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Full text of "Emerson Woelffer oral history transcript"

LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT 
Emerson Woelffer 



Interviewed by Joann Phillips 



Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 

Los Angeles 



Copyright (c) 1977 
The Regents of the University of California 



This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to the 
University Library of the University of California at 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California 
at Los Angeles. 



LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT 

This interview is one of a series, entitled "Los Angeles 
Art Community: Group Portrait, " funded by the National 
Endowment for the Humanities and conducted from July 1, 
1975 to March 31, 1977 by the UCLA Oral History Program. 
The project was directed jointly by Page Ackerman, 
University Librarian, and Gerald Nordland, Director, 
UCLA Art Galleries, and administered by Bernard Galm, 
Director, Oral History Program. After selection of 
interview candidates and interviewers, the Program 
assiamed responsibility for the conduct of all interviews 
and their processing. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

Introduction vi 

Interview History xi 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (February 26, 1976) .... 1 

Birth in Chicago — Family history — Early 
experiences of music and art — Museum visits — 
School--Vacation trips--Fathers and sons — 
Leaving home--High school — Dropping out of 
high school — Trafficking during Prohibition — 
Art school at Chicago Art Institute — Working 
at Katharine Kuh's gallery. 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (February 26, 1976) .... 26 

Chicago Art Institute school — Boris Anisfeld — 
Work Projects Administration in Chicago and 
East St. Louis — World War II: topographical 
draftsman for the Army Air Force. 

[Second Part] (March 4, 1976) 40 

Jazz in Chicago — A first marriage — More on 
World War II — Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and the 
Chicago Institute of Design — A visit by 
Fernand Leger--Man Ray. 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (March 4, 1976) 53 

More on Moholy-Nagy and the Institute of Design 
--A trip to New York — Marriage to Dina McLean-- 
The Yucatan by way of Black Mountain College 
and New York — A season in the Yucatan — Return 
to Chicago — Teaching at the Colorado Springs 
Fine Arts Center, 1950-57 — Shows — The Byrneses 
and their friends. 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (March 18, 1976) 80 

Leaving Colorado Springs--Trip to New York — 
Travel in Europe — Stay on Ischia, 1957-59 — 
Art in Europe — Meeting Duchamp and Dali — 
Painting procedures and styles — Influence 
of environment--Inf luence of Picasso and 
Miro — Six favorite artists — More on Europe. 



IV 



TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (March 18, 1976) 105 

Return to America — Problems of travel — Issues 
and personalities in the arts today--Feminism 
— Art critics. 

[Second Part] (March 23, 1976) 115 

More on marriage to Dina and the Chicago 
period — More contemporary issues — Jazz in 
Chicago — Teaching at the Chouinard Art 
Institute, 1959 — The art scene in Southern 
California: galleries, artists, and museums 
— Clement Greenberg. 

TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (March 23, 1976) 131 

Evaluating and selecting own work — More on the 
L.A. art scene of the early sixties--Tamarind 
Lithography Workshop — Chouinard Art Institute 
and its metamorphosis into Cal Arts — Summers 
in Europe--Shows — Hawaii--Turkey--The UCLA art 
gallery — Museum directors and critics--Shows 
in the East — "Laying low" — General overview. 

TAPE NUMBER: IV [video session] (April 30, 1976) . • 157 

In the home: examples from the collection of 
primitive art--Primitivism and modernism-- 
Works by other artists — A talk with his mother 
--In the studio: collage and lithography — A 
chronological survey of works — Chicago — 
Yucatan — Colorado Springs — Ischia — Los Angeles. 

Index 180 

Index of Emerson Woelffer Works 192 



[Frontis photograph of Emerson Woelffer courtesy 
of Dina Woelffer] 



INTRODUCTION 

Emerson Seville Woelffer was born July 27, 1914, in 
Chicago, Illinois, the son of George and Rita Seville 
Woelffer. His father was in the real estate and insurance 
business, and Emerson (who was named after Ralph Waldo 
Emerson) grew up in a neighborly Chicago of gaslights, 
backyard gardens, and horse-drawn fire engines. He was 
always interested in drawing and music; as a well-attended 
only child, he was taken often to the Field Museum and the 
theater, and he was given piano lessons by his mother, her 
sisters, and other doting relatives. 

After a faltering high school career, he entered the 
Chicago Art Institute in 1935 and knew immediately that he 
would become a painter. His early teachers were important 
to him, as was his exposure to the painting masterpieces 
of the Chicago Art Institute. But it was a part-time job 
with Katharine Kuh, hanging art shows at her gallery of 
modern art, that shaped his attitudes toward art making. 
In the gallery, he worked with shows of Picasso, Klee, and 
Miro; under Kuh's guidance, he discovered the Dada and 
surrealist artists, who influenced him more than the 
conservative instruction of the Art Institute. 

Woelffer 's next major influence was Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 
who had settled in Chicago and set up the Chicago Institute 



VI 



of Design in the pattern of the Bauhaus school. Moholy 
discovered Woelffer while he was participating in the 
WPA Federal Art Project and invited him to become an 
instructor at the institute, initiating a period of great 
ferment and stimulation for the young artist. His 
affiliation, from 1941 to 1949, put him in contact with 
some of the most creative and innovative minds then in 
the Chicago area, including Aaron Siskind, Serge Chermayeff, 
Hugo Weber, Mies van der Rohe, and Moholy himself. 

The ideas of the Bauhaus, as unfolded by Moholy, 
exercised a lasting influence upon Woelffer: the pervasive 
sense of design and taste inherent in all of his work and 
lifestyle can be attributed to this period of growth. 

Woelffer married photographer Dina Anderson McLean in 
1945, and their studio-home became a center for artists and 
musicians. Pee Wee Russell, Momma and Jimmy Yancey, and 
Bunk Johnson were all regular visitors and performers. In 
the summer of 1949, Buckminster Fuller invited the Woelffers 
to teach at Black Mountain College, and there they came in 
contact with Herbert Bayer and poet Charles Olson. That 
fall, they traveled to Campeche, Yucatan, where they lived 
isolated from America and modern life for six months. This 
period was a prolific one for Woelffer, who seemed to 
settle down to a mature and individual style. 

Upon his return from Yucatan, Woelffer secured a 



Vll 



teaching position at the Colorado Fine Arts Center. There 
he became close to the center's director, Mitchell Wilder, 
and its subsequent director, James Byrnes, and his wife 
Barbara. At Colorado, his essentially abstract, postcubist 
paintings incorporated references to birds and jets and to 
the feeling of the vast Colorado land- and skyscapes. 

In the summer of 1956, Robert Motherwell came to teach 
at Colorado Springs, and Woelffer formed with him a close 
and enduring friendship; Woelffer remains a devoted admirer 
of Motherwell's painting and writing. 

Woelffer began to receive national recognition during 
this period, and he was invited to participate in several 
important annual shows and to show in New York and Los 
Angeles galleries. Through the Byrneses, he met Paul 
Kantor, then a dealer of avant-garde art, and Kantor gave 
him several shows in Los Angeles. 

From 1957 to 1959, the Woelffers lived a simple, 
isolated existence in Ischia, Italy, where his work was 
visibly affected by the aged, graffiti-scribbled walls 
and by the black-garbed, somber — almost mystical — peasantry. 
(Environment has always affected the look of Woelffer 's art: 
his colors became bright and vivid when he moved to luxuriantly 
green and sunny Southern California in the late 1950s.) 

His old friend Mitch Wilder brought Woelffer to Los 
Angeles in 1959, following his return from Ischia, to 



Vlll 



teach at the Chouinard Art Institute. The list of his 
Chouinard students was impressive, including Larry Bell, 
Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode, Chuck Arnoldi, and Ron Cooper. He 
later taught at the California Institute of the Arts and 
the Otis Art Institute. 

Woelffer has shown at a variety of galleries in New 
York and Los Angeles. Locally, he has been represented 
by the Stuart-Primus Gallery, the David Stuart Gallery, 
and the Jodi Scully Gallery. His New York dealers have 
been the Poindexter Gallery and the Egan Gallery. 

Important moments in Woelffer 's career have included 
a 1962 retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum, a State 
Department grant to visit Turkey in 1965, a Guggenheim 
Fellowship in 1967, and 1974 retrospectives at the Newport 
Harbor Art Museum and the Phillips Collection, Washington, 
D.C. He was artist in residence at the Honolulu Academy 
of the Arts in 197 0. 

Woelffer 's painting reflects the style of abstract 
expressionism and the strong influences of surrealism, 
automatism, and jazz improvisation. He has always 
collected primitive and Southwest Indian art, having 
traveled widely in the Southwest; and the emotional 
primal quality of these treasured objects permeates 
his art. He applies paint directly and confidently; 
the importance of the brushstroke, the act of painting. 



IX 



is paramount to him. On occasion, he has applied paint 
directly with his fingers and hands, in the method of 
the prehistoric cave painters. 

Much loved by his friends and family, he is philosophical 
in his attitudes as a painter, and willing to take life as 
he finds it, as long as it offers a modicum of style, wit, 
good company, and good art. 

Joann Phillips 

Los Angeles, California 
Summer, 1977 



INTERVIEW HISTORY 



INTERVIEV7ER: Joann Phillips, Editor-Interviewer, 
UCLA Oral History Program (for "Los Angeles Art 
Community: Group Portrait"). BA, University 
of California, Santa Barbara. 

TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW: 

Place : Emerson Woelffer's home and studio, 475 
Dustin Drive, Los Angeles. 

Dates ; February 26, March 4, 18, 23, April 30 
[video session], 1976. 

Time of day , length of sessions , and total number 
of recording hours : The interviews took place in 
the late morning and averaged an hour and a half 
in length. Approximately six hours were recorded. 

Persons present during interview : Woelffer and 
Phillips. Rita and Dina Woelffer, the artist's 
mother and wife respectively, were present during 
the video taping, in addition to crew members 
Nancy Olexo and Francine Breslin. 

CONDUCT OF THE INTERVIEW: 

The purpose of the interview was to obtain infor- 
mation about the artist's career, his early back- 
ground, and his attitude toward art making. Special 
emphasis was placed on his years in Los Angeles. He 
was encouraged to express his views on the creative 
process. Two show catalogs were of enormous 
assistance during the conduct of the interview: 
Emerson Woelffer, Work from 1946 to 1962 , Pasadena 
Art Museum, introductory essay by Gerald Nordland; 
and Emerson Woelffer , Newport Harbor Art Museum, 
introductory essay by Paul Wescher. 

EDITING 

Editing was done by the interviewer, who checked 
the verbatim transcript against the original tape 
recordings and edited for punctuation, spelling, 
paragraphing, and verification of proper and place 
names . 



XI 



The manuscript was reviewed and approved by Mr. 
Woelffer. He made no deletions or additions, 
but he supplied names not previously verified. 

The index was prepared by Lawrence Weschler, 
Assistant Editor, Oral History Program. The 
introduction was written by the interviewer. 
Other front matter was prepared by Program 
staff. 

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS: 

The original tape recordings, video tape, and 
edited transcript of the interview are in the 
University Archives and are available under the 
regulations governing use of permanent noncurrent 
records of the University. 

Records relating to this interview are located in 
the office of the UCLA Oral History Program. 



XI 1 



\ 



TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE 
FEBRUARY 26, 197 6 

PHILLIPS: You were born in Chicago in 1914. Would you 
like to tell me a little bit about your childhood and what 
you remember? Why don't we start with what your parents 
were like and what you remember. 

WOELFFER: I remember the fire station around the corner 
and the police station around the corner vaguely. At that 
particular time on our street we had gaslights , and a man 
would come around every evening and light up the gas- 
lights. And the fire department and the police department 
equipment were drawn by horses instead of cars. We had a 
house — my mother and father and myself; and we had several 
Dalmatian dogs, and in the backyard next to a playpen we 
had chickens, as most people did in those days. And one 
thing that stands out in my mind is that every Sunday we 
had chicken on the table. They'd be sort of pets to me, 
but every Sunday there'd be one missing. My father'd do 
away with one. It was quite a terrifying experience at a 
young age to sit down to dinner eating one of my pets I 
used to play with through the cage. 

PHILLIPS: In the neighborhood in Chicago, did you live 
in an apartment? 
WOELFFER: No, it was a house. That part of Chicago, at 



X 



that time, was on the outskirts of a pickle farm, Budlong 

Pickle Farm, as I recall. There were a lot of trees and 

woods, and I recall my father used to play tennis with 

another neighbor of ours by the name of Kraft, who used 

to have a cheese business. He had a wagon. He'd go around 

the neighborhood selling cheese. It was the beginning of 

the Kraft Cheese Company. My father played tennis every 

Saturday with Mr. Kraft. 

PHILLIPS: Your father's name was German. 

WOELFFER: George Woelffer. 

PHILLIPS: George Woelffer. Tell me your full name, and 

what your mother might have had in mind. 

WOELFFER: My full name was Emerson Seville Woelffer. 

Seville came from her father, who was Algernon Sidney 

Seville, who was in the music business, QRS Piano Rolls, in 

Memphis, Tennessee, and he worked many of the player-piano 

rolls, transcribing them from the piano onto the player 

rolls with W. C. Handy. I recall my grandfather coming up 

maybe once a year and always bringing me some fabulous 

kind of gift in the way of a musical instrument, which I 

had no desire for. And I remember one time he brought a 

huge, huge box, a huge paintbox with all sorts of colors 

and brushes in it. 

PHILLIPS: What was the other family name that your mother's 

so proud of? 



WOELFFER: De la Fontaine. That was her mother's maiden 

name, and her two aunts, from Saint Croix, Switzerland. 

That's the French side of the family, and my father's side 

was the German side of the family. His father was in the 

meat-processing business with a man by the name of Oscar 

Mayer. They worked side by side making sausages. And then 

Oscar Mayer took off on his own one day and started his 

own business, which is Oscar Mayer [& Co.] now. 

PHILLIPS: And de la Fontaine was related to the famous 

French fabulist [Jean de la Fontaine] . 

WOELFFER: Right. My mother's grandfather was de la 

Fontaine, and his wife was Paillard, and the family still 

lives in Saint Croix, Swi tzerland--Paillards . The whole 

town is Paillard. Paillards make the Bolex movie camera 

and the Hermes typewriter. They first started out making 

music boxes. 

PHILLIPS: You had a lot of relatives who did well at 

making certain products and some of them who came close to 

making fortunes. 

WOELFFER: Always just close. 

PHILLIPS: Always just close. Do you remember how old you 

were when your grandfather brought you the paint box from 

Memphis? 

WOELFFER: I guess I was about eight or nine. He also 

brought a xylophone, and I didn't take to it. He bought a 



violin and a saxophone. He played practically every 
instrument. In fact, he organized a businessman's string 
orchestra in Memphis, and he made every instrument in the 
orchestra. 

That was my first contact, in a sense, with painting, 
except in grade school, where everybody pushes paint and 
chalk around on paper. He used to take me to the Field 
Museum in Chicago; this was my first contact with primitive 
art. 

PHILLIPS: What is at the Field Museum? 

WOELFFER: It is now called the Museum of Natural History. 
Marshall Field changed the name to the Museum of Natural 
History because he wanted it to be a public museum; he 
didn't want it named after himself. And it's housed in 
Grant Park in one of the only remaining buildings from the 
Columbian World's Fair in 1893 or something like that. It 
houses not only works and costumes of people from New 
Guinea and Africa but China and Japan and Indonesia--all 
over the world, including artifacts of the people of this 
continent. 

PHILLIPS: What do you remember from those childhood visits 
to that museum? 

WOELFFER: The first thing, the two elephants you see as 
you walk into this huge entranceway at the Field Museum. I 
was there just a few months ago. I was flabbergasted; 



they'd been in the same position for all these years, and 
somebody decided to turn them around. So instead of see- 
ing them from the front when you come in, you see them 
from the back. It sort of flipped me because I was used 
to seeing them the other way. 

PHILLIPS: I know you have a great interest these days, 
and have for the last many years, in primitive art and that 
you collect as much as you can. I wonder how you see that 
related to your own art making. 

WOELFFER: Well, I think very definitely that what I like 
in it is the magic of it. As we know, the cubist painters 
collected solely African art because in African art, the 
imagery comes out of animals around them, whereas the sur- 
realist artists collected mainly the work of Oceanic 
culture. These things were much more magical. And so I 
collect both; I like both the abstract idea of the African 
carvings and also the magic and the mystery of these works 
of New Ireland and New Guinea. 

PHILLIPS: Have you always been interested in primitive 
art? Can you think of the time when it started, that you 
really began to identify things? 

WOELFFER: Even before I started going to the [Chicago] Art 
Institute, I was very much interested in that. In fact, in 
grade school, they used to take us once a month or so to 
the Field Museum to look at the stuffed animals, and I 



\ 



found myself always wandering off into the other halls, 
where they had the weapons and the images and the idols of 
Africa and New Guinea. I was always intrigued by those 
things. 

PHILLIPS: Those museum experiences were very meaningful to 
you when you were young? 

WOELFFER: They also took us to the Art Institute of Chicago 
to look at the paintings of George Innes and Francois 
Millet, and I again would always wander off to look at the 
pictures I didn't understand but I was very much attracted 
to, the abstract paintings of the French school and so on. 
PHILLIPS: Did your family take you there first or the 
school? 

WOELFFER: No, the school took us there. And we'd go on 
Saturdays, and we would sketch a plaster cast in the museum 
halls, and that was ray first contact with that. And then 
my mother's aunt, who was a cashier for many years at the 
Auditorium Hotel, where the famous Auditorium Theatre is, 
came in contact with many actors, opera people, and came 
in contact with one man especially by the name of Carl 
Bohnen, who had a studio in the Fine Arts Building of 
Chicago; and she arranged for me to go up and see him. I 
was then maybe twelve or thirteen years of age, maybe a 
little more. And he had a studio in Chicago, New York, 
London, and Paris. He was a very dignified man, wore a 



\ 



cane, felt hat, and was one of the world's leading portrait 
painters at the time. And I was very much intrigued by 
my visit to him in his studio in the Fine Arts Building-- 
beautifully, highly polished wood floors and Oriental rugs 
in his studio and no paint on the floor. [laughter] Mar- 
velous paintings. Looking back at his work now, I think 
he was a very good portrait painter. But I told him how 
I'd love to paint like he, and he said, "No, you go to the 
Arts Club, or when you go to the Art Institute, look at 
the work of the impressionist painters. Those are the good 
painters. Don't look at my work." Very marvelous man. 
And I did what he said and became quite intrigued with 
modern painting. 

PHILLIPS: Why don't you tell me how your mother and father 
reacted individually to your interest in art? 
WOELFFER: Well, my mother — everything I did was fine. My 
father was quite cool about the whole thing. At that 
particular time he didn't think he had to worry about my 
making a career out of art. I think if he had thought so, 
he would have tried to curtail it early because he was just 
a businessman and thought of one thing only — money. And 
so he felt it was a passing kind of thing with me. And 
when people raved about my little paintings and drawings, 
he thought that was fine. But he was rather cool on it. 
He had ideas of a baseball player or a football player or 



\ 



something in the sports world. When you retired you could 
make quite a bit of money selling insurance or whatever, 
due to your background as an athlete. 

PHILLIPS: You said he was a businessman. What did he do? 
WOELFFER: He was in the insurance and real estate business, 
But he liked sports. He played golf; he played tennis 
quite a bit. 

PHILLIPS: Were you ever able to talk to him about your 
desire to become an artist, or did you just avoid that? 
WOELFFER: We didn't talk about it too much, but when we 
did, it was in relation to the covers on McCall ' s , Saturday 
Evening Post , or the Liberty magazine--in terms of becoming 
an illustrator. I wasn't thinking particularly in one 
direction at all. I thought it would be nice to be on the 
cover of Saturday Evening Post — all the millions of people 
who were looking at your work, quite a nice, large audience. 
And in fact, when I started art school, I had somewhere 
in the back of my mind to be an illustrator, and that was 
nipped in the bud very early. I met some very exciting 
students at art school. 

PHILLIPS: When you were growing up, were there any paint- 
ings in your house? 

WOELFFER: We had a painting over the upright piano, a 
reproduction of a painting by Maxfield Parrish, one of 
which I think everybody who had a piano or a fireplace 



\ 



had. Parrish today has regained some kind of a popular- 
ity, in a pop art kind of way, through Lawrence Alloway-- 
Alloway sort of rediscovered Maxfield Parrish. 
PHILLIPS: Was anyone very religious in your household? 
Did that play any element in your growing up? 

WOELFFER: No. My mother's aunts were Christian Scientists, 
and now and then they would take me to one of the services. 
And my father was quite open in that way, and my mother 
also, saying that I should find my own. So I went to 
Presbyterian Sunday school, and I went to a Lutheran Sunday 
school. Then finally, when I was in grade school, I met 
a couple of fellows who sang in the Episcopal choir, for 
fifty cents a Sunday. And I thought that was pretty in- 
triguing, so I sang in the Episcopal choir for, I think, 
two years, but as far as any kind of heavy religious impact 
on me, there was absolutely none whatsoever. I don't fol- 
low any religion. 

PHILLIPS: Your childhood was in the city rather than in 
the country, and I think that's had an influence on your 
life, don't you? 

WOELFFER: I think so. And we moved several times. We 
left the house that we lived in, I guess, when I was eleven 
or twelve and moved to an apartment building, and then to 
another apartment building. And later, in 1927, I recall 
the flight of Lindbergh over the ocean. I was then 



\ 



bedridden — I'd picked up some kind of a bug in northern 
Wisconsin stripping bark off trees for log cabins. Wayne 
King, the orchestra leader, had several acres of land and 
was building up there, and a friend of mine worked for 
him, so I went up for a summer. 
PHILLIPS : How old were you then? 

WOELFFER: I was about fifteen, I guess. And I came down 
with some kind of rare disease. They just found out about 
four years ago what it was. It's called Stevens-Johnson 
[syndrome], which is something quite rare; and it is fatal, 
I understand, in most cases. I was shipped down from 
northern Wisconsin, and the doctors came in, and they 
didn't know what I had. I was bedridden for a year. I 
was blind for three months. I lost my fingernails. 
PHILLIPS: Were you terrified when you went blind? 
WOELFFER: No, no — not at all. 
PHILLIPS: Because you were so sick. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, I was sick. I had the radio. And just 
recently they found out what it was, and maybe it came 
from the stripping of the bark. We used to chew the bark; 
they thought maybe some animal had deposited something 
on the bark and I had ingested it. They really don't know; 
it's a very rare disease. 

PHILLIPS: When you were over it, were you completely over 
it, or were there residuals? 



10 



WOELFFER: I was completely over it, and I then went back 
to school, and they advised me at school that I should 
take it easy. And, as I showed some talent in art, that 
I should go to Saturday art school at the Art Institute, 
which I did. And this was the whole beginning of my paint- 
ing. 

PHILLIPS: Do you remember any teachers in grade school 
who had a particular influence on you? 

WOELFFER: Yeah, I had a couple that were very much in- 
terested in my drawing and painting, but as far as the 
academic subjects — arithmetic, etc.--I would say no. I 
didn't excel too much in those subjects. 
PHILLIPS: Would you say, looking back, that you were 
pretty talented as a draftsman and a painter? 
WOELFFER: Yeah. I enjoyed it, I loved it — to draw every- 
thing. And there was a fellow who lived around the corner- 
his name, I even now recall, Louis Grell — and he had a 
studio in what is still called the Tree Studio Building in 
Chicago. It's a wonderful studio building, and I went to 
see him, and he was painting skies for the Balaban and 
Katz theaters, and I was quite impressed with it. Any- 
body v/ho was able to translate something in paint, I was 
quite thrilled with. And when I was able to see again, I 
read nearly everything of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Tarzan 
series. And one day I was in the Tree Studio Building to 



11 



\ 



see Mr. Louis Grell's latest painting, and I saw on the 
door the name of Alan St. John. Here was the man who had 
illustrated all the Tarzan books, so I knocked on his 
door. He was a very nice old gentleman. He wanted me to 
come to his studio, and he was in one of these beautiful 
studios with a balcony and Oriental rugs and a baby grand 
piano with a Spanish scarf thrown over it and big palettes 
hanging on the wall. I think in the very beginning that 
art was sort of a romantic idea with me, a very romantic 
thing, and I think that after one gets out of art school 
and gets into the real world, I think that the notion 
disappears very rapidly. 

PHILLIPS: And another question I wanted to ask you about 
your childhood was about trips that you might have taken, 
excursions out of Chicago. Special events. 
WOELFFER: On my birthday every year, my mother's aunt, 
who was a sister of the aunt who was a cashier at the 
Auditorium Hotel--she was a cashier in a very fancy ice 
cream soda parlor and candy store in Chicago--and on my 
birthday, she would take me for a bus ride either to Rock- 
ford or Aurora, Illinois, or to Elgin, Illinois, for the 
day. And those were my excursions out, because in those 
days to have somebody on your block with an automobile was 
quite a rarity. 
PHILLIPS: Did you take any summer trips with your parents? 



12 



N 



WOELFFER: Well, my father wasn't an outdoorsman, to the 
extent of woods or hunting or fishing or anything like that. 
I think once he had a business associate who had a big 
touring automobile, and we took a trip to Waukegan, Illi- 
nois, for the weekend, and stayed at the Salvation Army 
Hotel. I recall that very distinctly. Oh, yes, and then 
twice in the summer, when I was about twelve or thirteen, 
lay mother's aunt had a friend who had a farm in Barion 
Springs, Michigan. We used to take the bus up there to 
this wonderful old farmhouse. And on the way up, the bus 
would stop at the House of David, where all the bearded 
people were. At Barion Springs, Mr. Lybrook--that ' s what 
his name was, a man who weighed about 400 pounds--we 
would pick apples, and I'd ride on the tractor with him. 
I remember one day on the tractor with him he ploughed up 
a nest of bumblebees, and they just swarmed, and he took 
me and threw me away from- -anyway , I had a head full of 
bumblebee stings, and I was quite ill for several weeks. 
Those are about all the excursions that I can recall. 
PHILLIPS: What was the House of David? 

WOELFFER: It's a religious organization. I forget the 
exact name of the city in Michigan where they are, but I 
think maybe in Michigan City--they had an amusement park 
there, and they had a very good baseball team. I don't 
exactly know the name of the religious organization--all 



13 



the men had long hair and long beards. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



Was it a Jewish Orthodox religion, do you think? 

No, it wasn ' t . 

More like the German . . . 

Like Seventh-Day Adventists, something like that. 
They had an amusement park. 

PHILLIPS: Were you quite interested in sports as a child? 
WOELFFER: Yes, you know, we played sandlot baseball and 
touch football. After my illness, about, I think, in the 
early thirties, we organized a neighborhood baseball team, 
and ice skating was a specialty. I did racing ice skating 
in school also. My mother's uncle had been a professional 
baseball player, and he used to coach our baseball team. 
Then when I got into high school, ray father was always push- 
ing sports. I played baseball in high school on the team; I 
also was on the track team in high school; I was on the ten- 
nis team and I was on the swimming team. But that's as far 
as it went; I didn't really push to be a professional. 
PHILLIPS: Even though you were the only child, it sounds 
as if you had quite a few relatives in and out of the house. 
Is that true? 

WOELFFER: Oh, yeah. My mother's side and my father's 
side — my mother's side, my mother's two aunts, and her 
uncle. The two aunts were never married--three aunts, 
rather, were never married — and I was sort of a favorite 



14 



with them. And my father's side, his sister was married 
and had several children, so there were more children on 
my father's side than on my mother's side. I had a ten- 
dency to enjoy my mother's side rather than the German 
side; they were a little more interesting, cultured, a 
little more finesse about eating and so on. Although my 
father's side, they had the packing house, and the food 
was like German art--quite heavy. 

PHILLIPS: Tell me some more about your father. How old 
were you when he died? 

WOELFFER: He died in 1946. I don't remember exactly when 
it was, but I remember the day he died because it was on 
August the eleventh, which was the same date, many years 
later, that Jackson Pollock died. So I must have been in 
my early thirties when he died, about 1946--I'm sure that's 
when he died. 

PHILLIPS: And you'd already started your career as a 
painter. 

WOELFFER: I'd left home about five years before that. Five 
years before, I left home and was married. 
PHILLIPS: How were you getting along with your father 
during that period? 

WOELFFER: When I left home, it was quite a relief to get 
out of the house because we weren't getting along at all, 
but later on when my mother left him and he was alone and 



15 



became ill, we were quite close — the last year of his life. 

PHILLIPS: Your mother left your father? 

WOELFFER: My mother left him about four or five years 

before he died. 

PHILLIPS: And then you became closer with him when he was 

living by himself. 

WOELFFER: Yes, quite close, until we had to take him to 

the hospital, where he died. 

PHILLIPS: And was that, do you suppose, because you were 

older and could see this in more perspective or were 

feeling sorry for him . . . ? 

WOELFFER: He was much softer and so on ... . 

PHILLIPS: They often say that artists seem to relate 

pretty well to their mothers and have a harder time with 

their fathers. [laughter] 

WOELFFER: That is right. 

PHILLIPS: Fits your case. 

WOELFFER: Right. And I found it with the people with whom 

I was going to school, and also the other students. 

PHILLIPS: I suppose part of that is because you're talking 

about male students and because art making, especially then, 

was not considered a kind of macho, conventional thing to 

do. 

WOELFFER: No, it wasn't. And then most fathers always 

think in terms of making a living. Where's the money 



16 



coming from? who's going to take care of you? and how are 
you going to take care of yourself? And in those days 
they didn't have the galleries like they have today. In 
fact, when we were in art school, we never thought of 
having an exhibition. We only thought that the impres- 
sionists and Picasso and Matisse had exhibitions. In 
Chicago, especially--in Chicago there were just maybe three 
art galleries, and they showed only the early twentieth- 
century masters, the impressionist painters. 
PHILLIPS: When you were growing up as the only child, did 
you feel lonely? Did you feel a little special and dif- 
ferent from the other children? 

WOELFFER: No, not at all. I had many friends. Wherever 
we moved, I always had a lot of friends. I never felt 
lonesome at all. I thought it was kind of special to be 
the only one. Whereas my colleagues, my friends, they had 
brothers and sisters--they were always fighting. One was 
getting this and the other wasn't getting that, and so on. 
PHILLIPS: Let's go into your high school period and then 
from there into what happened to you next. 
WOELFFER: That was rather disastrous. My father natu- 
rally wanted me to go to technical school, which is all 
boys, so I enrolled in Lane Tech High School, which is on 
the Near Northwest Side of Chicago. It was quite a rough 
school, and we studied mechanical drawing, manual training. 



17 



casting, welding, etc. I wanted to have some subjects 
that I had an interest in, so I did take an art course 
which was quite minor. The teacher had you copy drawings 
out of books. But I had a high interest in music from my 
grandfather, so I joined the first group of the band and 
studied clarinet. And if you studied a band instrument, 
you also had to take up an orchestra instrument. I tried 
to figure which would be the simplest one, so I chose the 
bass fiddle. So I played in the third orchestra with the 
bass fiddle and played in the second band with the clari- 
net. 

A very strange thing happened. About five years ago 
at Chouinard Art Institute in the music department, they 
engaged a man who was the head of the Atlanta Symphony 
Orchestra, and I went up to him and I said, "You don't 
remember me, but I studied bass fiddle under you in high 
school." It was [Henry] Sopkin, who's the brother of the Sopkin 
who's the head of the Pro Arte Quartet in New York. 

I went out for track and swimming and tennis, but I 
lasted about two months on the team, due to my grades — 
which were not too good, and you had to keep a certain 
grade average to be on the team. I joined the ROTC ; I 
was a lieutenant in the ROTC. I guess I liked the uniform 
or something. And I met some interesting people there; 
three or four of them spent most of their life--if they're 



18 



still alive--in state prison. It was an Italian neighbor- 
hood, and there were some real rough ' uns in there. And 
you joined them, or else. So I got in with a gang of 
fellows there, and we used to forget study hall cards and 
everything else. And it was so nice not to attend classes. 
So this went on for about a month — I don't know what we 
did. We'd go to theaters downtown, and one day my mother 
said, "Son, are you going to school today?" I said, "What 
do you mean?" She said, "Well, you haven't been there 
one month." So I went to school, and the principal called 
me in there with my father. So the principal said, "He 
has more of a flair for the arts — music, drawing. Why 
don't you take him out of technical school and send him 
to a coeducational high school?" Which we did, and I went 
to Lakeview High School, which was closer to where we lived. 
I could walk to that high school. And they had an old 
fogey drawing teacher there, and I joined the orchestra 
there, and it was a much nicer experience. 
PHILLIPS: Had you met any girls up until this time? 
WOELFFER: Not really. No, no--there was a girl in the 
neighborhood. After school, I worked as a clerk at the 
A&P Store, and there was a girl I had sort of a crush on. 
She was fatherless and motherless; she lived with her two 
older brothers who were decorators. I got to know them 
quite well, and I became sort of one of the family. 



19 



In the high school, somebody had a Ford convertible, 
which was really something to have in high school in those 
days. I think there were only three people who had auto- 
mobiles, but this boy's father was a friend of my mother's 
family, on that side. They were in the undertaking busi- 
ness. And one day he came to me and he said, "We would 
like to invite you to become a member of the fraternity, 
our fraternity." I forget the name of it. Well, that's 
quite an honor to be asked into a fraternity. So I said 
fine. So I became a pledge and went to about four meetings. 
I had to make a couple of paddles, and it seems to me now 
they must have been sadists--they used to beat my ass off 
with those paddles. I finally told them what they could do 
with their fraternity, and I left. 

I was in third-year high school, and I felt I had had 
enough of it. I wanted to draw and paint, so I quit high 
school, which flipped my father and mother. But I went to 
work at a scarf-designing studio and saved enough money to 
go to art school. I went to night school, art school--! 
could afford to do that. And then the World's Fair came 
along in 1933, and I got a job selling ice cream cones at 
the World's Fair for the World's Fair Ice Cream Company, 
which was a subsidiary of the Polly Tea Room in Chicago 
and the Swiss Ice Cream Company, I guess it was. And I 
met a fellow who used to come around all the time to the 



20 



stand and said, "You could make a little more money than 
you're making here." And I said, "How?" Well, it was 
the second stem of a gang. And we worked for them. We 
used to bring liquor into the World's Fair, sell it to 
the Streets of Paris. 

PHILLIPS: Was it during Prohibition? 

WOELFFER: It was during Prohibition. Roosevelt was just 
coming in with the NRA. Beer was the first thing that was 
legalized, but this was just before that. And then after 
the World's Fair, a couple of these characters said, "Let's 
go into something a little bigger; we'll be sponsored by 
the organization." And we opened up an office downtown, 
right across the street from the City Hall — had a telephone 
business, providing liquor. And that went on for six 
months until . . . 

PHILLIPS: What did that involve? 

WOELFFER: Getting liquor from the mob, and we got a cer- 
tain cut off of what we sold. 

PHILLIPS: You did make more money than at the ice cream 
stand. 

WOELFFER: Yeah. My father's business was absolutely 
nowhere. There was no real estate business. So I supported 
my mother and father that whole year. 
PHILLIPS: Did they know what you were doing? 
WOELFFER: Yes. It didn't make any difference. And then 



21 



a couple of fellows came into the organization from New 
York, and they walked in, and when they took their coats 
off, they were wearing sidearms. Up to this point, this 
was a clean, nice, legitimate business, with no trouble, 
no problems. Then that got a little bit too sick for me, 
and somehow I just resigned, and they allowed me to resign 
without any problems, which is quite rare. Maybe because 
of my age or something. 

PHILLIPS: How old were you then? About nineteen? 
WOELFFER: About nineteen, twenty. And so I left that 
business. I had a nice pot of money set aside which 
enabled me to put down the following year for the first 
year of art school. And then my money ran out and I found 
out that there was a possibility of working as a janitor 
at the Art Institute, where you dust and mop the floors 
and everything for your tuition, and I did that for two 
and a half years . 

PHILLIPS: You started art school at the Chicago Art Insti- 
tute? 

WOELFFER: Yeah. I think that was 1935 I started there. 
PHILLIPS: You worked part-time as a janitor to pay your 
tuition. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, we'd get to school at six in the morning 
and work till nine in the morning as a janitor. And at 
lunchtime I had a job bussing dishes in the restaurant; 



22 



\ 



that way I'd get my lunch paid for. 

PHILLIPS: Why don't you tell me something about your 
classes at the Art Institute, the people you began meeting, 
because it must have been a real change for you, a new 
period. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, it really was. At the time I started, 
there was a dear friend that got me on to the janitor 
force; his name was Arthur Osver, who now teaches at 
St. Louis University. He became, in the early forties, one 
of the leading painters in America. He was on every cover 
of Art Digest and Art News , and he won the Pepsi-Cola prize, 
and he won all the prizes. And today you don't hear much 
about Arthur, but he is a dear friend of mine; he got me 
onto the janitor force. And Edgar Ewing , a local painter 
out there, had just received the Edward L. Ryerson award 
of a $2,000 traveling fellowship. In those days, $2,000 
was probably like $8,000 or $10,000 today. The Art Insti- 
tute was in combination with the Goodman Theatre, and I 
remember sitting in the cafeteria with a young, up-and- 
coming actor, sort of a character actor who turns out to 
be Karl Maiden. And there was a John Hubbard who was 
sent out to Hollywood. I don't know of any other painters 
of that period going to school who I've ever read about or 
heard about since. As you know, the fatality is fantastic. 
PHILLIPS: What were you all interested in as you started 



23 



out as beginners there? 

WOELFFER: I was first interested in illustration, and that 
went by the boards in the first week, when the teacher 
showed us the Chester Dale collection. At that particular 
time, Chester Dale had loaned his collection from the 
National Gallery in Washington, D.C., to the Art Institute; 
there were these fabulous Picasso and Matisse paintings. 
And I said, "That's where I want to be." That's all I 
knew. I didn't understand what was happening. The art 
teachers, in those days, said, "You study from the model. 
You paint the model." Never mind what's in the museiam. 
Never mind this stuff." And in my second year, I got a job 
hanging exhibitions for Katharine Kuh, who had a gallery 
in the Diana Court Building in Chicago. The Diana Court 
Building was a new building, and in the lobby they had a 
beautiful water fountain by Carl Milles, the sculptor. And 
the owner of the building thought it would be quite pres- 
tigious for the building to have an art gallery, so they 
gave Katharine Kuh an art gallery on the mezzanine floor. 
To help support herself, she also had art history classes 
in the back of her gallery, because the kind of pictures 
she was showing were not selling too much. She showed 
Paul Klee and [Alexei] Jawlensky and Picasso classical 
drawings and [Alexander] Archipenko and, you know, she had 
a [Joan] Miro show. I hung a Miro show for her. She got 



24 



\ 



letters and phone calls: if she ever had a shov/ like that 
again, they'd smash the windows of ner gallery. 
PHILLIPS: Was she a big influence on you? 
WOELFFER: Quite a big influence. 

PHILLIPS: Things she talked about and what she knew. 
WOELFFER: Yeah, very definitely. Because I'd unpack 
the boxes of pictures and I'd hang them on a wall, and she 
would tell me about them, you know. And I got more there 
than I did in the formal art history classes in the Art 
Institute. They never seem to get out of the Renaissance 
when you study art history, for some reason. 
PHILLIPS: What did you and the other students talk about? 
What kind of bull sessions went on? 

WOELFFER: We would argue, and we'd even get into fist- 
fights up in the gallery when they'd have the national or 
international exhibitions, you know. It was quite a vital 
sort of thing, and a lot of the kids were not from Chicago, 
and they'd . . . 



25 



N 



TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TWO 
FEBRUARY 26, 1976 and MARCH 4, 1976 

PHILLIPS: V^e were talking about your years at the art 
school at the Chicago Art Institute, from 1935 through '37. 
So you want to tell me more about what went on during that 
period. 

WOELFFER: In order to be accepted, I submitted my work 
that I had been doing in evening school and was accepted 
to day school. The first year was figure drawing, design, 
and composition--no oil painting. My teachers were 
Kathleen Blackshear, who was teaching beginning composi- 
tion; and a Mr. Cowan, who was teaching design, which was 
then a prerequisite to get into the School of Drawing and 
Painting; and Kenneth Shopen , who was my life-drawing 
teacher. And those first years, they were quite crowded, 
and I met some of the people in the first year whom up to 
now had not been very close friends of mine, not living 
where I did, but coming from other states. And I liked 
life drawing, I liked composition, but the design class was 
lettering and such matters as that, which I didn't have 
too much interest in. In fact, the teacher said that I 
designed like a designer, but the execution was like that 
of an easel-painter — pretty rough. After one year there, 
I was admitted to the School of Drawing and Painting, which 



26 



X 



was then called Upper School. And I painted still life 
with Kathleen Blackshear, and drew, did life drawing with 
a man by the name of Edmond Giesbert, who was a very fine 
drawing teacher and encouraged one to emulate the drawings 
of Matisse and the line drawings of Picasso, and you could 
do quite a bit of experimentation in his class. And I 
also had art history; art history was taught by Helen 
Gardner. 

PHILLIPS: Now, that's a famous name. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, the authoress of Art Through the Ages . 
And after three hours of janitorial work, and then going 
into a dark room looking at boring Renaissance slides in 
the dark, I would constantly be falling asleep and falling 
off my chair, being very tired from getting up at five 
in the morning. My grades in art history were not too 
good; I just made it by there. Seemed like we never got 
out of the Renaissance. Katherine Blackshear was a very 
stimulating person who would very often take us on gallery 
tours to look at the modern paintings, which was quite 
exciting. After one year in the foundation class, I went 
to the third year with — there were only two painting 
teachers: one was Boris Anisfeld, and the other one was 
Louis Rittman, and they both had their various favorite 
students. And it seemed like more people received travel- 
ing fellowships from Boris Anisfeld 's class than did [those] in 



27 



Louis Rittman's class. Everybody told me to get into 
Boris Anisfeld's class, if he accepted me. Boris Anisfeld 
and Louis Rittman would shake hands once a year — that's 
in the fall, when they got back from summertime vacation, 
and that's the first and last time they would speak to 
each other for the whole year. From nine to twelve we 
had one pose in drawing class, one piece of charcoal paper for 
the whole week. We had to make one complete charcoal 
drawing of the one pose . 
PHILLIPS: From the nude model. 

WOELFFER: Nude model. And he would come in on Friday. 
And we'd have horses we sat on, the tall ones in the back 
room. And in the front of the room, the horses were 
smaller so you could look over the people's heads in front 
of you. Boris Anisfeld would come in Friday morning and 
start in the front row. And the student would get up, 
and he'd sit down, and you could hear the charcoal snap- 
ping where he'd be correcting the bone structure and the 
muscle structure of the model, and he would do that on 
each person's drawing for the whole morning. Boris 
Anisfeld came to the Art Institute for a summer session 
and remained there for several years until his retirement, 
about six years ago, when he was something like eighty 
years old. I liked his paintings; he was never known for 
his paintings. His background was with Diaghilev doing 



28 



costumes and stage sets for the Russian ballet. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



Was he Russian? 

He was Russian, yes. 

He was foreign? 

He was foreign. He had black bobbed hair, and 
he had a black beard. 

PHILLIPS: What did you think of him as a teacher? 
WOELFFER: We were terrified of him. He was a very good 
teacher, but we were sort of terrified of him. 
PHILLIPS: What do you think of art school for art 
students? I suppose they've changed so since then. 
WOELFFER: They've changed, and I think they're good for 
some people and not good for other people. Most of the 
painters of the twentieth century we know, early twentieth 
century, never set foot in an art school. They studied 
art looking at works in the museum. I think that one 
advantage of studying at the Art Institute of Chicago 
was the fact that they had this fantastic collection up- 
stairs , and I think we learned more there and more from 
other students than we did from the teachers. 
PHILLIPS: Do you think that another kind of teacher than 
the one you've been describing, one who was more permis- 
sive and more supportive, would have been more helpful to 
you? 
WOELFFER: No, I had the balance. I had the balance. In 



29 



\ 



the first year, I had this looseness, and then the 
tightening up in the next year. And then in the third 
year he had us be a little bit looser, but there was 
always the discipline. He felt that when you had disci- 
pline you could have much more freedom, which I believe 
in. And I don't think it destroyed me at all, although 
I would like to have had a teacher talk about contemporary 
paintings. I asked him once about an exhibition of Miro 
that was on at the Arts Club; he says, "Never mind that 
stuff. You study from the model." He said, "You look 
at Titian, you look at Tintoretto." And he was quite a 
person. I got to know him after I left art school much 
better than I did when I was in art school because many 
years later I lived across the street from him, and he 
used to come over to see me. He used to say, "Woelffer, 
you still paint like you're painting a barn." He's a 
wonderful man. When he'd come to sit down at your board — 
he, as I say, had black bobbed hair and a black beard, 
and he just reeked of garlic, all the time, and then we 
had him in the afternoon. In the afternoon we had a 
painting we would draw from position. He would work a 
half hour posing the model with costume, or whatever, 
and drapery, and then the students would draw out of a 
hat a number, and number one would pick the position he 
wanted, and number two would pick the position he wanted. 



30 



\ 



and so on, until everybody had their spot. And we painted 
the model life-si ze--and this would be one pose, every 
afternoon, for one month. And he wanted the drawing, 
the painting, to be beautifully painted, very loose at 
the same time. It wasn't a matter of copying the figure, 
but it was getting paint quality into the thing. So we 
did that. I did that for a year and a half with Boris 
Anisfeld. 

In the meantime we had an organization called the 
Art Students League where twice a year we would submit 
work, and we would have outside painters come in and jury 
the work, and it was pretty free — we could submit whatever 
we wanted to. And it seemed at night when we got home, 
that's when we painted the kind of paintings we were 
really interested in. This is when the argument and the 
discussion would take place amongst the various students. 
PHILLIPS: What kind of paintings were those you painted? 
WOELFFER: I didn't know what I was doing, but I was 
enjoying it. Very loose, sort of colorful, nonf igurative 
paintings. I wish at this time I had just stayed there 
with them. Might have been interesting to see what would 
have developed. They used to have a Chicago Show, the 
American Show, and the International Show. The Interna- 
tional Show was every two years. One year it was oil 
painting, and the next year it was watercolor painting. 



31 



'\ 



The Chicago Show was a juried show by Chicago artists 
and artists who lived in the radius or vicinity of 100 
miles of Chicago; and the American Show was partially 
juried and partially invited. And students were not 
supposed to submit to any of these shows. The Interna- 
tional Watercolor Show, I think they took about 3 
pictures out of 5,000, and the rest of the show was 
invited from artists all over the world. And our first- 
year painting teacher would take us around on field trips 
to the park and to the stockyards to sketch, and I made 
a painting from one of these tours we made. And I framed 
and matted it and submitted it to the International 
Watercolor Show, and I got a letter saying that it was 
accepted by the jury. I think Matisse was on the jury, 
and [Andre] Marchand from Paris, and somebody from 
Germany was on the jury. If I'm not mistaken--! don't 
seem to have the catalog- Anyway, it's an international 
jury. And when word got around school that I was in the 
International Watercolor Show, the dean came down to 
class and stopped the activity in the class, and he said, 
"Woelffer, you have no right submitting a painting to 
the International Watercolor Show or any show. You're 
just a first-year student, and I don't think that's right 
at all. Here our teachers submitted work, and they're 
not in the exhibition, and nobody's in the exhibition. 



32 



X 



Our fourth-year students submitted, and they're not in 
the exhibition, and I don't think you should be in it. 
You should withdraw your work." And I said, "The hell 
with you. " So I was not very popular with the fourth-year 
students after that. [laughter] 

PHILLIPS: By this time, you must have had some aspira- 
tions for yourself, some ambitions, and . . . 
WOELFFER: Well, I wasn't thinking of what was going to 
happen when I got out of art school. All I knew is I 
wanted to be a painter, and I didn't dare to think what 
was going to happen when art school was over with. After 
the second year in art school, I received a work scholar- 
ship to the Art Institute summer school in Saugatauk, 
Michigan, where Francis Chapin, who was ray teacher in 
printmaking at the Art Institute, had the painting class. 
Saugatauk, Michigan, was just across from Chicago, across 
Lake Michigan, a beautiful little town off of the main 
highways. It was the summer school. There were three 
students every year who would do dishes and serve to the 
summer school students, many of whom were older people, 
many of them teachers going to summer school in order to 
gain extra credit. I did that for two sioramers, which was 
a very wonderful experience. I got a lot of work done. 
And in the third year of the Art Institute, you were then 
permitted to submit your work to a jury for their yearly 



33 



traveling fellowship awards, which enabled one to go over 
to Europe and work for a year or two. My friend Arthur 
Osver received one the year before, and his girlfriend, 
Ernestine Betsburg — whom he's still married to, a wonder- 
ful painter--received one the following year and went 
over to France to see Arthur, where they were married. 
You had to submit schoolwork, classwork, plus outside 
work, and I submitted my figurative paintings, figure draw- 
ings, and work I did on the outside. It was in this 
particular year that the school of the Art Institute of 
Chicago was made a member of the North Central Association 
of Schools of Design and Art. When they read my applica- 
tion for a traveling fellowship, I was — what would you 
say? — disqualified because I had no high school diploma. 
So it was at that particular time, I felt no need to spend 
another year in art school. It was in the height of the 
Depression. So I left art school, and I applied for the 
WPA Federal Art Project. 

PHILLIPS: What was going on with you personally during 
this period? How was your family faring? 
WOELFFER: Not too well. We were living in an apartment 
that a colleague of ray father owned, so he gave us free 
rent. And my father's insurance business was starting to 
pick up slightly, but there was beginning to grow more and 
more tension between me and my father. The idea of being 



34 



\ 



an illustrator had left a long time ago, and I was paint- 
ing some pretty far-out paintings in relation to what my 
father thought, and so that became a tension. As soon 
as I got on the Federal Art Project, with my first pay- 
check, I went out, and I rented a small studio on the 
Near North Side of Chicago and left home. 
PHILLIPS: You had a lot of close friends then, didn't 
you? 

WOELFFER: I had many close friends. There was Arthur 
Osver, some other school associates, some who are still 
here and many of them who are not here. 
PHILLIPS: You had some girlfriends? 

WOELFFER: Not really. We would find some now and then, 
[laughter] but not really. We were all dedicated to work- 
ing, painting, all the time. We'd go out with a model 
once in a while, and that's about all. 

PHILLIPS: Well, tell me about the WPA arts program. I 
know that was awfully important to the artists of this 
country during that period. 

WOELFFER: Yes. There was a fellow by the name of Bob 
Wolf, and Norman MacLeish, the brother of Archibald 
MacLeish, who were what they call unclassified people on 
the WPA. They were the head supervisors. They were un- 
classified, as they were both very wealthy, and they were 
not on in a relief measure. In a sense, they didn't get 



35 



X 



a salary, but they donated their time doing this. I 
submitted my work, and I was accepted, and you could paint 
any way you wanted to paint. They gave you a canvas and 
paints every month, ninety-four dollars and a model if you 
needed a model. And that was just wonderful. I stayed 
on there until 19-. . . . 

PHILLIPS: About a year, I guess, until 1939, when you 
went into the army. 

WOELFFER: The government wanted to know if I would go to 
East St. Louis and try to set up a community art center 
there, partially supported by the businessmen and partially 
supported by the government. And I said I didn't care to, 
and they said, "Well, there's no alternative. We're going 
to send you there." So another friend of mine and I went — 
I think it was 1939 — down to East St. Louis, and we 
rented a stall, and we put up traveling exhibitions of the 
work of the WPA artists. The only sympathy we got in 
East St. Louis were the people of the central trades 
union, who were quite interested. And there was a youth 
organization, where we held some classes. The main 
businessmen of East St. Louis had their businesses in 
East St. Louis, but they lived in St. Louis proper because 
East St. Louis was known as one of the hellholes of 
Illinois. And we had this exhibition. I gave lectures 
and demonstrations around the community, and I remember 



36 



\. 



there was a girl that used to come in, nearly every other 
afternoon, quite beautiful; and she used to drive up in, 
I recall, a beautiful white convertible Packard and used 
to come in and talk to me about all the paintings. She 
loved painting very much. And about five o'clock she said 
she had to go to work. After meeting her several times, 
I was curious what she did, and she was a prostitute in 
one of the local brothels, made quite a bit of money. Very, 
very nice, and we became quite good friends. Nothing like 
that--but just friends, talking about art, and she intro- 
duced me to her girlfriends, and so on. 

I was in East St. Louis for a year when some fellow 
came around to the students in our class, and he was try- 
ing to sell flying lessons because that was part of the 
government program. And he told me, "Well, come on, any- 
way. We'll take you for a ride." And I went out and took 
a ride in a Piper Cub. I got to like it very much, so I 
started to take flying lessons on my time off, and after 
eight hours, which he said was quite rapid, he said, 
"I'm not going to be in here this time. You go yourself." 
And I went up, and I soloed--! had my hours of soloing, 
and I had to go through spins and stalls and all that. 
And I thought this was a very nice prerequisite for the 
war, which was about to come about, because right next door 
to the Curtis Airport that I was flying out of ... . 



37 



I flew between Curtis Airport and Lambert Field in 
St. Louis. And at that time we didn't have any radios in 
the small planes, and when you landed at Lambert Field, 
you had to look in all directions--because in those days 
the transport planes had priority, and if you were in 
their way, that wouldn't make any difference: they'd 
come right into you. So I used to go there at least twice 
a week and fly back to East St. Louis, and right next door 
to Curtis Field was Parks Air College, where boys were 
training to become pilots in the Second World War. So 
when I came back to Chicago after a year there, they 
transferred us, the painters, into a division of map- 
making, where we had to do maps for the Geodesic Survey 
of Washington, D.C., compiling maps. There were no maps 
yet, of North Africa or any of these places, with any 
airports on it. 

PHILLIPS: You were actually inducted into the army, then? 
WOELFFER: No, no, not at this time. I went to the air 
force. They were wanting pilots, so I went to the air 
force, and I was again immediately rejected because I had 
no college education. In order to be a pilot, you had to 
have a college . . . 
PHILLIPS: No high school degree. 

WOELFFER: And I said, "Well, what has that got to do with 
flying?" I said, "Here's my license. I soloed 



38 



\ 



in eight hours. I can fly as good as anybody." Well, 
that didn't go over with them. They said, "If things get 
really rough, maybe we'll call you someday." So I went, 
and I was inducted as a civilian in the Army Geodesic Map 
Division. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah, you became a topographical draftsman. 
WOELFFER: Draftsman, right. And I was able to leave 
there after a year. Very boring, although we were doing 
something, I guess, for our country, putting lights on 
the map where there weren't any lights before for the 
pilots flying at night over . . . 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



What city were you in, now? 

Chicago. 

Chicago. 

Because there was always a discrepancy. One 
map would say there's an occulting light here, and 
another one said there wasn't. So some guy flying back 
on a mission had that map on his lap, so I thought I could 
do something a little more vital than that. One of the 
fellows left, and he took a course in riveting in Pullman 
Aircraft, where they were assembling wings of the C-47 
transport planes. Or you could go down to South Chicago 
and learn riveting, steel plate, where they were making 
tanks. And I thought, well, they were paying fantastic 
wages, and I thought I'd still be doing something for the 



39 



\ 



country, so why not go where there's more money. So I 
took a bunch of the painters; we went down to Pullman Air- 
craft and took a week's course in riveting aluminiam. And 
they gave us a toolbox and sent us to the main plant, 
and I worked there for a year and a half, until I was 
drafted. 

And I went down for my physical examination. Again-- 
it ' s the story of my life — I was rejected, due to something 
that was left over from that childhood disease I had. And 
I went in, and a commander of the navy came in and saw me 
and gave me the bad news that I couldn't get into the 
service. He said, "I know you're a painter, and we need 
people like you back here working in the culture." I 
stayed back, and I went on riveting, until towards the end 
of the war. Then a whole new thing came up. [Lazslo] 
Moholy-Nagy was in the city. That's another story we 
can . • . 

PHILLIPS: All right — let's stop here. 
WOELFFER: All right. 

MARCH 4, 1976 

PHILLIPS: Before we began talking about your experiences 
with Moholy-Nagy at the Chicago Institute of Design — was 
that what it was called? 
WOELFFER: Well, first the New Bauhaus , then it was the 



40 



School of Design, in Chicago, and then it was the Insti- 
tute of Design, which was the last and final name. 
PHILLIPS: Okay. Before we go into that--and you started 
teaching there in 1942 — there are a couple of questions 
I'd like to ask you. Could you tell me about growing up 
with jazz and modern music in Chicago? What were your 
experiences with that? Because I know it's very important 
to you now . 

WOELFFER: My family had a very dear friend, a pianist, 
who was a jazz pianist, who played around Chicago with 
Jack Teagarden and several orchestras. We had an upright 
piano in our house, and nobody was utilizing the piano, 
so they thought it was a good idea that I might take piano 
lessons with this fellow. He had a society orchestra in 
Chicago — not really an out-and-out jazz band because out- 
and-out jazz bands couldn't make a living around town, 
so they had to make some compromises — and they played for 
various functions, society dances, etc. And Freddie 
Hankel used to play at the Saddle and Cycle Club in 
Chicago and the Drake Hotel, and he suggested it would be 
a good idea if I would take piano lessons with him. So 
I studied piano on and off with him and another person 
for approximately five years. And this precedes the WPA; 
I would say this is 1926 or 1927. But nothing seemed to 
happen. I discovered myself that as much as I enjoyed and 



41 



loved and wanted to play the piano, there was nothing 
there whatsoever. So I discarded this for painting, and 
that's when I started to go to Saturday school at the Art 
Institute of Chicago. But all through my life after that, 
there was a contact with this person and his jazz musician 
friends. And I started collecting jazz sides, records, 
etc., but nothing happened between me and the piano. I 
made one recital, as I recall, at the Knickerbocker Hotel, 
which was right across the street from the Drake Hotel, 
in Chicago — not from working with Freddie Hankel, but from 
another piano teacher by the name of Estelle Hill. On my 
way on to Europe a few years ago on the Leonardo da Vinci , 
there was a very popular song called "Alley Cat," and I 
found out later on that she'd composed this song, which 
they play quite a bit on the air today. But at the 
Knickerbocker Hotel Sunday afternoon recitals I recall, 
I received more flowers than anybody else because I had so 
many aunts and second aunts and uncles and everybody else. 
But to my thinking I was quite a flop. After three bars 
at the recital I stopped; I was frozen; I was cold. I 
didn't know what was going on, and piano teacher had to 
come up and shake me a bit to show that I was back in our 
land again. And I was playing a polonaise by Chopin, and 
I think that was the last time I ever touched the piano. 
But anyway, I went home with just vases and vases of 



42 



flowers and bouquets and everything. 

PHILLIPS: But you listened to a lot of jazz as you were 
growing up? 

WOELFFER: As I was growing up, yes. 
PHILLIPS: And to the big bands. 

WOELFFER: Right. In fact, in '27, I don't know if I men- 
tioned — back when I was going to Lane Tech High School, 
one of the things I did when I played hookey from school 
was to go to the Oriental Theatre, and this was the date 
of the big bands of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, and 
all these things. And then there were the smaller clubs 
around Chicago. There were many boogie-woogie artists, 
Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, James P. Johnson, and 
they were around Chicago for many years after that, until, 
oh, I'd say, the mid-forties. And Billie Holliday. I 
never saw Bessie Smith. I used to go to see Fats Waller; 
he used to be around Chicago a lot. 

PHILLIPS: Do you relate your art making in any way to 
jazz and to that kind of music? 

WOELFFER: I don't see it myself. I feel it much more 
than I can visualize it or say anything about it. It was 
in the--well, you probably don't want me to jump too fast. 
PHILLIPS: That's all right. 

WOELFFER: We're now in the early forties. I was married 
in 1940. 



43 



PHILLIPS: Do you want to tell me a little bit about 
that? 

WOELFFER: No. [laughter] 
PHILLIPS: Much as you want. 

WOELFFER: Yes. I had left art school, I was working on 
the WPA, and I met a wonderful girl who had just come back 
from Italy. She had been studying two years at the Uni- 
versity of Florence, Firenze. And her family brought her 
back because she was becoming quite indoctrinated with 
Fascism. She thought this was quite beautiful. She'd 
been with flyers who used to fly in Spain for Mussolini, 
and I met her in Chicago through Edgar Ewing , who was not 
then married. And we became engaged. Her stepfather 
was Dr. Frederick Woodward. Her father, by the way, was 
a man by the name of Ernest Freund, who was a president 
of the University of Chicago, who passed away several years 
earlier. And Dr. Frederick Woodward, her stepfather, was 
then the vice-president, under Robert Hutchins , of the 
University of Chicago. They were quite conservative and 
wondering how I would support their daughter. They didn't 
know what I was doing at the time, and when my wife-to-be, 
whose name was Emmy Lou Freund, told him that I had such a 
wonderful position — I worked under the WPA art project 
(these people were staunch Republicans) — they were abso- 
lutely terrified. And they were against the marriage 



44 



x 



completely. 



PHILLIPS: How old were you then? 

WOELFFER: That was 1940; I was born in 1914 .... 

PHILLIPS: About twenty-six. 

WOELFFER: Yeah. 

PHILLIPS: How old was she? 

WOELFFER: About twenty- two. 

PHILLIPS: Twenty-two. 

WOELFFER: While they were away, I don't know, to New York 

or to Palm Beach, we eloped. And when they returned from 

their trip, they got knowledge of this from the cook, 

which was another disastrous shock, her mother saying, "I 

mean, of all things, to hear that my daughter got married 

through the cook or the maid." But they learned to accept 

me, and we used to get along quite well. In fact, Mrs. 

Woodward, she and her mother, were founders of the Arts 

Club of Chicago, and through them I met many prominent 

people and collectors in Chicago. 

PHILLIPS: Perhaps we should finish up the first marriage. 

How long were you married? 



WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



Till 1945. 

So it was about five years. 

Yes. 

About five years, and then it was all over. 

Yes. That was a mistake on my part and probably 



45 



a mistake on her part. Well, anyway . . . 

PHILLIPS: Did she have more conventional aspirations than 

you did? 

WOELFFER: No, not--I think, there was quite an influence 

by her family. Anyway, I was still groping, and I had just 

started teaching with Moholy-Nagy, and .... 

PHILLIPS: The other thing I wanted to ask you about was 

your wartime experiences. You were never actually in the 

army, were you? 

WOELFFER: No. 

PHILLIPS: You worked for the army. 

WOELFFER: I worked with the army. 

PHILLIPS: So you didn't go overseas, and you didn't have 

that basic training experience. 

WOELFFER: No, no. The closest thing I had to that was 

two and a half years in the 202nd Post Artillery, the 

Antiaircraft Communication Division of the National Guard. 

PHILLIPS: What I was going to ask you is if in retrospect, 

if you had any reactions to the war years. I know for a 

lot of young men, it was very traumatic when they were 

drafted, but since you didn't go into basic training and 

weren't sent away . . . 

WOELFFER: I was quite disappointed, which I wouldn't have 

been in the Vietnam War. 

PHILLIPS: You were disappointed that you weren't taken 



46 



N 



into the army. 

WOELFFER: That I was not taken. 

PHILLIPS: But the war years didn't have a profound effect 
on you. 

WOELFFER: Oh, no, not at all. No. 

PHILLIPS: You didn't have any thoughts about the dis- 
integration of the society, and civilization, and that kind 
of thing. 

WOELFFER: No. Maybe the European artists. We weren't 
affected at all; we've never been affected. 

PHILLIPS: And for some younger Americans who did go abroad 
to fight, it was a very profound experience. Since that 
didn ' t happen to you . . . 

WOELFFER: In fact, a whole group of us that were not 
accepted, we were quite disappointed, we wanted to go over 
and . . . 

PHILLIPS: Well, that was very much the thing then. I 
think everyone wanted to be in that war. 

WOELFFER: That we were under attack. It was a completely 
different thing then. 

PHILLIPS: It was the unusual person who was a pacifist in 
that war. It's very different now. I think we've had so 
many wars that we feel differently about it. Well, let's 
start in, then, with your teaching with Moholy-Nagy. It 
started in 1942. You might tell me how that happened and 



47 



\ 



what he was like. 

WOELFFER: I met Moholy a few times. In fact, we were so 
naive, we didn't knov; who he was. We heard this 
Moholy-Nagy was coming to Chicago, and we didn't know, 
[laughter] We thought he might be an Oriental. There 
were no books in the library at that particular time. If 
there were, they were very rare, about the Bauhaus philos- 
ophy, the Bauhaus school, in Weimar and Dessau, Germany. 
But I had met Moholy — I think the European campaign was 
over and we were still at war with Japan — and I called him 
up one day. I didn't know what I was about to do for a 
living because up to this point it was — after school, and 
then working on the WPA art project. I was well taken 
care of — I don't say "well," but I was taken care of. So 
I called up Moholy-Nagy out of the clear sky one day and 
asked whether he had any inquiries for anybody to teach 
at his school, or maybe outside of the city. I wasn't 
fussy; I wanted to work. I had to do something. And he 
said, "Yes, I do. I'd like to see your work." So I 
invited him over to dinner one evening, and Moholy came. 
I was living two blocks west of the water tower in Chicago 
in one of a group of coach houses. And we had dinner, and 
he said, "Let's look at your work." And I showed him my 
paintings, and he said, "Well, how would you like to come 
and teach for me." So I said, "That is just absolutely 



48 



fantastic. I'd like that very much." So he said, "You 
line up a curriculum of sorts for the first year, and 
we'll see what we can do." So I wrote up a first-year 
program and took it to him, and he said, "That's beautiful. 
That's fine." And he said, "You'll come and teach four 
mornings a week, and I'll pay you eighteen dollars a week." 
Well, fortunately, I had quite a few war bonds stashed 
away from working at Pullman Aircraft, which kept me, plus 
the little pittance that I was getting for teaching. And 
I had a very interesting group of students, about fifteen 
students. And Moholy sort of oriented me to the philosophy 
of the school. My paintings were quite loose and free 
before that, and my paintings became — I wouldn't say neces- 
sarily static but much more concentrated on particular 
abstract forms and abstract shapes. 

PHILLIPS: What kind of paintings, what kind of contempo- 
rary paintings, were you looking at, at that point? 
WOELFFER: At that point, I was still very much concerned 
with Picasso and Miro. And then the Bauhaus paintings, 
which were quite flat and quite concrete. But Helion 
arrived at the school at that time--he'd just been released 
from a prison camp in Europe, Jean Helion--and we had a 
show for Jean Helion. And while I was there I met Matta 
[Echaurren] , the surrealist painter, and, one evening, 
[Fernand] Leger. Leger was a refugee living in New York, 



49 



\ 



and Leger came to Chicago, and Moholy was anxious for him 
to see his paintings. Leger said, "I will show my paint- 
ings in your school, if you guarantee the sale of two 
paintings. " So I hung the Leger show and met Leger when 
he came. Moholy guaranteed two sales. Moholy bought a 
still life of Leger for $300, and Walter and Pussy 
[Elizabeth] Paepcke bought a huge, beautiful Leger painting 
for, I think, $800 or $900, which today are quite price- 
less. And Leger was not impressed at all with Moholy ' s 
paintings. In fact, he didn't — or didn't try to — speak 
any English. And one evening, Moholy had some of the 
trustees to the school to meet Leger, and Leger was very 
unimpressed with the whole thing. And Moholy thought we 
should move this show off the ground and go someplace and 
have a drink, and Moholy, naturally, looked to me to find 
out where there was a suitable place to have a drink. 
PHILLIPS: During Prohibition? 

WOELFFER: No, this is after. This is about '41. So we 
all got in a taxicab and went to a bar on Oak Street. 
We walked into this bar, and there was this jukebox blaring 
some kind of music out, and some lady went up to the bar- 
tender and said, "Pardon me, sir, but could you please turn 
the music off? L^ger is here." The bartender looked up 
and he didn't know Leger from a bale of hay, but, anyway, 
he turned the .... And we sat and had a wonderful 



50 



\ 



WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



evening. 

PHILLIPS: Was it Leger who didn't speak English? 

Leger didn't speak English at all. 

How did Moholy-Nagy come to Chicago? 

Well, Moholy-Nagy had been through the United 
States. I think he taught a course at Mills College, He 
knew New York. But Moholy said, "If we can break Chicago 
and organize a school in Chicago, then we can do it any- 
place in the world." Because Chicago's a very sort of 
tough place for art. Everybody left Chicago to buy art. 
They go to New York to buy art. Moholy had a strong 
feeling about Chicago and felt if we could do it here, 
then the problems would be solved. I remember I took a 
walk with Leger one day, and he loved Chicago. He loved 
the fact that the bridges went up; they weren't swinging 
bridges. They went up. They lifted up, and it reminded 
him of a great bird lifting its wings while the ships 
went by. He loved the dime-store windows. At that time, 
Kresge ' s , Woolworth ' s--they used to pack as much as they 
could into the windows, and he loved this because it 
reminded him very much of a film he did earlier called 
Ballet Mecanique . I liked Leger; he was a wonderful guy. 
Even if we didn't speak the same language, we understood 
each other. One evening, we had a school dance, a school 
party, and somebody walked in and Moholy introduced me to 



51 



him. And his name was Man Ray. Man Ray was on his way 
from New York to Los Angeles, where I think he was going 
to marry Julie, his present wife. And we had a long, 
wonderful evening together. And Man Ray said, "You know, 
I just can't stand Chicago. It's terrible. The only reason 
I'm here is that we have to change trains in Chicago." 
This was the time long before the large commercial flights, 
so he just happened to be in Chicago for that evening and 
decided to come over and see the school . And that was my 
first contact with Man Ray. 



52 



■\ 



TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE ONE 
MARCH 4, 1976 

PHILLIPS: Did you see Man Ray subsequently? Did you run 
into him in California? 

WOELFFER: I ran into him out here, for his show, I guess 
it was — what? — 1963? 

PHILLIPS: Oh, the show that was at the Los Angeles County 
Museum, that Jules Langsner did. 

WOELFFER: I met Matta in Chicago, and he was very stimulat- 
ing, and he came to visit the school. And Moholy, when he 
first came over, I remember he was trying to raise money-- 
I forget the name of the organization. Then Walter Paepcke 
came along with the Container Corporation [of America] and 
was a big backer of the school. But Moholy--I remember 
his English was not too good, and he was showing some slides 
one day at a women's club in order to get people stimulated 
and interested in backing the Institute of Design. He was 
showing slides of photographs and paintings and various 
things, and all of a sudden, on the screen came a slide of 
a photograph with a fence with a lot of graffiti on it. 
And Moholy said, "Look how sharp the photograph is. You 
can see the spelling on the fence — F-U-C-K: foush, fash, 
whatever it says." 

There are many anecdotes about Moholy. One day I 



53 



\ 



remember he asked me, when we moved to a new building, 
to design the color of the walls and the doors and floors 
of the school. And he said, "Come back in one week." And 
I came back in one week, and he said, "Ah--you have the 
color scheme." I said, "Yes." He said, "That's fine. 
The doors will be gray and the walls will be white." 
[laughter] 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 



Do you think that he was a great teacher? 

Fantastic . 

A great influence. 

A great influence. 

And not only on you, but on everyone in the 



school? 

WOELFFER: He used to come to school on the streetcar — they 
had streetcars in those days — with his homburg hat and his 
black overcoat with a clerical collar and a workman's black 
tin pail. He could not afford the time to go out to lunch, 
and he'd eat his own lunch at his desk when he was writing 
or making lectures or designing. He was designing at that 
time the new offices of the Parker Pen Company of Janesville, 
Wisconsin. He said, "See that little niche in the wall?" 
I said, "Yes." He said, "They don't know it, but in there 
there's going to be a Moholy sculpture put in that little 
niche. " 
PHILLIPS: What made him such a great teacher? 



54 



\ 



WOELFFER: Because he wasn't closed to anything. He was 
a completely open man. He had a great, burning desire in 
architecture, painting, and sculpture, literature, music — 
the whole thing. He was a complete kind of man. 
PHILLIPS: He was very turned on by all of these things 
and wanted to pass it on to others. 

WOELFFER: Yes. I remember I went to school one day, and 
I said, "Moholy, I have to leave." I thought I would try 
New York. So we had an auction, and I raised some funds, 
and I was going to leave the school and go off and try New 
York City. And Moholy said, "You know, that'll be the end. 
You cut it off here, you cut it off. That'll be all. You 
can never come back." And I was quite sad about that. And 
that evening, about eleven o'clock, the bell rang, and 
here was Moholy, who came up, and he said, "I didn't quite 
mean it that way. Really, let's say you were a prince 
going out into the world to explore other areas, and if 
you do not succeed, you're always welcome to come back to 
the school." He was a very sweet man. 
PHILLIPS: Did you go to New York then? 

WOELFFER: I went to New York. And it was just too soon 
after the war, and it was absolutely impossible to find 
anything. I was able to find a space on a fifth floor 
walk-up over the Manhattan Bridge with a bathtub in the 
kitchen, and I looked at that and related it to my coach 



55 



house with a little backyard and one tree in Chicago and 
said no. At this particular time, this was just 1945, 
and I'd married Dina, and we both moved together to New 
York. 

PHILLIPS : When were you in the show at the Guggenheim 
[Museum]? Was it around that period, or later? And 
there was also a Whitney [Museum] show sometime in there. 
WOELFFER: I was quite late in showing in New York. I think 
my first show in New York was about 1945 at the Artists 
Gallery — my friend Frederica Beer Monti. It was a non- 
profit gallery operated by a man by the name of Hugh Stix. 
It was not a commercial gallery. The gallery--I think they 
first showed [Adolph] Gottlieb and [Robert] Motherwell and 
many of the painters. And what they did, they would show 
your work with the hopes that a commercial gallery would 
then come along and take you on. Hugh Stix was in some 
kind of business, and he kept this gallery going in order 
to find commercial galleries for young, up-and-coming 
artists. But the Guggenheim exhibition came about much 
later, came about in the fifties. I think it was in the 
early fifties, when the Carnegie [Museum] and the 
Guggenheim--all these shows came about. I was quite late 
coming on to these national and international exhibitions. 
PHILLIPS: You said that you had married Dina. What year 
were you . . . ? 



56 



WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



1945. 

Married in 1945. You met her in Chicago? 

Met her in Chicago. 

At the school? 

No, I met her at a party. A month or two later 
we married, and we stayed in Chicago until 1947--no, 
excuse me, 1949. Buckminster Fuller was a part of the 
Institute of Design, and we were going to move to Yucatan 
in 1949, and Bucky Fuller said, "Well, it's on your way to 
Yucatan. Why don't you stop at Black Mountain College in 
North Carolina? I'm conducting a summer school there." 
This is the school that [Josef] Albers and Anni Albers 
founded. So I said, "That sounds fine." So we stopped 
off on our way to Yucatan. We drove, closed up our house 
in Chicago. In fact, we were evicted out of our coach 
house. Somebody else bought the house. 

PHILLIPS: I remember George Rickey saying that he came 
to visit you in that house in Chicago. It was before you 
left for Mexico? 
WOELFFER: Fred Wight. 
PHILLIPS: Fred Wight came, too. 

WOELFFER: Right. And we stopped at Black Mountain to teach 
for the summer. Dina taught photography, and I was teach- 
ing painting. And Herbert Bayer's and Joella Bayer's son 
was there at that time, along with a wonderful poet by the 



57 



\ 



name of Charles Olson, who became a very close friend of 
our. 

PHILLIPS: How long was that summer teaching position? 
WOELFFER: That was a two-month summer, and we were about 
to leave for Yucatan. There was a young couple by the 
name of Vashi and Veena from India, who were at the 
Institute of Design, and Buckminster Fuller had them for 
the summer session. Veena was getting her doctor's degree 
in town planning, and Vashi was getting his degree in 
architecture, and they were both over here from India. But 
before they came to the school, they danced in New York 
for about a year in order to raise enough money to stay 
here because their government would not allow them to take 
any money out of India. So we were about to leave for 
Yucatan in our AC [Acedes] English tour car, and Vashi and 
Veena said, "Well, on your way, why don't you stop off in 
New York?" — which was just the opposite direction. It was 
the summer of 194 9 when the big Life magazine story came 
out by Clement Greenberg asking whether Jackson Pollock 
was the greatest artist in America. Vashi and Veena knew 
Jackson and Lee [Krasner] very well, so they coaxed us to 
drive them to New York. The car, being a tourer, had two 
little jump seats in the back, which were perfect for 
Vasha and Veena. Veena had a bag full of a dozen saris; 
Vasha didn't take up much room. So we started off for New 



58 



York via Washington, D.C. We arrived in New York and 
iiranediately went to Springs, New York, where we stayed v/ith 
the Pollocks for several days. Pollock was still in some 
kind of a stupor from this big story on him. Through them 
we met Alfonso Ossorio, the painter, who previous to this 
story in Life magazine was buying Jackson Pollock. Betty 
Parsons was there, and it was a quite interesting weekend. 
And then we immediately left and drove down to North 
Carolina on our way to New Orleans, where we then took a 
plane to Yucatan. 

PHILLIPS: When you were at the Black Mountain school, 
were there other interesting faculty people there? 
WOELFFER: Yes, there was a scientist by the name of 
Goldowski who was there, and there was Ann Rice, librarian, 
and Dan Rice, the painter, who showed in New York, who was 
a close friend of Mark Rothko. A year previous to that, 
de Kooning had been there. The year after I left, Ben 
Shahn and Robert Motherwell were there. But I came down 
with the Buckminster Fuller group. 

PHILLIPS: At that time, the Chicago Institute of Design 
and Black Mountain were places where things were really 
happening, weren't they? 

WOELFFER: Yes. I just missed meeting Albers ; he and Anni 
left the day before we arrived at Black Mountain. They'd 
been there for many years, and they were on their way to 



59 



New York. It took an auction and many other things to 
finance the Alberses ' move from Black Mountain to New York. 
PHILLIPS: What did you think of Albers's paintings and 
of Pollock's paintings and Gottlieb's — what particular 
things were impressive in them? 

WOELFFER: Pollock's paintings really turned me on. I 
liked the spontaneity of them, the directness, the feeling 
of them, whereas I enjoyed Albers's paintings like listen- 
ing to a little Bach sonata or something. But when I 
looked at Pollock, it was like listening to the Firebird 
of Stravinsky, which was much more to my liking. 
PHILLIPS: During that passage through New York, did you 
go to the Museum of Modern Art? 

WOELFFER: We bypassed New York City entirely and went 
directly to Springs, Long Island, to stay with the 
Pollocks, and when we left there we drove back the same 
way and stopped in New York. I was anxious to get down 
to this village in Yucatan where we were about to live 
for six months. 

PHILLIPS: So you got to South Carolina, and then what 
happened? 

WOELFFER: We Stopped there just overnight, in order to 
make a transaction on another automobile which I had, and 
then we drove on down to see Dina's daughter and husband 
in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where we stayed two nights 



60 



before boarding a Pan American plane for Merida, Yucatan, 

with our dog and cat. 

PHILLIPS: And then how long did you stay at Merida? 

WOELFFER: We were overnight at Merida, where we crated 

the dog and cat up and got on a wood-burning train through 

the jungles to Campeche, Yucatan. 

PHILLIPS: What had decided you to go to Campeche? 

WOELFFER: We had a friend in Chicago, a painter, who had 

lived there for several months and had brought back some 

fantastic artifacts. You had a fabulous dwelling on the 

sea, and the rent was absolutely almost nothing. 

PHILLIPS: It was your friend's house. 

WOELFFER: He rented the house, as I was about to do, and 

then we wrote several letters from there to Charles Olson, 

which really flipped him on. When we came back, Charles 

Olson went down there, where he did his wonderful writing. 

He used to write for the Black Mountain Review and used 

many of Dina's photographs of some of the artifacts we 

had. He went down there and wrote, I think, the Mayan 

Letters , if I'm not mistaken. Some of his finest writings 

were done in Yucatan. 

PHILLIPS: What was the life like down there, what you did 

there? 

WOELFFER: The life was very primitive. There was no 

running water. VJe had the only well in our house in the 



61 



community, and the people would line up because they had 
no fresh drinking water. So we'd provide them with water. 
We had nine huge rooms, a huge kitchen with a charcoal 
area that burned charcoal, not really a stove, but a 
large twenty- foot slab of beautiful tiles, where we would 
bake and cook whatever. It's a small fishing village-- 
we had the largest house down there — and the fishermen 
asked us if we would allow them to keep their sails on 
our patio to keep them dry, to which we said yes. And 
they would tiptoe in about four in the morning and get their 
sails, and they'd go out to sea, and they would not return 
until four, five in the afternoon, when all the towns- 
people would line up on the beach and wait for the fresh 
catch of fish. And our house roof would be lined with 
hundreds of vultures that were waiting for the fish to 
be cleaned. They'd come down and absolutely clean the 
beach, absolutely spotless. And the fishermen would give 
us pompano, and they'd give us casson, which is shark, 
beautiful baby shark fish. And pulpo, octopus, which was 
fresh. We would throw it on the grill with lime, fresh 
lime, and put it on our charcoal stove. 

When I was at Black Mountain, there was a Canadian 
student of mine who wanted one of my paintings, but being 
a Canadian, he was allowed to bring only so much money out 
of Canada. So I gave him this painting and he gave me 



62 



several rolls of beautiful English linen canvas. And 
Ramon Shiva sent me boxes and boxes of colors, and . . . 
PHILLIPS: How did you know Shiva? 

WOELFFER: I knew Ramon Shiva from Chicago, where he 
manufactured his artists' colors. I met him in the early 
thirties, when his casein paint was introduced at the 1933 
World's Fair. He was a painter at the Art Institute and 
didn't like the commercial colors, so started compounding 
colors for himself. His fellow students said, "We want 
to try some of the colors," and the first thing you know 
he wasn't painting anymore, but he was manufacturing paint. 
PHILLIPS: What were you thinking about when you were down 
in Carapeche? Were you just very busy living from day to 
day? 

WOELFFER: We had these nine huge rooms. The first thing 
we did, we bought two hammocks. You had to sleep in a 
hammock because of the scorpions. You couldn't sleep on 
the floor in a bed; the scorpions are very poisonous. So 
we put two hammocks on the outdoor patio, where we slept 
overlooking the Gulf of Campeche. And we rented a table 
and four chairs from the local cantina , and that was our 
furniture. Then I went and bought a hammer and some nails. 
I opened the canvas up, and I nailed canvas on every wall 
in the house. And I'd go around each day painting a little 
on each canvas, and this is how I did my painting. And 



63 



X 



we'd go to town once a day; we'd take the bus and go to 
Campeche. Because the village we lived in was called 
Lerma, L-e-r-m-a, a very small fishing village. 
Campeche, the larger city, was about fifteen minutes away 
by bus. And we met the postman and some local people there 
who knew this friend of mine who had lived there before 
whose name was Frank Verushka, a painter. And we were just 
like a continuation of Frank and his girlfriend coming down 
there. And one man in the village drove a school bus; so 
every Sunday morning, he'd bring the school bus up, and 
we'd get in the school bus with other people in the com- 
munity, and we'd drive to all the adjoining villages and 
drink beer and eat cheese and pulpo , which was octopus, 
which was cut up and pickled and pounded for hours to make 
it very soft and pliable to chew. This was a Sunday ritual. 
It was quite beautiful. Six months later, I felt it time 
to leave, go back to humanity again, to Chicago. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 



Did you learn quite good Spanish? 

No, terrible. 

Did Dina learn good Spanish? 

Much more than I did. 

Did it remind you, looking back, of the experi- 
ences of living in Italy? Or was it much more remote? 
WOELFFER: Much more remote, oh, yes, very much more remote, 
Nobody spoke English where we were in Yucatan. 



64 



It was time to come back. Well, Dina had to stay with 
the dog and cat, and I hitched a ride on a Panamanian 
freighter that was stopping off. We met a man down there 
who was in the mahogany business, and he had an LST land- 
ing craft troop ship, converted to carry mahogany, and he 
gave me a ride. It was a Cuban freighter, Cuban crew and 
captain, flying a Panamanian flag, which meant the pay is 
little but the food is great. If it had a Cuban flag and 
a Panamanian entry, the food was bad but the pay was good. 
But anyway, I hitched a ride. Mr. Alazar was the man's 
name who was in the mahogany business; he was getting 
mahogany for a lumber company in Pensacola, Florida. So 
I got on at six o'clock that evening and sailed past our 
house and waved at Dina and the two dogs, I left her with 
about five dollars sitting there, with two nights and 
three days to get through. 

PHILLIPS: But you knew the fishermen would feed her. 
WOELFFER: I knew they would take care of her. And I went 
and got up to Pensacola, Florida, with rolls and rolls of 
my paintings and boxes and boxes of . . . 
PHILLIPS: Had you worked quite a bit while you were in 
Campeche? 

WOELFFER: Oh, yes, every day. And I had boxes and boxes 
of Mayan artifacts, and the customs were there immediately 
when I got off ship. 



65 



PHILLIPS: I wanted to ask you if you saw a lot of the 
ruins when you were in Yucatan? 

WOELFFER: Chich^n Itz^, Uxmal , Palenque, and all of these 
places, yes. 

PHILLIPS: That must have been quite an experience. 
WOELFFER: Yeah, really. They weren't manufacturing arti- 
facts at that particular time. There weren't too many 
collectors collecting this material, and upon my arrival in 
Pensacola, Florida, with the artifacts and the paintings, I 
jumped off the ship and went to the nearest bus depot. I was 
on my way to Dina ' s daughter in Baton Rouge, and I was at the 
bus depot. Greyhound bus depot, waiting for a bus to go to 
Baton Rouge from Pensacola. I had left Yucatan three or 
four days before in a white seersucker suit, which by the 
time I arrived in Pensacola, Florida, was full of rust and 
dirt. I didn't have a beard at that time; I needed a shave. 
When I went down there and when I came back, I always kept 
a revolver in my boot, and I was picked up at the Greyhound 
bus depot for vagrancy. [laughter] But I proved to them 
that I was getting the hell out of Florida — I was going to 
Louisiana--so they let me go with my artifacts and my 
paintings. I got a bus and went up there and started on 
the telephone, at her daughter's, to call people in Chicago 
who earlier took paintings of mine and promised to send 
payments to me v/hich they never did. I needed money to get 



66 



Dina the hell out of Yucatan. And three weeks later this 
was all arranged, and I met her at Moisant Airport in New 
Orleans on a Christinas Eve, where she came through a 
hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico and landed with the dog 
and cat. I met her with our little British AC tourer, 
with only side curtains on it--which was fine down there, 
but the following night we started back for Chicago from 
Baton Rouge. We had the dog and the cat in the box and all 
the artifacts and all the paintings in this car which is 
just two seats larger than an MG. 

PHILLIPS: And whatever clothes you owned at the time. 
WOELFFER: Which were nothing. We started to feel the cool 
of the weather when we were still in the south. We took a 
motel, and a few hours later, I said to Dina, "We've slept 
too long. We're ready to leave now. It's five o'clock. 
We want to get on the road. " We got on the road, and in 
about ten, fifteen minutes, I ran out of gas and found out 
it wasn't five o'clock — but it was twenty-five minutes 
after twelve. [laughter] And then it was too late, and 
the car was out of gas and nobody would pick me up — I 
forget the name of the place down south. But anyway, as 
daylight came, I was able to hitch a ride, get gasoline. 
We got in the car, and by two o'clock that morning, we 
arrived back for New Year's Eve in Chicago in a real snow- 
storm. 



67 



PHILLIPS: v;ith the side curtains. 

WOELFFER: And my seersucker suit, and the side curtains, 
Dina and the dog and cat, and we finally made it to my 
mother's house. A very unforgettable experience, believe 
me. That was 1950. First of the year, 1950. 
PHILLIPS: And you didn't have any promises in hand for the 
rest of the year, did you? 

WOELFFER: Not a thing. But I immediately called up my 
friends at the Institute of Design. Serge Chermayeff was 
then the director of the Institute of Design. Moholy-Nagy 
died just before we left Chicago. He died in 194 6. And 
a friend of mine was buying an old building and remodeling 
it in Chicago, and he built a beautiful, big room for me, 
a lighted room, where I started conducting my own painting 
classes. That spring, I received a call from Colorado 
Springs, where an ex-student of mine was teaching. They 
were looking for somebody to teach painting, and I was 
recommended. So I took the train out to Colorado Springs, 
where I was interviewed by many people, and some weeks 
later, I received word that I was accepted for the position. 
PHILLIPS: You v/eren ' t interested at this point in moving 
to New York? 

WOELFFER: No. I, for some reason, always felt nervous 
being where the action is. I'm very much affected by 
action, and I prefer to live off by myself in my own kind 



68 



of action. I get too involved, too emotionally disturbed 
where things are happening. Like out here, I'd prefer 
to live where we live rather than in Venice or someplace 
where the action is. I can do my work much better. 
PHILLIPS: So you visited Colorado Springs and decided to 
take the position. 

WOELFFER: That was great. So I went back to Chicago . . . 
PHILLIPS: . . . got Dina and the dogs . . . 
WOELFFER: . . . got Dina and the dogs — left the dogs and 
the cat at the kennel and they flew out later on; I thought 
it'd be much easier for them. We drove out. We stopped 
in Minnesota to see Dina's father and then got into 
Colorado Springs. One interesting phase of that: there 
was a man by the name of Jan Ruttenberg, who was an archi- 
tect, who claimed that he was an old buddy of [Ludwig] 
Mies van der Rohe. I knew Mies van der Rohe quite well 
in Chicago, and he . . . 

PHILLIPS: That's right, Mies lived in Chicago, didn't he? 
WOELFFER: Mies was living in Chicago, yes. He lived in 
an old apartment building. He wouldn't live in one of his 
own buildings. He lived in an old apartment building with 
grass rugs and Chippendale furniture. 
PHILLIPS: And his Paul Klees. 

WOELFFER: And all his Paul Klees all over the room. 
PHILLIPS: V'Jas he a good friend of Moholy's? 



69 



WOELFFER: No, not too well. That whole group, they never 

got along. 

PHILLIPS: Sibling rivalry. 

WOELFFER: Right. Albers, and the architect--what was 

his name, the architect? Gropius . No, they were all sort 

of individual people. But Jan Ruttenberg said, "You know 

Mies?" He didn't believe me, so he wrote Mies a letter 

asking about me, and Mies van der Rohe called me up one 

day and had me over and said, "Do you want this position?" 

I said, "Yes, Mies." Well, he sent a three-page telegram 

to Mr. Jan Ruttenberg, and after that, Mr. Ruttenberg had 

nothing to say anymore. 

PHILLIPS: Ruttenberg was in Colorado Springs? 

WOELFFER: Yeah, he was a local architect. His daughter 

is a painter. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



What was it like in Colorado Springs? 

It was just beautiful. 

How long were you there? 

Seven years, 1950 to 1957, when we left. We 
rented a sort of house-apartment affair for the first two 
years, and then I bought some land with a shack on it in 
Austin Bluffs that Dina and I, as you know, put together 
with our blood, sweat, and . . . 
PHILLIPS: . . . tears. [laughter] 
WOELFFER: Sore thumbs and everything else. And after it 



70 



was completely completed, ready to really enjoy, we left 

in 1957 for Europe. The trustees wanted to revert back 

to the school the way it was in the earlier days. 

PHILLIPS: What had that been like? 

WOELFFER: I don't know; it was when Boardman Robinson and 

that whole group were there. And they felt there was too 

much abstract art going on. 

PHILLIPS: Well, when you came, who was director of the 

museum? 

WOELFFER: Mitch [Mitchell] Wilder was director. 

PHILLIPS: Was that the first time you'd met Mitch? 

WOELFFER: That was the first time, yeah. He had set up a 

foundation course similar to the New Bauhaus, and they had 

a fellow teaching that, and I was made head of the painting 

department. In all these communities, there's the local 

art groups . . . 

PHILLIPS: . . . and the local support groups, and the 

ladies who start the museum, and .... 

WOELFFER: And I no sooner arrived in town, and they said, 

"Are we gonna have to paint pictures that you don't put 

picture frames on, and do they all have to be abstract 

paintings?" And I said, "Gee, give me a chance to settle 
down before we . . . . " But it was a wonderful seven 
years, I thought. I met some wonderful people. If it 
hadn't been for that, I would never have met the 



71 



Phillipses, whom I met through the Byrneses [James and 

Barbara]/ and the Paul Kantors, etc. 

PHILLIPS: There were some of the trustees you liked, too. 

And some of the people in Colorado Springs you got to know 

well . 

WOELFFER: There were the Spragues out there, who were 

very nice, interested in art and music, and in fact he 

played piano with a group that was organized some years 

later called the Gut Bucket Seven, which was a Dixieland 

jazz group, and we played for many of the functions for the 

Art Center and in the community. 

PHILLIPS: How long did Mitch stay there? 

WOELFFER: Mitch was there till '53. 

PHILLIPS: Then Jimmy Byrnes came? 

WOELFFER: Then Jimmy Byrnes came. 

PHILLIPS: And Jimmy came from the Los Angeles County 

Museum then? 

WOELFER: Right, right, right. Then we became very close. 

And they had many of their dear friends stopping off on 

their way from coast to coast whom I met, and then Jimmy 

left, I think, in *55. 

PHILLIPS: And then there was that famous summer when I 

think we all met for the first time. Bob Motherwell was 

teaching there, was he, at Colorado Springs? 

WOELFFER: He taught there that summer. He came out with 



72 



his wife, Betty, and we went . . . 

PHILLIPS: Had his fiftieth birthday. No, fortieth. 
WOELFFER: M^ fortieth birthday, at our house. And I think 
we all went to Aspen; I think we did a trip to Aspen one 
weekend. Bob was quite miserable out there; he didn't 
like it, for some reason. 

PHILLIPS: Then Rothko was teaching at University of 

Colorado. 

WOELFFER: At Boulder. And he came out with Mel; he took 

a trip up to see them one weekend. So it was quite a 

coming and going of interesting people, celebrities. 

PHILLIPS: And I remember, the summer that we were there, 

Ynez Johnston and Rothko had just been there .... 

WOELFFER: Right, and Ibram Lassaw I think was there. 

PHILLIPS: And the Motherwells were there, and I think it 

was Bob's fortieth birthday, and it was at the Byrneses' 

house. 

WOELFFER: It was my fortieth birthday. 

PHILLIPS: Your fortieth birthday. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, because we just talked about that last 

year at his sixtieth birthday, and he told his daughter 

there, who's a beautiful young girl, "You were conceived 

after a party at Emerson's fortieth birthday in Colorado 

Springs. " 

PHILLIPS: And the winters must have been long, though. 



73 



WOELFFER: They were long, especially when we were build- 
ing the house. First year we didn't have an inside toilet. 
We kept warm with a coal stove. The man we bought the 
house from had just finished siding the whole house with 
logs, half-split logs, and we were taking 'em off as fast 
as we could, burning those to use to heat the house for 
that first winter, which was quite rough but very nice. 
Many times we were snowed in for two and three days; and, 
at that time being a smoker, I would climb the walls for 
a cigarette. 

This was the beginning of the sports car club of 
Colorado Springs, and we started collecting all the auto- 
mobiles. We had the AC and we had the Daimler, and we had 
the MG, and all sorts of things. We had the rally at Aspen 
in the summer. That's when we got to know the Bayers quite 
well, going up to Aspen. 

PHILLIPS: During this period, did you get to look at much 
art, outside of the Colorado Springs Museum? The Taylor 
Museum must have had an influence. The Santos, and Spanish 
colonial art. 

WOELFFER: Yeah. And of course, many weekend trips to Taos 
and Santa Fe , which wasn't too far away, which was wonder- 
ful. I think one of the areas I really like most in the 
Southwest is around Taos and Santa Fe. 
PHILLIPS: What other American painters were you following 



74 



\ 



then, or were you even looking at what other people were 
doing? 

WOELFFER: No, I was quite involved at that particular time- 
moving to the country--with that whole series of paint- 
ings I did of the birds, the whole bird series of paintings, 
which lasted for a couple of years. And no, nothing from 
the outside. 

Oh, in '53, with the Byrneses, we took a trip--my first 
trip, Dina's first trip — to California. We'd never been 
out here before, which made quite an impression--the fact 
that there was greenery all year 'round, you know. We 
went to visit you and Gifford and had our first contact 
with the Weschers [Paul and Mary], and I said, "Wow," you 
know, "this is quite a place out here." And Paul Kantor 
and the galleries — it was really coming into life again. 
That's when I became associated with Paul Kantor, and he 
started to show my work. 

PHILLIPS: Before we talk about Paul, I have, in this 
biographical data here, that you received an honorary 
degree from the Institute of Design in Chicago in 195 0. 
WOELFFER: Oh, yes. Moholy thought anybody that had been 
with the school for ten years should have some kind of 
[laughter] honorary bachelor's degree, which is the first 
and last one I've ever heard of. 
PHILLIPS: Yeah, you can always say you're a college 



75 



graduate. And then you were in a "Six American Painters" 
show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. 
WOELFFER: Yeah, that's Fred Wight. 

PHILLIPS: Fred Wight was running the ICA in Boston 
then? 

WOELFFER: Right, and he came to Chicago and he saw my work 
and included me in that exhibition. 

PHILLIPS: You didn't get back for the show, did you? 
WOELFFER: No, No. 

PHILLIPS: Then in 1951, you had the one-man show at the 
Art Institute of Chicago. 

WOELFFER: That was an exhibition of drawings and prints. 
PHILLIPS: And in 1952 you were in a "Four American Painters" 
show at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and 
also at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. Now, 
that was probably a great honor to be asked to the Carnegie 
then. 

WOELFFER: Yes, it was, quite. I was invited by Vadov 
Vytacil, who was a fabulous painter. He's still painting; 
he still teaches at the Art Students League in Chicago. 
Vytacil came out to Colorado Springs the year before Jimmy 
Byrnes came. I knew his work for years as one of the 
avant-garde painters in the early Chicago national exhibi- 
tions, when Leon Krull and the regionalist painters were 
so popular. Vytacil was a very abstract painter. Today 



76 



you mention his name, and nobody knows about him. And he 
brought his assistant out. Vytacil was an assistant many 
years ago to Hans Hofmann in Munich, Germany, along with 
Ludwig Sander, and Vytacil would not teach anyplace unless 
his buddy, his assistant, Ludwig Sander, came along. And 
Ludwig Sander was a little stocky guy who came out for 
two years to Colorado Springs. I remember one summer we 
took a ride down to Santa Fe , where we met Ed Primus's 
first wife, Marjorie Primus, who used to do the captions 
for the cartoons in the New Yorker magazine. She used 
to send in these captions, and then they would give them 
to the cartoonists, Steig and Arno , and then they would do 
a cartoon around them. And somehow Ludwig knew her, 
many years previous. Ludwig was a wonderful guy. He 
taught one of the basic drawing courses. But nobody felt 
there was any vitality with Ludwig — nothing was ever going 
to happen with Ludwig — and then all these many years later, 
Ludwig became quite an important painter. 
PHILLIPS: Yeah, I met him in New York and he was really 
very well thought of. I know Clement Greenberg was quite 
interested in him. Then he was doing this very minimal 
flat color painting. 

WOELFFER: Very classical kind of architechtonic, abstract 
painting. 
PHILLIPS: And he died about two years ago. 



77 



X 



WOELFFER: Yes, I just read this in a magazine. At that 

time I knew he had a heart problem; he always carried 

nitrate pills. That was the last time I saw him, was in 

1952. 

PHILLIPS: Then in 1953, you visited Los Angeles with the 

Byrneses. 



WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



Right, we drove out. 

And did you stay there then? 

We stayed at Ynez's. 

You met Ynez Johnston through the Byrneses. 

And Ynez was away, in New York or someplace, 
when we arrived, so she gave us her apartment to stay in, 
which was next door to Paul and Jo Kantor. 
PHILLIPS: That was at the Sepulveda Park apartments. 
WOELFFER: Right, where the front garden is now the San 
Diego Freeway. 

PHILLIPS: One of my memories from Colorado Springs that 
summer was a tablecloth that had been painted by Rothko, 
Ynez, and, I guess, you. And it was draped around Jo 
Kantor, and she posed for a picture for me. 
WOELFFER: That's right. 

PHILLIPS: So you stayed at Ynez's apartment. I remember 
we used to take painting lessons there from her. 
WOELFFER: That's right, that's right. 
PHILLIPS: And then did you move into that house of Dick 



78 



Ruben's, the painter? 

WOELFFER: No, that happened after two and a half years 
of Italy. In '57 we had about had Colorado, and the 
trustees wanted to revert back to the good old days. They 
gave me a year's notice, so we got the house in perfect 
order to rent and got rid of all our automobiles. [laughter] 
We had met Stephanie Tartarsky and her then-husband, Aldo 
Paliacci, an Italian painter, and they suggested we come 
over to Europe. So they were living on the island of 
Ischia, and v;e thought that would be a wonderful idea, so 
we started off on that trek. 

Jimmy Byrnes was director, I think, or assistant 
director, under [William R. ] Valentiner of the North 
Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. This was 1957. They 
were going to have a modern show, and they were choosing a 
jury, which was made up of Dorothy Miller, of the Museum 
of Modern Art, and Harry Bertoia, Valentiner' s son-in-law. 
Jimmy knew we were coming East. By having us on the jury 
it would help defray some of the expenses going to New York 
to catch our ship to Europe. So again we packed the car 
with the . . . This time we had two dogs, left the cat 
behind. And off we went, and stayed with the Byrneses, 
who were remodeling a house that they purchased in Raleigh, 
juried the show, and then started off for New York in order 
to get prepared for Italy. 



79 



TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE TWO 
MARCH 18, 1976 

PHILLIPS: As I remember, we left off last time with your 

leaving Colorado Springs and going to Ischia. 

WOELFFER: Oh, yes. I think we got rid of the stable of 

automobiles, leased the house, with the cat. At that time 

Jimmy Byrnes was having a juried show at Raleigh, North 

Carolina, so he invited me to be on the jury along with 

Dorothy Miller of the Museum of Modern Art and the sculptor, 

Harry Bertoia, which would enable us to cross country on 

the jury fee. So we packed our things in the Chevrolet and 

took off and arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina, about three 

days later, where we spent several days with the Byrneses, 

Harry Bertoia, and Dorothy Miller. It was agreed that when 

we got to New York, we'd leave the car with Jimmy Byrnes 's 

brother, and on our return from Italy, we'd pick the car up 

in New York. 

PHILLIPS: How did you decide to go to Italy? 

WOELFFER: Aldo Paliacci and Stephanie Tartarsky from Denver, 

people we knew. He was Italian, and they were going over 

there to live, and they suggested that we should join them 

there. That's the reason we chose Ischia. 

PHILLIPS: That was a good time for you to go on a trip, too, 

because the years in Colorado Springs had terminated. 



80 



WOELFFER: Exactly. But we didn't know how long we would 
stay. As it turned out, we did stay two and a half years. 
When we left North Carolina for New York, we drove nonstop 
all night long, arrived the next afternoon late, and 
arrived at Lenore Tawney's studio, where she put us up, 
down on Conti Slip, which is now SoHo, in New York. We 
got in touch with Bob Motherwell, and that evening we went 
out to do the town. Lenore took a taxi home, and Bob, Dina , 
and myself — we had the two poodles with us, locked in the 
car — we went to the Cedar Bar and stayed till late hours 
of the morning. We decided to leave and go back downtown, 
and Bob decided to stay at the Cedar Bar, so off we went. 
After an innumerable amount of drinks and losing a night's 
sleep driving up from North Carolina, somehow we were going 
uptown rather than downtown, and I dozed. And there was 
a tunnel coming up, and I didn't see the tunnel, or I 
didn't see the road going up or down, and I hit the retain- 
ing wall, and the next thing I knew I was awakened at the 
Bellevue Hospital. Just a few scratches on me, miracu- 
lously. The dogs were intact; Dina was intact. And the 
police told me I'd better remove the car the next morning 
off the street. So we took a taxi back down to Lenore ' s , 
and I got up early in the morning to see if I could move 
the car. But I had to call a junkyard, and the car, they 
said, was worth six dollars. It was completely, totally 



81 



destroyed. So with that, I went to the Italian Line and 
found out when their next boat was leaving New York for 
Italy. There was one the next day, the Saturnia , so we 
booked passage on the Saturnia , which was a three-class 
ship. It was built in 1936; it was an old tub. And Ray 
Parker came to see us off. And our stateroom was so large 
we had to put the chair out into the vestibule for Ray to 
sit on. [laughter] And after a few drinks he left, and 
about five o'clock, the ship took off, and we discovered 
that our berths were right behind the pistons of the ship. 
It sounded like someone beating on the wall with a sledge- 
hammer. We heard the bell for dinner and started down 
the hall for dinner, and we discovered that there were 350 
undesirable aliens being deported back to Italy, and Dina 
was the only female. It was quite a thing on a third- 
class Italian boat. So we went to dinner, and we started 
to reach for something on the table, bread or wine, and 
it was completely gone. So with all this disgust, I went 
up and saw the purser, to find out whether we could 
change to cabin class, second class, which with some money 
under the table was immediately arranged. And we found 
ourselves up in second class, which was much more desirable. 
We met some interesting people aboard ship, and after 
twelve days, we arrived in Naples, where the Paliaccis were 
there, waiting for us. 



82 



PHILLIPS: How did you feel during this time? Were you 
excited about going to the new place and having new 
experiences? 

WOELFFER: Very exciting. 

PHILLIPS: Were you apprehensive at all about it? 
WOELFFER: No, not at all. We took this little vessel 
which goes from island to island, and it was about an hour- 
and-a-half ride on the little ship to Porto d'Ischia. Porto 
is the main town on this island, at which point we got in 
a taxi, and in another fifteen minutes we were in the 
village of Ischia, where we parked our gear and dogs and 
went down the stairs to the beach restaurant called 
Filippo's. Filippo was an American who had married an 
Italian woman so that he could start business on the island, 
a restaurant business. He was quite a character. He was 
an old Hollywood character, played in several movies, and 
he tended bar and his wife did the cooking and the serving 
and everything else, and he just sat at the bar and got 
drunk every day. It was quite a place. Sir William Walton, 
the British composer, had a group of houses on the island 
that he leased out. We became quite friendly with him. 
And from time to time there 'd be various people coming on 
the island. There were many actors. Dylan Thomas's wife 
used to live on the island. Carlyle Brown, the painter, 
lived on the island. [Leonardo] Cremonini. Matta, the 



83 



painter, had a house on the island. And I met Sir Laurence 
Olivier; he used to frequent the island. 

We had two and a half years, two very cold winters, 
the first one being the most terrible of all because we 
rented a huge, beautiful ten-room apartment on the top floor 
of a building which was the tallest building on the island 
which overlooked the sea, and the only heat was charcoal 
braziers that you put charcoal in, and you put them under 
your chair and fanned them to keep warm. And we found out 
later that the trick was to get an apartment where the win- 
dows faced the west, so in the afternoon you keep the 
windows open and get all that beautiful sun inside. As 
soon as the sun goes down, you completely, immediately close 
the windows so you trap that nice warm sunshine air into 
your house, which is supposed to last for the evening. 
PHILLIPS: How cold does it get? 

WOELFFER: Well, we had snow. We overlooked a mountain 
called Mt. Epomeo, which wasn't too tall a mountain. It 
was a volcanic remains from an earthquake they'd had many 
years before. From time to time, there was snow on the 
mountains, so it was quite cold. We had a bombalo--a 
butane tank which we used to put on the stove burners in 
order to have heat for cooking. 

PHILLIPS: This was your first trip to Europe? 
WOELFFER: Yes, first trip, and of very primitive means. 



84 



PHILLIPS: Did you get anyplace other than Ischia? 
WOELFFER: After about six months there, a friend of mine, 
a photographer, was over in the south of France on a Graham 
award — Graham, the architect from Chicago. And he was 
staying in a beautiful house that belonged to Andre Mason, 
the French surrealist painter. So I went to visit him. I 
took off for a couple of weeks , took a train from Naples to 
Cannes, where he met me, and then we drove from Cannes to 
Aix-en-Provence, this beautiful little village in Cezanne 
country — it's where Cezanne had his studio, which still 
remains. There is a popular music college there in Aix-en- 
Provence. It's one of the most beautiful little towns I've 
ever visited. So I stayed there with Harry Callahan, the 
photographer, for about a week and a half, and we went out 
with them several times on photo trips . At that time 
another Chicago photographer by the name of Arthur 
Sinzabaugh was there, and we took some trips to Marseilles 
and Monte Carlo and many of the little towns in that area, 
and when they were driving me back to Cannes to catch the 
train for Naples, I suggested that we stop in Antibes, 
which they had never been in. I'd heard of Antibes, the 
Grimaldi fortress there. At the end of the war, Picasso 
was living there and painted and drew enough work to cover 
all the walls of this old, medieval fortress in Antibes. 
He left the work there. 



85 



PHILLIPS: Did you see much older European art, high 
European art, like Renaissance, baroque, and so on? 
I ask that because it's the sort of thing I'm sure you'd 
gotten a lot of in art school, and I wondered how you 
reacted to it. 

WOELFFER: I saw some in Rome, but the best examples are 
in France and other countries, it seems, and in this 
country. In Naples, they have that museum, Capa de Monti 
Museum, and it is mostly, I guess, what one would call fifth- 
and sixth-rate work, Italian impressionism. They have one 
wonderful painting there by Brueghel called The Blind 
Leading the Blind, which is the best thing in the museum. 
And after you see that painting, you walk into a little 
area where you sit down and have an aperitif, which is very 
sensible. Most museums don't have this sort of thing. 

After a year and a half there, a friend of ours from 
Denver came and bought some of my work and suggested that 
we should come to see her. She was then living in Madrid, 
Spain — bought a beautiful apartment there, so she suggested 
that we come to see her. So on our way, we stopped off in 
Rome, where I saw Afro [Basaldella] the painter and Turcato 
the painter, and met Giorgio de Chirico, the surrealist, one 
of the fathers of surrealism. 

PHILLIPS: He must have been quite an old man then. 
WOELFFER: He was in his, I guess, late sixties. He's still 



86 



painting up a storm. The paintings aren't too good, but 
anyway, he's still painting. His painting reverted to the 
earlier style which made him famous — metaphysical kind of 
painting. 

PHILLIPS: Did he speak any English? 

WOELFFER: No, he spoke only Italian, and the people that 
we were with spoke both. There were Italians who spoke some 
English. Oh, there was another painter there — offhand I 
can't think of his name, but anyway, I'd met him in Colorado 
Springs. He was born in New York; at the age of two months, 
they took him back to Italy, where he remained. When he 
became of age, the government came to him and said, "You 
want to be an American or Italian?" He said, "American." 
They said, "Fine, you're drafted into the army." And they 
sent him to Colorado Springs, where he painted signs for 
the officers, did their portraits. He was there six months, 
and they sent him back to Europe and then mustered him out 
of the service. I met him in Colorado Springs, and of course 
we saw him in Rome, where we also ran into Jo Kantor, who 
was over there at that time. 

PHILLIPS: Were she and Paul getting divorced then? 
WOELFFER: They were getting divorced. Yes, she was over on 
her way to Paris to meet Wright Morris, whom she later 
married. And on our way to Madrid, we took the train, and 
ray gosh, I could hear the conductor yell, "Aries 1" And we 



87 



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looked out and we saw van Gogh all around, so we jumped off 
the train in a hurry and spent three days in Aries looking 
at this beautiful van Gogh country. 

PHILLIPS: Are there any van Gogh paintings in Aries? 
WOELFFER: They have a little van Gogh museum, and there 
are reproductions out of their magazine, which is comparable 
to our Life and Look magazine. They're cut out, and they're 
put in little, cheap picture frames, and the caretaker of 
this little museum with the reproductions said, "You know, 
they're all over in your country, all the good paintings." 
PHILLIPS: There's a Gauguin museum in Tahiti, and it's 
filled with reproductions, too. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, the good pieces are all gone. So we found 
that Hugo Weber was living in Cadaques, Costa Brava, so we 
took the train from Aries and went to Barcelona, where we 
got off and immediately took a bus to Barcelona down to the 
Costa Brava, where we saw Hugo Weber and his wife, Ann. 
Hugo had a wonderful, huge balconied space above a bar on 
the beach. Many of the French painters go to the Costa 
Brava in the summer because it's not anywhere near as 
expensive as the French Riviera. Hugo dropped his paint- 
brush and greeted us lovingly, and we went down immediately 
to the bar for a drink, and there was sitting Marcel Duchamp, 
whom I met for the first time. Hugo and he became quite 
friendly. Duchamp spent his summers in Costa Brava. Also, 



88 



Salvador Dali has a beautiful home on the coast, right on 

the sea, a little inlet bay where his wife, Gala, every day 

goes out to skindiving. So through Duchamp and Hugo, we 

met Dali; I had met him many years earlier in Chicago. The 

Franco regime condemned all the land for a couple of miles 

around Dali ' s house so nobody could build there, so he'd 

have complete privacy. He was a very exciting character. 

PHILLIPS: There's a new book out on him. I was reading 

the review by Bob Kirsch, and he seemed to think that Dali 

was really a genius. You think it was his energy he was 

referring to? 

WOELFFER: Well, you know Bob Motherwell thinks he's an 

awful painter but that he's a fantastic writer, fabulous 

writer. His writing is, I think, very good, very exciting, 

very stimulating. 

PHILLIPS: And he has that strange, unusual mind. 

WOELFFER: He was here in Los Angeles many years ago. Walt 

Disney called him up to come over and work with him on the 

movie Fantasia. But both of those men having the same kind 

of temperament and the same kind of ego didn't hit it off 

at all. 

PHILLIPS: That's a funny juxtaposition — Salvador Dali and 

Walt Disney. 

WOELFFER: Yes. And so he stomped out of there and left. 

I first saw Walt Disney's things on the wall of a gallery 



89 



in New York City, the Julien Levy Gallery, which at one time 
was the gallery for surrealist art, and here was an exhibi- 
tion of [Arshile] Gorky, Max Ernst, and Walt Disney. 
PHILLIPS: Cartoons? 

WOELFFER: Walt Disney's cartoons, because the surrealists 
immediately accepted him as one of theirs, because imagine, 
you know, here's a mouse that talks. This is really quite 
surrealistic. So they idolized Disney. 

PHILLIPS: But you don't think that Disney had any of the 
intellectual foundation that they had. 

WOELFFER: No, he didn't want to. He didn't want his stuff 
to be in fine arts. I think his very early pictures were 
quite terrific, much better than his later ones. [tape 
recorder turned off] 

PHILLIPS: When you were in Ischia, were you painting? 
WOELFFER: Painting constantly. Yes, I had all this space. 
To my great surprise, I discovered how horrible the Italian 
art materials were. I thought, of all places in the world — 
the history of great painting--they would have the finest 
brushes, paints, and canvas. They were just absolutely 
horrible. The best materials came from France. But I was 
able to get a man — there was a man on the island who would 
go to the mainland every day and bring back whatever you 
needed in the way of supplies. Because after a while, as 
nice as that boat ride was to Naples and back, it left at 



90 



five- thirty in the morning, in the dark, and you got the 
boat coming back from Naples at three in the afternoon. And 
everybody was gay in the morning, drinking and talking, and 
then when it came back, everyone had done their business in 
Naples. At three in the afternoon, everybody was sleeping, 
[laughter] But there was this man--he was a courier, and 
he would get whatever you wanted for you. I'd order a 
canvas and stretcher bars, and he'd bring them back to me. 
I did find one thing on the island — that was a canned white 
paint, oil paint, oil paste paint, and it was the finest 
white I've ever run into. It never, never yellowed at all. 
There were some other painters on the island. There was 
Count Borgrauve; his brother is at the Belgian consulate in 
Washington, now. And then there were some lesser-known 
painters. Every night we'd meet at Filippo's and eat and 
drink and talk. It was sort of a ritual. 

PHILLIPS: Did you paint during the day or at night there? 
WOELFFER: There I painted during the day because if you 
put too much light on at night, it would blow the fuse. The 
fuse was made out of a little, fine piece of wire. And when 
they'd have an electrical storm, all the lights in the whole 
island would go out. And the electricians for this island 
were terrified to go up on the light poles when it was rain- 
ing. So you'd have to wait till it stopped raining the next 
day before they attempted to go up it. So we painted in the 



91 



daytime; and at night, most of the time, we were with 
candlelight. 

PHILLIPS: You usually paint at night here, don't you? 
WOELFFER: Yeah, I like it at night here. It's quiet, 
peaceful, and very relaxing. 
PHILLIPS: When did you start doing this? 

WOELFFER: I started doing that along about 1940, I think. 
I used to have jobs in the daytime, and it's a natural thing 
to paint at night. I got into that habit, I guess. 
PHILLIPS: You mentioned earlier that when you stopped paint- 
ing for several weeks, it was hard to get back. 
WOELFFER: Yeah. Starting a painting, I think, is the most 
difficult thing; it's as difficult as stopping. You build 
up a sort of a tempo that you go to. 

PHILLIPS: And when you're working on something, you're 
eager to get back to it? 
WOELFFER: Right, right. 

PHILLIPS: How long does it take you to paint a painting? 
WOELFFER: Anywhere from maybe a half-hour to several weeks. 
PHILLIPS: I assume that when you struggle, it takes 
several weeks. 

WOELFFER: I think when I'm moving into a different direc- 
tion, there's quite a bit of struggle. And then afterwards, 
the struggle ceases for me, and then I try to move on to 
another area, where I can start a struggle all over again. 



92 



PHILLIPS: Do you feel that a lot of your painting is 
automatic? 

WOELFFER: Yes, very much so. This is, I feel, my kinship 
with the surrealist painters. I paint first and think 
afterwards. Some people think and then paint. I think after 
I paint. 

PHILLIPS: So when you approach that bare canvas, with the 
dripping great brush — you just start. 

WOELFFER: Whatever happens to be, and I just start. I look 
at the jars of paint, and I think, "That's a nice color," 
and that's the thing that starts it off. You're not always 
successful when you work that way. There are many of them 
that are destroyed. The selectivity begins, I think, after 
I have done quite a few of them. I set them out and go 
through them. I rework some, and others I completely destroy. 
PHILLIPS: What kind of paintings were you doing in Ischia? 
WOELFFER: They were mostly black, ochre, and white, and sort 
of Naples yellow, which is an earthy kind of yellow. The 
name comes from Naples because the buildings in Naples are 
all this color. That's where the word Naples yellow comes 
from. And the people on the island — there's not a week 
goes by without a funeral procession. Used to come down 
our street very sad, people in tears, everybody walking. 
PHILLIPS: And all wearing black. 
WOELFFER: All wearing black — black, black, black. The men 



93 



with black armbands, the women in black dresses. And they'd 

have to stay in mourning a year, and by the time the year's 

up, there's somebody else in the family that has departed, 

so they're constantly in black. Many times people have 

asked me, and I've thought maybe it's a rationalization. 

Maybe it isn't, but I feel that my paintings reflected that 

in Italy. 

PHILLIPS: So you are, quite naturally, influenced by your 

environment. 

WOELFFER: Oh, very definitely. Out here, we have flowers 

and colors; there's no sunshine like it out here. My color 

is much lighter, my pictures are brighter. 

PHILLIPS: And I know the paintings from the Colorado 

Springs period . . . 

WOELFFER: The birds. 

PHILLIPS: The birds and the jets and the sky, around 1956. 

WOELFFER: Right, and then the early ones before that, the 

jazz pictures, from the jam sessions in Chicago. 

PHILLIPS: When you were doing the paintings that were 

influenced by the jazz sessions, were you conscious of it 

at the time? 

WOELFFER: No. 

PHILLIPS: It was afterwards. 

WOELFFER: I Still paint sometimes with music on, but a little 

more quiet music. But in Chicago it was jazz music 



94 



constantly playing while I was working. 

PHILLIPS: And I know that some of those paintings are 

titled things like Birdland . 

WOELFFER: Right, yeah, what was happening at the time. 

Homage to Danny Alvin , the drummer; all pertaining to the 

jazz era, the jazz scene. 

PHILLIPS: But was it after you had completed a large group 

of these that you realized that they all had to do with 

jazz, and so you gave them those titles? 

WOELFFER: Right, the titles come about only when I'm asked 

to exhibit the painting, or someone wants to purchase one, 

or someone has to put one in a catalog or write about it. 

That's when I think of the title. But I never title them — 

in all of ray new ones here, I don't have any titles on at 

all. For my last show in New York, it was a task I had 

to do — to title these things. And sometimes the titles are 

very misleading, have nothing to do with the painting, but 

they have to do with the situation, the place and the time 

that they were created in. I think one of the greatest 

talents to title paintings was Paul Klee — very, very poetic. 

He was a poet and musician. His titles are just pure poetry, 

And other painters put numbers on theirs. They didn't want 

the title of the painting to influence the viewer. 

PHILLIPS: And you've always done a lot of collage. 

WOELFFER: Yes. 



95 



PHILLIPS: And playful things as well as painting. For 

instance, right now you're working on this setup for your 

movie. The electric toy trains. 

WOELFFER: That's a diversion of some sort. I think when 

it gets all finished, whatever I do with it, it will probably 

be covered up. I'll have had my fun and enjoyment with 

it, and I'll give it to some children, or something. 

PHILLIPS: Well, it certainly seems that a lot of artists 

have a very playful side to their activity. Picasso certainly 

has. 

WOELFFER: Right, right, yeah. Picasso and his hats, and 

his getup and everything. 

PHILLIPS: And the found-objects sculpture. [Alexander] 

Calder with his toys. And I know Picasso is somebody you 

admire a lot. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, I think that he was quite unique. I don't 

think in our lifetime we'll see anybody else like him. 

PHILLIPS: Are there periods of Picasso paintings that you 

like better than others? 

WOELFFER: Not particular periods, but particular paintings. 

PHILLIPS: Which ones? What's the first Picasso painting 

that you remember that had a big influence on you, that 

really struck you? 

WOELFFER: It was when I was going to art school, and the 

loan collection from Chester Dale in Washington, D.C., came 



96 



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to the Art Institute. At that particular time my work was 
pertaining to the figure, because all we painted in art 
school was the figure. So therefore I was very much struck 
by these huge paintings, by these classical paintings of 
Picasso, the Greek period — the big hands and the big feet, 
sculptural paintings. They really . . . and then, of course, 
they had the big painting the Saltimbanques , that huge, 
beautiful painting of the circus people. And I was very 
much influenced by those figure paintings. Not so much by 
the distorted ones. 

When I was going to art school, it was at the time of 
the Spanish civil war, so there were a lot of things of 
Picasso being shown — the Dreams and Lies of Franco, and all 
those studies for the Guernica , the big painting, which 
when it came to Chicago was the real shocker to me, because 
I . . . 

PHILLIPS: Did that travel around the country? 
WOELFFER: Yes. That was at the Arts Club in Chicago. 
PHILLIPS: It's a fabulous painting. 

WOELFFER: I walked in, expecting to see a big colorful 
painting, and I flipped. It was just in black and white 
and grays. I didn't realize it was not in color. 
PHILLIPS: How was it that you became an abstract painter? 
I mean by that that you worked with colors and planes and 
moods, and that there's no recognizable literal imagery 



97 



\ 



in your work. 

WOELFFER: I think it's because of the shows that I hung for 
Katharine Kuh--all the shows she had were that, and the 
things the Arts Club used to show at that tirae. 
PHILLIPS: That was what was going on then among the avant- 
garde. 

WOELFFER: And what was going on in American painting at 
that time was the social realism and . . . 
PHILLIPS: Regionalism. 

WOELFFER: Regional, [Thomas Hart] Benton, [John Steuart] 
Curry, and that sort of thing, which didn't move me what- 
soever. It seemed to me much more illustration, and I liked 
the adventure of this not-knowing kind of thing. 
PHILLIPS: That's certainly an idea that the surrealists put 
across, wasn't it? 

WOELFFER: Right, right. Where everybody else was busy 
finding a particular kind of mixture and then kept putting 
it in the same bread tin and baking it and cooking it and 
baking it all over again, you know, repeating themselves 
too much. They found a formula; it became a formula kind 
of painting. 

PHILLIPS: [Joan] Miro was also someone you admire a lot. 
WOELFFER: Oh, yeah. Mir6 very much so, because I have 
quite a few of his lithographs. I think today he's really 
playful. That "Fifteen European Painters" show at the 



98 



L.A. County [Museiom] — those paintings with the buckets hang- 
ing on them. He's in his eighties. 

PHILLIPS: He's always had that very playful element in his 
work. 

WOELFFER: When we left Barcelona we took a horrible third- 
class train to Madrid, an all-night ride. We had first- 
class tickets, but somehow I didn't show the tickets for a 
particular seat on the train, so they ushered us into a 
third-class car with wooden benches. And Dina and I got on 
there with the wooden benches; there are six people on each 
side . 

PHILLIPS: Terrible things were always happening to you in 
Europe. [laughter] 

WOELFFER: All night long. And then there were Arabs and 
all kinds of people sleeping in the aisles of the train, 
and you start to doze off and then the government men would 
come around and shake everybody to see their passports, 
because in Spain you can't go from town to town without 
permission. And it was an, oh, horrible ride, nothing to 
eat or drink; it was hot. But anyway, when we arrived in 
Madrid the next morning, we were absolutely beat, and 
Josephine Taylor, the gal who we were going to see, who had 
been to visit us in Ischia, had her man there with the car 
to pick us up, and took us to this fantastic, beautiful 
apartment in Madrid, where they had run hot tubs for us. 



99 



PHILLIPS: That's great. I remember one night years ago 

sitting in — I think it was Peter Matisse's backyard in 

Westwood, and Paul Kantor was there, and Gifford and I, and 

you and Dina, and Peter, and you were enumerating the six 

painters that you thought were the best modern painters. 

Let me see if I can remember. One was Picasso .... 

WOELFFER: Yeah. 

PHILLIPS: One was Miro. And I think [Alberto] Giacometti. 

WOELFFER: Right. I . . . 

PHILLIPS: Though he ' s a sculptor. Motherwell . . . 

WOELFFER: Right. 

PHILLIPS: [Willem] de Kooning . . . 

WOELFFER: De Kooning. 

PHILLIPS: I'm forgetting somebody. If there were six; 

maybe there were just . . . 

WOELFFER: The sixth one, I recall, was myself. 

PHILLIPS: The sixth one was Emerson Woelffer, yes, yes, 

yes — I remember it well. [laughter] 

WOELFFER: My, what a memory. 

Well, we spent a week and a half in this luscious 
apartment in Madrid, just anything we wanted, and we did the 
town every night. Of course, in Spain you don't start until 
nine, ten o'clock at night for dinner, and Josie said, "I 
have to go up to take my car up to France; it's registered 
in France. How about coming along?" I said, "That'd be 



100 



great." I'd never been to France. So we got in the car 
and drove, and got up to St. Jean-de-Luz, that area up in 
there, and on into France. And when we were in the south 
of France, I said, "Josie, we are very close to the Lascaux 
Caves--now this is something we must see." And she said, 
"I'm sorry, my dears, I'm not in the mood for caves this 
morning." And we drove past the Lascaux Caves, and now they 
are sealed up again. But we stopped at Le Mans, and we 
stopped — where is it that they make the mustard, the great 
mustard? 

PHILLIPS: Dijon. 

WOELFFER: Dijon. And right into Paris. I was at the wheel 
at that time. We hit Paris and we hit one of these circles 
where the Arc de Triomphe is. When you once get in that 
circle, you have a hell of a time getting off the circle. 
So it was quite an experience. And Hugo Weber had told me 
to go see his concierge — he was living on rue de Maine in 
Montparnasse — and that we could all stay at his studio 
because they were down at Cadaques. So the man said, 
"Here's the key, but you go in. I'm not going into that 
apartment." I said, "What's the matter?" He said, "Never 
mind." Well, I said, "Come on, okay." He said, "I won't go 
in. You go in, you can stay there." So I took the key, and 
the three of us walked into his apartment. It was two floors, 
and all we saw were things jumping this high off the ground — 



101 



fleas, by the thousands. 
PHILLIPS: Ugh! 

WOELFFER: All you could see was a ray of fleas going up 
and down. So we ran out of the apartment quickly and gave 
him back the key. And he said, "You see what I mean." So 
I immediately wrote Hugo, because they were due to come 
back in a few weeks, so he had some exterminator come in, 
I guess. You see a lot of that, fleas over there, for some 
reason, and they bit. So we found a little hotel near the 
Montparnasse railroad depot, where we stayed. And it was 
the time of the Algerian crisis, and there were all these 
gendarmes going up and down the street with submachine guns, 
It looked like warfare. But I stayed, oh, two weeks in 
Paris, which wasn't very long, but it was really . . . 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 



Did you go to the Louvre? 

Went to the Louvre. 

How did you react to all that stuff? 

Fantastic, just fantastic. 

In a more general vein, what were your overall 
impressions of Europe and all that culture and heritage? 
WOELFFER: Usually, when I'm going someplace, I over- 
visualize the greatness of what I'm going to see, and many 
times I'm disappointed, but Europe wasn't that way at all. 
It was much, much more than I really expected. It was a 
great experience. 



102 



And then we went back to the train and went back to 
Ischia. By this time, we had rented another house. A man 
had a house where the windows and doors faced the west, and 
he had a garden, big garden, with fruit trees, and said, 
"Just help yourself. " So that last year there was much more 
desirable. And we had many friends that came through to 
see us. 

PHILLIPS: Who came through? 

WOELFFER: Fred Wacker and his wife, Jana, from Chicago; they 
came through on their honeymoon. A friend of mine, Ray Trail, 
from San Diego, came through and saw us, and an innumerable 
amount of people. Offhand, at this moment, I can't place 
them all, but it was almost like Colorado Springs--people 
coming across the continent always stopping in Colorado 
Springs to see the Byrneses or ourselves. There were all 
kinds of cliques, of course, on the island. And there were 
some contessas, and King Hussein's daughter came there and 
bought a house, and there were some fantastic parties. 
PHILLIPS: And there were lots of homosexuals. 
WOELFFER: And there were of course cliques. We threw a 
fantastic party. It was very inexpensive to throw a party 
there because people only drank wine, and wine was plenti- 
ful, so a few loaves of bread and a case of wine and some 
cheese, and everything was fine. Christmastime was very 
interesting. The bagpipe players from in the hills of 



103 



x 



Palermo would come to the island. They had their legs 
wrapped in burlap sacking, and they played wonderful 
Christmas music on their clarinets and bagpipes. There were 
bagpipe players from the mountain villages. 

It came time, after two and a half years of this, time 
to return, and where to return to was the question. There 
was no sense going back to Colorado Springs, but Jimmy 
Byrnes wrote and said, "Why do you not write Mitch Wilder, 
your old director from Colorado Springs? He's the director 
at Chouinard Art Institute." I said, "Gee, that's a fabulous 
idea, because I'd had that one visit out to Los Angeles when 
we visited you and the Weschers." I said, "This is the 
place where you have green all year around. " So I wrote 
Mitch, and Mitch wired back, "You're in." So I had a job 
at Chouinard. 

PHILLIPS: And what year was that — 1959? 
WOELFFER: We arrived back here . . . 



104 



TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE ONE 
MARCH 18, 1976 and MARCH 23, 1976 

PHILLIPS: You were talking about your leaving Ischia. 
WOELFFER: Yes. When the position came about from Mitch 
Wilder, we then readied ourselves for the long journey to 
Los Angeles. So the first thing we had to do was to book 
passage, and we thought this time we wouldn't go back on an 
Italian liner, but we'd take a nice American liner. So we 
booked passage on the Constitution , and we were supposed to 
leave the following week. And that was delayed because the 
Constitution , on the way out of New York, had an accident 
with another ship. And that put a hole in it, so that took 
a couple of weeks. We were two weeks delayed. In the mean- 
time--sometime before this I had to get a show ready to ship 
back to New York, to the Poindexter Gallery, which was some- 
thing, because wood is not available like it is here. You 
don't go to a lumberyard and get all the wood you want to 
build the box. 

PHILLIPS: How did you happen to be showing at the Poindexter 
Gallery? 

WOELFFER: Well, on my way to Europe, I had met Ellie [Elinor 
Poindexter] in Chicago through the photographer Aaron 
Siskind. And when I got to New York, Franz Kline wanted to 



105 



see me. And we saw him with [Matsumi] Kanemitsu at the 
Cedar Bar, and he made an arrangement with Ellie Poindexter, 
and we all got together. Ellie was rather skeptical about 
giving me a show. She hadn't seen my work, and Franz Kline 
assured her that it'd be a beautiful show. "Don't worry 
about it at all. He's going over to Italy. He'll paint you 
a show and send it back." So Franz was very nice to do that. 
I did; I had enough paintings and I sent them back, but get- 
ting the box made was something. Nearly everyone in the 
island was involved in this. We had to get government per- 
mission, and then when the paintings were boxed and were 
taken over to Naples, the customs people in Naples wanted to 
open the box there to see what was in the box because they 
felt maybe it was taken off of a ship, in the bay, and there's 
contraband coming in or something. Then we had to get clear- 
ance from the museum director in Naples that there were no 
old masters in the box being shipped back to New York. By 
the time the paintings arrived back in New York, the green 
wood of the stretcher bars — the paintings were all warped, 
and the gallery had to send the paintings out to be re- 
stretched on new stretcher bars. But anyway, we were all 
set to come back, and there was party after party for us, 
and the townspeople were very, very unhappy that we were 
leaving. In the beginning, when we moved there, they were 
quite cold, and they had a half a dozen different prices for 



106 



everything we bought. They thought we were just vacation- 
ing. And after they knew we were going to live there, the 
prices just suddenly came way down. And from time to time, 
a painting, maybe, wasn't sold, or my dealer wasn't sending 
me money, and I had no money, so the people, the grocers and 
the butcher, everyone said, "Don't worry about a thing, you 
know. We don't worry about your money. Take whatever you 
want, whatever we have." They were just beautiful people. 
And most of the people there paid their bills once a year. 
So it was time to debark, everybody in the village — the bread 
man, and the fruit man, the vegetable man — everybody came 
down to the port. 

PHILLIPS : Had you paid them by now? 

WOELFFER: They were all paid by then. We just were loaded 
with fruit and candy and cakes and wine, and they were all 
so sad we were leaving. Well, we got the boat over to Naples, 
where the Constitution was waiting. It was going to take 
off at four that afternoon, so we had a good five hours, six 
hours on board ship. We had our two poodles with us, and 
the accommodations for the poodles were much nicer on the 
Constitution than they were on the old Italian boat, the 
Saturnia , where the kennels were dirty and they gave the dogs 
spaghetti instead of bones and meat. And the Constitution 
even had a veterinary on board ship. We took off, and we went 
tourist class, but the ship was so empty, without any 



107 



additional passage they moved everybody up to second class. 
And we had second class on the Cons ti tut ion - -which was very 
nice--and made some new acquaintances on board ship. 
PHILLIPS: That's the ship that's used by State Department 
personnel, Americans working for the government. 
WOELFFER: There's the Constitution and the Independence ; 
they're sister ships. And we arrived back in New York, and 
again Lenore Tawney was there to greet us. We had boxes and 
boxes and boxes of paintings and everything else, and while 
I was watching the customs men making people tear their 
boxes and suitcases apart I said, "Oh, we're going to be here 
for several days." Well, the customs man, a very gruff man, 
said, "You're next." I said, "Yes." He said, "What do you 
do? How long have you been there? What have you been doing 
over there?" I said, "I'm an artist, a painter." "Oh, a 
painter," he said. "Oh, once I had a friend that was a 
janitor in the Art Students League, and he used to let me 
come in at night and look in the door and see the nude models." 
So I went along with him, and he loved to tell me the story. 
He was marking the boxes, "Okay, okay," and we had to open 
up nothing whatsoever. And we saw a f acino — not a facino ; 
that's Italian, a man that pulls your bags in. He took us 
out front to where there was a truck we'd leased, and we put 
everything on the truck and went across to New Jersey to 
the Denver-Chicago Shipping Company, where we shipped 



108 



\ 



everything to my mother in Chicago — that's where we were on 
our way to. We spent a couple of days in New York. I think 
it was one of the last runs of the Red Carpet service, or 
the New York Central, the Twentieth Century Limited. We put 
the dogs and the baggage on the Twentieth Century, finally 
took off for Chicago where we arrived the next morning, and 
went directly to my mother's where we stayed a week or two, 
trying to decide what we were going to do, how we were going 
to get to Los Angeles, etc. , etc. The first thing was to 
purchase a set of wheels. So my mother knew a man at the 
grocery store whose brother sold Chevrolets, and we went and 
picked out a brand-new Chevrolet. I didn't have any credit 
at that time, having been away for that length of time, but 
I had him call the vice-president of the bank in Colorado 
Springs to verify me and everything else, a wonderful man 
there by the name of John Love who eventually became the 
governor of Colorado. And he said, "Anything Woelffer wants, 
just give it to him. I'll stand behind him." So we got 
this brand-new beautiful Chevrolet and packed it and started 
out for Los Angeles, where we arrived many days later. 
PHILLIPS: Before we go into the Los Angeles section, let me 
ask you a few questions. (That's an interesting story about 
John Love, in Colorado Springs.) How do you react to the 
art system that we have in this country, with the commercial 
galleries and the selling of paintings, and the role of the 



109 



dealers, and the role of the curators? And how much do 
museums do for painters? And do they do enough, do you 
think? 

WOELFFER: I don't think they do enough. It differs in this 
country, much more so, I think, than it does in Europe. I 
think, over here, we're much more fashion-oriented. 
PHILLIPS: More trendy. 

WOELFFER: Trendy, always looking for a new item or a new 
model, whereas Europe, you'll still see the galleries showing 
Giacometti , although he's been dead for several years now, 
see much more of a love for the art than over here. It 
seems to be more of a thing of merchandising, which is okay, 
in a sense, for the artist because he wants to sell his work. 
It has to be merchandised if it's going to be sold. 
PHILLIPS: In a way, what happens to the artist in this 
country is just a reflection of what happens to everything 
in our economic system. 

WOELFFER: Right. Because there are so many of them — I go 
through my old journals I have here, and I say, "Oh, for 
gosh sakes, look at this painter William Congden. Why, he 
used to be on the cover of Art News every other month. What 
happened to him? Where is he? I know he's not dead, you 
know." They work you over for a while, and then you're gone — 
which I don't think is right. I think if anything is good, 
regardless of its concept or style, it should be able to live. 



110 



I think you can put all good things together, even if 

they're from different periods, and they will work out quite 

well with each other. 

PHILLIPS: Jimmy Byrnes has meant a lot to you in your 

career. 

WOELFFER: Yes, he's done a lot for me, and we've been very 

close to him and Barbara. 

PHILLIPS: He's an example of the curator who's done a 

lot • . . 

WOELFFER: Done a lot and loved art, bought art, collected 

art, helped out artists. 

PHILLIPS: What tends to happen, I think quite naturally, is 

that curators and critics are very helpful to people they 

know well--with whom they learned about art, and with whom 

they had early experiences. 

WOELFFER: Right. And you find that many of them are on the 

move. When they get a new position, they always seem to 

have their left eye on the next place they're going to go to- 

in other words, moving up in society, moving up to a better 

position. Sometimes I find many of them use art for their 

own thing, their own . . . 

PHILLIPS: . . . advancement. 

WOELFFER: . . . advancement. I know some people in the 

feminist movement — I will not mention any names--who use it 

for their advancement. 



Ill 



PHILLIPS: How do you feel about the current feminist move- 
ment, and especially as it relates to art? 
WOELFFER: I think that it's fine for those who want to 
become a part of it. I know some who are very strong in it, 
and I know some who don't need that, who've made out quite 
well on their own without the movement. I certainly believe 
that women should have equal rights, you know, as man does. 
I can't see women on the front lines with a machine gun, 
although that's been done before. I can't see women on the 
third floor of a building, a burning building, on a step- 
ladder, carrying a 200-pound man on her back. I think there 
are certain things where it's carried too far. But some- 
times you have to ask for the whole pile in order to get 
half of the pile, you know. 

PHILLIPS: I think it's true that women haven't been encour- 
aged to be artists in the way that men have been and often 
have not been looked on as serious artists. 

WOELFFER: I've heard all sorts of stories to the effect of 
a woman taking her paintings to a gallery and being refused 
an exhibition, and then, some months later, a man taking the 
same paintings in — I don't know how true that is. Well, 
I'd rather not say. [laughter] 

PHILLIPS: Now, there are a lot of cultural values that we 
grow up with and grow accustomed to that got started in 
places like Ischia. [laughter] 



112 



WOELFFER: Kanemitsu once told me he became a painter because 
when they look at his paintings, unless they see his name 
below there, they don't know if a woman painted it, a China- 
man, a Japanese, who painted it. And this way, he could be 
kept out of it completely. Where otherwise, if he's doing 
a job where he is there, they say, "Oh, he ' s a Japanese," 
you know. 

PHILLIPS: Yes. How do you feel about art critics? Is 
there any critic who you feel has really understood your work 
well and written well about it? 

WOELFFER: Well, number one, Gerry Nordland has, always has. 
And Tom Messer of the Guggenheim Museum likes my work very 
much. And Clem Greenberg — I'm much more excited when another 
painter whom I respect likes my work. That is much more 
meaningful to me. 

PHILLIPS: Another person who has written beautifully about 
your work is Paul Wescher, I think. 

WOELFFER: Yes, Paul. Yeah, he is one of those rare — they 
don't come along too much anymore. I find most critics, 
when they write, they reveal more about themselves than they 
do about the artists they're writing about. 

PHILLIPS: It must be terrible to have someone writing about 
your work who really doesn't understand it, doesn't feel for 
it. 
WOELFFER: Right. We were talking the other night about — 



113 



Gerry knows a lot about art. So-and-so knows a lot about 
art. But when we were all together with [Alberto] Burri , 
the painter, he understood me much more than Gerry does. 
And I understood Burri much more because I'm another artist. 
Not that I don't respect him [Gerry], but I think that it's 
a different thing: the guy is creating, doing it. He ' s so 
much closer, understands, has a little extra edge, or some- 
thing. 

PHILLIPS: It pleases you when other artists respond to what 
you' re doing . 

WOELFFER: Yes, that means quite a bit to me. Yeah, like 
[Robert] Motherwell, he wants to trade with me; he likes my 
work. I have some beautiful letters he's written me about 
my paintings. Kline — I have some nice letters from Franz 
Kline. 

PHILLIPS: You liked Kline's work a lot. 
WOELFFER: Yes, very much. 
PHILLIPS: Yeah. 

WOELFFER: Liked him--he's a very terrific, honest individual, 
not pushy, not going to extremes in order to "make it," you 
know. He avoided the social scene, you know — being seen here 
and being seen there in order to further your career as an 
artist, which a lot of today's socializing is all about. 
PHILLIPS: Who are some of the dealers you admire? That 
you've liked over the years. 



114 



WOELFFER: Charlie Egan, von Neumann, the dealer in New York, 
Peggy Guggenheim. ... Of course, these are dealers of 
the near past. Today they seem to come on and go off the 
scene quite rapidly. They don't seem to have that kind of 
dedication, Pierre Matisse, I think, is very good. I 
always liked the things Julien Levy used to show--Julien 
Levy Gallery. 
PHILLIPS: Well, shall we stop? Okay. 

MARCH 23, 19 7 6 

PHILLIPS: Emerson, you wanted to add some things about the 
Chicago years before we go on talking about your move to 
Los Angeles. 

WOELFFER: I think we should mention, in December 7, 1940, 
I met Diane, and married Diane. 
PHILLIPS: The same day? [laughter] 

WOELFFER: No, no, no. Several months later. We were 
married on December the seventh. And she lived several 
blocks away, and moved into my studio, which was on Pearson 
Street, just west of the water tower in Chicago. And I 
continued working at the Institute of Design with Moholy- 
Nagy. At that particular time, the school moved from the 
Chez Paree building to another building. And I was con- 
tinuing showing. I hadn't at that time had my first New 



115 



York show yet. It was two years later, I think 1947, that 

I went to New York and had my first show at the Artists 

Gallery. Correct me — did I say we were married in 1940? 

PHILLIPS: Yes. 

WOELFFER: We were married in 1945, December 7, 1945. 

PHILLIPS: When was Pearl Harbor? Speaking of December. 

WOELFFER: It was December 7, 1940. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah, that's what you were thinking of. 

WOELFFER: While we were in Chicago, I think I had two shows 

in New York, was continuing showing at the Art Institute, 

at the Whitney Annuals, and I was invited to the Carnegie 

Institute, the Carnegie show, I think in 1947, '48. That's 

right. 

PHILLIPS: I think we talked about this last time, but you 

gave me those two catalogs of shows. Were they from the 

Carnegie Institute? 

WOELFFER: That was the University of Illinois. 

PHILLIPS: The Urbana shows. 

WOELFFER: It was then a yearly show. 

PHILLIPS: It was interesting to see how all of the American 

painters who were included in that show--some of whom went 

on to be very famous, like Jackson Pollock — were doing that 

same postcubist thing in their paintings. 

WOELFFER: Right. That was very strong at that particular 

period. I think one of the leaders of that was Karl Knaths 



116 



and Max Weber, who were out of Cezanne and cubism. They 
had had some trips to Paris and were quite influenced, as 
was Diego Rivera when he came back from his first trip to 
Paris. His paintings then were very postcubist. 
PHILLIPS: When one looks back, it's easy to see all of the 
influences, and I suppose for many of the things that are 
going on today, a different set of influences are exerting 
themselves, but they're still there, and there's a "look" 
to the avant-garde material from any period. 
WOELFFER: Right. 

PHILLIPS: At the same time, someone like yourself has 
become very much your own man in how your paintings look. 
WOELFFER: I don't feel that the younger painters of today 
are being influenced by the old, super masters because the 
masters — such as Picasso, Matisse, and all those people — 
are gone. And we don't have people, let us say, weathering 
as long or as heavy as these people did, and they're not 
making the strong impact. 

PHILLIPS: Like it's not a life of painting. Someone like 
Pollock, who was so influential, was gone, or ... . 
WOELFFER: It's a much lighter thing, and it's much more 
fleeting. There are so many more people involved today. 
PHILLIPS: There have been radical changes in art-making, 
in directions. Not necessarily with individual painters. 
Someone like Bob Motherwell, there's a very . . . 



117 



WOELFFER: . . . there's a definite . . . 
PHILLIPS: • . . there's a definite progression there. 
WOELFFER: Right, but he's rare, and he is one of the people 
of our particular generation who is still working, and there 
are very few of them at this point. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah. But what's going on with art-making with, 
say, people under thirty-five? There are people who are 
still painting, people who are very involved with that. But 
there are all of these other directions going on. 
WOELFFER: Yeah, conceptual, and the process art, and the 
video, and all of these things. 
PHILLIPS: You see a lot of that, teaching? 
WOELFFER: Yes, all over the country. 
PHILLIPS: Yes, and what's your reaction to it? 
WOELFFER: Well, to me, video is rather boring, and I'm told 
that is because I'm used to the fleeting moment of tele- 
vision, commercial television. But I find in the video and 
performances a great lack of professionalism, which doesn't 
exist. It's very amateurish. Video things look like home 
movies. 

PHILLIPS: But the language of painting is a very slow 
process, and not fleeting, certainly, and you've been used 
to that quietness that goes along with looking at painting 
and making things, which is very close to meditation. 
WOELFFER: There are still many painters today, young 



118 



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painters--it ' s amazing how I find many of them say, "I'm 

going to start work in oil paint." We all started painting 

in oil paints, and the younger people, they all started 

painting in acrylics, and now they're going from acrylics to 

oil paint. But I find in much of the work a major interest 

in the surface of the canvas, in the painting, rather than 

in the imagery. It's a kind of a painting that I think 

Pollock had a big influence on. It's a kind of a painting 

that had no beginning or no end, so you can turn out miles 

of it. 

PHILLIPS: It looks like an exercise. 

WOELFFER: An exercise, very interesting — the surface and 

the feeling of the texture of the paint, and so on. 

PHILLIPS: Whereas in a painting by you, or by Bob Motherwell, 

one has the feeling that there's a definite imagery and 

subject matter. 

WOELFFER: Right, there's a certain symbolism that is in the 

work. 

PHILLIPS: It's not part of the series. 

WOELFFER: Right. 

PHILLIPS: It could stand on its own. Well, you wanted to 

talk about the jam sessions in Chicago. 

WOELFFER: Oh, yes, at this particular time, from '45 on, 

Hugo Weber, the sculptor, and myself had a commission to do 

a club in Chicago called Jazz Limited. In fact, it didn't 



119 



happen that way. They came to me and wanted to know if I 
had any students that would do an interior of a club. And 
Hugo and I thought, well, it's quite a challenging thing; 
let's do it ourselves. So we did the whole thing ourselves. 
And the club, which is now defunct, was called Jazz Limited. 
We used to frequent it, I'm sure, at least once or twice a 
week. We met many of the musicians, and the musicians used 
to come over to my studio. We'd have Sunday afternoon jam 
sessions, where we had everybody from Momma Yancey, Jimmy 
Yancey, Chippie Hill, Bunk Johnson, Bill Reed, Al Tabasco, 
and just literally dozens and dozens of musicians. And our 
place got to be known as a place to come after hours, and 
there wasn't a week going by when some musicians who were in 
town wouldn't come over after work. One of them that fre- 
quented our place was Pee Wee Russell, the fabulous clarinet 
player. It was the sort of a place they could come and really 
play the kind of jazz they wanted to, and then Sunday, as I 
said, we'd have open Sundays, and whatever musicians were in 
town would come over, and literally hundreds of people would 
come. So we had quite an active studio for jazz. 
PHILLIPS: Is there anything else you want to add about 
those Chicago years? 

WOELFFER: When we left for Chicago — I think it's on the 
other tape — we took off for Yucatan. 
PHILLIPS: All right. Well, then, let's go to 1959 and your 



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arrival in Los Angeles. 

WOELFFER: Yes. I had a position waiting for me at Chouinard 
Art Institute, through Mitch Wilder. And it was through 
Paul Kantor, who was my dealer, that we rented Richards 
Ruben's house and studio in Mt. Washington. Dick was 
another painter. So we came directly from Chicago to the 
house and studio on Mt. Washington, where we stayed about 
three years before we moved to the place where we're now 
sitting. 

PHILLIPS: What was Paul Kantor like in those days, and what 
was his gallery like? 

WOELFFER: Well, Paul was showing at that time a painter by 
the name of [Douglas] Snow, Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer 
Bischoff, Ynez Johnston, Jules Engel, and myself. I think 
this made up the gallery. And this was just before Paul 
started getting into the German expressionist painters. I 
think he started out with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. And then 
from there, he moved into some of the French and some of the 
New York painters, and he started working with the big 
blue-chip painters, and this is about the time when some of 
his gallery people started leaving. I was next to the last 
to leave, and I went with [Ed] Primus and [David] Stuart. I 
think Ynez was the last to leave — she stayed on till the 
very end, when Paul was not dealing with any contemporary 
California painters. 



121 



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PHILLIPS: What was he like when you first met him, in 
terms of his response to contemporary art? I mean, he was 
really very involved at one time. 

WOELFFER: I met him in Colorado Springs, when he came out 
to visit the Byrneses. He was very excited about my work, 
and, in fact, he gave me ray first show out here. And we did 
quite well. He sold quite well for me. In fact, he kept 
us in Europe for those two years. When I came back, to move 
to Los Angeles, I had a big show there which was quite 
successful. The only thing Paul didn't do for his painters 
was to try to get an Eastern and a European exposure. 
PHILLIPS: Do you feel that that's been a continuing problem 
with California painters? I mean by that people who happen 
to live in California and paint. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, that's the same thing that happened to 
painters living and working in Chicago. It's still happening, 
And Paul had some very good shows. He had Raymond Parker, 
who used to come out here. And right next to Paul's gallery 
on Camden Drive, there was Frank Perls, who had a gallery, 
who showed some California painters — Robert Chuey and the 
like. Also Picasso and Matisse and Giacometti, the French. 
PHILLIPS: Perls showed the more conservative, traditional, 
contemporary painters, didn't he? Those California painters 
who were more academic? 
WOELFFER: Right, yeah. 



122 



PHILLIPS: Were you aware of the influence of the so-called 
[Rico] Lebrun school? 

WOELFFER: I was very aware of that. That was very strong — 
Lebrun, Howard Warshaw, and the Herbert Jepson school. 
Herbert Jepson had a school with Lebrun, and I think Warshaw 
was a teacher, and they were all in that vein of heavy a la 
Picassoesque draftsmanship work. 

PHILLIPS: I'm sure you thought it was a more conservative 
approach to art-making than yours. 
WOELFFER: It was very conservative to me. 

PHILLIPS: And they were very influential with students and 
certain collectors and critics in town. 
WOELFFER: Right, right, yes. 

PHILLIPS: What other galleries do you think of that were 
open when you were here, and did you go much? 
WOELFFER: There was the Ferus Gallery. And there was a 
gallery that opened across the street. Henry Hopkins 
opened a gallery or worked for somebody, directed a gallery. 
And he didn't stay very long; he went to the County Museum 
of Art. There was the Felix Landau gallery, and Ralph 
Altman's gallery of primitive art, which was quite wonderful. 
And I was then with Primus and Stuart, who eventually broke 
up, and it became just the David Stuart Gallery. And I went 
with David, where I remained until about 19-, oh, '65, I 
think, or '66, somewhere in there. In the meantime, Herbie 



123 



Stothart, Mary Wescher's son, had a school in Puria, San 
Memeta, just out of Lugano, in the Italian area of Switzer- 
land. And I spent, I think, two suinmers up there teaching. 
PHILLIPS: Before we talk about the Puria experience, let's 
go back to your early years in Los Angeles. What other 
artists did you see during that period? Who else was 
teaching at Chouinard? 

WOELFFER: Richards Ruben was there, and Robert Chuey, Nob 
Hadeshi. It was, oh, a little later on when Matsumi 
Kanemitsu came from New York. He took my place when I 
went to Europe on a Guggenheim. Billy Al Bengston used to 
come around quite a bit. We used to have lunch with him 
and Bob Irwin, and that was about the art circle I was in 
at that particular time. 

PHILLIPS: I know it was a different time, but how did it 
compare to your life in Chicago, the life here? 
WOELFFER: Well, in my postschool days, the WPA, there was 
much more of a camaraderie with the painters than there 
was out here. Of course, I think one of the things — the 
distances in Los Angeles make quite a difference. In 
Chicago, most all the painters lived on the Near North Side. 
Nobody ever thought of owning an automobile in Chicago; 
everybody walked to where they were going. It was so close- 
knit — the Near North Side, which is sort of like the Village 
in New York. Los Angeles is so spread out, and people live 



124 



here and there, and I feel this is one reason why we don't 

find this sort of thing of the painters getting together. 

Well, there was the Barney's Beanery at one time, where the 

painters used to meet. But Chicago, there was Ricardo ' s 

Restaurant, and always the Art Institute. Out here there 

are many galleries. In Chicago in those days there were 

only two or three galleries, and they did not show any of 

the local people. There weren't any galleries in the 

forties that showed local painters. 

PHILLIPS: What was your reaction to the Los Angeles County 

Museum when you came here? 

WOELFFER: The museum at that time was in Exposition Park, 

and my whole thing, after living somewhat in New York and 

Chicago, was not being able to see a great collection in the 

museum. 

PHILLIPS: It was disappointing to you. 

WOELFFER: Very disappointing, yes. 

PHILLIPS: How do you feel the growth of the museiom has been? 

Do you feel there's a great collection there now? 

WOELFFER: I think that it's coming along very slowly, but 

I don't think they have the space at this point. 

PHILLIPS: Was there anyone who was working at the museum 

that you had contact with? Did you know Jim Elliott? 

WOELFFER: Yeah. Jim Elliott--we became quite good friends 

and I'm glad to see that he's coming back now to San Francisco, 



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But when they had the juried and invitational show, I think 

it was quite exciting. They'd have the openings, and all 

the painters would get together. One thing I recall was 

Virginia Kondratieff had her gallery, the Dwan Gallery, and 

she threw some fabulous affairs where all the painters could 

come to meet — but the scene today is a completely different 

one, which is to be expected. Things don't always stay the 

same. The new generation of painters, they come on much 

faster. It used to be ten years; now I think it's every 

three or four years, there's a whole new group coming on. 

PHILLIPS: And so many more of them. 

WOELFFER: So many more of them, right. 

PHILLIPS: And having shows . . . 

WOELFFER: Constantly. 

PHILLIPS: . . . first year out of art school. 

WOELFFER: Right, right. Or while they're in art school. 

PHILLIPS: And showing at small shows at the Pasadena Museum 

or the County Museum and not being heard of thereafter. 

WOELFFER: Right. 

PHILLIPS: That happens very quickly. I know one thing I 

wanted to ask you: what did you think of the Ferus Gallery? 

Did you go to many of those shows? Did you know Irving 

Blum? 

WOELFFER: Yes. I knew Irving and Walter Hopps, and I 

remember the first big Richards Ruben show, the black 



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paintings that he did with a broom. 
PHILLIPS: The Claremont series. 

WOELFFER: Claremont — very impressive, very good painting. 
And then there were some very rich paintings of Bob Irwin 
at that particular time. And then everything, all of a 
sudden, started to get very cool and minimal, very precious. 
PHILLIPS: That was happening all over the country. 
WOELFFER: That was happening all over the country, sort of 
a lack of vitality--raaybe not a lack, but a different kind 
of vitality, a kind that I was not used to. And then, of 
course, came the hard-edge painting. Then came pop art, 
which Virginia got into quite heavy with [Claes] Oldenburg 
and Andy Warhol. And Arman [Armand Fernandez] and Martial 
Raysse, the French painter from Nice. 

PHILLIPS: Do you remember any shows at the County Museum 
or particular shows at galleries that struck you? 
WOELFFER: Well, the County Museum had a great Mir6 show 
which I thought was quite fabulous. And then the Greenberg 
show that I happened to be in was quite an interesting show. 
This is about the time when the kind of antivigorous paint- 
ing was coming about. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



It was called "Post-Painterly Abstraction." 

Right, right. 

And you were included in the show? 

I was included in the show. 



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PHILLIPS: Did Greenberg come to your studio? 

WOELFFER: No, Greenberg just called me up and said, "Put a 

couple of things in." I don't know how disappointed he was, 

but anyway--they were flat paintings, but they were pretty 

thick. And then the Dwan Gallery had some very exciting 

exhibitions of Yves Klein, who came out here; he was quite 

an exciting individual. And in a completely different 

direction. 

PHILLIPS: Yes. 

WOELFFER: And Paul [Kantor] had some very good shows of 

some of the heavies. 

PHILLIPS: The de Kooning show. 

WOELFFER: Right. 

PHILLIPS: Well, let me ask you what your own painting was 

like during these years that v;e were talking about. What 

kind of thing were you doing in the early sixties, for 

instance? 

WOELFFER: I think they were pretty expressionistic , as they 

remain, as they are today. I did have a phase, or a period, 

between what I'm doing now and those paintings, which was a 

lip series, and a series that came from my torn paper collages, 

which were when I first went into working with acrylic paint 

and found that they weren't as manipulative as the oil paint. 

And my painting at that point, the lip series, and the torn 

paper collage series took on a much flatter look. And I was 



128 



being accused of being a hard-edge painter, and they weren't 
hard-edge at all. They might have been a little more severe, 
but they certainly weren't hard-edge in the sense that we 
talk about hard-edge painting, such as McLaughlin, or some of 
the Larry Bell paintings, and those sort of things. 
PHILLIPS: I know that Clement Greenberg always liked your 
painting, because he said so, and he's liked your shows in 
New York. 

WOELFFER: Right. Yeah, he came to my show last February in 
New York, and Dina talked to him. I left early, but she spent 
some time with him. 

PHILLIPS: What do you think about his influence in American 
painting--and, let's say, the role of the critics in general? 
WOELFFER: I think he's quite influential with the group of 
people that he works with, Helen Frankenthaler and [Kenneth] 
Noland. I've heard from people that he now and then says to 
Noland, "Why don't we try something like this?" or, "Let's go 
vertical," or, "Let's do something like that." And he tends 
to mold, or he's like the conductor of an orchestra who has 
all these people and makes various suggestions to them, in 
what direction to go, etc. 

PHILLIPS: He has been accused of being very manipulative of 
painters whom he's supported. A lot of people are critical 
of him. But he does have a great eye, and he has a theory. 
WOELFFER: Right. 



129 



[- i 



PHILLIPS: And he is about the only well-established art 
critic who does, whether you agree with it or not. 



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TAPE NUl^ER: III, SIDE TWO 
MARCH 23, 1976 

PHILLIPS: Last time, you were talking about when you'd 

completed a series of paintings, that you'd put them up 

against the wall and decide which ones had made it, which 

ones could live, and I wonder what goes on in your mind when 

you begin evaluating your own work. 

WOELFFER: Well, I guess I weigh one against the other, in 

relation to color, form, shape, whatever. And it's--well, I 

don't know. It just happens. 

PHILLIPS: It's a feeling. 

WOELFFER: A feeling you have. This one goes; this one 

stays, you know. Just like when I go in a gallery or a 

museum and look at paintings, I say, "This is it, and that 

one isn't." I don't know. 

PHILLIPS: And it's hard to justify the basis on which one 

does that. 

WOELFFER: Right, right. Some are more exciting than others. 

PHILLIPS: I think it's hard to justify how one evaluates 

abstract paintings because other people want you to put it 

in a very verbal fashion. 

WOELFFER: Right. 

PHILLIPS: And that's really not the language. 



131 



WOELFFER: And then I look at them in relation to where they 

came from in my own work, you know, whether I've gone back 

or whether I've really gone ahead or whatever. So I don't 

only see them in relation to each other, but I see them in 

relation to my whole body of work. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah, and that's a felt knowledge that's been 

developed over a lifetime. 

WOELFFER: Yes, right. 

PHILLIPS: During your early days in Los Angeles, did you 

run into Betty Asher? 

WOELFFER: Yes, I ran into Betty Asher, I think, during the 

days of the Primus-Stuart Gallery. She just started at 

that particular time becoming interested in California 

painters, and I think that she said my big painting The Kiss , 

which she just gave to the Newport Harbor Museum, was her 

first major purchase. And she said it was quite something 

for her. She's always been enthusiastic about painters and 

painting. 

PHILLIPS: And did you see Leonard Edmondson during those 

years? 

WOELFFER: Yes. When I arrived, I was asked to become a 

trustee of the Pasadena Art Museum, which I did. 

PHILLIPS: That was during the period when they had artists 

on the board. 

WOELFFER: They had artists on the board as well as other 



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\ 



business trustees. And I think Jules Langsner and Leonard 

Edmondson and myself were the artists. 

PHILLIPS: Artists' representatives. 

WOELFFER: Artists' representatives. And we sort of worked 

with Mrs. [EudorahJ Moore in making decisions and reviewing 

people submitting work for one-man shows, and I think we 

were the jury of that sort of thing. 

PHILLIPS: What was the Pasadena Museum like in those days? 

WOELFFER: I've always enjoyed it, but they couldn't always 

have all the Klees up. But Tom Leavitt was, I think, the 

first director. 

PHILLIPS: The first director you knew. 

WOELFFER: The first director I knew, yes. In 1963 I had a 

retrospective show there, with about seventy-five works, 

loaned from myself and borrowed from collections around the 

Los Angeles area mainly. And then June Wayne and Clinton 

Adams, Tamarind litho workshop, got their grant from the Ford 

Foundation. I was invited. I was given a grant there to do 

several editions of lithographs. I think that was in 1961, 

•62. 

PHILLIPS: What was June like in those days? 

WOELFFER: Well, I'd known her from the early days of Chicago, 

on the WPA artists project, and the Artists Union, and she 

was just a little more intensified than she was then. But 

she always was a spokesman for the artists, seeing that the 



133 



artists had a fair shake, and always interested in art in 

relation to the community, etc. And it was a real wonderful 

thing, this revitalizing the art of lithography which had 

been dead up to this point. 

PHILLIPS: She really did that, didn't she? She was the 

one . 

WOELFFER: Yeah, she did that. Not only did she invite 

painters to do lithographs, but she trained people to become 

master printers for other artists. And they went back to 

their various hamlets, wherever they came from, and would 

usually open up their own print workshops and serve the 

artists of those various communities. 

PHILLIPS: Tell me about Chouinard when you began teaching 

there. Who was there? 

WOELFFER: Mitch Wilder was the director, and Richards Ruben 

was there, and Don Graham, and Herbert Jepson, and Edmond 

Kohn, and John Canavier, the sculptor. And it was quite an 

exciting period. 

PHILLIPS: Were the students good? 

WOELFFER: The students were very good. There was a wonderful 

feeling amongst the students. I had students--I had Pat 

Blackwell and Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, Tom Wudl, and who's the 

boy that does . . . ? Charles Arnoldi. And the boy who does 

the big . . . ? Ron Cooper. I had all of those people who are 

today some of the younger important painters and sculptors in 



134 



Los Angeles. 

PHILLIPS: Were there one or two of them that you got to know 
especially well? 

WOELFFER: At the time of school, and then when they left 
school, they moved to various parts of Los Angeles, mainly 
Venice, and I only run into them occasionally at openings at 
LAICA or something like that. 

PHILLIPS: When did Gerry Nordland come to Chouinard? 
WOELFFER: Gerry Nordland — I think there was an assistant 
director who was at one time the head of the foundation out 
at Will Rogers Park. What was the name of that? Ynez 
I Johnston] had a grant up there. 

PHILLIPS: Oh, the Huntington Hartford Foundation. 
WOELFFER: Right, and he was a musician; he was assistant 
director for a while. And then he left, and I introduced 
Gerry to Mitch Wilder at your house. 

PHILLIPS: You'd known Gerry since you first came to Los 
Angeles. 

WOELFFER: I knew Gerry before I met Gerry. He saw a paint- 
ing of mine in a show that Jimmy Byrnes put on, an American 
show, invited show, at the County Museum. Gerry was quite mad 
about it and wrote me — I was living in Colorado Springs-- 
and eventually he purchased a painting. It was some years 
later when I met Gerry — very enthusiastic fellow about 
art, and he became quite a museum director. He was at 



135 



\ 



Chouinard, I think, for about two years. When Mitch Wilder 
left, Gerry became the director of Chouinard, and then I 
think that lasted two years, and he went to Washington, B.C. 
PHILLIPS: But he's someone you've always been very close to. 
WOELFFER: Very close to, yes. He has his feet on the 
ground. I think he's one of the last of that kind of museum 
director. 

PHILLIPS: Who's really interested in the artists and paint- 
ing. 

WOELFFER: He has that look of the old museum director out 
of Yale or Princeton; he has that look in his dress and 
everything else. 
PHILLIPS: Ivy League. 
WOELFFER: Yeah. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah, yeah. Well, let's go through your Los 
Angeles chronology. After Chouinard closed, then what did 
you do? 

WOELFFER: I stayed on at Chouinard for the last year because 
there were some students who'd signed a contract that they 
weren't going to go to Cal Arts. So they had to keep the school 
open for one year, and Kanemitsu, and myself .... 
PHILLIPS: Chouinard phased out and eventually closed down 
and became part of the California Institute of the Arts. 
WOELFFER: And before that, in 1967, I received a Guggenheim 
grant and had to find a replacement because I was going to go 



136 



to New York for some time. So I had contacted Kanemitsu in 
New York, and he was delighted to come out here and take my 
place because his wife was from out here and they were about 
to have a child. So on my way to Europe, I saw Kanemitsu 
and wished him good luck, and he came out here, and he's 
been out here ever since. And he's now at Otis, working 
with me. But when the school was phased out, I went the 
first year of the new campus up at Valencia, which was this 
huge, huge, factorylike building. Paul Brach had become the 
dean of the art school. Paul, whom I'd known many years-- 
I met him when he and his wife Mimi [Miriam Shapiro] were 
graduate students at the University of Iowa. I went out 
there to jury a show in, I think, 1946, when I first met 
them. Then I met them again at Tamarind when he was on a 
Tamarind grant, he and Mimi, and then he became the dean of 
the art department of California Institute of the Arts. 
PHILLIPS: What do you think his contribution was during 
his four years out here? Do you think he made quite a sub- 
stantial contribution to the school? 

WOELFFER: I don't think so. The art school was always the 
weakest part of the institute, and it still is. I think 
they're down to two teachers. Their enrollment is very 
small. The strength of the school is the music and the 
theater and the film department. 
PHILLIPS: I've heard you before on the subject. I think you 



137 



feel that the art department was too unstructured for the 
students, that it was too hard on undergraduate students . . 
WOELFFER: Right, right. 

PHILLIPS: . . . to be in such an unstructured environment. 
WOELFFER: A student would come in, and for the first day of 
meeting with the students, they were told that they were 
artists, go ahead and do their thing. They were completely 
lost. Many of them were just out of high school. It was 
much different in the music department because before you 
went into the music school, you were trained in some kind of 
instrument, and you really had to know how to play the 
instrument and prove it before you could get into the music 
school. 

PHILLIPS: And your lifestyle did not entitle you to be an 
artist. [laughter] 

WOELFFER: Right, right. Before I went to Cal Arts, I think 
I had another couple of sessions in Europe with Herbie ' s 
school in Switzerland. I think it was in 1971, David Stuart 
called me and said somebody from Arco was coming here from 
New York. The building was then in progress of being built, 
and they were inviting a group of painters to show their 
work, with the idea of purchase. And I had just completed 
three large canvases from my collages I had done in Paris, 
and Lee Morgan invited one of them to a show at the 
Philadelphia Museum. It received an award, and when that 



138 



X 



came back, I sent that plus the other two paintings to the 

Atlantic Richfield viewing, and they purchased all three of 

them — which immediately took us back to Europe again for a 

certain length of time. 

PHILLIPS: When did you first go to Puria, to teach at Herb 

Stothard's school? 

WOELFFER: Nineteen sixty-two was my first summer. And I 

think '64 I went to Puria, and then in '65 we stopped by 

there because I had a grant from the State Department to 

go to Turkey for six months. 

PHILLIPS: Now, Herb Stothard had a school in Puria, in a 

small village, and he had American students. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, mostly students whose parents had business 

interests, or their companies, around Europe. And Herb 

taught art history and I taught painting. 

PHILLIPS: Those must have been quite delightful summers for 

you. 

VJOELFFER: They were very nice. They were very light — 

nothing heavy. And most of that was very enjoyable. 

PHILLIPS: And the Weschers were there. 

WOELFFER: Paul and Mary Wescher were there. 

PHILLIPS: And Paul's a wonderful person with whom to be in 

Europe. 

WOELFFER: Right, right. And we had some wonderful trips 

together. When 1 went over there on the Guggenheim in '67, 



139 



the French government gave roe a studio a block away from the 

Notre Dame-- the Cite Internationale des Arts, a building 

that somebody put up for artists all over the world to come 

in and work. I spent a couple, three months there. 

PHILLIPS: What other artists were there while you were 

there? 

WOELFFER: Some artists that I didn't know of. There were 

some from Czechoslovakia and some from Italy. I didn't know 

any; nobody seemed to get together. Everybody went up and 

went into their room and closed the door, and there wasn't 

any kind of get-together at all with the people. 

PHILLIPS: And what other artists had been there in the 

past, do you recall? 

WOELFFER: I don't know; they never handed out a list or 

said so-and-so had been here or anything else. Afterward 

I recommended other painters going to Europe to see if they 

could get a space in the building. 

PHILLIPS: I'm reminded of something else, which is your 

great interest in primitive art, and I suppose you began 

collecting when you came to Los Angeles in a heavier kind of 

way. 

VTOELFFER: Right. Paul Kantor had some pieces, and we made 

some swaps. 

PHILLIPS: David Stuart. 

WOELFFER: David Stuart and Primus. And then almost every 



140 



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trip we had to Europe, we always picked up pieces when we 
were there. 

PHILLIPS: And there was that beautiful show that Jimmy 
Byrnes put on in Newport Beach just recently that involved 
you and Erie Loran and Lee Mullican and Richard Haley, "The 
Artist Collects." It's a beautiful catalog, and there's a 
wonderful statement from you in that, on your feeling about 
primitive art and its relationship to your work. 
WOELFFER: Yeah, right. And then I also picked up much of 
it when we came back from our last venture in Europe. I 
was asked to be artist-in-residence at Honolulu Art Academy 
for four and a half months. So we went over there in 1973, 
and there were several collectors over there. In fact, one 
man was about to put his collection of Oceania on auction in 
New York at Parke Bernet , and I was able to pick up many 
good pieces from him. So it seems wherever I go , I find 
something here and there. And on all these trips while we 
were over there--this is when Dina started to do her series 
of tombs of artists and writers and musicians and theatrical 
people around Europe, mainly in Paris. 

PHILLIPS: Yes, she took pictures of tombs of famous artists 
and other creative people, and from that she's made several 
museiom shows. 

WOELFFER: Right, she had a show that started with Gerry 
iNordlandJ at the San Francisco Museum and traveled, I think. 



141 



to six or seven other museums around the country. 
PHILLIPS: Yes, and finally ended up at the Jodi Scully 
Gallery in Los Angeles. Let's see, do you want to talk a 
little more about your reaction to that summer in Honolulu? 
WOELFFER: We arrived there, I think, about the twenty- 
sixth of January and came back about the first of June. When 
we arrived there, we were put up in some kind of a motel. 
And we stayed there two days, and I luckily found a wonderful 
apartment in the Colony Surf, right next to the Outrigger 
Canoe Club--fifth floor, looking down at the beach and out 
at the fantastic sunsets every night. Honolulu Academy gave 
me a wonderful studio, which I think I put my foot in once. 
They were quite disappointed in me. I spent all my free 
time lying on the beach. [laughter] I did some island 
hopping and gave some lectures at Kona and a few other 
places. 

PHILLIPS: You enjoyed the people there quite a bit. 
WOELFFER: Oh, yes, they were very warm. It was wonderful. 
And the food and just everything was just great. I don't 
think I could do it as a steady diet because I don't think 
I'd get any work done, really. 

PHILLIPS: They talk about Southern California being soft, 
but it's even softer in Honolulu. [laughter] 

WOELFFER: Softer in Honolulu. A lot of painters over there, 
and the work is not very vigorous. 



142 



PHILLIPS: You do feel there is a connection between the 
environment and the stimulation and the quality of work. 
WOELFFER: Oh, very definitely. I think that the French 
impressionists, they really started in Paris, and later on, 
when they were established and found their way, their direc- 
tion, then they moved on down to the French Riviera, as you 
know. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah, and true of the New York abstract expres- 
sionists, too. They all put their time in in the big, hard 
city, and then they moved out to Connecticut or Long 
Island or wherever. 

WOELFFER: Gauguin did it in Paris, and then he went to 
Tahiti. 

PHILLIPS: And you, in a way, put in your time in Chicago. 
WOELFFER: In Chicago, right, and then came out here. So 
that environment, I think, in the very beginning is 
really needed. Many times I suggest to my students, you 
know, when they get out of school, to go to New York for a 
year or so, or go to Europe and try something out there. 
PHILLIPS: Tell me about that experience in Turkey, because 
that was interesting. 

WOELFFER: Let's see, on our way to Turkey . . . 
PHILLIPS: You were appointed by the State Department, and 
it was for six months, and you were to go to Ankara. 
WOELFFER: I went to Ankara, arrived in Ankara, with my work. 



143 



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PHILLIPS: What was the purpose of your visit? 
WOELFFER: Well, the idea was mainly to contact the painters 
of Turkey and tell them what is happening in our country. 
And I took hundreds of slides with me, which I left to the 
library in Turkey, and dozens of books on contemporary art. 
PHILLIPS: Slides of American contemporary art. 
WOELFFER: American contemporary art. And I lectured on 
that all over Turkey. And when I was in Ankara, they had 
somebody design a building, an art gallery and theater, 
which was completely unfunctional. If you were on the left 
or right side of the theater, you couldn't see the stage. 
And if you were in the balcony, you were just on top of the 
stage--it was terrifying, like you'd fall down three stories. 
And the art gallery used cement walls that you could not put 
nails into, so I redesigned the whole art gallery, made it 
functional . 

PHILLIPS: In other words, you had to bring them a lot of 
very practical knowledge about how to place lighting and 
how to put nails in the wall. 

WOELFFER: I did the whole thing. And then after that was 
over with, we went to Gaziantep and to Ismir and to, oh, 
many, many places--to Istanbul and lectured on American 
painting, with the slides. I lectured in English, and I had 
a translator, who translated in Turkish. And it was quite 
interesting, going back into the villages, where the women 



144 



\ 



still wear the veils, and the men wear these jodhpur pants, 
you know, expecting to catch Allah. When he comes back the 
next time he ' s going to come from a man rather than from a 
woman, and they wear these jodhpurs with the big seats so 
they can catch him when he comes out. And we went to the 
American Hospital Institution and School in Gaziantep, and 
on our way to a lecture one night, some little lady said, 
"My, you look just like my Uncle Ernest." And I paid no 
attention to that, and after the lecture, we went back to 
the American Hospital, and they had coffee and cake, and I 
said, "What did you mean--that I remind you of your Uncle 
Ernest?" She said, "My Uncle Ernest was Uncle Ernest 
Hemingway." Because Hemingway's brother was a missionary. 
Hemingway's brother was a missionary for years and years in 
China, and this was his daughter, who was still a missionary, 
PHILLIPS: You saw some of the prehistoric ruins in Turkey. 
WOELFFER: Oh, yes. We went to Ephesus and many places. 
They were just absolutely fantastic. Many of them were 
destroyed because the Ottoman Empire, you know--it was 
against their religion, the Moslem religion, to create man 
in any other form, so in their wars many of these beautiful 
statues were just destroyed. 

PHILLIPS: That had been left by the Greeks and Romans. 
WOELFFER: Right. The noses were off, and the heads were 
chopped off, and so on. 



145 



PHILLIPS: You find travel very stimulating and refreshing. 
WOELFFER: After I get there, but not the getting there, 
[laughter] We haven't been anyplace for quite a few years 
at this point. 

PHILLIPS: Do you want to go back to Europe? 
WOELFFER: Dina ' s ready. We were thinking about it. Hans 
Wengler was here a few months ago, and he is on a grant 
from the German government. They are building a building 
designed by Gropius many years ago which is going to house 
the archives of the Black Mountain College, the Chicago 
Bauhaus , the Weimar Bauhaus , and the Ulra Bauhaus . And he 
was out here interviewing people who were a part of the 
Chicago Bauhaus and asked if I would send them a painting 
that they would eventually want to purchase for the Chicago 
archives. He also was wondering whether I would like a 
grant to Germany this coming year, to talk in Germany 
about the Chicago Bauhaus, which I said I'd like very much. 
PHILLIPS: So do you think that'll come through? 

I hope it will. 

But what part of Germany will you go to? 

Berlin. And I hear there are some fabulous 
museums there, collections I'd like to see. 
PHILLIPS: Oh, yes. And you can see your friend George 
Rickey; he has a studio there. 
WOELFFER: That's what I understand. 



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WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



PHILLIPS: And Ed Keinholz. 

WOELFFER: Ulfert Wilke just returned, and he has an 
apartment-studio which he keeps all the time in Munich, and 
we're completely welcome to it at any time. 

PHILLIPS: That would be really exciting for you. One person 
in Los Angeles you must have run into over and over again 
was Fred Wight. 

WOELFFER: Oh, yes. Well, I ran into Fred Wight long before 
he came out here, and before I came out here. My first meet- 
ing with Fred Wight was in Chicago, when I had just returned 
from Yucatan in 1950. He came to visit me in Chicago. He 
was then with the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, 
and he was organizing a large show of about six painters, and 
I was one of them. And that's when I first met Fred Wight. 
And the next time I met him was about 1952 or '53 in Colorado 
Springs. He was one of the people interviewed for the posi- 
tion of director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 
so I had another occasion to meet him. And then in many 
shows that he had put on, I was always included. 
PHILLIPS: So you felt that he was supportive of your work. 
WOELFFER: Yes, very much so. 

PHILLIPS: Do you have any comments about the UCLA art gallery 
and its functions during the years you've been in Los Angeles? 
WOELFFER: I think it's doing a magnificent job. 
PHILLIPS: You liked that Matisse show. 



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WOELFFER: Oh, yeah. I think it does as much if not more 
maybe than some of the local museums, really. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



In terms of modern art. 

Right, right. 

You've liked the shows. 

I liked the shows. They had the great [Jean] 
Arp show, the Matisse show, and then Gerry put on the show 
of the sculptor, Gaston Lachaise. I think they really serve 
the art community admirably out here. 

PHILLIPS: Good. And Fred was the founding director of that. 
WOELFFER: Gerry's carrying on. [tape recorder turned off] 
The exhibitions I had out here in this period, I think, 
started with the rather large one, the first summer I was 
on a teaching grant, at the La Jolla art center. 
PHILLIPS: Were you living down there all summer? 
WOELFFER: I went all summer, and I filled up all the 
galleries. I had a semiretrospective exhibition. 
PHILLIPS: Who was the director there then? 

WOELFFER: Don . . . Brewer. And Guy Williams was teaching 
down there. I first met Guy and another fellow who was 
assistant director who's now a painter in New York. And 
Malcolm McLain, the sculptor, who is now a poet. 
PHILLIPS: Do you remember what year that was, in La Jolla? 
WOELFFER: That must have been '61. I'm pretty sure — '61. 
And then the following summer I taught the summer class at USC. 



148 



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PHILLIPS: And how was that teaching down there? What 

impression did you have of that art department? 

WOELFFER: I had mainly football players in my drawing 

class . 

PHILLIPS: Was it an easy course? [laughter] 

WOELFFER: They had to keep their grades up, so they had an 

easy course. 

PHILLIPS: Were there any people in the department who 

impressed you? 

WOELFFER: No, the summer school was very light. There 

weren't too many people around at that particular time. And 

I think it was '65 that I had again a one-man shov^7 at the 

Santa Barbara museum. 

PHILLIPS: Who was the director there? 

WOELFFER: I think Tom Leavitt was the director there. He 

moved from Pasadena to Santa Barbara. And then I also had 

a show at a commercial gallery, the Quay Gallery in San 

Francisco, in 1965. 

PHILLIPS: How did you like Tom Leavitt, and what sort of 

person was he? 

WOELFFER: I like him very much, very sincere person, who 

had quite a hold on himself — very similar to Gerry, in a 

sense. 

PHILLIPS: Did you feel he had a good understanding of 

contemporary art? 



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X 



WOELFFER: I felt he did. I don't know what happened after 

that, because this was in the earlier period. I don't know 

where he is; he is in the East someplace. 

PHILLIPS: Cornell, I think. 

WOELFFER: I know he had a large sum of money to put together 

a permanent collection. But what happened after that with 

painting — this was an earlier period. I don't know what his 

tastes were, whether they continued to grow or not with the 

newer kind of concepts and ideas that were coming in. 

PHILLIPS: Did Henry Seldis give your show a good review in 

Santa Barbara? 

WOELFFER: Yes. He always seems to give me a good review; 

Seldis does, yes. 

PHILLIPS: What do you think of Henry and his role at the 

Los Angeles Times ? 

WOELFFER: I like him. I think that a lot of people feel 

he's too old-hat, but I don't think so. That's why he has 

Bill Wilson. Now he has another Miss Isenberg on his staff. 

With that group they cover all the ideas and concepts pretty 

well. 

PHILLIPS: And it is, after all, a newspaper and not an art 

journal, so they have to be reportorial in what they do. 

WOELFFER: Exactly, right, right. 

PHILLIPS: A lot of people have complained that there have 

never been enough art writers in Los Angeles. 



150 



\ 



WOELFFER: Well, I think that's true in relation to the 
national and international art magazines. Jules Langsner 
for a while wrote for Art International , and then for a long 
time they had no coverage of California or West Coast paint- 
ing or art. And now recently I see that Gerry Nordland is 
writing for Art International . And Arts magazine. And 
Artforum, which started out quite strongly as a California 
magazine, and then was taken over and moved to New York. Now 
they seem to cover Los Angeles fairly well, but only a 
particular kind of art. 

PHILLIPS: What do you think of Peter Plagens? 
WOELFFER: I know Peter; I read his things. They're very 
difficult for me to read. Sometimes he doesn't make too much 
sense about what he's writing about. He seems to reveal quite 
a bit about himself, more about his personal feelings than 
about his subject matter, which I think happens frequently to 
art critics. 

PHILLIPS: Did you read his Sunshine Muse ? 

WOELFFER: I haven't. I've just glanced through; I haven't 
sat down to read it yet. But I think it's a good thing-- 
it's needed, showing the history of West Coast painting. At 
this point, I don't know how accurate it is, but from what 
I've glanced through, he seems to have covered quite a bit 
of everything, all the artists. 
PHILLIPS: Some people feel that he hasn't done too well in 



151 



terms of covering the past. 

WOELFFER: Well, he is quite young, and. . . . Jules was a 
good critic, I think--Jules Langsner. 

PHILLIPS: Yes, I agree. Do you want to talk some about 
your shows at the Jodi Scully gallery? 

WOELFFER: I had, I think, two shows there. Those were my 
last shows. My last one was, I think, two, maybe three, 
years ago. Now the time goes so fast. 

PHILLIPS: Do you feel that they've been a successful gallery 
in Los Angeles, have added much to the life here? 
WOELFFER: I think they have for certain people, for a certain 
kind of art. I'm no longer with them. I'm laying low for a 
while. [laughter] 

PHILLIPS: One other chronological thing was the show you had 
at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. The works in 
that were part of the show that had been at Newport Beach. 
WOELFFER: Yes, that was quite exciting for me, that show. 
In fact, we went to Washington to see the show. At that time, 
I had received a National Endowment [for the Arts] grant 
which enabled us to stop in Chicago, Washington, and New 
Orleans. So we stopped in Washington, had a wonderful after- 
noon with ... 

PHILLIPS: . . . Laughlin Phillips? Gifford's cousin, 
[laughter] 
WOELFFER: Gifford's cousin, and the assistant . . . 



152 



PHILLIPS: . . . Richard Friedman, who was the curator of 
the gallery, then. 

WOELFFER: Right. And we went out for lunch, and we were 
taken through the whole collection, which was quite beautiful- 
I think one of the very, very fine collections. And it was 
through that exhibition that I got a show the following 
February in New York at the Poindexter Gallery, because she 
[Ellie Poindexter] went down to see the show and wanted to 
have that same show--which was impossible because most of the 
works were from private collections and the pieces had been 
out for some time. But I organized another show of newer 
works that went to the Poindexter Gallery. 

PHILLIPS: Good. Can you think of anything else about the 
years in Los Angeles that you'd like to mention? We always 
have time to do it later, if you'd like. 

WOELFFER: Not offhand. It's very comfortable working here. 
I like the feeling of the place and the people. I like the 
contact among friends, and I seem to be able to produce quite 
well here, and I think that is probably the main thing. 
PHILLIPS: You talked about "laying low." That leads me to 
ask you some more philosophical questions. What do you see 
ahead as things you'd like to do? 

WOELFFER: Not really anything that I can think of at this 
particular point, but just to produce a fair body of work. 
I'm anxious to get my things back — they're on their way back 



153 



now from New York, from my show there--and get all of my 
things together, my works together, and sort of look them 
over, and make some kind of decisions--about what I don't 
know. But I have no interest, desire, to have another 
three-week exhibition in some gallery out here--it comes and 
it goes. Sometimes you feel it's a three-ring circus going 
on: all these galleries having a show for three weeks, and 
somebody else comes on and somebody else goes down, and it's 
whatever happens. I'd like to be a little heavier than that. 
I really don't know, as I say, what, at this time. 
PHILLIPS: It would be nice to have a big retrospective. 
WOELFFER: It would. The biggest one was at Pasadena, 1963. 
Maybe it's too soon for another one; I don't know. I really 
don't know. I haven't in fact even been thinking about it. 
I just sort of feel relieved I'm not attached to any gallery 
at this point. 

PHILLIPS: Do you want to continue teaching? Does that 
contact with students at an institution and other faculty 
members mean a lot to you? Or have you had enough of it? 
WOELFFER: I've had enough of it, especially the way things 
are going today. Things are so diverse, with so many 
students going into what they call performance and doing 
what they call installation pieces and conceptual art, and 
mostly going into this area. I don't find the kind of 
seriousness as I have in the past in teaching with the 



154 



students, and I understand that's not unique here but that's 

all over the country. 

PHILLIPS; Nor unique to art departments. 

WOELFFER: And I do have to retire in three years. It's 

mandatory. And then if that happens, I might do some spots 

here and there, maybe a semester here or a semester there, 

something like that. But it's never interfered in my work. 

I feel very much like Dick Diebenkorn does--he likes the 

contact with the students. I'd like to work with a dozen 

very, very serious painting students. In fact, this next 

fall, I'm thinking of having a second-year class of just 

figure painting, in oil paint. For very serious students. 

And in three years when I get out, I don't know what I'll do. 

As I say, I'll just continue painting. I'll be on a slight 

kind of retirement affair — not too much because I haven't 

been with the county for ten years. I never worry about 

what's ahead of me. I take it as it comes. 

PHILLIPS: As you look back on your long and creative and 

productive life, how does it all seem to you? 

WOELFFER: Just fine. I could have done more work. I think 

most people feel that. They look at their things; they say, 

"That's fine, but I could have done more, you know, could 

have worked more. " But I think probably it is a natural 

thing. 

PHILLIPS: Do you wish some things had gone differently for you? 



155 



WOELFFER: Yes, oh, yes. I imagine when I did the move to 
New York with the idea of staying and sticking it out in 
New York when it was quite difficult, just after the war--I 
suppose we should have stuck it out there even with the 
difficulties. I think things would have been quite differ- 
ent staying on the scene in New York, which I find you have 
to do. If you're not there, it's quite difficult. That's 
in terms of, you know, fame and fortune and that sort of 
thing. 

PHILLIPS: Yes. Which is, after all . . . 
WOELFFER: Which is a part of it. 

PHILLIPS: Which is part of it, but only one part of it. 
WOELFFER: One part of it, right. There are people who get 
it when they're young. Some of them would get it in the 
middle; some of them would get it later in life; and some 
would get it, as Duchamp says, after life. So, whatever. 
That's the way it is. That's the way it happened. 



156 



TAPE NUMBER: IV [video session] 
APRIL 30, 1976 

PHILLIPS: We're in Emerson and Dina Woelffer's living room 
in Los Angeles, with Rita Woelffer, Emerson's mother, and 
Dina Woelffer, Emerson's wife, and Joann Phillips, interview- 
ing. Emerson, we're sitting in the midst of this marvelous, 
magical, primitive material, and I wonder if you might tell 
me when you first became interested. 

WOELFFER: I think it was when I was about ten or eleven 
that they used to take the kids from school down to the 
Field Museum in Chicago, mainly to see the dioramas and the 
stuffed animals. And I would wander off, because I wasn't 
interested in stuffed animals, to the other halls, where 
they had the fantastic collection of New Guinea, Oceania, 
African — things from New Hebrides, New Ireland, from all 
those various areas. And the sort of magic of these things 
used to really intrigue me. 

PHILLIPS: When you were a young artist, first learning 
about painting, what was going on in the art world of modern 
painters at that time was very influenced by primitive art. 
WOELFFER: Yes, Vlaminck and Derain were the first to collect 
this material from an importer who would bring things over. 
They brought over some material from Africa, and then they 



157 



\ 



introduced it, finally, to Braque, Matisse, and Picasso, 
and some of the other modern painters. And it influenced 
their work greatly. 

PHILLIPS: Do you think that because it was a new kind of 
material that they hadn't seen before that there was some- 
thing very playful about it? 

WOELFFER: Well, I think there was a definite relationship 
of the simplicity of the carving with what they were also 
trying to do with their own work. The cubist painters were 
great collectors of African art, whereas the surrealist 
painters collected the work from Oceania because of the more 
magic content of the material. 

PHILLIPS: I know that Picasso's cubist drawings were very 
influenced by the structure of the African sculpture. 
WOELFFER: Yes, the great painting. The Women of Avignon , 
they all seem to look like they were wearing an African mask, 
as you recall. Picasso, himself, put himself in a painting 
and painted his face like it were an African mask. 
PHILLIPS: And now we're all very accepting of the influence 
of this kind of material, but near the turn of the century, 
it was a brand-new thing that hadn't been seen before. 
WOELFFER: Yes. Now it has become a status. It's on the 
market, just as stocks are, and of course when this happens, 
we find many fakes today. Some of it's even being made in 
Japan, and it's aged. It's put in the ground so the termites 



158 



will get it, so it's very difficult in purchasing any pieces 

today unless you know what collection it came out of because 

they're really not producing great pieces today. 

PHILLIPS: Do you find that the people who are interested in 

primitive art from the anthropological point of view and 

archaeological point of view tend to be more interested in 

the classifying and the description of the material rather 

than the magical quality? 

WOELFFER: Yes, yes. I find that very much, where I'm not 

really interested in the piece in relation to the museum 

quality of it or its age, but more the aesthetics of it, the 

beauty of the carving and the patina of the wood, etc. 

PHILLIPS: So it doesn't make too much difference to you 

whether it's a very old piece or a very important piece; it's 

more the emotional quality a piece exhibits. 

WOELFFER: Right, right, exactly. 

PHILLIPS: When you were living in Yucatan, what was that 

period in your life? 

WOELFFER: That was 1949. We were living in a village, Lerma 

Campeche, on the Bay of Campeche in Yucatan. We lived there 

for six months. And we went out on some of the digs, and we 

brought back quite a fair collection of that material also. 

PHILLIPS: And you became, I imagine, quite conversant with 

pre-Columbian things during that period. 

WOELFFER: Yes. Well, wherever we seem to go — we were in 



159 



Turkey for the State Department for six months a few years 

ago, and I collected things there from Cappadocia, Roman 

lamps and Greek things. 

PHILLIPS: Do you feel that this kind of material and living 

in the midst of it this way has had an influence on your 

work, on your painting? 

WOELFFER: Oh, very definitely, very definitely. I think 

some sort of work both ways, in a sense. It influenced my 

painting, and also the painting, in another sense, turned me 

on to greater adventures in the primitive arts. 

PHILLIPS: Would you like to point to a couple of the pieces 

here that have special meaning for you? How about this 

Bambara piece? 

WOELFFER: Well, that's a very nice piece. It's part monkey, 

it's part dog, and it's part antelope. They had a way of 

combining the various animals all in one piece, and the third 

here, the Senufu bird, and then we have the Senufu figure 

back there that also has the head of a bird on it. 

PHILLIPS: And are all of these things Senufu here? 

WOELFFER: No, this is a Mali piece back here, this particular 

one here, and they go up, sometimes, to twenty and thirty 

feet tall. And this one, this just made it here — without 

touching the ceiling. 

PHILLIPS: Do they wear those things on their head in a dance? 

WOELFFER: Yeah. If you notice, they're a mask. And then in 



160 



\ 



the back of the mask, there's two holes that go through that 
they put a stick through, and they hold that stick in their 
mouth in order to balance the mask. This one, of course, is 
worn on the head. It's got a hollow piece underneath the 
base, and that's worn on the head. It's quite heavy to move 
around with. And of course they all have cloth coming down 
from it or raffia, in order to hide the body. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



Have you ever been to Africa? 

Never. 

And what about this piece, next to you? 

This is Middle Sepik River, New Guinea. It's an 
orator's stool. When they are talking, the orator will take 
pieces of branches and pound them on the back part of the 
stool to bring about attention or quiet or whatever. And 
these are mainly in the men's houses in New Guinea. 
PHILLIPS: Do you think we should send one to any of the 
political candidates? 

WOELFFER: Oh, yes, yeah. [laughter] 

PHILLIPS: I wonder if we might talk about this Robert 
Motherwell lithograph that's here, in the midst of all these 
objects. I notice that it's the only painting in this part 
of the room, and in a true Japanese modest style, you haven't 
put any of your own things in this room. 

WOELFFER: Well, I had one of mine that always existed there, 
and last year, when we were in New York for my exhibition. 



161 



we went up to visit Bob in Connecticut. And this was just 
coming off the press at that particular time, and I felt 
really it was a beautiful lithograph, and we made a trade. 
PHILLIPS: While the camera is focusing on the things within 
the lithography here, it's a takeoff on one of his collages, 
except that it's not real collage material, is it? 
WOELFFER: No. The cigarette wrapper was placed and photo- 
graphed, and then that was blown up through a photoprocess 
and it was then transferred to the plate. 

PHILLIPS: Yes. And the splatter quality comes out of his 
indebtedness to surrealism. 

WOELFFER: Yes, yeah, the automatic, the chance. That's 
quite a large plate, and the paper printed is a handmade 
paper. It had to be made to order in France. 
PHILLIPS: And is that a cigarette wrapping? 
WOELFFER: Yes. That's a brand of cigarettes, Bastos. 
PHILLIPS: And that touches on his indebtedness to European 
heritage. 

WOELFFER: Yes, right. He's right out of the cubist persua- 
sion. 

PHILLIPS: Yes, and coupled with surrealist elements. 
WOELFFER: And collage, right. 

PHILLIPS: And what is it that holds you to a painting like 
that, that you find so appealing? 
WOELFFER: I really don't know. It's one of those things. 



162 



when I see a work, whatever I see, it hits me inunediately , 
positively or negatively; and this hit me immediately 
positively, as I said, to the point where I felt I had to 
have one . 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



And he gave it to you, did he? 

Right. 

Did you exchange something? 

I had a painting that he saw in a catalog that I 
called Homage to R.M. that I did many, many years ago. And 
I sent it to him, and some weeks later I got a call from a 
framer out here. He said, "We have a Motherwell for you." 
And he shipped the lithograph out here and had it framed for 
me. It's beautiful. This is the way he wanted it, the way 
he wanted it presented, with this kind of frame. 
PHILLIPS: Now that we've seen the primitive objects that 
mean so much in your life and in your painting and have 
talked some about the Motherwell lithograph up here, and 
before we go down to your studio to look at your work, there 
are a couple of women here in your life that I'd like to 
speak to. I wonder if we could talk to Rita, your mother. 
How are you feeling today? 

RITA WOELFFER: Pretty well, considering. 
PHILLIPS: Well, how old are you, Rita? 

RITA WOELFFER: I'm eighty-eight now, and I'll be eighty-nine 
the seventh of May. 



163 



PHILLIPS: Well, that's wonderful. You're looking very well. 

How long have you been living with Dina and Emerson? 

RITA WOELFFER: I think it will be nine years this coming 

June • 

PHILLIPS: Yes, and did you find Emerson an exceptional child 

when he was growing up? 

RITA WOELFFER: He never told me that he could draw, never. 

He never drew at home or anything. And one day his teacher 

came to visit me, and she said, "Do you know that Emerson is 

quite an artist?" And I said, "Why, no. He never draws at 

home." She said, "Well, he won a scholarship, and they sent 

him to the Art Institute on Saturdays." And that's the first 

time I ever knew that he painted. 

PHILLIPS: You must be very proud of him now. 

RITA WOELFFER: I certainly am. 

PHILLIPS: Well, thank you for talking with us, and it's good 

to see you. And I'd like you to see Dina Woelffer, Emerson's 

wife, who's here. Emerson, is there any more that you want 

to say about any of the objects in this room? 

WOELFFER: No, I think not. 

PHILLIPS: I think we got some good pictures of everything. 

Good, well, thanks very much, then, and we'll go down to your 

studio now and look at your paintings. 



164 



We're in your studio now, Emerson, and you and I are 
looking at a very recent lithograph of yours [untitled] . 
Would you tell me something about it? 

WOELFFER: Oh, yes. It was completed about a month and a 
half ago. June Wayne called me one day. She had some space 
and wondered if I wanted to come over and do a lithograph, 
and I said fine. So I went over and took some acrylic-on- 
paper pictures over to see the master printer Richard 
Hamilton--excuse me, Hamilton. I don't know his first name. 
It's not Richard--that ' s the English painter. [Ed Hamilton] 
But anyway, we sat down and discussed — he saw my work, so 
he could make some suggestions on how to approach its techni- 
cal things, and we came to a decision. And I went over the 
following morning, and he had a couple, three zinc plates 
ready for me, and I went to work. And in about an hour, I 
came up with some stuff on three or four of the plates, and 
he etched them. And we made some combination test proofs, 
and I made a decision on a combination that I liked. I came 
back the next morning when he had the colors mixed up that I 
asked for, and we made a color test, and I then signed the 
Bon a Tirer , which means if they're all like that one every- 
thing is fine and the printer keeps that for his own collec- 
tion. And that was it. And I came back some weeks later and 
signed the edition. 



165 



PHILLIPS: You mentioned facetiously earlier to me that this 

was your Bicentennial product because it was red, white, and 

blue. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, that was sort of an afterthought because in 

the past, recent years, I seem to be working with these 

colors. Ever since I was in Paris, I did a series of collages 

based on the tricolor, which is the same colors of our flag — 

red, white, and blue or blue, white, and red. 

PHILLIPS: And that came from seeing all of the French flags 

and kind of a European influence. I noticed too that very 

smashing image in the middle of that lithograph is almost 

like the Black nationalist fist. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, it sort of gives me pleasure to take a big 

brush dipped in a lot of paint and smash it down on a plate 

or on a canvas. 

PHILLIPS: That happens a lot in all of your paintings all of 

the way through. 

WOELFFER: It ' s a one-shot kind of thing. It either satisfies 

you or it doesn't. This particular case it did, although I 

did go over and make some slight little changes, and the 

thing is difficult to make these changes without having them 

appear to the viewer that there have been changes made because 

it wants to have that initial oneness, that impact, which I 

felt that this one did. 

PHILLIPS: You feel that each one of your pictures should 



166 



stand on its own. 

WOELFFER: Yeah. I'm not interested in a serial image or a 

series of this or a series of that. If it comes out that 

way, fine. If it doesn't, that's fine, too. I'm interested 

in the particular attack on the thing I'm doing at that time. 

PHILLIPS: Shall we start with some earlier paintings now? 

WOELFFER: Yeah, we could do that. 

PHILLIPS: Go on through. You're going to start from around 

1942? 

WOELFFER: Yeah, I have one in here I'll bring out, and I 

don't exactly know that — can you still hear me? 

PHILLIPS: Yes. 

WOELFFER: I'm back in the catacombs here trying to find 

something. 

PHILLIPS: This painting from the forties was done while you 

were a student at the Chicago School of Design. 



Which one? 

The one you're bringing out. 

If I could find it. Here it is. 

Good. 

We're on our way out. I've got a wine cellar back 



WOELFFER 

PHILLIPS 

WOELFFER 

PHILLIPS 

WOELFFER 

here, too. 

PHILLIPS: Oh, yes. 

WOELFFER: This is one of my first paintings on black, and I 

don't know, but I think it's about '40, '41, somewhere in 



167 



\ 



there [1943], I've always admired Miro quite a bit, and it 

has some of that symbolism and some of that flavor, you know, 

Miro's painting called The Circus , with all the little 

animals and things on it. It's a casein painting, painted 

with casein paint, which people don't seem to use anymore. 

Acrylic has taken its place. 

PHILLIPS: Had you seen Miro paintings at the Chicago Art 

Institute? 

WOELFFER: No, they didn't have any at that time, but I saw 

a Miro show at the Arts Club in Chicago, I think, if I 

recall, I don't see anything, but I think it was called, if 

that's of interest to you. Tight Rope Walker . 

PHILLIPS: And were you teaching at the Chicago School of 

Design, then? Or were you still a . . . ? 

WOELFFER: It was then, I think, called the New Bauhaus, at 

that time, and it changed its name to the Institute of 

Design. No, I think this was done just before I started 

working there. Shall we go on to another one? 

PHILLIPS: Yes, let's do. 

WOELFFER: You can see it's old by the back. 

PHILLIPS: At that time, the prevalent American painting was 

a regionalist painting, wasn't it? 

WOELFFER: Very regionalist — John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood, 

that sort of thing. Here's another one. This [ Twins ] on the 

back says 1947, so I really .... I like the black paint. 



168 



I use the gloss black and the matte black. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



I can see a lot of Max Ernst in that. 

Oh, yeah. 

Had you seen Max Ernst by this time? 

Yes, yeah. I always had this affinity with the 
surrealists. Max Ernst and Matta and some of these people. 
And I think I have another one. Oh, this one's a little 
earlier [ Figure on Beach , 1945]. This one's about a couple 
of years before that one. But it's — it's one of the few 
horizontal canvases I have. I've never — I very seldom paint 
a horizontal painting. They're always vertical, but this 
one was a person on the beach, reclining, so it has to be 
horizontal if they're reclining, I guess. 
PHILLIPS: Had you seen much Picasso by this time? 
WOELFFER: Oh, yeah. My last years in art school, it was a 
time of the Guernica painting, and the Dreams and Lies of 
Franco, and all of this period of Picasso, of the Spanish 
revolution. This one has coffee grounds in it, a little 
added texture to it. And another one from the same period 
[ Figure , 1947] . 

PHILLIPS: What were you being taught in art school prior to 
this period? This kind of painting at all? 

WOELFFER: No. No. In art school, we drew a charcoal drawing 
of the models three hours every morning, five mornings a week, 
the same pose for one week. And then in the afternoon, we 



169 



painted the figure for one month, the same pose every day 
for one month. Absolutely. They'd take us up to show us 
Titian. We had to paint like Titian and those people. But, 
see, where do we go from here? We're in the forties some- 
place here. Let's move down to Yucatan, or something like 
that, when we went down to Mexico. 

PHILLIPS: You were down in Yucatan from 1949 through 19 — ? 
WOELFFER: We were just there some few months. [August 
1949 - January 1950] 

PHILLIPS: Yes, living in a very remote fishing village, 
where you probably had lots of time to paint. 
WOELFFER: Now, I don't — yeah, there was a fellow . . . 
We were in Black Mountain College on our way down, and there 
was a Canadian boy that wanted one of my paintings , but he 
didn't have dollars. But he had canvas, so he gave me 
several rolls of Belgian linen, and Ramon Shiva gave me 
several hundred pounds of paint. 

PHILLIPS: Had you gone to school with Ramon Shiva? 
WOELFFER: Oh, no. He was much before me. He helped dig 
the Panama Canal, which was long before ray time. This is, I 
think, a Yucatan painting [Inner Circle , 1949] — but anyway, 
it's that particular period. By using the verticality of the 
figures--the figure always has remained in my work, whether 
it's a segment of the figure, or. . . • There's always a 
subject matter. My work is never purely what you might say 



170 



X 



nonf igurati ve . 

PHILLIPS: You've always had a very strong sense of design 
and color, and I think it's apparent in all of your. , . . 
WOELFFER: And we came back from Yucatan, for a short stay of 
a few months, and a friend of mine took up a deserted house 
he was remodeling, and I did a whole series of paintings on-- 
this was from a dresser drawer [A Talk] . We painted on 
everything that they were ripping down from the house . 
PHILLIPS: It's painted on wood, in other words. 
WOELFFER: Wood, and even the frame is the last thing from 
the ceiling, so it's got all of the. . . . This is one of 
the first spray paints that came out, silver spray paints, 
and then the rest of it is drawn with the tube. I draw with 
the tube of paint, squeezing the tube of paint. And I was 
there a few months, until we took off for Colorado Springs, 
and we have one following that, a continuation of the figure. 
Except when I got out West, the color became heightened quite 
a bit, from this darkness of Chicago to a lot of the color 
of the West. This is part painting, and part collage, as 
you can see. 

PHILLIPS: Do I see a bird image up in the upper right-hand 
corner there? 

WOELFFER: That could be because right after this, I went 
immediately into the bird period, which I will show you an 
example of after this particular one. 



171 



PHILLIPS: And that had something to do with those clear 

blue skies in Colorado and seeing all of the jets and birds 

there. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, beautiful, yeah. 

PHILLIPS: Why don't you leave that there just a minute. 

You've always done a lot of collage. 

WOELFFER: Yes. I continue to do collage. Even today, I do 

collage. Sometimes it's collage purely as a means to an end 

and sometimes it's in combination with my painting. 



PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 
PHILLIPS 
WOELFFER 



Right, okay. 

This was 1950-something, there. 

Does that have a title? 

I think it's called The Conversation [1951]. Yeah, 



that's right. I have a good memory. 

PHILLIPS: Tell me your attitudes about titles while you're 
getting out this next painting. 

WOELFFER: Well, I never title them till I'm going to have 
an exhibition, or sending the work away where it has to have 
some kind of an identification. The abstract expressionist 
painters, for a long time, were using numbers, which were 
very nice, because they didn't want to influence a person 
looking at the painting to what the subject matter was 
because their subject matter was the painting itself. And I 
couldn't quite go that far, because I still had my attachment 
with the surrealist thing, where there is a subject matter. 



172 



You talked about the birds in the last one, and here we go 

with the birds [ Magpie in Egg , 1956] . 

PHILLIPS: The bird in the egg. 

WOELFFER: Right, I did for two and a half, three years a 

whole group of paintings of the bird image. 

PHILLIPS: Do you think of that top, horizontal line as 

being a horizon line, or was that just something that 

happened in the painting? 

WOELFFER: We had kind of a fence out in front of our house 

in Colorado which was a feeding platform for the birds, and 

maybe that is it. When Dr. Valentiner came to visit us, he 

saw the upper shelves of our bookcases with Indian artifacts 

on it, and he sort of used that as a way to explain the 

horizon line. So I think one is as good as the next one, you 

know. 

PHILLIPS: Do you think of those images in the top as being 

calligraphic in the . . . ? 

WOELFFER: Yes, very definitely. Maybe the frieze on the 

Parthenon, or something like that. 

PHILLIPS: And you were in Colorado Springs for nearly seven 

years? 

WOELFFER: Right. Teaching. 

PHILLIPS: Teaching, entertaining friends passing through. 

WOELFFER: Right, and working. Seven years is just right, 

right time to leave there. We left Colorado in 1957 and took 



173 



off for two and a half years on the island of Ischia in 
Italy, and when I got over there, I was influenced quite a 
bit by the walls on the buildings and so on from the last 
war. They had a V for victory . . . [ Forio Napoli , 1958] 
PHILLIPS: Why don't you just leave that back so it won't 
wobble. 

WOELFFER: ... V for victory all the time, the triple V, 
and all. But I still retained this horizon line and I think, 
until I got back, here, California, 1960, when we returned. 
PHILLIPS: The triple V comes from Italian graffiti? 
WOELFFER: Yeah, on the wall from the war--victory . 
PHILLIPS: Yeah. I remember your earlier talking about a 
quality of paint that your teacher, Boris Anisfeld, wanted 
his students to get into a painting. Do you feel that a 
painting like this has achieved that? 

WOELFFER: I think so, but he never thought so. When he saw 
me several years later, after I left school, he said, "You 
still paint lilce a housepainter . " 

PHILLIPS: Well, he was from a different generation. 
WOELFFER: Yeah, he used to work with Diaghilev, and he did 
sets and costumes for the Ballet Russe, the Monte Carlo. Let's 
see what else I can find. This thing started to--maybe some 
of this movement becomes quite kind of abrupt here, but when 
I came back, a new image sort of came about. Not really, in 
a sense, but this kind of shape, which is not too unlike, 



174 



■\ 



maybe, what was happening, in a sense, with these pictures, 

or some of the early sculptures. 

PHILLIPS: That's right. That very simplified — and it was 

also a period when American painting was going into a more 

minimal image. And everyone's kind of influenced by 

what ' s . . . 

WOELFFER: And I still kept the horizon line, as you can see. 

It's still there. Only it took a form of some kind of actual 

message, if you want to say . . . 

PHILLIPS: And that's Hommage a Danny . 

WOELFFER: Yeah. Danny Alvin was a Dixieland drummer friend 

of mine. 

PHILLIPS: And that was done in '63, that painting. 

WOELFFER: Right, '63. 

PHILLIPS: And that's when you were back in Los Angeles. 

WOELFFER: Right. And then they got a lot simpler and 

simpler, and I have an example here [ S.H . Painting #2 , 1961] . 

Because I was interested in the brushstroke, I thought I'd 

really make the brushstroke, which I did, and it came to this 

simplicity, still, this egg form or whatever and the single 

brushstroke. This is getting a little less on the top up 

there. 

PHILLIPS: How do you decide which paintings to save? How 

do you decide which ones are successful? 

WOELFFER: Gee, I don't know. 



175 



\ 



PHILLIPS: Why don't you maybe leave that up while you're 

getting the next one, so the camera can get a look at it. 

WOELFFER: Many times, Dina helps me make that decision by 

saying, "We're going to keep that one." So I give it to 

her; she has her own collection of them. 

PHILLIPS: But you can always tell when you look, when it 

works. 

WOELFFER: Oh, yeah. When it works or not. I'm showing you 

just one at a time of these. You know, there are maybe a few 

hundred in between each one of these you see, so all I'm 

giving you is a kind of a flavor of the whole shebang. And 

then we came into the continuing brushstrokes, but something 

else has been added at this particular time. It's a big 

brushstroke plus the hands, and it has sort of the power of 

this last lithograph, in a certain sense. [ Violet Hands for 

Albert] But you notice that it still has retained that . . . 

PHILLIPS: . . . the horizon line. 

WOELFFER: The horizon line is still up there. And then 

when I went to Turkey, I let the hands go just quite a bit 

and went on to working with just the . . . 

PHILLIPS: Fingerprints. 

WOELFFER: . . . the fingerprint sort of thing. And then 

working from the fingerprints. See, this is a hand, but these 

are just thumbprints. [Ten After Three , 1966] And the horizon 

line starts to go around the border of the whole painting. 



176 



And then I started with acrylic paints. I'd never used it 
before, so it changed the character of my work to the point 
of my paintings began to get a little flatter. 
PHILLIPS: This painting with the fingerprints is a very 
primitive approach to art making. You think of the caves. 
WOELFFER: Oh, yeah. The first painting was done with the 
fingers. And then I went from the fingers to the lips — not 
literally [ Lips , 1968]. But as I said, I started to work 
with acrylic paints, which are completely different character 
than oil paint. These were first collages, from the torn 
paper. 

PHILLIPS: When was this painting done? 

WOELFFER: See, it's never left the studio, so it doesn't 
have any identification. 

PHILLIPS: But it would be in the sixties. 

WOELFFER: I would say '68, '69, in there, '70, I don't know. 
But the character of this paint is to work very flat. And 
when I was in Paris, I did a whole series of the collages-- 
which, if you want to see one, I could pull one out here. 
[Untitled collage: Sky series] Being over in Europe, it 
was such a hassle for shipping and everything. So I just 
worked with the . . . 
PHILLIPS: That's very nice. 

WOELFFER: . . . the torn acrylic paper, see. 
PHILLIPS: I know you have an Arp woodblock of the lips. Was 



177 



that sort of an inspiration? 

WOELFFER: It could be. That, and the Man Ray . . . 

PHILLIPS: . . . the Man Ray lips. 

WOELFFER: But the paintings started to take on the character 

of the collage, even to the fact I showed the torn paper, 

even. And then the lips went on for a couple of years, till 

I came back with something a little more to the total figure 

again, returning to my early paintings, almost. I mean, 

there's not too much difference between the characteristic of 

this [ Figure , 1975] and the ones of the forties. And still 

further, even going back to the black background, such as the 

early paintings were. [ Figure , 1975] 

PHILLIPS: And this is acrylic paint? 

WOELFFER: This is acrylic, yeah. I was able to master to 

the point getting the paint feeling as oil paint, and I liked 

the fact that it dries so rapidly. And then we come up here 

to the very late ones, where the total figure is back in the 

painting again. And that one, and the other one which I have 

here. Yes, this one. 

PHILLIPS: I notice that the painting we just looked at is 

entitled Poem for Minotaure [1973] . 

WOELFFER: For Minotaure. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, Minotaure — there were eleven editions of a 

magazine published by Skira many years ago, a surrealist 



178 



\ 



magazine, and I thought this was a nice one to end with, 

because it matches me [ Figure , 1976] . 

PHILLIPS: [laughter] It's a beautiful painting. 

WOELFFER: Surrealism, maybe a little erotic. I don't know. 

Some people accuse me of being erotic in a humorous kind of 

way. 

PHILLIPS: And this was done in '76. 

WOELFFER: Yeah, this is quite — still warm. 

PHILLIPS: Yeah. I know that you spent a long time with 

Moholy-Nagy in the design school when you were teaching, and 

I feel all through your work a very strong sense of color 

and design and taste. Do you feel you owe a lot of that to 

that training you had with him? 

WOELFFER: I think so, yes. My first teaching job was with 

him, and he stressed a certain, you know, perfection, even, 

you know, in automatic working. 

So that gives you an idea — the run of everything. 
PHILLIPS: All right. Well, it's been good going through all 
of these things and seeing the early beginnings, and where 
you are right now. All right, is there anything else that 
you . . . ? 

WOELFFER: No, I think we've got the history book all com- 
pleted. 

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, thanks very much, and I think 
that'll be the end. 



179 



\ 



INDEX 



Adams, Clinton 

Addison, Patricia 

Afro (Basaldella) 

Alazar, Woodrow 

Albers, Anni 

Albers, Josef 

Alloway, Lawrence 

Altman, Ralph 

Alvin, Danny 

American Hospital Institution and 

School, Gaziantep, Turkey 
Ammons, Albert 
Anderson, Dina 

see Woelffer, Dina 
Anderson, Theodore 
Anisfeld, Boris 
Archipenko, Alexander 
Arman (Armand Fernandez) 
Arno, Peter 
Arnoldi, Charles 
Arp, Jean 

Art Digest (periodical) 
Artforum (periodical) 
Art International (periodical) 
Artists Gallery, New York 
Artists Union, Chicago 
Art News (periodical) 
Arts (periodical) 
Art Students League, Chicago 
Art Students League, New York 
Asher, Betty 

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra 
Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) 
Auditorium Hotel, Chicago 
Auditorium Theatre, Chicago 



66 



59-60 
59-60, 



175 



133 

60, 

86 

65 

57, 

57, 59-60, 70 

9 

123 

95, 

145 

43 



69 

27-29, 30-31, 174 

24 

127 

77 

134 

148, 177-178 

23 

151 

151 

56, 116 

133 

23, 110 

151 

31, 76 

108 

132 

18 

138-139 

6, 12 

6 



B 



Bach, Johann Sebastian 
Balaban theaters, Chicago 
Ballet de Monte Carlo 
Ballet Russe 
Barney's Beanery 



60 

11 
174 
174 
125 



180 



Bauhaus (Weimar, Chicago, Ulm) 

Bayer, Herbert 

Bayer, Joella 

Bell, Larry 

Bellevue Hospital, New York 

Bengston, Billy Al 

Benton, Thomas Hart 

Bertoia, Harry 

Betsburg, Ernestine 

Bischoff, Elmer 

Black Mountain College 

Black Mountain Review (periodical) 

Blackshear, Kathleen 

Blackwell, Pat 

Blum, Irving 

Bohnen, Carl 

Borgrauve, Count El lie 

Boston Institute of Contemporary Art 

"Six American Painters" 
Brach, Paul 
Braque, Georges 
Brewer, Don 
Brown, Carlyle 
Brueghel, Pieter 

The Blind Leading the Blind 
Burri, Alberto 
Burroughs, Edgar Rice 
Byrnes, Barbara (Mrs. James) 

Byrnes, James 



Byrnes, Robert 
C 



40, 48, 49, 146 

57, 74 

57, 74 

129, 134 

81 

124 

98 

79, 80 

34 

121 

57-60, 61, 62, 170 

61 

26, 27 

134 

126 

6-7 

91 

76, 147 

137 

158 

148 

83 

86 

114 

11 

72, 73, 75, 78, 79, 

103, 111, 122 

72, 73, 75, 76, 78, 

79-80, 103, 104, 

111, 122, 135, 141 

80 



Calder, Alexander 96 

California Institute of the Arts 136-138 

Callahan, Harry 85 

Calloway, Cab 4 3 

Canavier, John 134 

Capa de Monti Museum, Naples 86 

Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh 56, 

International exhibition 76, 
Castello Academy, Puria, Switzerland 124 

Cedar Bar, New York 81, 

Cezanne, Paul 85, 

Chapin, Francis 33 

Chermayeff , Serge 68 



76, 116 
116 

138-139 
106 
117 



181 



Chicago Art Institute 

Art School 
Chicago Arts Club 
Chicago Institute of Design 



Chicago Museum of Natural History 
Chicago School of Design 

see Chicago Institute of Design 
Chicago World's Fair, 1933 
Chirico, Giorgio de 
Chopin, Frederic 
Chouinard Art Institute 

Chuey, Robert 

Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris 

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center 

Art School 
Columbian World's Fair, Chicago 
Congden, William 
Constitution (ship) 
Container Corporation of America 
Cooper , Ron 
Cornell University 
Cowan, Lloyd 
Cremonin, Leonardo 
Curry, John Steuart 
Curtis Airport, East St. Louis 



5-6, 7, 11, 22-34, 

76, 96, 116, 125, 

164, 168 

22-34, 42, 63, 

169-170 

7, 30, 45, 97, 98, 

168 

40-41, 48-51, 53- 

55, 57, 58, 59, 68, 

75, 115, 167, 168 

4-6, 157 



20-21, 63 

86-87 

42 

18, 104, 

134-136 

122 

140 

71, 74, 104, 147 

68-80 

4 

110 

105, 107-108 

53 

134 

150 

26 

83 

98, 168 

37-38 



121, 124, 



Dale, Chester, and collection 

Dali, Gala 

Dali, Salvador 

Denver-Chicago Shipping Company 

Derain, Andre 

Diaghilev, Sergei 

Diana Court Building, Chicago 

Diebenkorn, Richard 

Disney, Walt 

Drake Hotel, Chicago 

Duchamp, Marcel 

Dwan, Virginia 

see Kondratieff, Virginia 
Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles 



24, 96 

89 

89 

108 

157 

28-29, 174 

24 

121, 155 

89-90 

41, 42 

88-89, 156 



126-127, 128 



182 



Edmondson, Leonard 132, 133 

Egan, Charlie 115 

Ellington, Duke 43 

Elliott, Jim 125 

Engel, Jules 121 

Ernst, Max 90, 169 

Ewing, Edgar 23, 44 



Fantasia (film) 89 

Ferus Gallery 123, 126-127 

Field, Marshall 4 

Field Museum, Chicago 

see Chicago Museum of Natural 

History 

Filippo's restaurant, Ischia 83, 91 

Fine Arts Building, Chicago 6-7 

Franco, Francisco 89, 97 

Frankenthaler , Helen 129 
Freund, Emmy Lou 

see Woelffer, Emmy Lou 

Freund, Ernest 44 

Friedman, Richard 153 

Fuller, Buckminster 57, 59 



Gardner, Helen 27 

Art Through the Ages 27 

Gauguin, Paul 88, 143 

Giacometti, Alberto 100, 110, 122 

Giesbert, Edmond 27 

Gogh, Vincent van 88 

Goldowski, Natasha 59 

Goodman Theatre, Chicago 23 

Gorky, Arshile 90 

Gottlieb, Adolph 56 

Graham, Don 134 

Graham, Ernest 85 

Graham award 85 

Grell, Louis 11-12 

Greenberg, Clement 58, 77, 113, 127- 

128, 129-130 

Grimaldi fortress, Antibes, France 85 

Gropius, Walter 70, 146 

Guggenheim, John Simon, Fellowship 124, 139-140 

Guggenheim, Peggy 115 



183 



Guggenheim, Solomon R, 

New York 
Gussow, Roy 
Gut Bucket Seven 



Museum, 



56, 113, 115 

68 
72 



H 



Hadeshi, Nob 

Haley, Richard 

Hamilton, Ed 

Handy, W.C. 

Hankel, Freddie 

Helion, Jean 

Hemingway, Ernest 

Hill, Chippie 

Hill, Estelle 

Hofmann, Hans 

Holiday, Billie 

Honolulu Academy of Arts 

Hopkins, Henry 

Hopps, Walter 

House of David (religious colony) 

Hubbard, John 

Huntington Hartford Foundation 

Hutchins, Robert 



124 

141 

165 

2 

41-42 

49 

145 

120 

42 

77 

43 

141-142 

123 

126 

13-14 

23 

135 

44 



Illinois National Guard 
Independence (ship) 
Innes, George 
Irwin, Robert 
Isenberg, Barbara 



46 

108 

6 

124, 127 

150 



Jawlensky, Alexei 

Jazz Limited club, Chicago 

Jepson, Herbert 

Jepson Art Institute 

Johnson, Bunk 

Johnson, James P. 

Johnston, Ynez 



24 

119-120 

123, 134 

123 

120 

43 

73, 78, 121 



K 



Kanemitsu, Matsumi 
Kantor , Jo 



106, 113, 124, 136- 

137 

78, 87 



184 



Kantor, Paul 



Katz theaters, Chicago 

Kienholz, Ed 

King, Wayne 

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig 

Kirsch, Robert 

Klee, Paul 

Klein, Yves 

Kline, Franz 

Knaths, Karl 

Knickerbocker Hotel, Chicago 

Kohn, Edmund 

Kondratieff, Virginia 

Kooning, Willem de 

Kraft, James 

Kraft Cheese Company 

Krasner, Lee 

Kuh, Katharine 

Kuh, Katharine, Gallery 



75, 78, 87, 
121-122, 128, 



69, 95 



72, 

100, 

140 

11 

147 

10 

121 

89 

24, 

128 

105-106, 

116 

42 

134 

126-127 

59, 100, 

2 

2 

58-59 

24-25, 98 

24-25 



114 



128 



Lachaise, Gaston 

La Fontaine, Arthur de 

La Fontaine, Jean de 

La Fontaine, Margaritte de 

La Fontaine, Marie de 

La Fontaine, Rose de 

La Jolla Museum of Art 

Lakeview High School, Chicago 

Lambert Field Airport, St. Louis 

Landau, Felix, Gallery 

Lane Tech High School, Chicago 

Langsner, Jules 

Lascaux Caves 

Las saw, Ibram 

Leavitt, Tom 

Lebrun, Rico 

Leger, Fernand 

Ballet Mecanique 
Leonardo da Vinci (ship) 
Levy, Gerald 
Levy, Julien, Gallery 
Lewis, Meade Lux 
Liberty (periodical) 
Life (periodical) 
Lindbergh, Charles 
Lindsey, Jeffrey 



148 

14 

3 

3 

6, 12, 14 

12, 13, 14 

148 

19 

37-38 

123 

17-19, 43 

53, 133, 152 

101 

73 

133, 149-150 

123 

49-52 

51 

42 

57 

90, 115 

43 

8 

58-59, 88 

9 

62-63, 170 



185 



Look (periodical) 

Loran, Erie 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

"Fifteen European Painters" 
"Post-Painterly Abstraction" 

Los Angeles Institute of 
Contemporary Art (LAICA) 

Los Angeles Times (newspaper) 

Louvre museum 

Love, John 

Lybrook, Mr. 



88 

141 

53, 72, 

125-126, 

98-99 

127-128 

135 

150 
102 
109 
13 



98-99, 123, 
127-128, 135 



M 



McCall ' s (periodical) 
McLain, Malcolm 
McLaughlin, John 
McLean, Dina 

see Woelffer, Dina 
MacLeish, Archibald 
MacLeish, Norman 
Maiden, Karl 
Marchand, Andre 
Mason, Andre 
Massachusetts Institute of 

Technology 

"Four American Painters" 
Matisse, Henri 



Matisse, Peter 

Matta Echaurren 

Mayer, Oscar 

Messer, Tom 

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig 

Miller, Dorothy 

Milles, Carl 

Millet, Francois 

Miro, Joan 

The Circus 
Moholy-Nagy, Lazslo 



Monti, Frederica Beer 

Moore, Eudorah 

Morgan, Lee 

Morris, Wright 

Motherwell, Betty (Mrs. Robert) 



8 

148 
129 



35 
35 
23 
32 
85 



76 

17, 

117, 

158 

100, 

49, 

3 

113 

69-70 

79, 80 

24 

6 

24, 

100, 

168 

40, 

55, 

115, 

56 

133 

138 

87 

73 



24, 27, 32, 
122, 147-14i 



115 
53, 83-84, 



169 



30, 49, 98-99, 
127, 168 

46, 47-51, 53- 
68, 69-70, 75, 
179 



186 



Motherwell, Jeannie 
Motherwell, Robert 



Mullican, Lee 
Museum of Modern Art 
Mussolini, Benito 



73 

56, 

89, 

118, 

141 

60, 79, 80 

44 



59, 72-73, 
100, 114, 
119, 161 



81, 
117- 



N 



National Endowment for the Arts 
National Recovery Act 
Neumann, J.B. 
New Bauhaus 

see Chicago Institute of Design 
Newport Harbor Art Museum 
"The Artist Collects" 
New York Central Railroad 
Noland, Kenneth 
Nordland, Gerald 

North Carolina Museum of Art 
North Central Association of 
Schools of Design and Art 



O 



152 

21 

115 



132, 141 

141 

109 

129 

113-114, 135-136, 

141, 148, 149 

79-80 

34 



Oldenburg, Claes 
Olivier, Laurence 
Olson, Charles 

Mayan Letters 
Oriental Theatre, Chicago 
Ossorio, Alfonso 
Osver, Arthur 
Otis Art Institute 
Paepcke, Elizabeth (Pussy) 
Paepcke, Walter 
Paillard, Louise 
Paliacci, Aldo 
Panama Canal 
Parker, Raymond 
Parker Pen Company 
Parks Air College, Illinois 
Parrish, Maxfield 
Parsons, Betty 
Parthenon, Athens 
Pasadena Art Museum 

Pepsi-Cola prize 
Perls, Frank 



127 

84 

58, 

61 

43 

59 

23, 

137, 

50 

50, 

3 

79, 

170 

82, 

54 

38 

8 

59 

173 

126, 

154 

23 

122 



61 



34-35 
155 

53 

80, 82 

122 



132-133, 149, 



187 



Philadelphia Museum of Art 

Phillips, Gifford 

Phillips, Joann (Mrs. Gifford) 

Phillips, Laughlin 

Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. 

Picasso, Pablo 



Dreams and Lies of Franco 

Guernica 

Les Demoiselles d 'Avignon 

Saltimbanques 
Plagens, Peter 

Sunshine Muse 
Poindexter, Elinor 

Poindexter, Elinor, Gallery, New York 
Pollock, Jackson 

Primus, Ed 

Primus, Marjorie 
Primus-Stuart Gallery 

Pro Arte Quartet 
Pullman Aircraft 



138 

72, 

72, 

152 

152 

17, 

96- 

122 

97, 

97, 

158 

97 

151 

157 

105 

105 

15, 

119 

77, 

141 

77 

121 

141 

18 

39, 



75, 100 

75, 100 
-153 
-153 

24, 27, 49, 85, 
97, 100, 117, 
, 123, 158, 169 

169 

169 



-106, 153 
-106, 153 
58-59, 60, 116, 

121, 123, 140- 



, 123, 132, 140- 



49 



QRS Piano Rolls 

Quay Gallery, San Francisco 



2 

149 



Ray, Julie 

Ray, Man 

Raysse, Martial 

Reed, Bill 

Reserve Officers Training Corps 

Ricardo ' s Restaurant, Chicago 

Rice, Ann 

Rice, Dan 

Rickey, George 

Rittman, Louis 

Rivera, Diego 

Robinson, Boardman 

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano 

Rothko, Mark 

Rothko, Mel 

Ruben, Richards 



52 

52-53, 

127 

120 

18 

125 

59 

59 

146 

27-28 

117 

71 

21 

59, 

73, 



178 



73 
78 



78-79, 121, 124, 
126-127, 134 



188 



Ruben, Richards [cont'd] 

Claremont series 127 

Ruscha, Ed 134 

Russell, Pee Wee 120 

Ruttenberg, Jan 69-70 

Ryerson, Edward L. 2 3 



Saddle and Cycle Club, Chicago 41 

St. John, Alan 12 

St. Louis University 23 

Sander, Ludwig 77-78 

San Francisco Museum of Art 141 

Santa Barbara Museum of Art 149 

Saturday Evening Post (periodical) 8 

Saturnia (ship) 82, 107 

Scully, Jodi, Gallery 142, 152 

Seldis, Henry 150 

Seville, Algernon Sidney 2, 3-4, 18 
Seville, Rita 

see Woelffer, Rita Seville 

Shahn, Ben 59 

Shapiro, Miriam 137 

Shiva, Ramon 63, 17 

Shopen, Kenneth 26 

Sinzabaugh, Arthur 85 

Skira, Albert, publisher 178-179 

Smith, Bessie 43 

Snow, Douglas 121 

Sopkin, Henry 18 

Sotheby Parke Bernet 141 

Sprague, Marshall 72 

Stey, William 77 

Stix, Hugh 56 

Stothart, Herbert 124, 138-139 
Stravinsky, Igor 

Firebird 60 

Stuart, David 121, 123, 140 



Tabasco, Al 120 

Tamarind Lithography Workshop 133-134, 137 

Tartarsky, Stephanie 79, 80, 82 

Tawney, Lenore 81, 108 

Taylor, Josephine 86, 99, 100-101 

Taylor Museum, Colorado Springs 74 

Fine Arts Center 

Teagarden, Jack 41 



189 



Thomas, Caitlin 

Tintoretto 

Titian Vecelli 

Trail, Ray 

Tree Studio Building, 

Turcato, Julio 

Twentieth Century Limited 



Chicago 

(train) 



83 

30 

30, 170 

103 

11 

86 

109 



U 



U.S. Army Geodesic Map Division 

U.S. Department of State 

U.S. Federal Art Project 

U.S. Works Progress Administration 

University of California, Los Angeles 

Art Gallery 
University of Chicago 
University of Colorado 
University of Florence, Italy 
University of Illinois 

"Contemporary American Painting" 
University of Iowa 
University of Southern California 



38-39 

143-144, 

35 

34-37, 41, 

133 

147-148 

44 

73 

44 

116 
137 
148-149 



160 



44, 124, 



V 



Valentiner, William R. 
Vashi, Natraj 
Vashi, Prevena 
Verushka, Frank 
Vincent, John 
Virduzzo, Antonio 
Vlaminck, Maurice de 
Vytacil, Vadov 



W 



79, 

58 

58 

64 

135 

87 

157 

76-77 



173 



Wacker, Fred 
Wacker, Jana 
Waller, Fats 
Walton, VJilliam 
Warhol, Andy 
Warshaw, Howard 
Wayne, June 
Weber, Ann (Mrs. 
Weber, Hugo 

Weber, Max 
Wengler, Hans 



Hugo) 



103 

103 

43 

83 

127 

123 

133-134, 165 

88 

88-89, 101-102, 

119-120 

117 

146 



190 



Wescher, Mary 

Wescher, Paul 

Whitney Museum of American Art 

Wight, Frederick S. 

Wilder, Mitchell 

Wilke, Ulfert 
Williams, Guy 
Will Rogers Park 
Wilson, William 

Woelffer, Dina Anderson McLean 
(Mrs. Emerson) 



Woelffer, Emmy Lou (first wife) 
Woelffer, George 



Woelffer, Rita Seville 
(Mrs. George) 

Wolf, Robert 
Woodward, Frederick 
Woodward, Mrs. Frederick 
Wud 1 , Tom 



124, 
113, 



139 
139 



104 
104 
116 

76, 147-148 
72, 104, 121, 
135 



75, 

75, 

56, 

57, 

71, 

134, 

147 

148 

135 

150 

56-59, 60-68, 69, 

70, 75, 78, 81-84, 

99, 100, 103, 115- 

116, 129, 141-142, 

146, 157, 164, 176 

44-46 



1-3, 7-! 

14-17, 

34-35 



19, 



9, 12-13, 
20, 21, 



1-3, 

16, 

157, 

35 

44 

45 

134 



12, 



7, 

19, 20, 21, 
163-164 



14- 
108, 



Yancey, Jimmy 
Yancey, Momma 



120 
120 



191 



INDEX OF EMERSON WOELFFER WORKS 



Birdland 95 

Conversation , The 172 

Figure (1947) 169 

Figure (1975) 178 

Figure (1976) 179 

Figure on Beach 169 

Forio Napoli 174 

Homage to Danny Alvin 95, 175 

Homage to R.M. 163 

Inner Circle 170 

Kiss , The 132 

Lips 177-178 

Magpie in Egg 173 

Poem for Minotaure 178 

S.H. Painting #2 175 

Sky series (untitled collage) 177 

Talk , A 171 

Ten After Three 176-177 

Tight Rope Walker 167-168 

Twins 168-169 

Violet Hands for Albert 176 



192 



^/Ts^S