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Oral history interview with Richard Bellamy, 1963

Bellamy, Richard, 1927-1998



Collection Information

Size: 70 Pages, Transcript

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hrs., 34 min.

Summary: An interview of Richard Bellamy, concerning the Hansa Gallery, conducted 1963, by Richard Brown Baker, for the Archives of American Art.
Bellamy speaks of the Hansa Gallery's original organization by a group of Hans Hofmann's students; Hansa's location, purpose and program; and the definition of a cooperative gallery. Bellamy reminisces about his early life in Cincinnati, the influence of the Provincetown exhibition in 1949, becoming manager and director of Hansa Gallery and the gallery's move uptown. He discusses financial arrangements with artists, guest exhibitions, collectors, the gallery's location and its disadvantages in regard to visitors and critics, an Allan Kaprow exhibition, and the inclusion of Hansa artists in the Whitney Museum of American Art's annuals and other exhibitions.
He comments on Hansa's reputation, ART NEWS notices, comparisons of the Hansa and Green galleries, the weaknesses of a cooperative gallery, the search for new artists, financial problems, reasons for closing the gallery, galleries where original Hansa artists now exhibit and the gallery's importance in the art life of the times. He recalls John Gruen, Richard Stankiewicz, Miles Forst, Jan Muller, Myron Stout, and Thomas Hess.

Biographical/Historical Note

Richard Bellamy (1927-1998) was an art dealer from New York, N.Y.


This interview is part of the Archives of American Art's 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.




B: I'm about to interview several individuals concerning the Hansa Gallery, which formerly existed in New York City and has for some years been closed. The first individual I'm going to speak to about it is Richard Bellamy, now the director of the Green Gallery. Mr. Bellamy was not associated with the very first days of the Hansa, however, so I'm going to read first, two statements about the origins of the Hansa as a general introduction. One of them is adapted from the Art Student League's News of December 1961. In December 1951 quote, ASix unknown artists all quite young held a joint exhibition of their works in a loft studio at 813 Broadway. The artists were Lester Johnson, Wolf Kahn, John Grillo, Felix Pasilis, Jan Muller and Miles Forst. A813 Broadway@, as this joint cooperation venture was called on a woodcut announcement made by Wolf Kahn, was visited by about 300 artists and two art critics, Thomas B. Hess of Art News and Paul Brach of the Arts Digest. The show led to the founding of the best of the downtown cooperative galleries, the Hansa Gallery. 813 Broadway announced a new interest in figurative painting by a group which had drunk deep at the Pirean springs of abstract expressionism.@ In Dody Muller's account of her husband, Jan's life prefacing the catalogue on Jan Muller, prepared by the Guggenheim Museum for the January, February 1962 exhibition of his works, the statement is made, quote, AIn a sense the 813 Broadway exhibition contained the rudiments of the Hansa Gallery, which was to form on East Twelfth Street and which opened in the autumn of 1952. With Jan, such artists as Jean Follett, Barbara Forst, Miles Forst, Wolf Kahn, Allan Kaprow, Felix Pasilis and Richard Sankiewicz were among the founders. For the next six years Jan was to have a show there each year,@ end of quote. Richard, do you have any comments on these two statements, are they incorrect in any respect?

RB:Well, almost everything is incorrect, actually.

B: Well, that=s interesting.

RB:Well, I don't mean about this particular statement that you made, but I'm, you know you have to keep redefining and qualifying. Actually I would make these corrections in the documentation in Dody Muller's account of the forming members of the Hansa Gallery; there were only eight, as I remembered, and so I think probably what we ought to include, the other two names, which I believe are missing, this is from memory, the other two artists that she does not mention who were the founders of the gallery are Jacques Beckwith, who does not now in 1963, have a gallery, and last showed at the Hansa, the other is Jane Wilson who now shows at the Tibor de Nagy gallery and is quite well known.

B: She was a founding member?

RB:Yes, she was indeed, she and her husband, her husband who's John Greun, who was or is a composer, who now I think writes criticism for the Herald Tribune.

B: I've read some, yes.

RB:Yeah, and knows practically nothing about painting, was the program director of the Hansa Gallery.

B: Who was?

RB:John Gruen, who was at that time Jane Wilson's husba-

nd He was called the program director, now this might have been only for a year or two. Perhaps I can, I might as well straighten out this chronology right now. The Hansa, she says, opened in the Autumn of '52, I think that's correct. It might have been actually the winter, it might have been January or February. This is perhaps important because the Tanager Gallery and the Hansa Gallery opened approximately at the same time. The Tanager date of opening will the date as 1951 and the Hansa opened approximately the same time, but I think it moved.

B: 1951?

RB:Yeah, the Tanager Gallery opened in 1951. The Tanager and the Hansa are looked upon as the best of the cooperative galleries, and during the years there must have been twelve or fifteen on 10th Street and the neighborhood streets. At any rate, where was I, oh yeah, well in mentioning John Gruen I think that would I mentioned that to ....

B: I did not know that John Gruen had been associated at all with the Hansa Gallery. That is very interesting to me because I met him at the Martha Jackson several times when he was on her sales staff.

RB:Well, he wanted a title and the at that point you see, or should I go into this now, at that point the well, let me say this, I did not become associated officially or become associated with the Hansa Gallery until 1955 after they had moved from the 4th Avenue address to 210 Central Park South. I became its director in the fall of 1955. However I had known all of the artists and had seen many of the exhibitions, although I was out of town a good deal. One of the original functions of the gallery was to make available to the artistic community or to anybody who wanted to listen, to speakers on art and one of the them was Clem Greenberg who I heard speak there once on 4th Avenue. That must have been 1953 or '54 perhaps. I don't, I think that perhaps there were even a couple of music concerts. I don't know. The Hansa did not, is intended to be one of the votices that existed at that time. The other was the Club I suppose that was begun on 8th Street by Leo Castelli, DeKooning, etc. I wasn't in on-- I heard a couple of people talk there, not that it's intentions were to be a vortex as it were, but it wanted to use its space for other things, things other than exhibitions of painting. They wanted to have a program, as it were, cultural activities sort of related to the plastic arts and John Gruen was its program director. I don't, I just remember attending Greenberg's lectures because I was there.

B: May I interrupt and ask that though you weren't director, you were a visitor. Can you describe the premises? There was did you attend the 815 Horatio that was actualy the studio of one of the artists wasn't it?

RB:Yes, it was I think Wolf Kahn's studio and perhaps somebody else's studio combined. And bringing up that, I would like to comment on Larry Campbell's statement that you read first.

B: We're assuming that this is Larry Cambell's initial statement from the Art Students League News, anyway he's editor.

RB:It sounds like his writing and certainly the one the premises of the statement in which he says A813 Broadway announced a new interest in figurative painting by a group, which had drunken etcetera, Pirean Spring and well...@, actually of those artists of that time, only Wolf Kahn and Felix Pasilic were using recognizable objects in their paintings. At that time Jan Muller exhibited only abstract work, they were the emosaic abstract paintings, all of which, however, were based on nature. That would have to do with Jan Muller. But they wer eabstract paintings, I mean, they would be nominally recognized as abstract paintings. John Grillo was also abstract. He also was painting in the mosaic style, of which Muller and Grillo were preeminately the masters of during those years.

B: You don=t think any of [inaudable] portrait drawings, such as of late have been exhibited? And is it risky? You see, this peice that I quoted from already by Larry Cambell, concerns that ressurection of an original 813 Broadway show held at the Sobrisky[phon.sp.] Gallery, I think, and I beleiv I went to see it, and either in that show or others, there wer e some of those early heads that Jan Muller did --

RB:That were watercolors or pastels. I don=t remeber those heads. If they wer exhibited, tehy wer a minor part of Muller=s statement at that time.

B: So, you feel that this statement, the implicarion atht Mr. Cambell has given to the origins of this, is reading into something with hindsight, and there was no initial figurative impulse there governing this group?


B: How would you imagine they got together? Simply becasuse they were personally aquainted, or perhaps Hoffman=s students and wanted to show? Do you think that was--

RB:No wait a minute, I was wrong as I see, Lester Johnson was paionting figuratively then -- no wait a minute -- or was he painting figuratively then? I don=t think he was--

B: Well I don=t know his history well, but I don=t think his earliest work was figurative.

RB:No, it definitely was not. At any rate, I would say the possibility in the composition of the Hansa Gallery there was a this how do I want to say, there was this bias toward a direction which you may or may not want to call figurative painting. At least it was I think there was in the group a wanting to get at a bias which would veer from abstract expressionism in which it was true they had steeped. Every member of the Hansa Gallery had studied with Hans Hofmann. Right. Every one of the original members. Now in the 813 group founding members were Miles Forst, Jan Muller, and Felix Pasilis and Wolf Kahn of the Hansa Gallery. Grillo was never of member of the Hansa Gallery nor was Lester Johnson, although Lester Johnson was given an invited exhibition in 1953 perhaps or 1954. The, I suppose we ought to talk about how and why the Hansa Gallery was formed. Well ....

B: Yes, if you have clear second hand information about this, but if you feel on shaky grounds about that early part, I can presume that we can get that part from ....

RB:From Stankiewiez of course.

RB:Somebody else who was in on that period, but anything you want to say, go ahead on that. I especially want to get you own direct participation. I think it's helpful though if we can get this early part fairly clear. Let me ask you as an individual who went to those early shows, to what extent were you personally knowledgeable about contemporary art? You were not yourself an artist.


B: You were friends however with a number of these people and you found this group stimulating and interesting as a spectator?


B: So looking back then.

RB:They gave me my apprenticeship.

B: As people or as artists?

RB:Yes, well as people and artists.

B: I just wanted to resurrect your own impressions there as a spectator, non-professional, upon those early shows. What did you remember of them?

RB:Well, I missed quite a few of the exhibitions on 4th Avenue. I was in and out of town, I wasn't here all that time. I can say this that ....

B: Well, let me interrupt.

RB:Yeah, okay, interrupt.

B: I'm sorry, I shouldn't interrupt you when you're thinking, I was thinking towards the end of the fifties, well perhaps in the beginnings of the sixties some of the galleries founded in the 10th Street area seemed to have especially to reviewers like John Canaday of the Times to be a completely lacking in standards, to be such gatherings of amateur trash that they hardly justify their existence. Now I would like to clarify your early impressions of those early shows you saw, against the possibility that Canaday's later attitude might be correct for the later period, that is, the 10th Street of 1961, let's say, as compared with the 10th Street of 1962, I mean by 1961 quite clearly there were an immense number of uptown galleries that had not existed at the time the group created the Hansa Gallery, the picture had changed quite a bit. Now have you any observation about this, or am I wrong?

RB:No, you're right. One hates to alight oneself with a statement by Canaday, just put it that he noted in the columns of the Times what he felt would be the limpness and irrelevance of work on 10th Street during this past couple of years. I believe that it is true, however I would look at it from a different standpoint from Canaday and as a matter of fact that had been noted, the observation that 10th Street lacked a vitality had been noted several years before, you know, by a great number of people, including Clem Greenberg, I think in print he even coined the term Tenth Street Painting as a deneogatory term which would be that it was kind of old hat, because Clem Greenberg's stand of course is that abstract expressionism really lost it's pertinence after the early fifties. But you see in the years that we're talking about, from well, let's say 1952 as before '48, I suppose in a way sort of begins for me because that's when I first saw black and white productions of deKooning in the Partisan Review and I think at that time deKooning had not even had a one man show, I think he was ....

B: It was in '48 I think.

RB:Yeah, those were the black and white [inaudable] paintings. I was in Provincetown in 1948 and came to New York for the first time in 1949. At any rate, at that time artists simply could not show their work on 57th Street and 57th Street was where the galleries were and there weren=t enough galleries and there were no galleries interested in showing that work, no only, well, I mean aside from Charles Egan and Betty Parsons, and Kootz, there was no possibility. A very superior artist, that is, at that time what we would call an avant-garde artist, people making significant contributions, you know even of their age, their kind of maturity for an artist who had just graduated from or who had just left the Hofmann school, then were there in their late twenties or perhaps early thirties and there were a great many ideas. There was a great stimulation in the whole art scene quotes below 14th Street no place for artists to show. The Hansa Gallery was made of ex- Hofmann students, they had known each other. I think they recognized excellences in one another's work. They however formed no point of view at all. I believe that there certainly were artists in the original Hansa group who actively disliked the works of the others but who recognized a certain independence and a certain competence and they wanted to get a gallery started because they wanted to show their own work, they also wanted to show works of anybody they could who wanted to show in their gallery in group shows who interested them, who properly reflected what they thought was significant work being done. I can also just insert this, since Hans Hofmann was the mentor of these artists they took care never to take advantage of that relationship with him. That is, never to ask him to show in group shows with them and other artists of Hofmann's generation who could be persuaded to do so. They wanted to begin on their own as it were.

B: May I interject here, what has been suggested to my mind by someone who said this group, I think it's fairly clear, was a talented group to whom opportunities to show uptown were very limited compared to what they became ten years later. Isn't that true?


B: For young men of that generation, in age I mean, an artist, say, of 24 who had done extremely well at the Hofmann school in 1951, as you pointed out, would have almost no opportunity to show uptown. He might however if he was exceptionally talented, the record I think indicates that some few of the very young people were taken on by 1960, '61 by uptown galleries, therefore I'm just trying to sew up this fact that I think is clear that a Tenth Street cooperative at the time this organization came into being was needed more than some of the later cooperatives of say 1960 and '61 were needed. I mean less talented artists formed later cooperatives, artists who were not good enough to get into uptown galleries. Is that justified to say? I'm trying to give the Hansa, also I wanted, one other thing to point out, that that generation of Hofmann students was the great post war G.I. group of students who had the stimulus of the older men among them and the whole general excitement, as I understand it, of the immediate post-war hero. I think even at the Art Students League, I've heard, in those first few years after World War II had ended there was much more vitality and excitement in the artistic exchange between teachers and students. And among students themselves, so this would be the generation coming out of that educations experience.

RB:That's correct, yeah, it's hard to say. You had studied with Hans Hofmann yourself you would sort of call it much more of an educational experience.

B: Well, it was a very great experience. By that time of course, by 1957 and '58 was ten years later than the great period that I'm speaking of.

RB:Well, let's see, it has occurred to me to say something else about the aims of the Hansa Gallery. We were speaking about it as an institution. I believe it was told to me by several of the people as I say, I wasn't in on the inception of it, although I knew the artists at that time, that the forming of the Gallery was meant to be merely provisional, merely a place for them to exhibit, for other artists to see, for other dealers to see and for other critics to see. Now the fact of the matter was it was probably only artists that saw the shows, at least in the first four or five years of its existence. But it was meant to be provisional until they could acquire an uptown dealer to handle their works. As the Hansa Gallery continued into the late fifties the artists had, oh how can I say, had developed a great deal of allegiance to this gallery now.

B: Esprit de corps.

RB:Esprit de Corps, perhaps, yeah also still being young in a way they felt that it was as it was an idealistic kind of bastion. They wanted to, they wanted to maintain it's excellence and to further it although they knew exactly nothing about the proper operation of the commercial gallery, and for them to exist they had to exist on a commercial basis when the gallery ceased operation in 1959, probably May of 1959, there were two reasons, lack of money. We will speak about what defines a cooperative gallery, one of the most appalling aspects of it is that the artists supported it financially out of monthly dues, to pay rents, advertisements, and the director's salary if any. Well it was lack of money, also the increasing opportunities for number of artists in the gallery to show at very good, what we call commercial galleries, and because it seemed to a cooperative gallery itself, seemed to lack pertinence in 1959, had begun to lack pertinence even a couple of years before that.

B: Let's define right now what a cooperative gallery is, well, you've probably said a good deal of it. Of course you now are director of the Green Gallery, which is not a cooperative, so you have, say, an increased knowledge of other kinds of galleries than you would have had first had when you were running, managing, you say you were called the director of the Hansa?


B: That was your title. And you would have, but you said that John Gruen was called the program director?

RB:He had this title. I don't know for how long, it was his responsibility to do let's say the arrangements, I'm sure that Clement Greenberg was paid fifty dollars, or perhaps a hundred dollars to speak. The gallery lost money, I was there, I think about 25 people were there, but it was their purpose to contribute in quotes whatever they could, whatever they could in this particular cultural activity, known as the plastic arts.

B: Well, I raised this question of your defining the cooperative gallery, we'd better stick to that at the moment.

RB:The cooperative gallery?

B: Specifically this one.

RB:Let me think for a minute, the cooperative gallery means that there has been, I don't know, there must be or have been at least fifteen, perhaps more that began after 1952 and still do indeed exist on 10th Street, although in a very ghostly state of existence now.

B: Do you know, I don't myself, whether prior to World War II there were many cooperative galleries? Was the Tanager actually the first or ....

RB:The Tanager I think was the first in 1951.

B: Then it was the first in New York.

RB:Yeah, I believe that it was open just about the same time perhaps that this 813 exhibition opened.

B: From what you tell me, it doesn't really seem as if the founders of the Hansa planned to have a formal gallery, such as it later developed into. It was more a kind of club in a sense too, with these lectures and other things as well as, they didn't think of it as a sales vehicle primarily.

RB:I don't think they even knew what a sales vehicle was, but yes, I think that yes, a sales vehicle in the sense they wanted, they felt that they were artists who were ready, who's works were ready to be seen by the public. They wanted their work to reach the largest public that they could. There was no sense of, well as I say, they wanted, it was a provisional, it was a provisional institution so that they could move on, to show their works, they were not chosen to move on, that came somewhat later and so they wanted to enlarge the activities of the gallery as much as they could. The space was quite good, the rent was pretty cheap and naturally they wanted to attract attention to themselves and the gallery. They put a lot of energy, thought, and passion into it.

B: We may say at this time, the Whitney Museum was still downtown too, wasn't it? SO that perhaps I wonder as you talk about this, to what extent the general art buying public, as distinct from artists, ever got to the early shows of the Hansa.

RB:I would say, practically none. The only museum participation well, let's say, I believe that James Johnson Sweeney went to the Hansa gallery downtown one time because Miles Forst and Jean Follett were included in Mr. Sweeney's exhibition. Perhaps you remember, what was it called and when was it, about 1954?

B: I don't know what show you mean. He had two, one of contemporary younger European and one of contemporary younger American. Well would he have known their work prior to seeing it from the Hansa?

RB:Well, I think he walked into the Gallery and liked some things and picked them. The Whitney Museum showed none of these artists. I think probably, I think it was, let's see, I think Richard Stankiewicz was invited to the Whitney Annual in 1956, at least the 1956 exhibition for the first time Mr. John I.H. Baur came to the Gallery, I spoke with him, picked a work. I doubt that he had ever been to the downtown Hansa in other words, the gallery had been in operation for four years before any of the artists were given any kind of official sanction. Of course, the question was the work that good at the time, yeah it was.

B: But we didn't quite show up, I suppose we'd better do it, this distinction of, we make between the kind of gallery you now operate, which I presume keeps financed and is a corporation or else it's owned by somebody.

RB:An international combine of industrialists, yes.

B: Well, we all know the Green Gallery at the moment, historically I know what it will become or is, but I do want to just finish with the cooperative. These individuals had to pay out of their own pockets do you know how much they paid, they had to pay monthly?

RB:Yeah, there were monthly dues assessed. It was run on a kind of parliamentary system. There was a chairman, I believe he was called a chairman, a secretary to take the minutes of the meeting, a treasurer, a vastly important position and dues were assessed monthly. Had to pay for the rent and for the electricity and for the telephone and for miscellaneous expenses. How the artists had one man shows paid all of their expenses that is, announcements, advertising, etc. In part of the activities of each monthly meeting would be for everybody to help with the mailing to stuff the envelopes, seal them and to stamp them and mail them out. Decisions were made as when the artists would show, who formed a group, sort of dates were given and artists were expected to show on those dates. There was the selection of new artists which they tried to incorporate into the gallery. Artists would bring works to the gallery and there was a vote, a majority vote would either accept an applicant or deny him.

B: May I, now the difference presumably here I think with the Green Gallery, you as director if you have a financial backer, perhaps he does or the two together, but this would be one of the main functions of the director as I imagine in a privately owned or corporate gallery.

RB:Yes, he chooses the artists, he chooses the artists to show, when to show, also group shows. Now Hansa was a committee action in other words, democratic.

B: Is that right?

RB:Yes, that's a wild distinction, since it was impossible even for the artists to sell their own work it wasn't a question in other words of a gallery as a business attempts to make money, so therefore the assumption is that the artists that they would choose to show would be chosen on their merits as artists as seen by the members of the Hansa Gallery without any advantage reasonings. They wanted more members, I believe also it reduced dues, when it came to that after a while in 1958 and 1959 when we moved uptown, when the gallery moved up town that is, the rent was a hundred and fifty dollars.

B: A month?

RB:Yes, a month. Perhaps downtown it something like seventy-five or sixty, I don't know what. And of course things had gotten more expensive generally. They had to pay me, for instance. I mean I forget my salary actually, I think it was about ten dollars a week, I'm not sure, but that amounted to forty dollars a month, now I was also given as director a 25 percent commission of sales, if a sale was made 25 percent went to me or the director during two years I shared the directorial activities with another man named Ivan Karp, perhaps go into that later. Before I came there there was a succession of young, tall, beautiful girls who have been known throughout the history of time as the mistresses of the artists who sort of sat in the gallery. I don't know whether they had the title of director or no, perhaps so.

B: Yes, I wanted to, I wanted to clarify this in my mind and for the record. Before you took over which I take back to have been a full time week that you devoted to be present, later sharing with Ivan Karp, but you were present as the sales man in the gallery. But prior to this, in the period of John Gruen and afterwards there were, there was no fixed person in charge of sales who always sat, would it be shifting as you say these beautiful girls, the girl friends of the artists, people like that.

RB:Yeah, or friends, at one point there was a girl named Antina Lanshell who I think was probably there for at least a year and who attempted to carry on the activities of what a director or an owner of a gallery might do, that is, the addressing of letters along with sending photographs to collectors and to museum officials to try to draw attention to the gallery and its artists. The artists knew nothing about how to do this, they knew that it was done.

B: How did pricing take place for your time, I presume maybe we're getting ahead somewhat, but, when you got there presumably you and the artists may have jointly agreed and such and such a painting would be four hundred dollars. Prior to your being there did the artists or did the committee as a whole price?

RB:No, the artists priced their own works.

B: Even after you were there?

RB:Yeah, they might have asked my advice, I think some of them did, yes, yes, that's true, you see, my ....

B: You had a financial stake, you were getting 25 percent, I mean you had to decide whether it was worth it to charge eight hundred and not sell it or charge five hundred.

RB:I was so loose then, Dick if you had come into the gallery and offered, you know seventy-five dollars for something that was priced eighteen hundred you probably .....

B: What an enormous opportunity now.

RB:But as I remember the first exhibitions of Richard Stankiewicz and Jean Follett their price structures began at ten thousand dollars, I think I mentioned this to you before. Well, at any rate, they become more realistic, at least Richard did later on, though he's now approaching that level again, I understand. The girls who sat for the gallery, they were called sitters, I think Anita Manshell took on a lot of the responsibility that the director should it seemed.

B: Could you spell that.

RB:Manshell, she is since married and has another name, I think she herself even purchased a couple of works of the artists. At any rate, in 1955 when the gallery moved to 210 Central Park South and I was asked to become its director and I did. It actually operated there for perhaps a season or half season before I came.

B: Uptown?

RB:Uptown before I came. At any rate before what, to define my responsibilities, the girls who were the directors or more properly the sitters would simply keep the gallery open and quote prices if any were to be asked and answered the telephone, etc. They were given no part in the decision making of the body of the artists, when I became director I was given a vote.

B: As if you were an artist?

RB:Just as if I were an artist and a member of the

gallery, although I paid no dues. But I was given a vote and as my, you know, as my experience increased in running the gallery, I believe the artists as individuals depended upon me for advice, as we just suggested about pricing, etc. But you know, we were all pretty totally ignorant about ....

B: May I ask you here Richard, at the time you took this job, what did you have to recommend you by way of experience? You had an interest and a personal acquaintance with the artists, but you never had worked in a gallery.

RB:No, and I had no ambitions to.

B: You did this. You told me once years ago, when the Hansa was operating that you did not consider yourself an art dealer, you sense I presume do.

RB:Yes, I was always trying to make some kind of, as I can remember probably in my point of view, I was probably trying to disassociate myself from the nasty business end of art and trying to assert my dis-interested idealistic preoccupation with it.

B: Well, let's find out for a moment how you happened to be offered this job. We might just have a brief, auto-biographical statement who you are, which is a fascinating subject actually. I hate to have it brief. But you came to New York, you've already said, in 1949, did you say?

RB:Well, I first came sort of around and yes, I went to Provincetown.

B: Before you came to New York?

RB:Yeah, and I met a number of artists there and I saw reproductions, actually a very important exhibit took place in the summer of 1949 in Provincetown. I don't know who arranged it, I can't even quite remember the story, but in the summer of 1949, there was a very large exhibit, let's say fifty artists had a show in Provincetown. The sitter at that gallery, and it also had a number, a number on commercial street, was an author. His name is Cecil Hemly, he's a poet and he's just finished a nove.

B: Hemory?

RB:Cecil Hemley. He's a describable person I believe and probably a nice minor poet. But at any rate he was sitting there and I heard him make comments about certain, well, okay, then I'll come later and say who was there, represented there was practically everybody on the avant garde New York scene except deKooning who did not submit a picture. Pollock was there with a very great picture, I remember it very well, I think the title was number 17, Hofmann, Baziotes, not sure whether David Smith had a painting there or not, Tworkov, Fritz Bultman, Marca Relli, you know, etc. Perhaps Rothko, I'm not sure, I think so and Stamos. I remember this poet, Cecil Hemley, saying to somebody in talking about the pictures, well you know, I just don't see how art can do without the lyrical. Now look at this beautiful tiny little painting of Stamos and look at that Pollock, now how can you get away with something like that? I do remember this and I remember some other statements he made, but it's not a Cecil Hemley day. But it was a very important exhibition. I think probably important because I don't think that there was any group exhibition of its size that had ever been assembled before, except I guess the Eighth Street show, which was, when was the Eighth Street show before? Well it was just about the same time, probably a little bit later, maybe. At any rate, what was I saying, what was I talking about?

B: Well, this made a great impression about you


RB:Oh, yeah. Well, okay, so then I came to New York and I ....

B: Well, if I may imagine, of course I didn't myself know any avant-garde painting at this date, you say it was the summer of '49 that would have been a very early time. A lot of the younger men I imagine who constituted the Hansa Gallery would have been possibly summer students in Provincetown?

RB:At that time, yes.

B: They would have seen this too, and this is where you learned about these people mostly. So then you came to New York already knowing more than most Americans about the newest avant-garde painting. You'd seen works by many recognized as sort of the New York School work.

RB:More or less.

B: I mean very much in advance of most people, and you yourself at that time could you say you were really responsive to abstract paintings, abstract expressionism?

RB:I could say that I was, but if we go into that I think that really would be a different thing.

B: No, no you can say you were, then you were, so you were sympathetic to this new developing movement and naturally when you came here you were social with people. You might just put in you had come to New York from Ohio.


B: If I'm not mistaken, you were born in what?


B: Cincinnati, and I will ask you to make the statement about your ancestors because I think it was interesting.

RB:Well my mother was Chinese and my father Kentuckian and I came to Provincetown after being expelled from several institutions of learning, higher institutions of learning in the the, and so, okay, so I came to New York about 1949, the winter of 1949. During the winters of '51, '52,'53 I think I spent one winter back in Cincinnati. I worked out of town one of those years. I was not, I wouldn't say, I did not attend therefore two important seasons of the Hansa Gallery downtown at all, however I did know most of the work of the artists from their studios and I can remember several exhibitions distinctly I did see.

B: Do you know who it was among them that suggested you for employment in the gallery?

RB:Yes, it was probably Miles Forst who was and is my closest friend. Evidently Anita Manshell had been in the operation at the gallery, you know, held its reins for a year or so and I forget, oh at any rate they needed somebody to run it and I was asked to do so and it took me several months to decide for it. One I had a family to support, I didn't see how I could do that. Well how I managed was simply to be at the gallery five days a week and I'd take other jobs on the weekend or at night. Which and, the other jobs were simply painting houses, house painting and I got by that way somehow.

B: Well, your pay certainly, even then when the cost of living was somewhat lower would have been very minimal.

RB:It was very minimal, yeah.

B: May I ask what age you were when you took over this directorship? You were about the same age as some of the, up most artists, or what age were you, do you think?

RB:Well, let me see now. I'm now 35 and it's 1963, therefore in 1955 I would have been, oh, let's see, I'm 35 and 1955, that's eight minus 35 is 27 or 8.

B: You were in your twenties anyway, middle twenties or upper twenties.

RB:Well, I think at this point, let's say Stankiewicz is a couple of years older than I am.

B: He was born in 1922, as I recall.

RB:Then he's five years older than I am.

B: And Jan Muller at the time of his death was 35 so he was older than you.


B: And is Miles Forst your age?

RB:Miles Forst is a couple of years older than I am, yes they were all a bit younger.

B: So you were a bit younger than most of these artists, I would think. But still they were all pretty close to their early thirties one way or another, either being in their twenties. So it was a young group. This edifice where you worked, since you came, well, we might as well say where it was, and say something about the building. Because all the time you were with the Hansa Gallery it was in the same premises.

RB:Yeah, it was a very nice address, 210 Central Park South, and it was a sort of five floor apartment building and the gallery occupied the premises on the one floor up, that is, a studio. There was a basement of course, it was a rather small gallery, but at that time it seemed very spiffy I'm sure to everybody.

B: Who had been, do you know, what group had found it? I mean was it Stankiewicz or Miles Forst or Jean Follett?

RB:The committee was, I don't know who found the location, it was probably Miles or Richard who sort of did most of the work.

B: Well, I wanted to ask you, who provided the real leadership in the gallery in your opinion at this time when you came in, was there any outstanding artists in terms of leadership? I mean ....

RB:Yeah, I think mainly, I want to get some chronology correct at the time that I began to work for the Hansa Gallery, Wolf Kahn was in Mexico and he was deciding to leave the gallery. So I was not present when Wolf Kahn was a member. I think that it could be pretty generally stated that the most respected as far as leadership, well, let's see, how can I say it, we have to define leadership, I would say.

B: Something you did.

RB:Most of the responsibility evolved on Richard

Stankiewicz I would say.

B: He put the most energy into actual matters relating to the management, that' what I'm thinking of.

RB:I would say that Richard was certainly the most

efficiently organized person there, mentally and there were .... I want to say that there were hugely divisive opinions amongst the group. But I would say generally that a good deal of the responsibility evolved upon Richard Stankiewicz and upon Miles Forst also. Richard was certainly the best chairman in that he kept things in order. Miles Forst was always a disruptive influence. But this worked very well, actually, and of course Jan Muller was, there I suppose we could call it now a mystic, it is after the fact, but I believe that Jan Muller was respected in a very deeply personal sense by everybody. Jan was always the most violent in his, in taking of stands. Let's say for or against an artist who was to be voted in or out of the group perhaps.

B: Jan would not have enjoyed very good physical health very much of his time, so in some respects I don't think, I don't know, but I would think he was less able to devote time to the business.

RB:He was never very vigorous. There was not much business side, in other words, what the responsibilities involved would be the treasurer had to collect dues, now when we speak about dues, to artists at that time, during the late years of the Hansa, '58 and '59, I remember our dues reached an incredible sum, something like thirty dollars a month. Now this was a great deal for artists at that time.

B: A dollar a day.

RB:And even, you know, the eight, ten or twelve dollar and fifteen dollar dues was a huge sum to artists, they made no money.

B: At this time when you took over, can you go over in your mind what sources of income these people had as individuals? That is to say, I know Richard Stankiewicz was earning money, probably as an engineer and draftsman, not as a sculptor. Now how did the others manage it? None of them, I think I can presume, were earning through the sale of his fine art enough to live on. So could you rehearse what some of them did at that time?

RB:Oh, Miles Forst worked as a, for a frame maker as a carpenter. Jacques Beckwith was a carpenter, and by the way Jacques Beckwith was also anything that had to be done with the gallery physically. It was usually Jacques who did it because he was a carpenter, and Miles also. A wife supported one of the artists. Jan Muller lived on practically nothing, I think his rent was twenty dollars a month and he would sell something every once in a while. I don't believe that Jan ever held a job but it was certainly a bare existence.

B: Was he helped by his family at all?


B: Of course Jan was an immigrant to this country, was brought by his parents. He wasn't helped by them?

RB:No, so it was a question of odd jobs, or I think Richard, you know, held the most substantial job as far as earning capacity and ....

B: But I don't think his job was a regular sort of nine to five job. He was a freelance. So none of them, in other words, were really sort of full time stock brokers or elevator operators.

RB:No artists have really, most artists pretty generally have a distinction to hold a steady job, I mean they had to have time to paint. So they probably, the ideas was to get a job to make some money and then paint as long as one could before one had to go back to earn some more money.

B: I had read that Jane Wilson was a fashion model.

RB:Oh yes, Jane Wilson was a fashion model.

B: And Jean Follett, I think somebody said ....

RB:She was a mechanical draftsman. She did hold a nine to five jot for a good bit of the time.

B: Oh, she did. So this was generally what that group felt, once you had got there, we spoke about this a bit earlier, this degree to which the group had a common point of view. By the time you had came in in 1955 for instance, I think probably Jan Muller had evolved to a figurative painter.

RB:Oh yes.

B: And was there by then a common point of view, would you think? I mean did you think of it in terms of working for a group of individuals of talent or did you feel any common sort of cause artistically or point of view artistically, that they especially held?

RB:I think, I think it is correct to say that they were a group of individual artists, there was no, there was no point of view, certainly no programmatic view point intended or expressed by them as a group. It's true that not members was what we now call an action painter or an abstract expressionist, closest to that would have been Miles Forst at a certain point. He even began to evolve figuratively after a while. Now there were of course, during these years a number of people who dropped out of the gallery, a number of people who were taken on, it's composition changed continually. However the basic, the nucleus did remain until the end so to speak. I think, well, no, actually Richard Stankiewicz left the Hansa Gallery during its last year of operation. He went to the Stable Gallery in 1958. At any rate, I think that to read in, I mean I think that it is correct to say however that this was a generation of artists who felt, not out of programmatic intention, but who felt that they had to discover another mode of working that that which had been mastered by Hofmann, deKooning, Kline and Rothko. So in that group we can call it, you know, it's a post-abstract expressionist group. I mean there are still young artists today who are painting today abstract expressionist pictures, I mean there are a lot of them, but its very, there's a French word for it, it's kind of unbelievable. These artists were very, very strong artistic personalities on their own.

B: Well, could we put it this way, I think it's true from my own feeling of, say, the best of them were sufficiently strong individual talents to be working in no sense derivitively of a fashionable trend and therefor they slightly stood out against a fashionable trend in some respect, the fashionable trend being action painting and abstraction now.

RB:We speak of a fashionable trend now after the fact. In the early fifties it wasn't a fashion or trend, it was as it were it was these you know, we certainly don't think they didn't think of it as a fashionable trend at that time, it was .....

B: No, but the word is very misleading. I shouldn't have used it, because certainly in 1956, '57, I would think abstract expressionism had not been accepted by a great percentage even of artistic people. Nevertheless what I meant when I said fashion was, the leadership of the avant garde was doing this sort of thing and the second generation, the younger men of weaker talents would be logically swept along in following what they saw done by the men they respected, whereas these individuals like Stankiewicz and Jan Juller felt, as you put it, an urge to do something more independently and they didn't really oppose so much these other men, but they were trying to be themselves more fully than some other people who began to show in other galleries. By the end, by say '57 and '58 there were lots of exhibitions of second-rate abstract painting of which your gallery had perhaps fewer, shall we say, of this kind of fashionable I know fashionable's a bad word.

RB:Yeah, I understand, I think what you might say, there was, it was kind of Hansa Gallery was formed of kind of a pretty odd, hybrid lot of artists. I mean, no gallery today or then, I mean could possibly hold them together as a unit, I mean not even speaking of trying to impose any kind of aesthetic upon them which would let's say tie them together, they couldn't be in the same gallery. It would be completely idiotic, senseless, you know, it was a part of it's strength and of course part of it's weakness let's say as a gallery, as a financial gallery. On couldn't, I mean you didn't go that gallery to look for any certain kind of painting or any certain kind of sculpture.

B: May I say something here, I do think that Richard Stankiewicz's sculpture tended during the period from '56 to '60 to become more abstract than when I first saw it, in the beginning it was more related to figures or to birds or to subject matter more directly observant of what his source in the earlier shows, so he did as a person tend somewhat towards abstraction in his work. One other person I want to speak of who may, I don't know when Myron Stout came into the gallery, but his of course, he had a show involving drawings of trees in a sensitive possibly around say 19th century plus a kind of abstraction is black and whites, these hard edge black and whites were certainly non-deKooning, non-action painting. I don't know what others you might have shown at that time who were abstract, but there were these tendencies and there were, none of them were quite what I mean by this derivative, following the leader kind of abstract painting.

RB:Yes, that's right. I think that you might say that the Hansa Gallery, well, I'm trying to rephrase it, it was kind of a loose grouping of artists with kind of eccentric insights, oh, that isn't right either. While we were talking it just occurred to me that, I mean I thought of a couple of exhibitions were held, guest exhibitions and the kind of work these artists did that were invited to show, which brings us back again to the Raison Ketre of the Hansa Gallery and how it would differ from a commercial gallery collection of what to show and who to show. Supposedly as I say, the artists selected to exhibit there and artists each month would bring paintings into the gallery and they were voted on as I say by the members, there were other artists who did not belong to the Hansa Gallery with whom most of the, the majority of the members felt a great deal in common and who were always sought to join the gallery to become members.

B: You mean Al Leslie.

RB:Well, I think Al was, although Leslie did show at the Tibor de Nagy gallery, but he did have a guest exhibition for Hansa, which I'll bring up in a moment. I'm thinking of artists such as John Grillo and Lester Johnson, two specifically, Lester Johnson was given a guest exhibition at the Hansa and Grillo showed many times in group shows. At that time I believe Grillo was a bit older than the others, he thought of himself, well, I think possibly he had you know, in more professional terms, he was waiting for an uptown gallery. There was also the question of other artists who sort of didn't want to join the Hansa who had this original esprit as you say, they did it and they were very, they wanted to stand by their accomplishment of making an art gallery composed of artists and run by artists and directed by artists. They were very proud of this, the other artists who they might, whom they wanted to join, did have the, probably didn't because they were always waiting. So there was another gallery who might show them, so that they wouldn't have to pay their own expenses, so that they wouldn't have to pay these dues each month. Well, a number of artists were, as I say, nevertheless a number of artists of high excellence were chosen and taken in after the original formation of the gallery.

B: I was going to observe that there would be rather little inducement from a financial point of view for an artist to go into this gallery, he had initially the expense of membership and I imagine that you could not show artists a good sales record, so that join us and you'll make a lot of money, you couldn't every say that to them. But how much, what was the situation of an artist like Lester Johnson who was given a one man show as a guest artist, what financial obligations did he have to ....

RB:I think perhaps he was probably asked to pay for the expenses of the show, that is ....

B: No rent?

RB:No, no, he was probably asked to pay for his

announcements and he had an advertisement which he wished to take and this we all ....

B: This exactly what the members had to pay, plus their dues, I should think a non-member would somehow be penalized to a certain extent by not being a member, in financial terms.

RB:Well, then that would be, you know like extracting money for rent which is, which is how, you know if anybody wanted to show, there were many uptown galleries and galleries still do sort of charge for the, with various charges among them being the rent. But the idea of this gallery was not that. They wanted to show the work that they thought was worthy of being shown if nobody else would show it and there were very few other outlets.

B: So if an artist was considered by the committee to be a good artist and was invited to show, he could show there without any thing but his expenses.

RB:Yes, if there was a spot open in the calendar in the exhibition calendar, and perhaps it was, and they didn't not want or they had just had a group show and they wanted to a one man show and perhaps I'm assuming the artist would be approached and say would you like to have a show and he would say, yeah, but I ain't got no money. And he'd say, well, you know if you really want to show, you know, you will have to pay your own expenses, that's not for rent. You know, that's how things worked. And exhibition we had a 1935, perhaps it was early '56 we gave a three man show to Alfred Leslie, who had then at that time already had three one man shows with the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, but he had left the Tibor de Nagy Gallery for a year or two, another artist named Robert Beacham, oh, it's spelled Beaushamp, who by the way is another of these artists that the majority of the members of the Hansa felt always close to, that is they ....

B: He would have been allowed to be a member.

RB:Yeah, they sought him I think as a member but I haven't got the money to keep paying the dues each month. Well, of course very few of the artists did too, but it was the idea, as I said before, that they made it and they were going to stick with it and they were going to try to make it work as well as they could, and it was a great burden for them to pay their monthly dues. At any rate, so the third was an artist named Paul Dieu, a French artist who'd been here a couple of years and nobody's ever heard of him since. The show was reviewed by Parker Tyler. Alfred Leslie showed two very large paintings, among the best paintings of his career, one of which is now in the Kunsthalle I think Basel, the other the Longview Foundation bought.

B: I think I saw the show, I'm quite sure I did.

RB:Did you and Beauchamp was beginning to develop a style which he is known for now which is a kind of figurative fantasy style of painting. Beauchamp also was abstract at one point during the Hofmann school. He also was a Hoffman student. Leslie was not however. But there was the attempt to find, of course, new artists if one could that is, to make a discovery perhaps. But it was pretty difficult.

B: Well, let's say one of his testimony a member artist with him however it occurs to me to ask you what during the period of your management there and association, what outside shows are you proudest of? This one just described, do you think it was the outstanding show? Not by members but the gallery.

RB:Oh I would say certainly. Actually we did not give to, after I came to the gallery there were not ....

B: Were there any guests exhibitions given?

RB:Yes, there was a guest exhibition given to Alice Trumble Mason or should I say something about that?

B: Yeah.

RB:Yeah, I think so because that was a proper function of the Gallery.

B: What I asked you, I didn't know that there was so few, I was asking which the outstanding ones were. However do you remember once