not conscious about the cultural things that were happening. There was something going on constantly, musically, in art. I wanted to talk with Finin Gar about. It was certainly understood that you went to the [inaudible] where the young artists were exhibiting and you took it in. It was there.


MS. SCHAEFFER: We went to see the Korean Symphony [inaudible] and [inaudible] and you discussed it. Sometimes you had difficulties to understand the Bauhaus things, but they were there, and I remember when I went to Sweden for the first time, I always had heard about the new style in Sweden. I wasn't impressed because all these things had been done in middle Germany, and I didn't find them new, what I saw in Sweden. What I say now will sound sacreligious. I'm not so very impressed by the [inaudible] there. I don't think it's very good and it's a not a very new style.

MR. CUMMINGS: It's also very difficult for what it's supposed to be.


MR. CUMMINGS: But, you know, you then went to exhibitions of contemporary paintings, modern paintings.

MS. SCHAEFFER: We went to the exhibitions of the modern paintings and the impressionists, were much earlier admired and understood in Berlin and in Munich, than they were in Paris. There were already collections [inaudible] and so forth. There were home collections of the impressionists earlier than in France.

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, you know, were you friendly with dealers of contemporary art or were they just peripheral?

MS. SCHAEFFER: No, they were peripheral from me.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. Right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I went into old art sales because they are -- there was my husband who dealt in old art and I, of course, had to learn all the names and I had read about old artists. The reference books were all new to me. I had what I had learned, of course, in school and the museum was the 19th Century. That was what I had learned and had been taught.

MR. CUMMINGS: So you had to go backwards.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I had to go backwards first.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: The impressionists and these things came later. I remember the great "Van Gogh exhibition" which was an eye-opener; that was Tannhauser who made it first in Berlin. It was avant garde.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: But this was -- I mean, it was alive. It was marvelous and I remember Hindemith concert I heard.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It was the Great Depression, of course.

MR. CUMMINGS: Now you had interest in Mozart. Where does -- I mean, how do you feel about that? I mean, Hindemith is quite a distance from Mozart.

MS. SCHAEFFER: [inaudible]. I always say I was born with Mozart and I'm going to die with Mozart.

MR. CUMMINGS: In between.

MS. SCHAEFFER: But in between, there was Strauss and Mahler and Hindemith came, this was natural. That was my generation. I had no difficulty, exactly as I had no difficulty with Mahler. I remember when my father came home from the first Salome and Rosenkavelier, he thought, oh, Rosenkavelier was atonal.



MR. CUMMINGS: How marvelous.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. When I came home from Rosenkavelier and said "It's so beautiful". He said, "Really? I have to go again".

MR. CUMMINGS: I've always been curious about Berlin in the late '20s because it seems to have been a place with such enormous energy and activity and people involved with being physically active all the time.

MS. SCHAEFFER: It was. The theater we had was out of this world, really, between Rhinehart and [inaudible]. One theatrical director was more fantastic than the other.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why do you think that was? What was it about the culture that --

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know.

MR. CUMMINGS: In all the areas?

MS. SCHAEFFER: In every area.

MR. CUMMINGS: Everything was --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Every area was absolutely tops and I don't -- it's like the 17th Century painting in Holland. What created it? I don't know. It was some genius that was suddenly blooming.

MR. CUMMINGS: It just happened and that was it.

MS. SCHAEFFER: It just happens.


MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know what did it. It concentrated certainly there, but something similar happened also in Munich and it accumulated somehow in Berlin. Berliners are something very special.

MR. CUMMINGS: In what way?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Fresh and alive and I don't know. They still are, I think. I haven't been in Berlin for many, many years because I have no connection. During the War, all my friends moved south. Except for two or three museum directors, I have no more connections there. A few graves are still there. My father is there. My in-laws are lying there and I'm not very good at visiting graves, really. And Hanns has been there on business and he always said -- he came from Silesia and he always said that if you are born and raised there, don't go, it's so depressing. On the other hand, it seems to be extremely alive still artistically and every time I wanted to go something happened. There was the War or the Russian [inaudible] or somebody --

MR. CUMMINGS: Political, yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- was doing something else and then I thought why should I get excited and angry and so I really had no connection. Then I left it, and if I'm flying over this year, maybe I go after all. It's so ridiculous.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. Well, you know, in the late '20s or the early '30s, did you do business with this country or were you just still --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. Valentiner was here and he was our connection to America and then, of course, one of the other dealers came and bought something. I remember how he came and bought an absolutely marvelous picture by Groves. We had the most beautiful picture we ever had and he bought it. Then I remember Hanns bought a marvelous picture of Madonna which was equally charming and sweet and had some angels floating around and he met Howard Young. It's a beautiful story. On Bond Street, and he said, "Mr. Young, I have the most beautiful Madonna with little angels." Young looked at it and said,"We don't like angels." That was the end of that. Hanns was flabbergasted. Do you understand? He didn't even ask for a photo. "We don't like angels," and he went on. But I think that was the beginning of the Depression.

MR. CUMMINGS: He was a very broad dealer, wasn't he? Young? I mean, he dealt in all sorts of things.

MS. SCHAEFFER: He dealt mainly in 18th Century pictures and maybe this picture all together was too early for him, but the answer to an European dealer, we don't like angels, without looking at it, or even asking for a photo, was too funny for words. He never could get over that.

MR. CUMMINGS: Just marvelous. But --

MS. SCHAEFFER: No, I remember we sold the Delacroix to San Diego from Berlin. We sold quite a lot to Detroit. Valentiner, of course, being European -- was a bridge to America. When we came to America, of course, Valentiner again was a bridge. I remember the art critic was, I think, Jewel at that time --

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yeah, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- and we had our first exhibition which was again Dutch 17th Century on 57th Street. Jewel called Valentiner long distance and had [inaudible]. So Valentiner said, "I guess you can rely on him."

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, what -- you know, in the beginning of the Depression in the '30s and all of that, how did that affect business in Berlin?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Very much.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Very much. I remember we had wall full of the most beautiful pictures, of course comparatively little cash and the banks closed and especially the [inaudible] banks. It was very much hit by it and it was very difficult, very difficult, and it was very difficult times all together through the beginning of the Hitler movement.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Nobody knew what would happen the next day, and we left very early.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. It was '34, you came here?

MS. SCHAEFFER: No. My husband came in '33 and I followed with my baby in '34 and everybody thought we were crazy, because the whole thing would be over in no time, and we didn't think so.

MR. CUMMINGS: And you were right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I think we were right and we were saved quite a lot of trouble. I always said the Bon Dieu was very good to us because the gallery still existed and one day my husband went back and said, "Thank you very much, gentlemen. I'm leaving." All the pictures were out on a very legal basis. I had packed them before I left. I had made the legal papers, export papers before I left and sent them out. This was all I -- we couldn't take out any money, but that was all we had out. At the time, it was very easy.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. Well, what did the people do? You know, were you offered pictures for sale? There was no cash to buy them?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, it was very difficult. I mean, we were very lucky, really. He had a marvelous reputation and something extraordinary happened. We were in London first and he went over to Holland and there were this strange firm of Katz. You have heard about it maybe. They were antique dealers of two generations and during the Depression, they were practically the only people, the only people who had cash and during the Depression, they had bought marvelous pictures for comparatively little money; Frans Hals, Rembrandt -- Peter the Wolf and they had stayed wisely in their little village in the border town in Holland near the German border and my husband had heard of them. They had bought pictures from us in Germany, strange people, giant peasants, who knew art in their peasant way with a flair for antiques and pictures, through generations.

MR. CUMMINGS: Fascinating.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And when they came to Germany to us, my husband asked a very good Dutch dealer who lived in Berlin, who are these people. He said, "They cannot even speak Dutch very well but they have money and they pay. You can sell them whatever they want to buy." So Hanns sold them pictures and they paid. He heard of them again in England and one day, he went to Dieren in Holland and he came back and he said to me in this strange, whatever you call it, hut or whatever that's next to their house, [inaudible], the paintings are leaning against the wall. They're even hanging there.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: And the cars on Saturday and Sunday are lined up in front of this garage and the rich people of Holland are coming there and buying. I could not even talk to them over the weekend and the brothers share a big room in the little hotel here talk talked to me on Monday, take a room, I invite you. So Hanns took a room.

MR. CUMMINGS: Fascinating.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And on Monday, they talked with him, and he said, "They are the strangest people on earth and in my life, but the merchandise is absolutely fantastic," and at this time, I think he had already the idea of going to America because my very enterprising father-in-law had invited him to a trip to America. He was 70 or older and had the idea he wanted to visit America. My youngest brother-in-law lived here since '27 I think and married an American girl and had written to us, he wants to go to America and he had traveled all over the world.

MR. CUMMINGS: Who is he now?

MS. SCHAEFFER: My father-in-law.


MS. SCHAEFFER: And he had never been in America and we were all very opposed. He had very bad eyes and my mother-in-law was sick and we didn't want it. Then he wrote would you be more inclined to let me travel if I invite my oldest son, that was Hanns. So this changed the picture. He said I can pay it here, I get the permit to pay for you. He can travel on either the Bremen or the Europa and I can pay all the trips in America from here and I invite Hanns to come with me. So Hanns of course said, "Yes, it would be wonderful." He would go with him to America and before that, I think he went to Holland and visited the Katz and the Katz had heard this. They said, "Would you" -- I don't know. On the first trip, no. Hanns took only -- I give you one of the books that he published when he was here 25 years.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, right. I've seen that. Right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Because he took three pictures along that belonged to him. Afterwards he went to Holland. He took three pictures. Everybody told him you cannot sell in America. One was [inaudible]. I think the bordello scene of an old man with hands in the bosom of a girl and the other one was a Dutch picture. I don't know what the third one was. He arrived on the Europa on the pier. The Customs officer said, "Are you Dr. Hanns Schaeffer?" He said, "Yes." The Customs officer took him around the shoulder and said, "Come on, Hanns." He wrote me at the time, "This is a country [inaudible] where the Customs officer says, "Come on, Hanns." At the beginning, he told me already, "I'm going to come again. This is a marvelous country and you should come with me. You will love it here." He was completely taken by America from the very beginning. He loved it. He joined the College Art Association. He went to all the meetings. What was the -- the director was David. He was a terribly nice man. He ran it for years. [inaudible]

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Everybody was extremely friendly. He was taken in with wide open arms by everybody. After the English situation, you know, everybody is so offish. He loved it. He came back to England and said, "That's the country." He insisted that I come and then he went to Holland. When Katz's saw him there, they said, "Would you be our representative?" He saw the three pictures and he had the pictures, which was also marvelous, of course.


MS. SCHAEFFER: And against everything anybody had told him, and then he came back and the Katz said, "Would you be our representative?" and he came back, of course, with several Rembrandts and two or three from Frans Hals.

MR. CUMMINGS: My heavens!

MS. SCHAEFFER: And then he didn't open the gallery. He took a flat or an apartment on Central Park South. It was not very easy going, but we got some introductions. Everybody was very helpful, including Duveen.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: He visited Duveen and Duveen was very kind. He said, "I'm going to help you." He introduced him to several collectors. Everybody was very nice. You know, the situation has very much changed.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. I know. I'm surprised at all this, you know.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And everything was very open, very kind, and after years, we opened our first gallery on 57th Street, opposite Marie Harriman.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And Marie Harriman was kind and her secretary, Mrs. Guise, was kindness in person. She had an interest in clients, like Robinson. I was like a babe in the woods. I'm not a movie-goer. One day, she came over. She said, "Robinson is there. I'm sending him over." I said,"Who's Robinson?" She said, "You don't know? He's the most marvelous actor. He has all the gangster roles." I've never seen him. I've never heard of him. So Robinson came and I showed him -- we had a marvelous self-portrait by Rembrandt which he adored against all his collecting. I showed him a few interesting characteristics and he stayed there for over an hour and movies were never mentioned, but he liked it and he came time and again. In the meantime, I learned who Robinson was.

MR. CUMMINGS: But did you -- you know, how did one start a gallery in the mid '30s when the Depression was going on?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, the Depression had a little -- it was less and Valentiner sent a few people from Detroit who were under his influence. Mrs. Hyde in Glen Falls --

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- bought a picture from us. I can't say it now. Mr. -- what's his name? Big collector in Detroit bought picture from us. Mrs. Booth bought a picture from us in Detroit. I mean, Valentiner was a help. Detroit bought a picture and slowly the museums came and up till today, the museums are our clients. Of course, one advertised quite a lot. We made a lot of exhibits and advertised quite a lot. That's the way one became known really.

MR. CUMMINGS: How -- you know, what was really helpful? I mean, a good exhibition or --

MS. SCHAEFFER: The good exhibition. Frankfurter at the time, of course, was a great help because he realized that the exhibitions were good and pictures were good. That was a great help.

MR. CUMMINGS: How -- you know, was it difficult getting things from Europe to bring to this country during the late ';30s, I mean up to the time of the War?

MS. SCHAEFFER: No. With the enormous possibilities of the Katz in back of us, it was not very difficult. This really was a great source for us because they didn't have only the great Dutch and Flemish pictures, they went also into, to a certain extent, into Italian, not as much as they wanted to. We saw the great Pierro de Cosimo from [inaudible] which they had.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Which is now in Ottawa. We made the "Pierro de Cosimo exhibition" because of this picture. We had wonderful loans from everywhere. We had -- we really had all kinds of possibilities because of them.

MR. CUMMINGS: Fascinating. What happened to those people?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, of course, I mean, being Jewish, they had to leave and one went to Curacao. They got out at the last minute. They stayed much too long. Part of the pictures were taken by the Germans. They got quite a lot back and then one brother went to Switzerland. They opened a beautiful gallery after the War again in Switzerland. One brother came here and more or less stayed with us. We had an enormous amount of their stuff here during the War and made exhibitions. We couldn't sell them because they were in custody.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, like alien property or something.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Alien property.


MS. SCHAEFFER: We could exhibit them, but we were very much hampered and we had endless difficulty with them, but after the War, they got them back and then they went to Switzerland. One brother committed suicide because it was too much for him afterwards, long after the War. It was too stressful for him and one went back to Holland and died. He was 70, and there are endless children, who go on dealing.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: One is in Switzerland and several are in Holland. I see them from time to time. They are elderly people themselves by now.


MS. SCHAEFFER: But it was a fantastic time.

MR. CUMMINGS: But could you get things from other countries, I mean from France?

MS. SCHAEFFER: During the War?

MR. CUMMINGS: No, no, no. I mean up to 1940?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, but we didn't want to. We had this contract with them and they had all possibilities.


MS. SCHAEFFER: They were terrifically wealthy and had some beautiful stock, and beautiful pictures. It was extraordinary what we had with them.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, I know, looking through the catalogs, it's incredible.

MS. SCHAEFFER: We bought sometimes. We bought a beautiful little Frans Hals after the War from [inaudible], which went to the Mauritshuis, which is in the book. Also, we bought beautiful drawings.

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, I wanted to ask you about the drawings because you did a number of drawing exhibitions.


MR. CUMMINGS: It seems like every year or so, there was a --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. We bought -- we discovered our great love for drawings.

MR. CUMMINGS: When did that happen and how?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It happened in the late '30s, really, and I don't know. We got into drawings -- no, no, Shu-Shu. We had -- I don't know whether we suddenly got a collection of drawings or whether -- I think there came several drawings together and then we made an exhibition and then Hanns formed really and got interested in with Mr. Backus in Seattle.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right. Now where does he come into all of this because that was a big collection?

MS. SCHAEFFER: But this was formed really by my husband. Leroy Backus, I don't know. He was influenced by a friend of ours, Annamarie Hindley, now Mrs. Poole.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yes, I know her. Yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And she was in Seattle and she got an interest in drawing and Annamarie had worked with us for several years on drawings.

MR. CUMMINGS: I didn't know that.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I think we were the first job and she worked very well with us because this was our beginning. Hanns said the girl that is recommended by Valentiner and by Polzaks must be awfully good because there was no love lost between Valentiner and Polzaks and she was recommended by both and she was with us for several years and then we opened a branch with Leroy Backus in San Francisco.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, that's how that came about.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And Annamarie went with Leroy to San Francisco and they opened this branch for drawings mainly and Leroy got so in love with drawings that he started to collect and bought. He bought on a very high scale several Dürer drawings, several Ballou drawings, and [inaudible] and really magnificent drawings, and when Annamarie had enough and the War broke out, she had difficulties and she went to Washington and worked there --

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- in some war office and Leroy went back to Seattle and when he died -- then he married another friend of ours and when he died, the children gave the collection to us. It was something in the will that Seattle museum could choose so and so many things if they -- I don't know -- could afford it or something like that. At this time, Sherman was in Seattle. He was the only one who read the will carefully and suddenly decided they could afford it and some very good things went to Seattle museum, but the rest came to us. We made an exhibition and sold some drawings again and Lehman bought quite a lot, Vera and Adolpha and all kind of things, little -- I think he had bought -- no, he had bought Leonardo there before and was very proud about it because then there was another exhibition in Europe somewhere, the Leonardo was the only Leonardo that was asked from the United States.

MR. CUMMINGS: What kind of business was Backus in before? What did he do before?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Backus's father went out to Seattle very early and practically every corner in Seattle sooner or later belonged to Backus. They were very early there. The Backuses were really Mayflower. That's not a tale. That's true. They came over on the Mayflower. The father or grandfather Backus was with one of the banks here and was sent out to Seattle.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, I see.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And Leroy has planted the first apples in one of the valleys there and every corner sooner or later belonged to him and they were pioneering out there.

MR. CUMMINGS: The first people and one thing right after another.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, and he retired and he had three sons and two daughters and Manson Backus took over the business and when Leroy died, the children gave it away and we sold things for them.

MR. CUMMINGS: Have you had very much of that, where things are sold and then 20 years later come back or --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Oh, yes. We have pictures that we have bought three times. One was a Cranach, presumably representing Katerina con Bora, which was on the back. It says Katerina Bond which was my maiden name, so Hanns bought it every time we met her and we met her three times, I think.

MR. CUMMINGS: That's marvelous. What's it like, though, when a picture comes back like that?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's now in Hartford. We bought this twice. It's the most beautiful [inaudible]. This is a picture that came from Cranach. It came from Amsterdam and this one we bought twice. [inaudible]

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, the [inaudible]. Yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's beautiful.

MR. CUMMINGS: The Last Church.



MS. SCHAEFFER: It's a beautiful picture. St. Peter is adorable. Here is another. This I'm not so terribly fond on. It is the Hygia that went to Detroit. It was bought by a [inaudible] and he bought it and he --

MR. CUMMINGS: Where did he come from? Because I know --


MR. CUMMINGS: -- he bought a number of paintings.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. He bought two pictures. This one and what was the other one? I would love to buy it back.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. The Frans Hals. Oh, that's marvelous. The man with a beer case.

MS. SCHAEFFER: This is the one that came from Bicksbee. It went to the Mauritshuis.

MR. CUMMINGS: I wanted to go back to the drawings a little bit.

MS. SCHAEFFER: This is the [inaudible].

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. That's marvelous.

MS. SCHAEFFER: It was very funny. He bought this at the sale of six.

MR. CUMMINGS: This is a [inaudible] offering a parrot to a lady.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. And long after the Second World War, the bell rang and a gentleman came in and said, "You sold to my father a picture by [inaudible] in 1929 and I wonder if I bring it over, if you would be interested in it." Hanns wasn't there. I said yes and he brought it in. A lady in a light blue silk dress. He said, "Do you remember this?" I said, "I have never forgotten her. Would you please come in?"

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, that's marvelous. Yeah. That's a marvelous painting.

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's one of the most beautiful paintings that was ever painted. It was very funny. Sonny Cunningham came and I had a feeling, my God, that's a picture for Sonny and Sonny always made up his mind very slowly and one day a few months later, four months later, he called up and he said, "Kate, is it sold?" I said, "No, but there are several people who want it." He said, "Well, we have a meeting the day after tomorrow. Do you think we could have it here?" I said, "Charlie, I tell you one thing. I put it in my car and I drive it up and I stay overnight for your meeting. If you don't have a decision, I take it right back." He said, "All right." So we had a very nice dinner. I unpacked it. I had wrapped it in a rug. I said, "I guess I leave the rugs here." He said, "I don't think so. I don't think we will need the rugs any more." Hanns was in Canada. I called him up and I said, "It's sold." He said, "What a pity. They want it here."

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, dear. This is Side 2. Just to continue our discussion about the drawings for a little while, what's the response of people? Was it mainly institutional, museums' interests or were there many private people who were interested in drawings for the periods you handled, or was it difficult to sell drawings?

MS. SCHAEFFER: While we had exhibitions, it was not difficult. Right now, I find it slow.

MR. CUMMINGS: You mean today?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Today. But, you know, today I'm not, how shall I say, I'm so -- I'm not on the street and I'm not very outgoing. I don't advertise, you know. People who don't know that I have drawings --

MR. CUMMINGS: Never think of you.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- don't come really.

MR. CUMMINGS: Do you deal much in drawings still?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes. Yeah. I do, because I love them. It's like chamber music. It's true.

MR. CUMMINGS: So many dealers in contemporary American work say, you know, it's as much work to sell a $50,000 painting as it is a $10,000 drawing.



MS. SCHAEFFER: And there are very few people who really understand it, the beauty of the lines, and people want color very often. I had Tony Clark in the other day and I had a beautiful drawing by [inaudible] and Tony looked at it and he said, "How did he manage to get so much color into black and white?"


MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, how many people see that?

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. Takes a lot of looking.

MS. SCHAEFFER: That's right.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. You know, you did so many exhibitions which I find interesting of these -- of various artists, you know, and you would borrow things. Was it easy or was it very difficult to get loans? All through the '40s, it seems -- early '50s, there were one exhibition after another.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, I don't think we had so many loans at this time because you could buy the paintings. Investment wasn't so high. Today, if you make an exhibition, it probably is much more difficult.

MR. CUMMINGS: More difficult. Yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: First of all, there are so many exhibitions and people are really today -- I know a few who don't give any more things to exhibitions. They are afraid.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. Insurance and --

MS. SCHAEFFER: I know that there was this very beautiful exhibition at the [inaudible], Flowers, --

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yes.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- and I know two collectors who didn't give them, even at the [inaudible], they were afraid.


MS. SCHAEFFER: With all the insurance in the world, they were afraid, and if they give them they lend them anonymously, --


MS. SCHAEFFER: -- I would lend them anonymously because I don't advertise, --


MS. SCHAEFFER: -- and I'm a member of the Art Dealers' Association. I don't advertise in this thing.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right. The Time.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't want people from the street and if anybody new calls me up, I say who recommends you?

MR. CUMMINGS: I think the only place I see ads is in Master Drawings.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. And the Berlin [inaudible].


MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't even advertise in Art News. So I had very good responses. I don't want people from the street any more.

MR. CUMMINGS: No, no. Well, you've done that, you've done that, too.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. But I'm afraid. There are two or three women here alone.


MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't want it.

MR. CUMMINGS: It gets too difficult. Yeah, yeah. You know, how did, you know, the War affect business, other than you did have things that you couldn't sell, but you must have had some things that you could sell? You had now sources in Europe any more to get things during the 1940s.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, it has been difficult, of course, and it was difficult after the War. It took quite awhile to deliver.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. You mean before pictures would appear, before there was enough money?

MS. SCHAEFFER: No. Before there was enough money, really. It's an international business and we had very little help from the museums.

MR. CUMMINGS: Really? They stopped, did they?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, and also, I mean, Taylor was the director of the museum here especially, Metropolitan Museum, and he [inaudible]. I mean, I shouldn't say that, but he said, "Well, the time has come where you can buy a picture for a sack of potatoes." That was no help.

MR. CUMMINGS: No, that's true.

MS. SCHAEFFER: [inaudible] was a help.


MS. SCHAEFFER: [inaudible] was a very good dealer. Marvelous dealer.

MR. CUMMINGS: In what way? How did --

MS. SCHAEFFER: He wanted things. He wanted things to move. He was interested. He kept in contact with the good dealers. He went around. He was awfully good. Without recognizing too much, he -- you realized that there was a sympathy and that he was interested in pictures.

MR. CUMMINGS: The directors really have to go the galleries, even if the curators are the ones who --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, and I'm very sorry that the two boys are going there from the Metropolitan Museum.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, the two who just resigned?



MS. SCHAEFFER: Because they were very good and they were interested in pictures.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why does everyone leave that place, do you think?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know.

MR. CUMMINGS: There's a very unanonymous director there. But how was it, you know, with building up your association with museums across the country after the War? You know, many of the people, like Valentiner, you know, were retiring or they were going -- moving to --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, Valentiner was an institution from Detroit to San -- not San Francisco, to Los Angeles and for some time, he was in Malibu. He was around and he went to Raleigh.


MS. SCHAEFFER: When Raleigh had this funny set-up, you know, suddenly with -- when they started to buy, Valentiner again was the only one who could help because they had this strange -- you know, they had this million set aside to buy pictures and also the National Gallery was the one then to give their okay that the pictures were the right ones. Of course, nobody was in the Gallery, in the National Gallery who had the courage to say these are the right pictures. So Hamilton, who was a strange figure, what did they do? They went to the much maligned Valentiner and said, "Dr. Valentiner, would you say that the pictures are all right?" And Valentiner, who was very independent, said, "These pictures are good. These pictures are too expensive and put these pictures out" and so forth and so on. So they had somebody to say yes and as Hamilton said, "Give me another [inaudible]." You know the story of this museum, don't you?

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, I've heard bits and pieces of it.

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's -- it's the most fantastic American story of a museum that there ever was. It's only possible in America and I always say it cost 10 years of my life.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Unfortunately I was the only one -- one year, I was here in summer. Hanns was in Europe and Hamilton sat in my living room on 68th Street every day and at the end of summer, Hanns got a heart attack in London and I had to hold the fort here and Hamilton had reserved every good picture on 57th Street and surroundings and in private collections." Always dangling this million in front of every dealer.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Business at this time was very poor. It was '46, '47, '48. Everybody wanted to be in and everybody complained. Everybody had the feeling, God knows, if it would ever come through, but nobody wanted to do something against it, of course.


MS. SCHAEFFER: And then he said, "Listen. I understand there in Holland is a collection that is going to be had and Hanns has to go there." And I said, "Mr. Hamilton, Hanns had a heart attack and he can't do a thing for you." "He has to." He was absolutely resolute. It was a great collection of North Carolina and suddenly my patience broke and I said, "Listen. These people have never heard of Raleigh and North Carolina and they don't care a hoot."


MS. SCHAEFFER: "And I hate women. I know how they are. My mother was a washer woman and I have three sisters and I know how they are."

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, dear.

MS. SCHAEFFER: At the end, we were on very good terms again. I never forgot it. Clyde Newhouse called me up one day and said, "Kate, did you sell more than $50,000 to Raleigh or less?" I said, "What?" He said, "If you sold for more than $50,000, the treasurer will come with his checkbook this morning. If you sold for less, he will come this afternoon." Lo and behold, he came with his checkbook.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, fantastic.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Going up and down 57th Street and --

MR. CUMMINGS: Writing his check.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- distributing money. Well, anyway, but Valentiner was great. Valentiner never would have gotten this deal through.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why was he the person who was so called upon all the time?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know. He was -- he never went to any meeting of the College of Art. He was not one of those people who fraternized with anybody. It was a certain amount of independence or also he had a few people he liked. His pupils, like [inaudible], like the man Otto Wittman, he was his student. Sherman Lee from Detroit. All the people who have worked under him, and with him, where he had a great opinion of their knowledge, their possibilities. As you know very well, there are quite a lot of people who came from universities and colleges that are not very good administrators or their knowledge is not so very good. He was impatient, not very healthy. He suffered from migraines. I've never seen Valentiner sit through a whole performance of theater. If he liked a piece, he would go to the first part one day, to the second part the next day.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes. He was difficult and you had to make allowances if he wasn't interested and he was also very interesting and probably all the people who were in the different meetings resented that he never participated in anything, also that he wrote certificates and was paid for it. He was [inaudible]. So he had a standard of $50, never more. I remember that he once came into the gallery and said, "You know that you have an early Frans Hals there?" Hanns said, "Do you really think so?" He said, "Well, if I tell you so." Hanns said, "Well, I bought the picture because I thought it might be, but I wasn't quite sure." He said, "I tell you so. It goes together with the early picture in the Metropolitan Museum. It's definitely an early Frans Hals. If you want to, I write it to you." Hanns said, "I'd be delighted," which raised the value, of course, of the picture considerably.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: And at the end, Hanns said, "Well, how much do I owe you?" He said, "You know exactly. You owe me 50 bucks." Hanns said, "Well, don't be ridiculous. You know exactly what that means." And he said, "If you ever talk to me about more money, I never write you a certificate again."

MR. CUMMINGS: Why'd he do that, do you think? How'd he arrive at $50?

MS. SCHAEFFER: That was his number.

MR. CUMMINGS: That was that.

MS. SCHAEFFER: That was that. And nobody outside believed it.

MR. CUMMINGS: That's fascinating. But his certificates, people towards the end of his life questioned them.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, I know. You could, when you had a certificate from Valentiner, if you started to cry and say Doctor, you gave me a certificate, you know, my family is starving and I bought it with the last money I had and this kind of thing, and it's -- it's a very strange thing. You could do that with Friedlander and you could do that with -- with Valentiner. It's a strange thing.

MR. CUMMINGS: How important do you think the certificates are in selling pictures? I mean very, very important?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It -- they have been, unfortunately, and -- but you have to read them right. You have to understand the wording and you have also to know from which year they are, especially with Friedlander, and you -- strangely enough, they aren't worth very much anymore.

MR. CUMMINGS: It still comes back to the picture and the --

MS. SCHAEFFER: It comes back to the picture.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. How did that get to be used -- it was almost such an enormous business for decades, right?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It has because so many people have bought pictures, who really didn't have any idea and also most of those people have played the game. Very bad dealers, very bad people, very bad.

MR. CUMMINGS: It's an activity that attracts a really extraordinarily broad range of persons.


MR. CUMMINGS: Why do you think there's some such questionable people sometimes come into the arts? Do they think it's quick money or --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Quick money and, I mean, they -- I had a man here, he was sent over by [inaudible] to me and whether he was a liar or whether he really had been lied to, I couldn't figure out.

MR. CUMMINGS: Very, very curious, though.


MR. CUMMINGS: I find it --

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's open to all kinds of speculation, you know.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: One of the big lines is, oh, God, I give you this, if you lend me some money, and --

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- I give you this and then you -- then you are covered for I don't know.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

MS. SCHAEFFER: If you give me $50, this covers at least 500.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right. How often does it?

MS. SCHAEFFER: And this goes into the thousands.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right. Oh, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: The banks in Switzerland are full with that, and I have heard it at least a thousand times, of course, after years and years and years.


MS. SCHAEFFER: This was a story that was told to me about two weeks ago. Somebody presumably gave $500 -- $5,000 and was covered for 20 years, but it was a lie and then finally he said, "Wouldn't you give me $500, Mrs. Schaeffer? I have to pay my rent?" I said, "My good friend, I don't give you a penny. I'm sorry."

MR. CUMMINGS: You can't do that. Yeah. One of the things that -- that is very interesting and I know a little about and that is people who say I have invested in works of the various periods that you deal in, who are really speculators or investing rather than collecting things to put in their house or apartment. I mean, there are expenses for it and people spending tens of thousands of dollars. Do you have the kind of collectors who seem to be sort of prevalent in modern works now where they really will frequently just buy things and put them in racks or put them in the warehouse, not even have them in their houses?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't have that, fortunately.


MS. SCHAEFFER: And I don't have it.

MR. CUMMINGS: So you really have people buy things and take them home and live with them?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, yes. I mean, the question has come up very often, of course, and I always called my husband who says the people who have bought for love have been the people who have done best, also later on for the investment.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why do you think that works so much of the time?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know. Because, you see, the people who buy for investment buy the things that are just in fashion. They buy at the height of the price.

MR. CUMMINGS: Because everybody's talking about it and it's in the magazines and it's fashionable.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, if you bought in 1973 or '74, what shall I say, the Rembrandt or the, what shall I call it, Andy Warhol, --


MS. SCHAEFFER: -- you know, you want to sell it in '76, I wonder what you will get for Andy Warhol in '76 or '77.

MR. CUMMINGS: Or Jackson Pollock.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know. Maybe Jackson Pollock. That's on a different level. I don't think Andy Warhol will hold. Do you?

MR. CUMMINGS: Lots of people are beginning to think so already.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I would sell it.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Or who was it that was sold in a sale about a couple of years ago? Nothing.

MR. CUMMINGS: Reinhardt. No.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Reinhardt.


MS. SCHAEFFER: For $40 or $60,000, about this size, and the woman next to me was, "Oh, my God, $40,000."



MR. CUMMINGS: What do you think of the prices as you hear about them for contemporary works as opposed to works from earlier periods?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, I only can say the works of my period are holding or going up. Not -- not the -- not this kind of thing. I mean, they are holding.

MR. CUMMINGS: But the --

MS. SCHAEFFER: They are inexpensive comparatively.

MR. CUMMINGS: In like a small portrait?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Small portrait is very inexpensive and it's very good by Gonzalez Cox and I grabbed it and whether I have it for next month, many months, or not, doesn't matter. It's a very good portrait by Gonzales Cox. I'm absolutely sure. It's very good quality and here it is exactly like the Little Cats.


MS. SCHAEFFER: The Little Cats, I paid $3,800 for. Fine. It's by David [inaudible] and it's very good. That's no price for this little picture which already is a fashion. It's -- the money for this picture, all right, there aren't very many [inaudible] around. I would have been willing to pay $40,000 for this picture which is already a high price. It was bought by two dealers together for $82,000 and I say that's much too high. Maybe they can sell it to a museum. I don't see much margin in it. It's not in good condition.

MR. CUMMINGS: I'm going to ask you about, you know, the shifts and changes in taste.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, there's a shift in taste because the whole 19th Century is coming back. I buy19th Century art now.



MR. CUMMINGS: Because that's new then, isn't it?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. That's new.

MR. CUMMINGS: When would you say that started?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's a change in taste, also in my taste. I like it very much. I bought [inaudible] in 19th Century. I sold it to Walter and Tony Clark and they loved it.

MR. CUMMINGS: Come back to school. You studied 19th Century.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, the 19th Century is [inaudible].


MS. SCHAEFFER: You do have to be careful what you buy. I think I buy well. The two boys said "Yes, you are excellent".

MR. CUMMINGS: What do you think causes the shift in taste? The fact that you can't buy Rembrandts easily any more or you can't buy these things?

MS. SCHAEFFER: No. I could buy a Rembrandt if I could afford it.

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, but I mean how many could come into the market?

MS. SCHAEFFER: If I want to invest as much these days.


MS. SCHAEFFER: It's a question of affording it. It's a question of finding them to begin with.

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, that's what I mean. There are so few possibilities.

MS. SCHAEFFER: There aren't any around, let's say. But I would love to, if I -- if anybody presents me one.

MR. CUMMINGS: You know, one artist that seems to pop up over and over and over in the history of the gallery is Jon Steen, and how --

MS. SCHAEFFER: [inaudible].

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, but I mean he's just -- you know.

MS. SCHAEFFER: We had so many that my husband always said I am the representative of Jon Steen in the United States. There's one in Detroit, in Toledo, here at the Metropolitan Museum. God. Really in private collections, we sold more Steens than you can imagine over time. Yeah. So many.

MR. CUMMINGS: Was it just a coincidence that you -- was he a particular --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Also love of Jon Steen, really. He's a great painter in his area. [inaudible].

MR. CUMMINGS: My goodness.

MS. SCHAEFFER: He's -- he's a marvelous painter but it has to be top quality. He has painted quite a lot of paint-over pictures or they are not in good condition and --

MR. CUMMINGS: Do you find that if somebody writes a book about painting your period, that it makes a difference to new people becoming [inaudible]?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes. I mean, I'm getting -- there's a book on [inaudible] coming out because [inaudible] is going to [inaudible] very well represented because it [inaudible] that has been painted and, I mean, I always bide my time. I have this marvelous [inaudible] hanging here. Did I show it to you?




MS. SCHAEFFER: And there are two other [inaudible] that are in this country at the National Gallery and it's a beautiful painting and they come into their own. Suddenly there are three parties who want them, so I wait, and all the other dealers have always given sales. My husband never has done that and to a certain extent, I don't know whether I still have so much time in my life, but I have somehow inherited his long breath.

MR. CUMMINGS: Do you find the auctions useful in this country or abroad?

MS. SCHAEFFER: They are getting better now. I find them useful.

MR. CUMMINGS: You mean for buying things?

MS. SCHAEFFER: For buying, for -- for -- more foreign dealers are coming and, unfortunately, I'm not getting around as much as we used to when Hanns was alive and I don't know the younger dealers, but they would come more over here and I don't know them as much as I used to, but --

MR. CUMMINGS: Do you find the sales are an indication of where the market is going or taste is going?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, I do, I do.

MR. CUMMINGS: So you can kind of watch and see in the work by this particular --

MS. SCHAEFFER: I found it very interesting. There was a marvelous drawing in Los Angeles, strangely enough, a drawing by Veronese which obviously the owner insisted, strangely enough, that it was sold in Los Angeles. It was bought by the Metropolitan Museum for a very high price and at the end of it, it was Stockholm.


MS. SCHAEFFER: So there was a fight between Stockholm and here in Los Angeles and it was bought for a very high price.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. It's really so international with the telephone and airplanes and everything now.

MS. SCHAEFFER: We fly all over the world. It's just that you have the right thing.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah. Well, how does one find the right thing now?

MS. SCHAEFFER: My telephone bill now is very international.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I just got one this morning.

MR. CUMMINGS: But do you find, though, that there are younger dealers, many young dealers coming into this area or do you find --

MS. SCHAEFFER: I think so. The Italians are there in droves, at everything. They pay enormous prices, enormous for pictures that are not too good here. Every picture, they buy back everything that has left their country.

MR. CUMMINGS: Italian artists. Yeah. How come so many people tell me that a painting will bring a higher price going to its country of origin than elsewhere? Is that pretty much true?


MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, I bought back for a Swiss friend a Swiss 19th Century picture which we certainly would have called kitsch a short time ago, for an enormous price.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah. That's fascinating. Do you think that -- that -- we have publications that we haven't talked about.. You did a publication called The Bulletin 1947 for awhile.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, we stopped it.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why did you stop? Too much work? Not enough --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Too much work and the response at this time was nil.

MR. CUMMINGS: Too early maybe.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Maybe. It was an enormous amount of work and --

MR. CUMMINGS: It just doesn't -- no rewards. Yeah.


MR. CUMMINGS: What about, you know, Master Drawings, the place you advertise in? Do you see any response from that or is it just to support the publication really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's just because it's an honor to be in. We're there from the beginning and I do it because we were in and I don't see any response really.

MR. CUMMINGS: Do you think that publication has any use, I mean, other than documenting things?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, I read it, I learn something from it, but I -- otherwise I don't.

MR. CUMMINGS: I mean, I read it all the time, too, and I sometimes wonder. I look at all of them on the shelf there.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yes, that's what I do, too. I read it and I'm interested in it and sometimes I see something that I compare with my drawings and I think, oh, really? But otherwise I -- for me as an advertiser, I've never had any response, especially if I have no -- I never put a picture in because I found if I put in a photo, it takes my -- my painting and my drawing.

MR. CUMMINGS: People say, oh, you had that four years ago or something and why didn't somebody buy it? Yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I had one last week. It was quite nice, but the big picture, it looked like small picture in there. If I put it in again, somebody say, oh, you had that in three weeks -- three years ago, but I had it cleaned in the mean time and it looks so much better, nobody sees.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: So why should I?


MS. SCHAEFFER: I could put in the drawings.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Maybe I put in the little Gonzales Cox.

MR. CUMMINGS: But how -- do you find that -- that, say, in the '60s or the '50s, that you sell things back to Europe now more than before or is it -- or is much of the business still in this country really?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I used to. I used to. I've done quite a lot of business in Europe when I am in Europe. If I have something very important, I can sell it in Europe, but sometimes I don't want to because it's more fun for me to sell it here.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why's that?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's -- I don't know. It's more fun, but I want to place it here. You know, we had this deal with the Botticelli. I don't know whether I give you one of these. You can read it in the forward. Botticelli belonged to a German count and it was taken here to exhibit for short time at the National Gallery [inaudible]. [inaudible] came over. She took it right back because she was afraid that we would keep it here and this was some pretext and then the [inaudible] who had lost everything, he was one of the greatest landowners in Poland, had lost all his money, and it was on a permanent loan in the [inaudible] and so he had a lawsuit against the museum that the picture belonged to him, that there isn't anything like a permanent loan. It's a long story and my husband, being partly a lawyer and partly an art dealer, did that for him, visited the German lawyer, and it went for years and years and finally Berlin, or the State, bought the picture from the count and he got his money also with great difficulty and the picture's back in Berlin, and Hanns made somersaults to get the picture to America. He wanted it here and it was so wonderful . He wanted it in America. Somehow it's a satisfaction to have it here.


MS. SCHAEFFER: I found it finally very satisfactory that it is and should be in Berlin where --

MR. CUMMINGS: Where it's been for a long time.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Where it is for a long time and so on and so forth. I had some kind of divided feelings there, but I wanted the picture to be in America. I had this wonderful [inaudible] really sketch which belonged -- which is in the Palazzo Medici. I made somersaults to have the picture here. It's now in Texas. I didn't want it there and I don't stress in Europe any more. Yes, sometimes I do. I mean, I find it wonderful that the little Frans Hals is in the Mauritshuis. That was a great plan, especially when it's too small for the [inaudible]. I find it so stupid because it's [inaudible]. This is a museum. They have small sized pictures..

MR. CUMMINGS: I noticed that in -- in some of the drawing exhibitions, you did have 19th Century drawings, I think they were Cezanne and I think even in one of the exhibitions, you had some Dali drawings at one point.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. Oh, yes, with drawings, I had Goetz and I got Goldfarb.


MS. SCHAEFFER: There were no limits there.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

MS. SCHAEFFER: In drawings, there is much less -- there are no borderlines, I find.

MR. CUMMINGS: Why do you think so? I mean that's --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Drawings are drawings. Much less than -- than the pictures.

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, I'm curious about how you differentiate that.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know. I --

MR. CUMMINGS: The lines are easier?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Much easier.

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah. Hmm.


MR. CUMMINGS: But you don't find --

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- show you some old drawings which are so terribly modern. I mean Carravagvio goes into these square heads, --

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- you know, and they're very modern --

MR. CUMMINGS: Right. Yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: -- drawings.

MR. CUMMINGS: But then it's always intrigues me, though, that people who collect drawings usually are terribly specialized, at least the ones that I know. You don't find anybody who will have three centuries of drawings unless they're just, you know, a few blue chip things that they've acquired. Not very many people. The people I know that have modern collections hardly have anything.

MS. SCHAEFFER: There's a lot of people close their eyes to the -- to the old ones completely. They are much more stubborn than the old ones, I find. I have a friend that collects modern things and travels in Italy. She got utterly bored by old things. She wants to look at them.


MS. SCHAEFFER: I find that, you know, ones who look at this modern like it, that we are open to everything. We might not [inaudible].

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Look at everything, I might not like modern music, but I listen to it. At least I want to know why I don't like it.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right, right. If you don't have the experience, you can't possibly do anything.

MS. SCHAEFFER: That's right.

MR. CUMMINGS: Have you had any business with, you know, the Japanese collectors or --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Not at all.

MR. CUMMINGS: -- the people that seem to fall out of the sky?

MS. SCHAEFFER: [inaudible] but I don't tell anybody either. The first picture I got from my husband in 1924. It's charming.

MR. CUMMINGS: Oh, my. So that you keep. I mean that's not -- that's something else. You know, how -- I -- one of the things that interests me in -- as you're almost a private dealer now since you don't advertise, you don't do exhibitions and all that kind of thing, how do you find new people or do new people find you?

MS. SCHAEFFER: It's difficult, but word of mouth. Somebody calls up and very few. I mean, it's very quiet. It's difficult.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

MS. SCHAEFFER: But I'm an old lady. That's why I told you there are people that are much more interesting than I am.

MR. CUMMINGS: No, but, I mean, you know, the gallery and all of this and I'm curious about how all these things go and progress and change. Do you miss not doing exhibitions or having a gallery?

MS. SCHAEFFER: Sometimes I do, of course. Very often, I would like more activity, certainly, but you -- you cannot have everything.

MR. CUMMINGS: Right, right.


MR. CUMMINGS: Did you find in the days that you had a gallery that many collectors would come in off the street or were they still recommended or sent by people?

MS. SCHAEFFER: They were recommended and sent by people and, of course, we did exhibitions and we advertised much more and -- but it was a very willful thing because when we moved in here, we had it in our contract that we are not allowed to have exhibitions.


MS. SCHAEFFER: As a matter of fact, I think somewhere in our contract, it said we are only allowed to have so and so many people to come up the elevator which I found very funny and never really checked, but, you see, Hanns didn't want any more exhibitions either. I mean, he was much older than I and he didn't want it any more, but he was more energetic, much more outgoing, and contacted many more people than I did. I'm not a very pushy person. I should do more, really, but at my time of life, I wait until people contact me. Of course, it was better when -- when the museum over there was more active with the director who said, "Why don't you go and see the Schaeffers? They have good things," which all the English doesn't have, and when the two boys were leaving, they, of course, were [inaudible].

MR. CUMMINGS: Yeah, yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: So it's a great -- it's a great loss. There's no doubt.

MR. CUMMINGS: Do you have many people directed to you from out of town museums?

MS. SCHAEFFER: About which?

MR. CUMMINGS: Well, from, say, Minneapolis or Chicago or --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, they come.


MS. SCHAEFFER: Not as much as they used to. I should travel more around the country and I should do more, but I don't do it. I mean, my trips are to Europe and there, I'm more interested in seeing things and buying things than really contacting people to come and buy. I had many clients in Europe and also new clients that are now contacts who are buying. These are former clients which is very nice because I find sometimes very good things that I can bring back, but --

MR. CUMMINGS: You know, one thing that interests me is that some of the people who deal in the same area that you do tell me that their method of selling a painting is quite different from modern -- the way people sell contemporary paintings. Do you find that selling is a complicated business? When somebody comes in to look at a picture, does it take a long time? Do they know what they're looking at? Is it --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Well, it was probably about a year ago where a very, very astute buyer came in, looked at a picture, very good picture on the wall, in the morning. He came for something completely different and saw a picture, obviously liked it very much, very wealthy, and he left and he called me at around 1 o'clock in the afternoon and said, "May I come in the afternoon again and have another look?" I said, "Yes." He came at around 4. He had done his homework in the meantime. He had been at the museum and checked different books, of course. It was an expensive picture. He said, "What would you price?" I said, "$40,000." He said, "It's a very good picture." I said, "It's a beautiful picture." He said, "What's the state of preservation?" I told him exactly what it was. It was relined and I told him that it had a tear on one side. That was the reason we relined it. Otherwise he could see it. I showed him exactly what had been done. He said, "What do we do now?" Very quietly, I said, "You buy it." He said, "All right." My assistant, who is a very tough sales girl and thus entirely different from me, stood there with a very open mouth, and he said, "All right. Send it." I said, "Thank you." And that was that. So there you are, you know. Everybody has a different way.

MR. CUMMINGS: Different way. Yeah. Do you have --

MS. SCHAEFFER: My husband always said he was a quiet salesman. He said, "I like to put the picture on the easel. The picture should sell itself." But this is not everybody's way. I have a girl who's very good, has an entirely different way of selling and put on an enormous deal. Look at this and this.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm. I think younger people tend to sell that way until they get into more experience.

MS. SCHAEFFER: I don't know. It's a question of temperament. Some people can't be quiet.

MR. CUMMINGS: That's true. Do you find that people who bought from you do their homework, go and look and read about the artist or the painting?

MS. SCHAEFFER: I think so. Norton Simon does this sort of thing.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Norton Simon came in. My husband had visited him in L.A. and was very impressed when he saw him the first time when he still bought Impressionists only many years ago and he came back and he said, "You know there's a new collector. The table's full of his books. The man does know what he does. He reads. I asked him to come." So one day the telephone rings. I was alone. Norton Simon. He said, "Do you have very important pictures that I can come and look at?" At the time, we had an El Greco and a Rembrandt. He said, "Who do you have? I don't like this. Do you have very important pictures?" I said, "We have important pictures," and I said it very quietly. He said, "Very important?" I said, "Mr. Simon, I think we have important pictures." So he appeared and he quieted down, but we had a very beautiful still life painting. He looked around. He saw the quality. He said, "What is that?" I said, "Peter Claas." "Is that the best Dutch still life painter in your opinion?" I said, "No, but it is one of the best of this masters." He said, "Who do you think is the best still life painter in your opinion?" I said, "Sir," -- what's his name? I said whom I thought. He said, "Excuse me for asking these questions. I just started to be interested in old masters," and so the next time he came, he knew. He had read up, you know, and he knew from thereon everything in the Dutch school, in the Flemish school, and later on in the Italian school.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So if he got interested, he just went right into it and --

MS. SCHAEFFER: Yeah. He is a very interesting man. I find him fascinating.

MR. CUMMINGS: In what way?

MS. SCHAEFFER: In every way.


MS. SCHAEFFER: I'm a great -- I can't say admirer but I defend him always. Everybody has something against him. I defend him. I find him fascinating.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm. You mean how he collects, what kind of a person he is, everything? Yeah.

MS. SCHAEFFER: He's an extraordinary person.

MR. CUMMINGS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

MS. SCHAEFFER: Just an extraordinary mind. He might not be easy, but it's an extraordinary mind.

MR. CUMMINGS: Hmm. Well, he certainly has been around.


Last updated...June 11, 2009


How to Use This Collection

Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Kate Schaeffer, 1975 June 18. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.