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Oral history interview with Richard Stankiewicz, 1963

Stankiewicz, Richard, 1922-1983

Sculptor, Educator


Collection Information

Size: 24 Pages, Transcript

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hr., 5 min.

Summary: An interview of Richard Stankiewicz conducted by Richard Brown Baker in 1963 for the Archives of American Art, regarding the Hansa Gallery.

Biographical/Historical Note

Richard Stankiewicz (1922-1983) was a sculptor and educator and Huntington, Massachusetts.


This interview is part of the Archives' 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 .



The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Richard Stankiewicz on 1963. The interview was conducted in Huntington, Massachusetts by Richard Brown Baker for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: This is Richard Brown Barker at Huntington, Massachusetts, about to talk with Richard Stankiewicz concerning the Hansa Gallery. Richard, you were one of the early members of the Hansa Gallery. You were not the person who initiated the idea, were you?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, the first I heard of it was from Felix Pasilis, who was a painter you know. He came around to the studio once and told us that a group was forming to make up a cooperative gallery.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Do you remember what year this was?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: That was late in 1951.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You had known Felix, of course, at the Hofmann School.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, we were acquainted at the Hofmann School.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Did you know the other artists who were mentioned at that time?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Only some of them, not all of them. But he came and he said that this group was trying to organize and get around the impossibility of having shows uptown by having their own gallery, and he said that Jean and I had been mentioned as possible members and wanted to know if we’d be interested and ---


RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. And we said “perhaps” and so we went to a meeting at Jane Wilson’s house. I think perhaps Jane Wilson and her husband, John Gruen, were the instigators of the plan.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Oh, they may have had the original idea?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, or they were one of the people who did.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: John Gruen, who is now an art writer for the Herald Tribune, is also a musical composer, is that correct?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And Jane Wilson, I believe, worked as a model?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, she used to be photographed for magazines.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: In addition to painting, yes.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I don’t know if she still ---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, anyway, she was a model at the time. She was quite a young woman. Well, who else was at that meeting?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, unfortunately, I’ve been trying to remember and they don’t all come to mind, but there was Jane Wilson, John Gruen, Felix Pasilis, Jean Follett, Wolf Kahn, Arnold Singer, Leatrice Rose---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Leatrice Rose? Now I’ve never heard of her, I don’t think. Does she still exhibit?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I haven’t heard of her for a long time. She’s married to Clem Greenberg’s brother, and – let’s see---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What took place at this meeting? This would have been, perhaps not the initial meeting, perhaps not the initial meeting because this other group, I suppose, informally talked together, like Felix and Jane Wilson?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, it was the first time, though, that the whole group was together all at once.


RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I believe John Gruen did. It was in their apartment. Well, as a consequence of this meeting and a couple of others like it, we did agree to undertake a gallery and then we went into the usual thing of organizing committees for this, that and the other thing, the most important of which was one to find premises; and after a certain time we did succeed in finding a loft on Fourth Avenue and Twelfth Street. It was upstairs over a shop of some kind, building maintenance shop. And then we spent a long time putting the place into shape – fixing the walls and finishing the floor and installing a lighting system through the gallery.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You artists did this work yourselves?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You participated personally?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, and I designed the lighting and switching system and everybody pitched in to do the actual work.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Now, the motivating force of this was just to provide an opportunity for you hitherto unexhibited artists to show your work to the public? You weren’t expecting to make much money, especially?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, it was taken for granted that financially it would be a tough proposition and probably wouldn’t pay off, but the important thing was to have a place to show. In those days it was very hard to find a place in the uptown galleries, even if you were pretty good.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: There were far fewer galleries.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: There were fewer galleries and they were full up.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Did other cooperatives exist at this time? Was the Tanager – I’m not sure that was a cooperative, was it?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: It was; it wasn’t organized in exactly the same way, but it was a cooperative gallery and it had existed for several years, anyway, before the Hansa.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: So you were originating the idea of a cooperative?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, and I don’t think that at anytime it occurred to us to consider that we were doing anything remarkable – it was a device that we thought up, and we just did it. It happens the Tanager did exist before us, but I think it was the only other cooperative gallery at that time. Since, there have been a great rash of them on Tenth Street.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes, there was a whole Tenth Street set-up which may be diminishing now, I’m not sure. Anyway, to go back to that initial thing – you all worked together on these premises, which made fairly good exhibition space?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: It was pretty good. It was low ceiling and narrow rooms, but adequate for most of your exhibitions.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: How would you begin? What was the first exhibit?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: The first exhibition we gave was a group exhibition.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Each of you participating?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: That’s right; putting in one or two paintings. Oh, another name I remember in the original group was Jan Mueller and then there was Jacques Beckwith, too, and Allan Kaprow – that brings the roster up.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: So that – I haven’t counted, but there are at least, say, ten participating artists?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: We decided that the number twelve was just about the right number to share the expenses, at some reasonable level, and give us enough work for continuous exhibitions.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Do you recollect what the dues were? Did you each have to put in an initial sum?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. Well, we contrived a system on paper. We drew up a charter – rules – and the way we worked it was to have a set share for each member of the gallery to pay. The expenses for the month would be divided into twelve and each person would pay a twelfth of the expenses as his contribution. Then besides that, in case there were any sales, a percentage of the price of the work would be contributed to the gallery. And that came, I think, to 25%, which is less than the conventional ---


RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: 33 1/3, which ordinarily goes to commercial galleries, but actually the contribution was more because of the dues.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: However, did each individual artist, when it came time to have a one man show, bear the expense of his own announcements?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, that was part of the arrangement – that each person would design and get produced, and so on, announcements – papers – advertisements – the mailing, and so on.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You built up a mailing list cooperatively, I suppose?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, yes, we all contributed names of people we knew and then there were people whose names would naturally be prominent – other artists – collectors, institutions, publications. Then we had a book in the gallery that visitors could sign and leave their addresses in, and we culled from that and eventually built up a sizeable list.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, now, who provided the management? I mean, who sat in as salesman?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, that was one of our biggest problems that at first we couldn’t get anyone from outside to do it because we couldn’t afford a salary, so we used to take turns.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What were your hours of being open – a regular full day, or what?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: They were conventional gallery hours – eleven or twelve until, I think, six – 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening. So every twelfth week day you’d have to take a day off from work, if you had a job, and stay in the gallery.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And at this time I think you did have a regular 9 to 5 job, didn’t you?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: So you had to arrange – or did you get released from this obligation? Or you could do it Saturdays, perhaps – sometimes?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, those that felt they could take time off from the job, did, and I did. However, that was very unsatisfactory because there was no continuity in the representation in the office. People might telephone one day and if notations weren’t made, they’d call back the next day and find somebody different who’d never heard of them. But after a time we had a couple of volunteer people.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, let’s, before we get on to them, let’s discuss the problem of the gallery artists doing this as people. How many of these people – other than yourself – had regular jobs?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: About half, I would think.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, now, for instance Felix Pasilis was a full time painter or did he have a job?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, I think he did odd jobs, I don’t know.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes, but odd jobs is different. For instance, Jane Wilson, if she was a model, would work Thursday, but perhaps not Friday. No, I mean a regular 9 to 5 full week kind of job, as a school teacher would have.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. But I don’t remember exactly, but quite a few of us did.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You did? Well, then, it must have been very difficult to arrange this sitting in.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, and the whole schedule was really kind of strenuous. You had to be devoted to it, actually, because you had to work to make a living and then you had your own studio work to do and you had to sit in the gallery periodically and then there were always meetings, meetings, meetings, and things to work out and - - -

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What were your own experiences sitting in as a salesman? Did you ever make a sale?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Good heavens, no! I don’t think we sold a penny’s worth for the first year.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, you spent a whole day there, did you feel rewarded by the presence – the arrival – of many visitors?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: We didn’t have many visitors the first year. It was very bleak and discouraging enterprise in the beginning. For instance, at my first one-man exhibition, on the opening night, I think one or two people came.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: That few? But the shows were normal length I suppose. In the course of your exhibit, would you say that a number of people did come?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: But I think some critics came, didn’t they, to these early Hansa Shows? I don’t know if yours was one of them.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Not the first ones, but after we’d had a few shows, they began to come and then of course attendance increased as it began to be recognized that we existed, and eventually we would begin to have packed openings and lots of people would attend.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Usually you have tradition later on, which perhaps started earlier, of having wine or something else to drink.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, I don’t think any of the galleries – or certainly not many – would make a cocktail thing out of an opening. We thought it was a civilized thing to do to have drinks for people who came to look at our work and it might even be an inducement.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Get them drunk enough to buy something! How much – who bore the expense? Each artist at his own opening?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: If you decided to give sherry or something, you bought the jug of sherry and the paper cups?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, that’s right. And it made some startling contrasts. One time it might be champagne, next time it might be California ---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, were any of these artists people who were fairly well-to-do. I don’t mean rich people, but was there a considerable difference in the economic level?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, I think we were pretty well matched. We were all just a bit above subsistence.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And most of all of you were under 30?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Pretty homogeneous age group. Well, now, who were some of the first people that you managed to get in as sales personnel?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, there was Anita Coleman.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: How do you spell her [name]?



RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: C O L E M A N. She was with us about a year and a half. Then she married some State Department cultural type in Paris and left us and we had ---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What was her – now let me see, who was she before she came to do this and did she do it as a volunteer – as a friend of the people – or was she paid, did she get a commission?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: She would have got a commission had there been any sales, but there was no regular pay. Her family were rather well off and had a big apartment on Central Park West and she was out of school – Sarah Lawrence –

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Who knew her and got her to do this?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I don’t recollect how she came to come in. She might have known Wolf Kahn. He was always introducing all the new people; he seemed to circulate a great deal – maybe through him. But she thought it was an interesting thing to do. She was out of school and she wasn’t working and not yet married.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes. Well, that was very helpful but I suppose she didn’t have too much influence on the operation of things. In other words, she wouldn’t hang the shows or organize much – it was all done in committees. Well, you would help each other in arranging a show.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: If the help was asked, yes.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, for instance, your sculptures must have been more difficult to manage physically than perhaps the paintings are. Did you have members of the gallery assist you?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I would ask people to help me – it really wasn’t that much of a job because in those days my works were pretty small.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Who were some that you had help you?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, I guess Felix helped me. Jacques Beckwith used to help a great deal because he lived downstairs in this studio.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: He is an artist whose work I’m not familiar with. He hasn’t recently exhibited, has he?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, he hasn’t been showing much.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Incidentally, I think I recall that Barbara and Miles Forst - - -

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, yes, they’re very important members.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: They were in the original group?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Both of them were Hofmann students – a married couple.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, that’s right. They were the most obvious people to remember, yes.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Miles hasn’t exhibited either, for quite some while, has he?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, I don’t think so.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And I didn’t know until I read somewhere that she was in the gallery. I didn’t realize that she was an artist.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: She was and she exhibited with us for a couple of years and then they began to have children and she began to be more and more domestically interested and pretty soon ceased to paint – to show.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, tell us how Jan Mueller – I want to have some of your recollections of Jan Mueller. Did he have an early show in the very beginning?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, he showed right from the start.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Was he still doing rather abstract work then?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, he was. He was doing these – I don’t know what you would call it – a “gross-pointilism” or colored mosaics – large canvases covered with squares and pateches, so it was related to Impressionism but not really.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Was he quite inactive in the running of the gallery? I gather you were one of the organizing brains in it, but there were stages, as you said in the interview I had with you about yourself – you were the chairman for quite a few of the later terms. Who was the first chairman?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You started out then?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: So you took perhaps more than the average share of responsibilities in the running of the gallery?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, possibly because I get very annoyed by irrelevant group conversations and so with this passion for parliamentary order, I think it fell, kind of naturally, to me to keep the meetings on track.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I would imagine Jan Mueller would - - -

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Somebody told me once that I ran the meeting like a good Communist! “You can speak now” – and “you wait until he’s finished!”

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, that was probably very time-saving. I was thinking that perhaps occasionally Jan Mueller – not explode but got going and got the bit in his teeth and talked quite a bit, or something?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: It wasn’t that he talked so much, but he really had an anarchistic temperament and sometimes he would want to change whatever procedure was under way just because things were getting too orderly and set. I supposed he wanted to keep it interesting and so he was apt to come up with new ideas at the wrong time, it seemed to me, but it was alright.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Guilty of folly, form your point of view?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, there was a slight perversity in it you see, because it wasn’t that his contributions were irrelevant or not very good – quite often they were – but he would always throw them in at the wrong time. Perhaps we might make decision A and be halfway in the execution of decision A and he would suggest B and say, why don’t we do this instead? And then he had a couple of followers, you see, who would support him, and then the struggle would be against the disorganization.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Were they apt to be the same followers, or did it shift from proposition to proposition?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, he had two or three staunch- - -


RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, Jacques Beckwith followed in his tracks and Allan Kaprow, and I guess those two were the regular – Miles Forst was apt to support him, too. It wasn’t really factionalizing, but occasionally it ---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, can you think of an example where you felt he proposed a diversion from the set plan? I mean ---

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, I can’t think – I do have to laugh when I think of the time some of us were sitting in the gallery, in the day time, just casually, and then Jan Mueller walked in and sat down, “How are you?” “Fine.” “Where’ve you been” He said, “I’ve just come from an anarchist meeting.” He used to attend them.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: He did? I didn’t realize that he was politically affiliated with anarchism.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: He said, “I just came from an anarchist meeting.” And so we said, “How did it go?” And he said, “I don’t know – nobody showed up!” I thought it was the perfect anarchist meeting. But that somehow seemed to characterized Jan for me.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Had Jan already had his heart operation at this time?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, that came later.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Was he in reasonably good health then? At the beginning of the Hansa Gallery?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: He hadn’t ever been, for years?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, I don’t think he had ever been really completely fit. And when he had to have this plastic valve put in his heart he didn’t have any money and it had to be done, so friends of his passed the hat around and --

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, I’ve heard that – Hans Hofmann, for instance, allegedly contributed. Perhaps a few members of the Gallery did too?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, yes – everybody did.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Did that come up very suddenly – I mean ---

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, it was pretty sudden. You see, he’d always had a defective heart and it presumably was degenerating, when suddenly he had a stroke and the doctor said, “Look here, this has to be done.”

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Oh, he had a stroke?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Or an attack of some kind.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes. He would have still been under thirty I suppose, at this time?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: About that time, yes.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Jan was a rather unrestrained individual, wasn’t he? I mean, he drank quite a bit and ---

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, this wall of defiance of his fate, you see. After he had his heart operation the doctors told him, “Now if you behave prudently and don’t go running up and down the stairs and drinking yourself under the table every night, as some people do, you can live to quite a ripe old age, but take it easy.” An Jan, child of Nietzsche, I suppose, said, “Thunderation, I’ll go out in a blaze of glory rather than prudently stretching my life out year after year.” And so, to make the grand gesture of living it up fast and short, he deliberately defied his condition.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I think he was one of the more important artists connected with the Gallery, don’t you? When you look back upon it?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And do you think – well, he and yourself, I think, were the two artists whose work interested me in the Gallery, and I think brought a number of collectors who may have known all sorts of museum people toward the end. If the two of you hadn’t been there—Of course, Myron Stout was later associated with the Gallery, but he wasn’t one of the initial ones was he?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I don’t think he was, no.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: But he’s a good artist, but he perhaps had only one show, or two shows, but he certainly didn’t sell.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, he’s a slow producer, and he wasn’t eager to show all the time. When he was ready he would be ready. He’s very deliberate.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, did you sometimes feel embarrassed by the quality of the shows the Hansa put on, or did you feel this - -?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Once in awhile – once in awhile.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: None of – In those first few years none of you were hauled away by eager uptown dealers?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, good Heavens, no!

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I think Richard Bellamy gave the impression that he had heard that John Gruen sometimes sat in the gallery in the beginning. Of course he wasn’t a painter.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. Well, he wasn’t a painter, but he was there by the side of Jane Wilson, so to speak, and he was a very important initial mover and contributed a great deal; he helped a lot and so on, but eventually he backed out of the gallery.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Eventually? Quite a few years later, I think, he had that spell of being one of Martha Jackson’s sales personnel.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, did he? I don’t remember that.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes, he was – that was only about a year ago. In fact, he was back in the gallery last year at the time of the newspaper strike in New York and he said to me, “Well, I’m not really here anymore, but I was going to have this job at the Herald Tribune and the newspaper strike and Martha wanted to go away, and so she called me back temporarily.”

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, I didn’t know anything about that.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes. I guess this was the winter before last he was there. Anyway, to go back to – what do you remember in some of the shows – any outstanding interesting shows that were put on in those first years?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, some of the work was pretty good. Naturally, I think that one show that was all white with the sculptures hanging in the air was a very beautiful and eerie installation. I remember that.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What show was this – all white – a group show?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, this was when I showed the white plastic insects.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Oh, yes – your own show, yes.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I described that on another tape, I think, as something to stick in the memory. That, aside from its being mine, it was – it was---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, I was wondering if some of the other shows that weren’t yours stick in your memory?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, I remember Jan Mueller’s shows very well.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What was his first – well, we’ve already spoken of his first show. When did he start doing his work reminiscent of German mythology, or at least the figurative – Shakespeare, Faust and what all? It was after his operation, I presume.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. Well, I suppose he was obsessed with the closeness of his death and his deliberate flaunting it and after his operation he went much more figurative than he had been and he began to have these Black Forest overtones in the work. It became very morbid, I think, but very powerful, too. So, that would have been in the last years at the Gallery.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, his very last two or three shows that I saw – just the way I saw most of your – all of your shows at the Hansa after it moved uptown- but when did it move? How many seasons did it have on the original premises?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: About two full years.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Two full years there and then what led to a change in location?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, ambition. Some of the people in the Gallery thought we’d established a firm existence in the world and it might be better business to be uptown. It would be tonier to have an uptown address and a better Gallery premise. And we were divided about it. I was one of the reactionaries who thought that the material aspect of things didn’t need to be improved much – that we should work for better exhibitions where we were, but the majority decided to move, and so we did.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, how could you work for better exhibitions except each one of you individually become an improved artist?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, I thought that was the important thing.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: The important thing, yes, but you couldn’t have made the other artists do better art than they were doing, I suppose.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, it was going to be a strain on our pocketbooks, too, because the rent---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes, you were overruled, though. A series of meetings discussed this, is that it?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And then what happened? Was a committee appointed to find new premises?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, everybody said they would spend as much time looking as possible and we all did. We scoured the town.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Even you looked despite your opposition to this change.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, yes. Once seen – once the decision was made we all ---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Did people pretty regularly pay their dues or did you have any great trouble?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: For the most part. Once in a while somebody would get far behind, but eventually they would catch up. They were as good as you could expect – perhaps better.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And you always managed to pay the rent down there, anyway. And later on?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: We always did pay the rent.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Always paid the rent. Well, who found this uptown premise at Central Park West – that was the next premise?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: That’s right – Central Park West.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You just had two premises then – the original one downtown and ---

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: That’s right. And then 210 Central Park South (sic). I believe Miles Forst found it – or Wolf Kahn.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Of course, I never felt that was a particularly happy location in one sense, even though the old Stable Gallery was around the corner, it was so isolated from the 57th Street group and the uptown expansion of galleries, it made it less easy for roving-around collectors and gallery goers to drop in.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: It’s true, and we had long discussions about that aspect of the choice but it was so hard and time was passing. The rents were so high in the proper art district that we decided to brave the disadvantages.

[End of Side #1]
[Beginning of side #2]

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: This is Richard Brown Baker continuing the discussion of the Hansa Gallery with Richard Stankiewicz. Well, do you recall when you moved in – you moved in the summer, sort of preparatory to ---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, in the middle of the summer and as is usually the case, we had to do a lot of cleaning up and carpentry work and wiring the place for lights.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And you painted yourselves, and so forth?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Now at this state, was Anita Coleman still functioning as the Gallery attendant, or had some other ---? I had the impression that a number of girls at various times worked in this gallery.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, I think there was somebody else for a very short time. I don’t even remember who it was. Then we had Annetta Duveen who was---



RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Any relation to Sir Joseph Duveen?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: She was married to his son, I believe.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Really? Well, how did she, with that background, come to be associated with a – I sound very snooty! – relatively impoverished art-vending outfit? Or was she the wife of that Duveen who later – the man with the beard who was in Duveen-Graham for awhile?



RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No. This was some fellow who spends most of his time in England. I’ve never seen him. Oh, I think she met him in the theatre – she was on the stage.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: She was American?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Annetta Duveen? A young woman or ---?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And she did this on sort of a voluntary basis?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. On commissions and maybe there was a small stipend, I don’t know, but occasionally we did sell something and about the time we moved and although it wasn’t very much, it wasn’t very regular or dependable, there were sales and there was something to hope for, so she worked for commissions.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, now, I know this chap whom I met quite a few years ago named Horace Richter was a purchaser of a number of things, eventually from – particularly by Jan Mueller. I think you mentioned he brought some of your things.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, he had about twenty.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What – he was one of the first, what you might call “patrons” then, of the Gallery?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: How far back did his familiarity go with it?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, quite far back. He would have – I think he used to come in in the downtown location, so that would have been 1953.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: He started buying down there?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. Well, he was very strong on going into the studio and very persuasive about getting things for low prices outside the Gallery, so in that way he was able to purchase many specimens.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: He is a business man and he was a rather sharp bargainer, then, but on the other hand I wasn’t – Well, anyway, that saved the 25% commission to the Gallery. I mean, the artists who sold outside the ---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, we were bound by honor to pay commissions on things we sold from the studio because it was thought that whatever reputation or prominence that anybody got would inevitably come from showing at the Gallery and you owed it to the Gallery as a fair thing to throw back some of the proceeds.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: It would only be fair, but on the other hand, you spoke as if he got these things much cheaper by going to the artist’s studio, and I don’t see how it would have been necessary.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Strictly bargaining.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: But each artist set his own price in the shows, didn’t he?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, we spoke once before, without going into it in much detail, about Jean Follett setting extremely high prices on her work.


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Did she have a one-man show each year, too, I suppose, didn’t she?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, she had several. I don’t know if it was each year.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes, and she put these really quite high prices, considering she was relatively unknown.


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Consequently she had no sales?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Did Horace Richter buy some of her work or ---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, a couple of small ones.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: But at a more modest price, I suppose. He wangled her into reality, did he?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, somewhere between the complete fantasy and the reality, yes.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What other person was comparable as a regular purchaser or supporter of the artists in this Gallery?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I can’t think of any who were that regular.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I haven’t heard about his collection in recent years – whether he still collects, I don’t know, but he largely collected Hansa Gallery artists, didn’t he?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, he did. He bought Follett; he bought me; he bought from Jan Mueller; Miles Forst; Wolf Kahn; Paul Georges, who was with us for a short time, and perhaps a few others, so he was really quite active and interested in the group.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I have the impression from recollecting, that Felix Pasilis pulled out of this Gallery, or was ejected from the Gallery, or as a matter of fact, I think I heard that you and he had something of a quarrel. I heard this years ago. Is it true?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh – oh, yes, well, that was a funny thing. We had a group show and in a case like that we sometimes appoint someone to do the hanging and in this instance it was my job, and it was a firm principle that the person who was responsible fro the hanging was not to be interfered with. Yes, we were having guests in this show, people who were not Gallery members, and so I spent the whole night hanging the show and I think I was impartial placing things where they had the best effect in the total room, and the next day when we all came for the opening, I found that the show had been rearranged, and so I put everything back the way I thought it should be. At the next meeting the subject was brought up and the question raised, who rearranged the show, and nobody wanted to admit it, and finally, it turns out that Felix and his friend had rearranged it to put his friend’s picture in the most prominent wall.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Oh, this was a guest artist that Felix had been instrumental in getting into the show? Do you remember what artist it was?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I think his name was Stone – Robert Stone – not connected with the Gallery. So eventually said, “Yes, I rearranged the show. Do you want to make something of it?” And I was sitting behind the desk –

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Presiding over the meeting?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, and I really didn’t want to catch onto the fact that he was being threatening and I said, “Of course I want to make something of it. That what we’re talking about.” So he jumped up and popped me in the nose while I still had my feet tangled in the drawers of the desk, and so he was pulled off immediately by everybody and I never got a chance to return the compliment and I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me for punching me in the nose.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And he resigned afterwards?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I don’t know what year this was – was this before the uptown?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, this was downtown.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, Felix Pasilis has had so many galleries since then, but during the time I knew the Hansa Gallery in its uptown location I don’t believe he was associated with it.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No. I don’t remember precisely when – well, it agreed between us you see, that our own gallery was a first step and that if any glamorous possibility should open, it would be held against anybody to leave for greener fields.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, now, Wolf Kahn was another one who left at some point, I don’t know when.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, rather later.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Did he go directly to the Grace Borgenicht Gallery or did he have an intermediary?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I really don’t remember.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: But it was really already after you got uptown that he left?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I believe it was.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I don’t remember a Wolf Kahn show that I ever saw at Hansa, either, but he did have several shows with you, then?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, oh, sure, he was with us for quite a time.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, on the whole, though, you didn’t have too many withdrawals from the early group?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, considering the possibilities, we held up pretty cohesively.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Wasn’t something said in connection with the meeting with your wife, Pat, about the wife of this mutual friend of yours having been an early member of the Gallery? You didn’t include her, I don’t think.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, she came in---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: She wasn’t a founding member?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What was her name?





RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, that’s right. She was introduced by Wolf Kahn; he brought some examples of her work. She was apt to filch paste-board boxes out of the trash cans and paint them, or on them, and they were very dark, gloomy psychotic pictures – faces emerging from shadows – so spooky that some of us thought it was worth looking at and so we accepted her as a member and she had a show, and very shortly after that there was a ruckus between her and Paul Georges, who had just joined the Gallery, too; they had a fight about something or other and it was very noisy and very loud, and as a consequence both Hedy Fuchs and Paul Georges quit, so both of them were very briefly members.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I believe you told me that she is now in a mental institution in Switzerland – Hedy Fuchs?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Germany – well, in Europe.


RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Switzerland? Well, o.k.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: In other words, this character of her art came out of a disturbed mentality, I take it.


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: But her association was very brief, then?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: That’s right. But it was at the time I became acquainted with her husband Werner, and we’ve remained good friends.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, what reminded me – I was about to ask if many artists had withdrawn for purposes of self-advancement in those early years. There really was none that sort of jumped out into grand opportunities like showing in the Janis Gallery, or anything like that?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, but belonging to a commercial gallery was certainly cheaper and easier, and I’m sure that was the reason Felix and Wolf left.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: And they had an initial success, I would say – perhaps mor than is currently applicable to them. But they got good reviews in their early exhibiting days, didn’t they?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: That’s right, yes.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, what --? Tell me a little more about Annette – is it Duveen or what?




RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Annetta Duveen. What contribution did she make toward the situation – I mean, any particular---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, she was a very good person to have in the office. She was aggressive socially and knew people and had the ability to call up people and drag them into the Gallery.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: To see the shows?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: To see the shows. And she was quite a good sales person and very effective, in the business way and ---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Sales did go up?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, how did an artist get into this gallery? Suppose this Robert Stone had wanted to be a member – the man Felix Pasilis got in the group show – a committee of you would go to his studio and see---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Sometimes we would do that and then make a recommendation to the membership at large, or sometimes, if it were physically convenient, we would have a large enough number of the applicant’s – the candidate’s – works in the gallery and we would have a meeting and look at the work and discuss it and come to a decision about it. Actually, it turned out to be a very cumbersome thing because as the years went by it got harder and harder for anyone to be accepted because nobody seemed quite good enough, in spite of the fact, you know, that we were dedicated to finding the unknown, hidden talent who had no chance otherwise. There didn’t seem to be any ravishing talents around.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: How was Jan Mueller’s activity in this respect? Was he very critical of other people? An opponent of low standards, or ---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, if you had asked him, did he oppose low standards---?

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Oh, no, of course he would so.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: He was extremely erratic and unpredictable.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: That was what I had a feeling. I’ve thought his own work was very uneven, and a lot of things he did were quite inferior.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, he’s one of these people who gets very enthusiastic about ideas and his fanatical interest would be very brief, but extremely strong – and irrationally strong. He would swallow an idea completely and hold it for two weeks and then overnight he would pick up some other theory or idea that was opposed and embrace that just as equally, so you never knew at a meeting. You might have some very good paintings in front of him and he’s apt to object to them on the ground that they refer to some philosophical system that at the moment he doesn’t approve of, so he just puts them down, though they’re quite good.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: In other words, for instance, whereas his own work tended to be figurative and have literary and historical allusions, he might have conceived himself as an opponent of pure abstraction, I suppose, or of non-objective art, and would have probably voted against the inclusion of certain artists who might really have been very good, if they were a markedly different artistic tendency than his own?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, not on artistic or aesthetic grounds – on some obscure philosophical grounds. He might derive from a picture that the artist was apposed to existentialism and therefore wasn’t a very good candidate.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: You mean he would read into the actual work of art these messages about the attitudes of the artist without even knowing directly the person himself?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, he’s apt to do that.


RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes. And sometimes in a different mood and with different ideas in his head some mediocre work would come up and he would champion this work because of some gay spirit in it, in spite of its lack of quality, and so on. You see, he was apt to go all the way – for or against – and not always ---

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: He sounds like a very poor person to have been, say, a museum director.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, well – I don’t think he would have been disappointed to her that.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: No, I’m sure he wouldn’t want – I think he probably had considerable scorn for art officials – the official mentality of the art word.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: It would seem characteristic, though I don’t remember him saying it directly. It’s possible.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, did any of the other members have similar peculiarities in their point of view toward new work?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, except they were very hard to satisfy. It got to be our joke that none of the present members could ever get into the gallery – he should not be a member and should apply,

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: That happens in institutions, I think. You all sound as if you were guilty of complacency about your own quality?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Maybe – I don’t know.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Reluctant to agree to that. Well, how long was Annetta Duveen ---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, I think about a season or two, I don’t remember.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Was she replaced by Richard Bellamy or ---?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, we didn’t know who we would get and then Richard Bellamy and Ivan Karp showed up and they thought that between the two of them they could manage full time coverage of the gallery, and an arrangement was made for a stipend and commission, and so they took on the job.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I best remember first meeting Richard Bellamy long before I met you when he was selling me – or I was buying, shall we say, your small1955 piece titled, I think Encounter, which was not really included in the exhibit that year because it was a little more abstract than some of the rest of the pieces – also small. It was in the back room – and anyway, I saw it and I liked it and discussed it and we had a very interesting conversation about it – I mean, he talked about it with real love and enthusiasm, certainly. I wouldn’t have said he was a very professional sales person at the time, but at least he had conviction and believed in your work and he believed in Jan Mueller’s and quite a few others, I think. And I met you afterwards, I think, there in the Gallery, and I met Jan Mueller there, too. You all used to drop in quite frequently, didn’t you?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: It was kind of like a club, in a sense, wasn’t it.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, and of course we were all proprietors in shares and it was our own interest, and certainly interesting to drop in and see how things were going and get the latest news.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, I think you perhaps did more than artists normall do when they’ve got a regular commercial dealer.


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Of course, you all drop in to see your dealers on business or socially, but there, perhaps, it was partly the personality of the operating staff, or something, that made it sort of ---

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: No, I think it’s because we were intimately involved in the workings of the Gallery and we were all partners in the business, and we couldn’t detach ourselves from the Gallery; it wouldn’t have been practical to do so. Now I don’t’ go into the Stable Gallery very often at all – I scarcely see the interior of the place and that’s because it’s possible to leave everything in the professional hands and stay away.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Do you think you – well, this is not about the Hansa Gallery, but I was just wondering whether you might have sold better sooner had you been in a commercial gallery – whether this set-up was a really practical kind for an artist?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, I’ve never speculated on what might have been. It might have been better – it might have been worse.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: What would you say was the outstanding good quality – the service of the Hansa Gallery during its existence?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, the outstanding good quality that it has was that it showed our work.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes. And what would you think of as its defects?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, it took a great deal of our time and effort to run the place. It was very expensive. However, even that was educational because all of us who took an interest in directing and running the Gallery came to have a realistic idea of the expense of the gallery and to see things a little bit from a gallery director’s viewpoint, and I think it would be very useful for a lot of artists to have a look at the other side – the ones who automatically hate dealers.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: In other words, it helped your personal education as an artist? On the other hand, some of the other – quite a few of those people who were associated with the Hansa seem, at least from the point of view of 1963, to have dropped out, pretty much. I mean, Jacques Beckwith, Hedy Fuchs – I don’t know – even Felix Pasilis is not too much – well, he’s still showing busily, but some of these people – Miles Forst hasn’t shown for quite a few years; Barbara Forst stopped work; Jean Follett is not productive in recent years. You see, when I was talking with Richard Bellamy I think the Gallery operated about a season after you had ceased to be with it, but once Jan Mueller was dead and once you had resigned – Myron Stout is a good artist, but he’s so unproductive, and it became rather evident to me that the Gallery almost had to stop in the end because there was nothing. You’ve been going into this business not about recruiting new people – and there really was nothing – there wasn’t a whole season’s work left with it, you know – it sort of died off organically, as an institution.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, and I’m glad it did, because maybe there was some of this complacency you were talking about. Certainly some of the original enthusiastic spirit had evaporated. People were thinking a little more of themselves and a little less of the Gallery.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Once they began to taste money, perhaps? Through sales?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, perhaps it was merely the passage of time and taking the Gallery for granted and even thinking it was a burden occasionally, and the feeling of exploration and adventure had got tired. And whereas we were completely unknown and thought we were bringing something new into the world when we started the Gallery, you couldn’t feel that way after about seven years so, rather than totter along in the moribund state it was better that it ended.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Yes, I think it probably was, but I was really myself quite fond of this Gallery at the time and one reason I conducted these talks about it is that I think it did have associated with it a number of quite interesting artists and achieved more than many of the Galleries that have come into being in the last ten years in New York and are still functioning or have gone out of business.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, I think that’s very true and in its small way, very important and still, I think its time of achievement was passing, and it was better to have quit.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: There’s no telling what would have happened if Jan Mueller had been in good health and had been a productive painter five more years. He was beginning to sell – to arouse quite a bit of interest in the museum world, in a sense, the last year of his life, and he might, if he’d been still painting by 1958 or ’59 when there was much more buying , he might have been tempted to move on to another gallery and to better.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, yes – that’s one of the reasons I never really got very close to him because it’s a little unbalancing to me to have somebody be so opposed to himself from one week to the next. You never know how to approach him because he’ll be thinking and feeling diametrically oppositely from the way he was a week ago.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: That’s interesting because as far as his painting is concerned I think a discernable personality of some consistency appears; there are second rate artists who seem to be reflecting other people throughout their work, and you don’t see them in their work at all. We all know that, but his work is quite distinctively Jan Mueller, isn’t it?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, and his work is really pretty consistent too. It may be the only consistent thing in his life – maybe that was the only stability he had: his work.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, he wasn’t the sort of person who was disloyal to friends and that sort of thing, was he?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Oh, no – he wasn’t. Perhaps I overstate the matter when I keep talking about him as irrational and unpredictable. It was a characteristic, but he wasn’t totally disorganized. I shouldn’t give that impression.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, I, of course, met him only a relatively few times and I think I held him in some awe possibly because of this. I was less acquainted with bi artists then I am now – not that I know too many – but view he probably did awe me by this emotional intensity of certain points of view that he would rattle on about.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, yes – he tended to be a little frightening because he was so absolutely positive of the rightness of what he was thinking.


RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: A thoroughly convinced man.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: He had a period of opposition to his former teacher, Hans Hofmann, didn’t he?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: I don’t know – maybe.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Well, I had heard they had had various disputes at various times – mean they disagreed. But on the other hand, I remember being in the Hansa Gallery shortly after I bought Jan’s painting Hamlet and Horatio and he came in and I was talking with him and Dick Bellamy and he praised the – this would have been about 1957 or ’58 show of Hans Hofmann – he was very enthusiastic over it and intimated that he hadn’t been for some while enthusiastic over Hofmann’s work, but was very impressed with this because it was abstract as compared to his own figurative work – it wasn’t in his vein.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, I wasn’t aware of the particular incident, but it seems to me entirely characteristic – he – however convinced and positive he always was, it was in his character also to be very changeable.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Changeable, yes.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: He might be absolutely convinced, but that did not mean that he could not be disconvinced the next week. Well, he wasn’t fixed – permanently.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: I imagine Miles Forst is slightly changeable or whimsical character, too?


RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Was he a disruptive force in some of the meetings though himself?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Once and a while he showed a tendency like that, but not in general, no. He was actually very helpful and considerate.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: Nice chap, yes, but I was just thinking of his being a little temperamental.

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Well, I think he felt it necessary – he felt that he himself was, as you say, whimsical, and a rather disorganized person, but he also recognized that in objective, functional dealings he had to pull himself together, and do things right and he nearly always did. He’s a good person to work with.

RICHARD BROWN BAKER: The Gallery throughout your association with it, did manage to meet its expenses?

RICHARD STANKIEWICZ: Yes, it wouldn’t have on if it hadn’t…


Last updated... May 19, 2005

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Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Richard Stankiewicz, 1963. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.