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Karl E. Fortess interviews with artists, circa 1963-1985

Fortess, Karl E. (Karl Eugene), 1907-1993

Painter, Printmaker


Collection Information

Size: 268 interviews.

5.6 linear feet

Summary: 205 cassettes containing 268 interviews, averaging 35 minutes, of painters, sculptors, and printmakers. Fortess conducted seventy-nine of the interviews as a pilot for and as part of a grant from Office of Education, U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare at Boston University's School of Applied Arts. Included in the collection is the final report for the grant, June 1968, summarizing the objective was "to develop a library of taped interviews with contemporary American painters, sculptors, and graphic artists, such interviews to be concerned with questions of technical, professional and personal interest" and the evaluation process and outcomes of the value of the interviews as a teaching resource for faculty and students. The interviews followed guidelines to include background, training, work patterns, interests, teachers, influences, teaching experiences, attitudes toward teaching, and opinions on art trends. Fortess continued interviewing artists upon completion of the grant, including many with with artists associated woth the Woodstock, N.Y. art community.
Among the interviewees are Kenneth Armitage, Will Barnet, Romare Bearden, George Biddle, James Brooks, Adolph Dehn, Jane Freilicher, Julian Levi, Alice Neel, Larry Rivers, Moses Soyer, Dorothy Varian, and many others.

Biographical/Historical Note

Karl E. Fortess (1907-1993) was a painter, printmaker and teacher, of Boston, Massachusetts and Woodstock, N.Y. Fortess was born in Antwerp, Belgium on October 13, 1907, and became an American citizen in 1923. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League in New York, and the Woodstock School of Painting with Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Fortess taught at the Art Students League, Brooklyn Museum Art School, Louisiana State University, Fort Wright College, and Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts. He was a member of the Artists Equity Association, Society of American Graphic Artists, American Association of University Professors, and the British Film Institute. He was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946, was named an Associate of the National Academy of Design in 1960 and elected to full Academician in 1971. While on the faculty at Boston University, Fortess conceived and prepared a grant proposal to the Office of Education, U.S. Dept. Of Health, Education and Welfare, to conduct a study on the benefits to faculty and students in higher education of recorded interviews with artists as a resource, and devoted much of his later career to interviewing artists.


Donated 1978-1985 by Karl Fortess.

Related Materials

Duplicate recordings of the 79 interviews conducted under the federal grant are also found at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, and copies of all interviews (with some discrepencies on the total number) are also located at Boston University School of Visual Arts Resource Library and Bard College's Stevenson Library. Fifty-two interviews with artists associated with Woodstock are located at the New York State Library.

How to Use This Collection

Restrictions on Access

Interviews are untranscribed; use requires an appointment and is limited to AAA's Washington, D.C. and New York, N.Y Research Centers. Interviews without a duplicate copy requires advance notice.

Restrictions on Use

The donor has specified as a condition of the gift that the tapes may not be transcribed or edited.

How to Cite This Collection

Karl E. Fortess interviews with artists, circa 1963-1985. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.