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Oral history interview with Mischa Richter, 1994 September 27-28

Richter, Mischa, 1910-2001

Painter, Illustrator


Collection Information

Size: 3 sound cassettes 2 hr., 43 min.) : analog.

Format: The first cassette has uneven sound quality. Originally recorded on 3 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 43 min.

Summary: An interview with Mischa Richter conducted 1994 September 27-28, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.

Richter tells of his life as the only child of a prosperous Jewish family in Kharkov, Ukraine, where he showed early precocity in drawing. He remembers the Russian Revolution, being taken to Poland in 1921, and then in 1922 to New York and Boston. He discusses his education in Boston, including drawing lessons with Harold Zimmerman at which he got to know Hyman Bloom and Jack Levine; and classes at the Museum School in Boston from 1929 to 1930.

He speaks of his long-time friendship with Will Barnet, attending Yale School of Fine Arts, 1930-1934, and painting a WPA mural for the Boston Boys Club in 1935. He remembers meeting Will Steig, deciding to become a cartoonist, and selling enough drawings to leave the WPA to work as art editor for "The New Masses," where he became close friends with Ad Reinhardt. He discusses becoming a contract cartoonist in 1940 for "The New Yorker;" his avoidance of art dealers, because they demand steady production yet have no known goals, unlike a magazine; his abhorrence of taking himself, or others, too seriously; the perils of early success and the pettiness of many matters in the art community of Provincetown, Mass.; and the nature of his paintings.

Biographical/Historical Note

Mischa Richter (1910-2001) was a painter and cartoonist from New York, N.Y. and Provincetown, Mass. Richter was born in the Ukraine. He came to the United States in 1922, attending special art classes for gifted students at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and subsequently graduating from the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1934. After working on the WPA art project as a mural painter in New York, he turned to cartooning, doing editorial and humorous cartoons for the daily newspaper, PM, and then becoming art editor for the New Masses. In 1941 he began his longtime affiliation with the New Yorker, as well as producing daily panels, "Strictly Richter" and "Bugs Baer" for King Features. In the 1970s and 1980s, Richter did numerous drawings for the OpEd page of the New York Times. Died March 23, 2001, at age 90.


This interview is 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 administrators.


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.

How to Use This Collection

Use requires an appointment.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Mischa Richter, 1994 September 27-28. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.