THE FINE ARTS AND LITHOGRAPHY IN LOS ANGELES
Interviewed by Joanne L. Ratner
Completed under the auspices
Oral History Program
University of California
Copyright © 1993
The Regents of the University of California
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RESTRICTIONS ON THIS INTERVIEW
LITERARY RIGHTS AND QUOTATION
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,
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,
Photograph courtesy of Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los
Biographical Summary vii
Interview History xi
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (December 13, 1988) 1
Ancestry and family background--Parents and
childhood--Early education--Serves in World War
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (December 13, 1988) 14
Learns the process of lithography--Meeting
artists, dealers, and other patrons of the arts--
Printing Picture Book for Jean Chariot.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (January 3, 1989) 30
Father, William A. Kistler, publishes Out West
magazine--More about his early education--
Innovations in printing in the twenties and
thirties--Convincing customers to switch to
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (January 3, 1989) 44
Alois Senefelder and the invention of
lithography- -More on printing for Charlot--
Exhibition at the Stendahl Gallery--Attracting
artists to the medium of lithography.
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (January 10, 1989) 62
Galleries and exhibitions for prints in L.A. in
the thirties--Artists and other people interested
in prints in the thirties--More on learning the
process of lithography--Prices of prints--
California Printmakers and Los Angeles Art
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (January 10, 1989) 78
Working with Merle Armitage- - Warren Newcombe -- The
Art of Edward Weston --Other early books--More on
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (January 17, 1989) 95
More on working with Armitage--Converting from
letterpress to offset lithography printing--
Giovanni Napolitano: Fifteen Reproductions of
His Work -- Modern Dance --Paul Landacre- -Books on
Stravinsky and Picasso.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (January 17, 1989) 110
Martha Graham - -Working in his father's plant--
Presses and stones he failed to acquire--The
qualities of lithography stones-- Fit for a King:
The Merle Armitage Book of Food --Move to New York--
Changes in printing materials and equipment.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (January 24, 1989) 128
Artists he worked with in the thirties--More on
working with Charlot--Involvement with Los
Angeles art schools.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (January 24, 1989) 144
"Brooklyn Museum Retrospective Print Show, 1913-
1947 "--Need to keep exercising one's lithography
skills--Charlot ' s personality--Encouragement from
the Metropolitan Museum of Art--More on working
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (January 31, 1989) 157
Picture Book No. II --Closing the plant--Printing
for Marcia Maris--Jack Lord and Picture Book No.
II --Printing a miniature of the original Picture
Book - -Printing at Blanchard Press in New York.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (January 31, 1989) 172
Zinc plates replaced by aluminum--Dif f iculty of
doing plates for The Little Seamstress -- Kei Viti --
More on working with Chariot.
TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (February 21, 1989) 184
Printing for artists in Los Angeles--More on
changes in printing materials and technology- -
Herbert Ryman--Other lithographers in Los
Angeles--More on printing for artists in Los
TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side Two (February 21, 1989) 197
Los Angeles art galleries' promotion of prints in
the forties--Working with Man Ray--Working with Max
Ernst--The working relationship between artists and
printers--Refusal to print pornography.
TAPE hfUMBER: VIII, Side One (March 7, 1989) 211
The Bulletin - -Publishes How To Make a Lithograph - -
Organizes an exhibit-- Joseph Mugnaini--Projects
which were never completed- -Eugene Berman.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, Side Two (March 7, 1989) 230
Sets up a commercial printing business on West
Temple Street- -Differences between stone and
offset lithography--Necessity of advertising in
TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side One (March 21, 1989) 243
Slides of the lithography process--Slides of
prints by Jean Chariot.
TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side Two (March 21, 1989) 256
Slides of lithographs by various artists.
TAPE NUMBER: X, Side One (March 21, 1989) 270
More slides of lithographs.
TAPE NUMBER: XI, Side One (March 28, 1989) 278
The opening of lithography workshops in the
sixties--Advantages of collecting prints--
Relationship with the various lithography
workshops--Decision to quit the printing
business--More on Merle Armitage--Carl Haverlin
arranges exhibit at California State University,
Northridge--Decision not to stay in New York--
Home at Patricia Avenue.
TAPE NUMBER: XI, Side Two (March 28, 1989) 295
Galleries and prints--His contributions to
lithography--His most noteworthy prints.
Index of Books and Prints Printed by Lynton Kistler 307
Bom: August 30, 1897, Los Angeles.
Education: Hollywood High School and Manual Arts High
School, Los Angeles.
Military Service: Private, United States Army, 1917-18,
Spouses: Naomi Tucker Kistler, one child; Helen
Mikesell Kistler; Lelah Morris Kistler.
SELECTED WORKS PRINTED BY:
The Work of Maier-Krieg (1932).
The Lithographs of Richard Day (1932).
Warren Newcombe (1932).
The Art of Edward Weston (1932).
Rockwell Kent (1932).
Picture Book , Jean Chariot (1933).
Henrietta Shore (1933).
Zarathustra Jr. Speaks of Art , Louis Danz (1934).
Millard Sheets (1935).
The Capture of Inspiration , Robert E. Schmitz (1935).
Napolitano: Fifteen Reproductions of His Work in Oil,
Sgraffito, Fresco, Drawing, and Mechanical Design
Modern Dance , Ramiel McGehee, editor (1935).
Hollywood Bowl , Isabel Morse Jones (1936).
Igor Stavinsky , Merle Armitage (1936).
Trip to Greece; Photographs , Jerome Hill (1936).
Two Statements , Pablo Picasso (1936).
Martha Graham , Merle Armitage, editor (1937).
Books and Typography Designed by Merle Armitage , Ramiel
McGehee, editor (1938).
"Fit for a King"; The Merle Armitage Book of Food ,
Ramiel McGehee, editor (1939).
Santos; A Primitive American A rt, Willard Houghland
Burro Alley , Edwin Corle (1946).
First Penthouse Dwellers of Ameri ca, Ruth M. Underbill
Fifty Photographs by Edward Weston (1947).
Dance Memoranda , Merle Armitage, edited by Edwin Corle
Alphabet for Adults , Man Ray (1948).
Max Ernst; Thirty Years of His Work (1949).
How to Make a Lithograph , Lynton Kistler (1950).
Stella Dysart of Ambrosia Lake , Merle Armitage (1959).
Success Is No Accident; The Biography of William Paul
Whitsett , Merle Armitage (1959).
Pagans, Conguistadors, Heroes, and Martyrs , Merle
Armitage (1960, 1964).
. . . Of Streets and Stars , Alan Marcus (1960).
Painter into Artist: The Progress of Edward O'Brien ,
Margaret Phillips and Merle Armitage (1964).
No Going Back; Odyssey of a Conversion , Margaret
Atanas Katchamakof f . Leskovetz, La Quinta (1965).
Picture Book No. II , Jean Chariot (1973).
Picture Book , miniature copy, Jean Chariot (1974)
SELECTED ARTISTS PRINTED FOR:
Mary Finley Fry
American Institute of Graphic Arts, Fifty Books of the
Year, Warren Newcombe (1932), The Art of Edward Weston
How To Make a Lithograph . Los Angeles, 1950,
Joanne L. Ratner, Interviewer, UCLA Oral History-
Program. B.A., American Studies/Art History, Scripps
College; M,A., Art History/Museum Studies, University of
TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW:
Place: Kistler's home, Laguna Hills, California.
Dates, length of sessions: December 13, 1988 (69
minutes); January 3, 1989 (80); January 10, 1989 (78);
January 17, 1989 (84); January 24, 1989 (67); January
31, 1989 (62); February 21, 1989 (63); March 7, 1989
(67); March 21, 1989 (103); March 28, 1989 (62).
Total number of recorded hours: 12.25
Persons present during interview: Kistler and Ratner.
Kistler's wife, Lelah Kistler, was present
CONDUCT OF INTERVIEW:
In preparing for the interview, Ratner reviewed
Kistler's papers at UCLA's William Andrews Clark
Memorial Library. These included a selection of
Kistler's correspondence dating from 1934 to 1981, the
majority of which was between Kistler and the artist
Jean Chariot; Kistler's personal collection of books on
lithography; and exhibition catalogs, articles, and
reviews. In addition, Ratner looked at the UCLA Oral
History Program's 1976 interview with artist June Wayne.
Although the interview begins with a chronological
format, for the most part it is organized by topics.
Major topics discussed include Kistler's initial interest
in lithography, the lithography process itself, Los
Angeles artists Kistler worked with, his relationships
with Merle Armitage and Jean Chariot, the lack of support
for lithography, and specific lithographs Kistler
printed. On Tapes IX and X the interviewer and Kistler
viewed and discussed a series of slides which depicted
the lithography process itself and the various prints
which Kistler had done over the years.
David P. Gist, editor, edited the interview. He checked
the verbatim transcript of the interview against the
original tape recordings, edited for punctuation,
paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names.
Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been
Kistler was unable to review the draft transcript.
Therefore, Tobey Moss, a gallery owner and expert on
California modernist art, reviewed it. She verified
proper names and asked Kistler for names and spellings
she was unsure of.
Teresa Barnett, senior editor, prepared the table of
contents, biographical summary, and interview history.
Steven J. Novak, editor, compiled the index.
The original tape recordings of the interview are in the
university archives and are available under the
regulations governing the use of permanent noncurrent
records of the university. Records relating to the
interview are located in the office of the UCLA Oral
Kistler 's papers are deposited at the William Andrews
Clark Memorial Library, and are listed as Press Coll
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE
DECEMBER 13, 1988
RATNER: I'd like to begin our discussion today by talking
a little bit about your background. Would you mind telling
me a little about your family, where they're from and how
they came to California?
KISTLER: The family originally came from northern
Switzerland and southern Germany. That is, the Kistler
family. My maternal grandmother [Mary Richards] was
English. The Kistlers migrated to this country from
Germany in about 1723 or around that date. They first
settled in New York and finally drifted down to
Pennsylvania, where they established themselves. There is
a Kistler Valley in Pennsylvania now, which is outside of
Allentown. It's quite a beautiful, green valley and
farming and dairy country. I've been back there twice, and
I'm the only member of this branch of the family that's
been back to the old home. The first time I went back, we
ran into some Kistlers there. There were quite a few of
them living there at that time. That was back in about
1940, in that area. I thought that I had probably run into
a group of people that were representative of the whole
family. They had a big stone house and a large barn. They
were farming people. I was working in New York at the time
and I had a New York license on my car, so that they were
quite suspicious of me and didn't receive me very well,
although I did make it clear that I was a Kistler. I found
the valley there a very beautiful place. There's a church
up on the hill. There's a cemetery, and most of the stones
in the cemetery were Kistler stones.
I'm not sure-- Well, the second time we went back was
with Lelah [Morris Kistler] here. We came in from Ohio and
down into Pennsylvania. We ran into some people at the
head of this valley that were quilting, making a quilt. It
was quite a beautiful thing. We were quite impressed with
it. They said that they still got together every Saturday,
I think it was, and did some quilting. When was that
date? Do you remember, Lelah? You remember the date
thereabout? [inaudible reply] Yeah, it was right in
there, '81 or '82. So after visiting with these very nice
people for a while, why, we went on down the road, and I
found a sign on a garage. It said "William A. Kistler
Garage." That was my father's name, and I felt quite at
home. [laughter] Then we went on down the valley a little
ways, and we came to a sign that said "Aunt Grade's Gift
Shop." I stopped and I said, "Let's go in and see Aunt
Gracie and see what she knows." So we went up the driveway
a little ways, and there was a stone house to the left of
the road. We looked around there, and we found a
cornerstone on the house that said, "This house was built
in 1812"--was it, Lelah?--"by Samuel Kistler." I have a
Bible, an old Bible, and it says in it, "This belongs to
Samuel Kistler." Well, there were so many Kistlers there
and there were so many Samuels, I don't know whether
they're any of my relatives or not. But I kind of felt at
home. I felt as though I'd struck gold [laughter] when we
hit there and we ran into this Samuel Kistler and that I
had a Bible of his. It was a very beautiful place and
quite prosperous, however, because they had another house
built up on the hill, and that house had a plaque on it
that said it was built in 1825, I think. So the difference
between the two dates, they were quite prosperous
apparently. They had been able to afford a better house
and had built it there. They had a nice duck pond down
below, and we chased the ducks around and tried to get them
to come and eat, but they wouldn't have anything to do with
There was a girl there who was-- What was her name?
Jenny Griner. She was hesitant about showing us through
the house, because the people were away, her mother and
father were away. But we talked her into it, and she took
us all through the house. Of course, it wasn't prepared
for us or anything, and she was afraid her mother was going
to be quite upset about it. But they had a beautiful place
there. Both houses were built of stone. They were
renovating the house through and through and uncovering a
lot of the old wallpaper and things like that to get down
to the original finish in the house. The rooms in the
house were small, because they didn't have very good
heating facilities at the time it was built, and it was in
a state very much like it was to begin with.
My family, my branch of the family, migrated to
Marion, Ohio, My grandfather was born there, and his name
was John Kistler. I haven't much idea about what he did
between the time that he was born and when he ended up on
the Ohio River. That's the first that I had any real
contact with the family. He had a sawmill on the river,
right on the Indiana side, right where the bridge from
Louisville comes across the river. It's up on a high
bank. It must be forty feet down to the river at a
straight drop. Don't you think so, Lelah? But my
grandfather was very successful there. He was on the city
council and he was acting mayor for quite a while. He
disappeared from the political scene when he joined the
Prohibition Party. [laughter] That settled him. They
didn't vote for him anymore.
But the thing that drove them away from Indiana was
that they had these horrible floods on the river. It was
amazing to me that a river could rise that high, because it
was at least a forty- foot drop down to the water, and to
have washed out the mill, and to have carried the sawlogs
away. They just had a grand old time, my father [William
A. Kistler] and his brother, who would go down the river to
pick up what logs they could. Pick them up where they had
stranded along the bank and bring them back. This was in
1855. His credit was so good that they gave him a million
dollars' worth of sawlogs at the bank to start him up in
business again. It had practically wiped him out. Two
years later, in 1888, why, they had another flood that came
down and washed the mill away, the business away, most of
it. My grandfather decided to sell out and come to
California. At that time he came to California and liked
it at Escondido. He settled down there and bought the
hotel and ran that for a few years. It was there that my
mother [Mamie Chambers Kistler] and my father met.
My mother's grandfather was a riverboat captain. He
ran from Ohio down to New Orleans. The last trip that he
left on, he had quite a bit of money on him. He got into
New Orleans and disappeared. They never found any trace of
him at all. He just disappeared altogether. Left my
maternal great-grandmother [Mary Richards Chambers] with a
boy and a girl. The boy is my maternal grandfather, my
mother's father. She was quite a practical woman. She
figured she could take care of one child, but she couldn't
take care of two children. So she sent her-- She took her
boy up to the Shakers and turned him over to the Shakers,
and they brought him up. They taught him a trade. He
became a mechanical engineer. He traveled in the West,
clear out to Wyoming and Montana. My mother had quite a
few songs that she picked up from my grandfather, and she
used to sing them to me when I was a kid, these old songs
that they sang on the range, you know? She was very good
My mother and my father met in Escondido. They came
up to Los Angeles, and they were married in about 1894, I
guess. My father worked in Escondido. He took up a
printing apprenticeship. He became a typesetter at the
Escondido Blade . Then he moved from there over to
Oceanside to the Oceanside Wave for a while and finally
migrated to Los Angeles. My mother came to Los Angeles,
too, and they looked each other up and they got married. I
think it was in 1894 that they were married. He worked for
a man by the name of Mcllheny here, and he was quite a
My father was a man of all parts. He was interested
in everything. He played several musical instruments, and
he was in a band down in Escondido. When he came to Los
Angeles, why, he joined a band here. Porter's Band. They
used to play in the rotunda of the leading hotel in Los
Angeles and at Westlake Park on Sundays. I used to go out
to hear the band. He could play almost any instrument. He
played the clarinet, the piano, and a couple of horns. He
made a xylophone out of an old bedstead that we had. It
was an old bedstead, and he made a xylophone and learned to
play it. But somehow the musical didn't come down through
However, I was much taken with printing at an early
age. I think that I was about ten or twelve years old when
he set me up on a stool in front of a type case and put me
to setting type. So I learned the printing business that
way. And I'm a self-educated man. That is, I never went
to college or anything like that. But I was intensely
interested in printing. My father was one of the leading
printers in Los Angeles. He had a penchant for moving
around, though. His first office was at First [Street] and
South Broadway. Across Broadway- -where the [ Los Angeles ]
Times building is now--was the Los Angeles Chamber of
Commerce. It was there that I saw the only president I
ever saw of the United States. It was Theodore
Roosevelt. He rode past there, and we were up in the
building in the printing shop looking down on the street.
He's the only one I've ever seen in person.
RATNER: Let me just back up a minute. I don't want to
interrupt your train of thought, but what year were you
KISTLER: I was born in 1897.
My father moved around an awful lot . He moved from
there down to-- He was progressive, and one of his friends
that was in the printing business got into financial
troubles and sold out his plant to him. So he enlarged
quite early. That was at 123 East Second Street, I
remember quite well. Then he moved from there up onto New
High Street and moved across the street at New High Street
to the old People's Store building. He moved in one of
their buildings. The People's Store became the May Company
eventually. Then, at that time, while he was there, he
acquired the Out West magazine, and for several years he
published it. George Horton James was an editor at one
time. Another editor was George Vail Steep. At that time,
he had a bindery- -
RATNER: What year is this that you're talking about that
he was at that location?
KISTLER: Well, that is around 1910.
RATNER: Nineteen ten. So you're still a youngster at that
KISTLER: Yes, I was. Then he moved from there to Los
Angeles Street, Sixth [Street] and Los Angeles Street, in
the Chapman Building. Then he moved from the Chapman
Building down to East Fourth Street. Then he moved across
the street at East Fourth Street. And then he moved from
there to West Eleventh Street. By that time, the family
was pretty well established. I had two brothers and a
sister, and our time was spent in having all the fun that
we could and going to school, which was kind of a hard
task, with all kids. I went to Twenty-fourth Street
[Elementary] School to M. Amelia Foshay, who taught-- Her
favorite subjects were arm-movement writing and "Walk on
the balls of your feet, children." [laughter] She would
go prancing down, tiptoeing down, the halls. I can see her
My father built a home at 1629 Van Ness Avenue. In
about 1905, he started it. That was kind of an idyllic
time, because in order to save money, why, they put up what
they called a "shed" first. It was just a room, one room,
with a slant roof. My father and my mother and my sister
and I lived in that shed for almost a year's time while
they were building a house. It was a big eight-room house,
a rather large place for that time. But the neighborhood
was completely isolated. It was clear out at the edge of
town. Between what is now Arlington [Street] and the
ocean, which was about ten or twelve miles away, there
wasn't a house anyplace.
KISTLER: Venice was developed along in the early part of
the century. They dug canals there and they had gondolas
and made it as much like Venice [Italy] as they possibly
could. They really did a remarkable job on it, because I
went to Venice in Italy later, and I found that they had
been quite faithful in reproducing the architecture and
everything. It was the same feeling.
My schooling after Twenty-fourth Street School was at
the Arlington Heights [Elementary] School. They had no
eighth grade there. It just went up to the seventh grade
in grammar school. It was along about the time that they
were instituting the intermediate schools. We had to go
way down to Berendo [Street] to school, to the [Berendo]
Intermediate School. It was horribly organized. They say
that they have trouble in school today, and, gee, you
should have seen the difficulties that we got into. The
kids were throwing spitballs at the board. I remember
particularly I had a friend by the name of Carl Haverlin,
who's a life friend. He was very German. His name was
Karl Bismarck Heberlein. [laughter] So you know how
German he was. He wanted to learn German, and so I kind of
followed along with it, too. There was a poor German
immigrant who had come over here, and he undertook to teach
German. Really, what happened to that poor guy was really
horrible. His name was Sabesti, I remember. The place was
just a riot. I mean, from the time that we went into the
classroom until the time that we got out. The whole school
was that way, just very much upset. The kids were all in
rebellion and everything.
So I went over to Hollywood High School. I had to
register as being in Hollywood, so I stayed at my
grandparents' house. On weekends, I'd go around and go
home and see my folks again. I stayed there for one
term. By that time, I was footloose and fancy-free, and I
could get into high school. I thought I'd completed enough
work in Hollywood High School that I was an accredited high
school student. I never did graduate [laughter] from
grammar school !
I went to Manual Arts High School . And there were all
the Downs boys [relatives of World War I pilot Downs] there
and Jimmy [James] Doolittle, the aviator, and Lawrence
Tibbets and Marian Morgan, the dancer. At one time, I
think that half of the judges in Los Angeles were from
Manual Arts High School. It was about the time that they
were changing over from rugby to football. When I went
there at first, the first term or two, why, they were all
playing rugby. What should I tell you next? [laughter]
RATNER: What happened after you graduated from high
school? What year did you graduate from high school?
KISTLER: Nineteen sixteen. I went over to Kingman,
Arizona. My father dabbled in everything. He went up to
Idaho and panned for gold, and he invested in a mine in
Kingman, Arizona, or outside of Kingman, Arizona. So he
got me a job on the mine there, and I did a little
mining. The First World War broke out there. I came back
to Los Angeles and got a job at the Hammond Lumber
Company. I was only there for a month or two, and I joined
the 143d Field Artillery, They trained out in Arcadia, out
at the racetrack there. Then they sent us down to Camp
Kearny. We became the first-- Wait a minute. We became
the 143d Field Artillery, and we went down to Camp Battery
F. We trained there for a year on three-inch guns, the old
Spanish-American three-inch guns. They wanted replacements
in Europe, and I went overseas, the First Division
headquarters. No, it was Seventh Field Artillery, First
Division headquarters. I was at the Battle of Soissons and
Saint-Mihiel and the Argonne drive. I got severely
scratched, and they put me back in the hospital just before
the war ended.
So by the time the war ended, I was down in
Bordeaux. They evacuated everybody there, no matter how
small the wound was. I wasn't wounded seriously, but I was
in the hospital for over a month, I guess. So I got a
chance to come home, and I came home on a cruiser, which
was quite an experience. It was the old Seattle . We had
an eighty-mile gale on the way back. It was really, really
rough. The water was just coming over the fo'c'sle there
just like nothing at all. Most of the boys were sick, but
I didn't get sick. I had a good time. I enjoyed that.
But it was a nice sensation to get back to the good old
United States after-- [laughter]
RATNER: I bet.
KISTLER: Yes, after France.
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TWO
DECEMBER 13, 1988
RATNER: Before we flipped the tape, you were talking about
your trip home, and you were glad to be back in the United
KISTLER: Yes. So I came back into the United States and
went to work with my father. Business was pretty good
right at the start. We worked together for about, oh, I
can't tell you exactly how many years. We moved up onto
West Eleventh Street and bought a lot of new equipment and
everything, and we were doing very well. I did well with
the advertising people and brought in quite a nice lot of
RATNER: What do you mean by that? You went out and
solicited business from--?
KISTLER: Yes. I learned to run our typesetting machine,
which was a Monotype. Then I finally got to calling on the
customers. We called on advertising agencies and people
like that. My father, who always had his eye out for
something new-- He got into all kinds of things. At that
time, we had a letterpress plant.
RATNER: So what years are you talking? Right after the
war, right now, you're talking about?
KISTLER: Yes, yes. We had five presses, and he decided to
go into the lithography business, because at that time,
photography was commencing to be applied to the
lithographic process. It had been done almost all by hand
up to this time, and they had made some advances on it. So
my father bought a lithograph press. It was a big one. It
was a 35" X 45" inches press. Most of these printers now
just have little equipment. I mean, the job printers. We
were in job printing. So he bought this press. I went
around trying to convert people to using it for the kind of
printing that was produced in letterpress printing,
changing over the method. I was quite successful with
it. I brought in quite a bit of business with that. But
it was awfully hard for us to get any information on the
process. People didn't want to give up their trade secrets
and things like that. They had ways of working that they
thought were better than anybody else, and it was secret,
even so they wouldn't put it out.
RATNER: So who was using the equipment in your father's
shop? He had hired people who were familiar with the
RATNER: And even they didn't want to tell you how they did
KISTLER: Well, they were reticent too, yes, even though
they worked with it. So I got the books and went back to
[Alois] Senefelder. At the time that we got into it, we
were doing offset work. It printed from a zinc plate to a
rubber blanket and then transferred from the rubber blanket
to the paper. So there was an awful lot to understand
there. But I decided to go back to the stone and commence
to play around with that. I did worm some information out
of some of the employees, and I got some books on
lithography. There had been some. Most of them had a lot
of misinformation in them, just to throw you off.
[laughter] So then I finally got to the point where I was
getting the artist to draw on zinc plates, and in my spare
time I'd come back and I would pull up some prints and I'd
give them [the artists] half of them.
RATNER: At your dad's place?
KISTLER: At my dad's place. He had the transfer equipment
there and a transfer press, Fuchs and Lang presses.
RATNER: Was that state-of-the-art at the time, the Fuchs
KISTLER: Yes, I think they were the best. They were the
best transfer presses. At that time they were using them,
more or less, to make plates by pulling up stick-ups and
then putting them up and putting multiple images on another
zinc plate by the transfer method. So that that did give
me-- I watched the men too, and I knew what they were
doing. Finally, I commenced to get interested in stone. I
said, "Yeah, I'd like to try some stone work." So I got
quite a number of stones. Some of them were big, and some
of them were little. I had a couple of stones that size
Amongst my customers I had been doing letterpress work
for and advertising was Merle Armitage, who was an
impresario and manager of the Los Angeles Grand Opera
Company at that time. My friend Carl Haverlin was quite a
circulator around town. He got acquainted with Merle and
brought him in to me. Merle liked the work that I was
doing, and so he turned over the work at the [Los Angeles]
Philharmonic [Orchestra] .
RATNER: The letterpress work?
KISTLER: Letterpress work, yes. That was about the time
that we put in the lithograph press, the big lithograph
RATNER: Which I think was about 1928, I read in some of
KISTLER: Yes, that's right. It was about 1928. So then I
commenced to accumulate these stones and rollers and
materials and things, and--
RATNER: And were they easy to come by at that time?
KISTLER: Paper was hard to find. But you could get all
the transfer presses that you wanted, because the printers
were commencing to change over from letterpress printing to
offset work. Believe me, now printing has gone beyond the
point where I can understand it. Just the new way of
working and everything, I wouldn't know how to handle it in
the printing plant today, and that's just a few years back.
RATNER: It changes so quickly, I guess.
KISTLER: Yes. It's all changed around. It's all pasteup
and everything . They don ' t even have type anymore .
Well, anyway, I was working in the plant doing
something one day, and Merle walked in with a kind of a
small, unassuming-looking sort of man. He said, "This is
Jean Chariot." And he says, "Chariot, this is Lynton
Kistler. He's the best stone lithographer in the
country." [laughter] That put me on the spot. I knew
what to do, but I had never done it. That was the whole
trouble. Here was a good customer who had made an
exaggerated statement about me, and I was embarrassed.
RATNER: Did he know you'd never printed from stone?
KISTLER: Sure he did. But he went headlong into things -
He was the kind of man that went ahead whether it looked
like it was going to work or not because he was a
promoter. He usually had several things in the fire. If
two of them failed, why, the third one would succeed so
well that he'd come out smelling like a rose. [laughter]
So that's the way that he worked.
Well, anyway, there's the print that I pulled. I went
ahead and worked it out with the help of some of the men
that I had there. Thomas Barr helped me out in the
printing of that and kind of held my hand as I went through
it. That was the first lithograph that I had pulled. Then
I got so enthused about it that I wanted to do nothing but
stone printing, which was kind of crazy, I guess. But the
Depression came along, and my father was getting old and he
was kind of depressed and everything. He decided to sell
the plant, so I went to work for another printer and only
stayed there about a year.
RATNER: What year was this?
KISTLER: Well, it was along in the early thirties. So I
decided to buy a transfer press, and I sent to New York for
a ton of stone. That was guite a bit of stone to order at
one time. I opened up my place in the gallery of [Earl]
Stendahl. I worked there. And I did get guite a-- I
worked up quite a business there. But Christmas came
along, and it was in his candy factory that I had my
lithograph equipment, so I had to shut down during the
season. So I decided to move out. My wife at that time
[Naomi Tucker Kistler] had a sister in the East, in
Boston. She [the sister] was going to have a baby, and she
had been East once and had stayed about three months . So I
told her I'd go back with her. I went back to New York,
where I stayed for about four years. I worked in a
printing plant there, and I also went to work for my
brother-in-law in his factory. We were making some
fixtures for engines. They were water injectors, and I
worked on those and I worked there for a while. Then--
RATNER: What year is this that you're talking about?
KISTLER: Well, this is-- The war broke out while I was in
the East. That was in 1941. So I was there from '41 to
about '45. I came home in '45. By that time, I had built
a house. Well, before I left and while I was working at my
father's place, when I built a house on Patricia Avenue.
RATNER: And that's where you first had your press? I read
that you had it in your garage at first.
KISTLER: Well, yes. I moved my-- This all seems to be
kind of disjointed and not very well organized. [laughter]
RATNER: It's fine. We'll back up a little and pick up
some of that, because I did want to ask you a little about
that earlier period.
KISTLER: Yes. Well, I decided that I would, when I came
back-- No, wait a minute. While I was working at my
father's plant, I sent out and got these stones. I also
got a lithograph transfer press of my own to print stones
on. I brought it down and put it in a two-car garage. I
put it on one side of a two-car garage. I did my printing
there. The artists used to come out to my place there and
they would fill up the streets, and the neighbors got
annoyed with it, that there was so much activity and
everything. But they couldn't do anything about it,
because all I was doing was just doing some-- It was
recreational with me. They would come and they would bring
these stones, and I'd print them.
RATNER: I was just going to ask you, how did you meet all
these artists? Was it word of mouth that they found out
about you, or--?
KISTLER: Yes. It was at that time. So then when my
father sold his business and my wife had gone East to
deliver her baby, why, I said, "I'm not going to put up
with this anymore." So I took her back there, and we were
back there for four years.
RATNER: Could I just back up one minute? I'm sorry to
interrupt you. Why did you decide to rent the space in the
Stendahl factory? Because you were getting so much
business in your garage? Is that why you decided to move
your press up there?
KISTLER: Well, by that time-- Yes. I felt as though I had
to have the location. I put it up there because I thought
there would be a lot of artists [who would] come. And I
did get quite a few.
RATNER: How did you choose that location?
KISTLER: Well, I knew Stendahl. I'd met him. Somebody
introduced him to me. I don't recall just how I did meet
him, but he was known in the trade. I had commenced to
circulate around to try to get the art dealers to take on
the lithographs. You know, I thought that it would get
people started collecting art, and that way they would get
to be art collectors and maybe buy things that were
important. Well, the art dealers, when I got the artists
in there, they got excited about the artists that I brought
in and wanted to sell their work instead of what I had to
sell. [laughter] Because I was really doing it too
cheap. I hadn't raised it to the proper appreciation of
RATNER: How much interest was there in lithography amongst
the art schools at that time in the early thirties, like
Otis [Art Institute] and Chouinard [Art Institute]?
KISTLER: Well, there was only what I had started off
there. They knew about lithography. Of course, Millard's
work-- Millard [Sheets] had been working in New York for
quite a while, and the artists are pretty knowledgeable
people. They found out about it, but they didn't have any
contact with it. So that the equipment that I brought here
and the way that I started out, it was the first chance
that they'd had here to do anything about it. Then USC
[University of Southern California] put in a lithographic
department, and UCLA got interested in it. Well, that's
further down the line, though.
RATNER: So were there any galleries at all that were
showing prints at that time, in the thirties, in Los
KISTLER: Yes, there were. The Los Angeles County Museum
[of History, Science, and Art] , before they moved out on
Wilshire Boulevard, was showing prints and paintings.
About half the time, I had more than half the prints that
were being shown out there.
RATNER: They were artists that you had printed?
KISTLER: Yes, artists that I had printed. But I was doing
it for nothing. I mean, it was just a recreation with me
to start out. But I finally got interested in it and made
my first effort at Stendahl's. When that didn't work out,
why, I went back East and thought it over for about four
years and came back here. I sold the house that I had
built on Patricia Avenue and bought a place at the corner,
an old house, a two-story flat. That is, an upper and a
lower apartment. So I put my considerable printing
equipment that I had accumulated by that time downstairs,
and we lived upstairs. That's where the UCLA people came
to me. I had been printing for [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright
RATNER: How did you meet him?
KISTLER: I met him at the Art Students League in Los
Angeles. I went up there to-- I don't know whether I was
trying to take up drawing or whether there was something
else I was doing. Something up there anyway. It was up at
the Art Students League. And I told Macdonald-Wright about
it, and he got interested in it. We made, oh, I guess a
dozen lithographs. The only ones that he made I printed
for him. He was an instructor at UCLA. So he got so
interested in it that he recommended that they come down
and see me and learn about lithography. They were
interested in it. They'd heard of it, and most of them
just by hearsay. The first time they saw a lithograph
printed or saw a lithograph was in my shop. So I printed
I had ridiculously low prices to try to get the place
going and get the volume of business through the place.
And I was getting along okay. But I got enamored of the
money that there was in the printing business. That is,
the commercial business. So I went into that. I sold my
house at Carondelet [Street] . I was there about five
years. There was a little church across the street from
our place. Property was going up around there, and they
wanted the corner that I had. So they came over one day
and said Mother Trust wanted to see me. She was the head
of the thing. She asked me how much I wanted for the
place, and I told her. She reached down in her sock and
she gave me $30,000.
RATNER: Out of her sock?
KISTLER: Yes. [laughter] Yes, she was doing all right
with her-- [laughter] And I just said, "No, no, you keep it
here. I want a contract on this." So I went over and
wrote up a contract and sold the place to her myself and
didn't have to pay a commission to the real estate
people. It was lucky for me, though. Because when I'd
moved in, I'd had a termite inspection. When I sold it, I
got the same termite people to come and go over the place,
and they gave it a clean bill. So they had a lot of
changes that they wanted to make on the place, and they
started to tear the place apart. And gosh, the place was
about ready to fall down. Of course, I was in the clear,
because there was insurance on it. I had insurance on the
termite through this termite company, and they had to put
up with straightening it all out. So I felt as though I
was pretty lucky in getting out of that deal. They got it
taken care of by the termite people, who had insured their
work. I don't know what was the matter with them. They
certainly were taking chances. Now, where were we?
RATNER: Well, I wanted to back up a little. I know that
that happened later, that you sold that property. But when
you came back in 1945, back to Los Angeles, and you bought
that place at Third [Street] and Carondelet [Street] , how
much art activity was there in Los Angeles at that time,
right after the war?
KISTLER: There was quite a bit. Well, of course, the
Works Progress [Administration] was going on. They were
teaching lithography over at the headquarters of the Works
Progress place. What's his name? The man who made that
picture there. Macdonald-Wright more or less had charge
over there. So when they cut down the Works Progress
place, why, that left me with considerably more business.
RATNER: When that program wrapped up, you had more
KISTLER: Yes. I didn't participate in that, because I was
in business myself. So I did some work for them on the
offset press before. I printed a large poster, 35" X 45",
for Millard Sheets, which was quite a task, for the Works
Progress people. But that was about all.
RATNER: How did you meet Millard Sheets? You worked with
him for a long time, I know, for a number of years.
KISTLER: I met him through Merle Armitage. Merle. I
printed fifty books for Merle while I was at my father's
place. I met him through Merle. I printed two books for
Millard, one while at my father's plant and one at my own
RATNER: So Merle Armitage seems to have known a lot of
people and introduced you to a number of people also.
KISTLER: Oh, yes. I met Edward Weston. I did a book for
Edward Weston. And Warren Newcombe and his wife, Beatrice
Wood. Do you know her?
RATNER: I know her work.
KISTLER: Yes. She's a screwy one.
RATNER: [laughter] So I hear.
KISTLER: She's as smart as she can be, but she has a
screwy approach to her artwork. I enjoyed working with
her. And he brought quite a number of people to my
place. I did two books for Edward Weston. I did the
first Edward Weston book [ The Art of Edward Weston ] at my
father's plant. But the best thing I ever did was a book
of thirty-two lithographs in full color, from four to
eight colors in them. It was a book that was about 8 ^J^ X
11" in size. There were thirty- two lithographs on one
great big sheet. And those all had to be registered as to
color and position on the sheet. The colors had to be
printed exactly over the colors before. On top of that,
we didn't have a plant that was air-conditioned. We went
to all kinds of tricks to keep the paper from stretching,
you know? We put it through the press eight times with
nothing on it, just the pressure on the paper to spread it
out, get all of the stretch out of it that we could. Then
it would be liable to shrink if the weather changed. When
we'd get one of those forms on them-- We had four forms,
and they had eight on each form, eight pictures. All
those pictures had to fit, and they all had to be in the
RATNER: Was this one of the books for Jean Chariot?
KISTLER: Yes, it was. Jean Chariot. It was an unusual
book all the way through. The plates were drawn by hand on
zinc, and the printing was done directly from those
plates. We put those plates on the press and printed them
from his work. It's the way that lithography works.
RATNER: Was that one of the later projects that you--? I
know that you worked with him for so many years, and we're
going to spend probably one whole session just talking
about your relationship with him. But since you brought
that up, was this one of the later projects you did with
KISTLER: No, that was one of the earliest.
RATNER: The Picture Book , the first Picture Book ?
KISTLER: Yes. I've got one back there.
RATNER: Okay. I'd like to see it. But we could talk
about that a little bit more in depth. I thought maybe
that we would wrap it up here for today, and then next time
we could pick up some of the things from the thirties and a
little bit more about the forties, unless you had anything
else you wanted to add today.
KISTLER: I don't know of anything. We'll let it stand
RATNER: Okay. Then we'll talk about the Picture Book
really in depth another time. Because I know that was a
monumental project and was very well received.
KISTLER: Yes, it was.
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE ONE
JANUARY 3, 1989
RATNER: During our last meeting we talked about, among
other things, your early involvement with lithography. I
wanted to begin today by discussing a little bit more in
depth those early years. We had talked about your father
[William A. Kistler] quite a bit. You mentioned that in
1910, while you were still in school, he purchased the Out
West magazine. I wondered if you could tell me a little
more about that magazine.
KISTLER: It was a magazine that had been running. It
started out as the Land of Sunshine originally. It got
into financial difficulties, and my father bought it and
published it for five or six years, I believe, and then he
sold it. It was a magazine that recorded much of the early
history of California. I had a complete file of the
magazine, which I turned over to my younger brother [Rodney
J. Kistler], and he gave it to one of his daughters. So
there is a complete file of Out West magazine still in the
family. They live in Seattle at the present time, and they
have taken the file up there. This granddaughter of mine--
Not my granddaughter, but-- Let's see, it's my brother's
daughter. She has surveyed the whole magazine and done
quite a bit of work on it. She went to University High
School. It was a special high school that she went to.
She was a very brilliant girl. She did a complete survey
of the whole magazine, the whole file. I think that that
magazine ran for some, oh, about twenty or twenty- five
RATNER: Why did your father sell it, finally?
KISTLER: Well, he had more than he could carry, and it was
an expensive thing to promote. He really didn't have the
money to put into it, so he sold it to another person, who
published it for a while, and I don't know who they were.
But it is a very fine file of early California history, the
history of California from around the fifties, I think, up
to maybe 1925 or '26. Jack London and a lot of those early
writers had their stories and articles in them. It's a
file of a lot of California history and California culture
RATNER: When we were going over the names a few minutes
ago from our last session, you were talking a little bit
about the two editors.
RATNER: How did your father find them?
KISTLER: Well, I really don't know. The magazine was well
known at the time. There were several people that tried to
associate themselves with it. George Horton James was a
well-known author around the turn of the century. My
father got ahold of him. I don't know exactly what basis
he worked on. I know that he was paid for being editor of
the magazine. He was a very well known figure. He was
associated with the Southwest Museum. He did a lot of
research, archaeological and literary research, and was
well acquainted with the literary people around the turn of
George Vail Steep came to him after George Horton
James quit the editorship. George Horton James was editor
for maybe five or six years or something of that sort. The
magazine wasn't paying, and my father had to get rid of
it. It was a financial burden to him. But he got George
Vail Steep, who was a brilliant man and, as I told you, who
was an alcoholic. He did his best to overcome it, but-- Do
you want this on the tape or not?
RATNER: Yeah, that's fine.
KISTLER: I don't know whether I'm doing him any good or
not. But his bad habit was certainly not a detriment to
his reputation as a human being. He had traveled rather
broadly and was a brilliant writer. In this present day,
he would be on television, I'm sure, because he had a fund
of experience and a fund of information that was unusual.
He was a very competent man himself. He was well
educated. It's a shame that he didn't accomplish more in
his life. But he came to my father. I don't know just how
my father got ahold of these various people, but the
magazine was well known and a number of people tried to
associate themselves with the magazine. It probably would
have been beneficial to him, but my father couldn't afford
to pay their demands.
RATNER: Okay. I also wanted to know a little bit more
about your schooling. When we were talking about it last
time, you mentioned that you had attended Hollywood High
[School] for one term, which gave you enough credits to
enter Manual Arts High School. I wasn't really clear on
what you meant by that .
KISTLER: Well, when I was in grammar school I first went
to Fremont Street Elementary School . Then we moved out to
the west side of the city. I went over to Twenty- fourth
Street [Elementary] School for three or four years. By the
time I got to the seventh and eighth grades, why, they had
built a school on Seventh Avenue in Los Angeles. It was
called the Arlington Heights Elementary School. But they
didn't have the eighth grade there. It only went to the
seventh grade. At that time, they were forming the
intermediate-school educational plan. I had to go clear
down to Berendo [Intermediate] School. I lived on Van Ness
Avenue at that time, which was about three miles that I had
to go to school every day. My folks gave me a dime, which
was supposed to pay my carfare down there and my carfare
back. But we saved the dime by getting rides on people in
automobiles and on the backs of delivery wagons and things
like that. [laughter] That way I managed to eke out the
ten cents a day for what I could use it for, I've
forgotten. It usually went for some kind of a hot dog or
something like that after coming into town.
Well, anyway, the school was a mess. They were trying
to organize it. So I went there for one term. I was alert
to the fact that I had to have an education by that time,
and I was serious about it. Well, I just didn't learn
anything in the eighth grade at Berendo. English classes
were disorganized. I took German as a second language
because my friend, Carl Haverlin, was taking German. So I
took German, too. This man Sabesti was a young German who
had come to this country. Of course, he had the German
classes at the Berendo School. Gee, we had nothing but
riots there for the thirty-five or forty minutes of the
period of the German session. The kids throwing spitballs
up against the blackboard and things like that. This poor
German was just at his wit's end. The strange thing about
it was that he blamed this friend of mine, Carl Haverlin,
for most of the disorder that there was in the class. He
really wasn't responsible for it at all. He was serious
about learning German, as I was. Most of the class, they
were just rioting all the time. They just had this poor
German upset to the point of distraction. I don't know how
he put up with it.
So in order to get out of the district, out of the
Berendo district, I went over to Hollywood and lived with
my grandfather [John Kistler] for a couple of terms. I
went to Hollywood High School over there. It was the only
way that I could get an education. Of course, Hollywood
High School was well organized at that time. It was one of
the principal high schools. From there, why, I came back
to my own home in West Los Angeles the next year or two and
enrolled in Manual Arts High School.
RATNER: I see. Which was closer to your parents' house.
RATNER: Okay. I understand now.
KISTLER: But to give you some idea of the disorganization
of the school district even at that time, it really is in
better shape now than it was then. But you can imagine
what it was like in the city here at that time.
RATNER: Okay. Also, when we were talking about your
father, you mentioned that he was one of L.A.'s premier
printers and that he was also quite progressive. You said--
I'm quoting here-- "Father always had an eye out for
something new." One of the most progressive things he did,
it seems, was converting his plant in 1928 from a
letterpress plant to an offset lithographic printing
plant. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit
more about his decision to make that change, and what it
really meant in terms of the type, quality, and quantity of
work being done.
KISTLER: Yes. My father was established and had learned
the printing business in letterpress work. Along in the
late twenties and early thirties, there had been progress
made in lithography that it became apparent that it had an
application to the ordinary run of printing, regular
commercial printing. The offset press, which was invented
in San Francisco, I believe, in 1905, had been
progressively adopted by the industry, the lithographic
industry, which was more or less a separate entity in
itself. There was the lithographic industry, and then
there was the printing industry, which was more or less--
They were separate entities. They didn't mix at all. But
when the offset press came into general use, it produced a
lot faster than the old stone lithographic presses did.
Over a period of years, there had been a tremendous
development in photography, too. The halftone method of
printing pictures--in other words, taking a photograph and
screening it and making a negative that would print a lot
of dots and make what they call a halftone cut--had gained
precedence in the letterpress printing. It was found that
it could be applied to a lithographic plate. The
improvement that had been made was that they got a better
negative. They got to the point where they could make
negatives that could be printed onto a thin zinc plate
photographically, and they wouldn't have to be staged and
etched. In order to get a good halftone plate, it was
necessary in the beginning to make a negative. Then they
would give it to what they called an etcher, and he would
work on it with acid and things like that and reduce some
of the dots and flatten some of the other dots so that they
printed heavier and gave more brilliance to the halftone
cut. But they improved the negative that they could make,
so that they eliminated the hand-etching in the letterpress
work. So that it became possible to take the negative
fresh from the camera, print it down on a plate, make a
halftone print on a thin plate, and put it on an offset
press and get excellent quality. I don't know if I've made
myself clear there or not.
RATNER: Yes, you have.
KISTLER: But it was the combination of the offset press,
which increased the speed with which the work could be
produced, and also through photography-- The quality of the
printing plate, in both the letterpress and lithographic
offset plate, could be printed without having any hand-
etching on it. I don't know if I've made myself clear on
that or not. I haven't thought about it for the longest
time. It's hard for me to recall.
RATNER: No, it's clear. So you eliminated a whole step.
KISTLER: Yes. It became apparent that offset lithography
was going to take over most of the commercial printing,
which it has. All these magazines and everything are
printed and made possible by the-- They can do it
photographically with a minimum of handwork, and they can
get perfect work. The offset press improved the speed with
which the work could be produced. A stone press would- -
Fifteen hundred or two thousand an hour was as many sheets
as you could print in an hour. With the offset press, you
could print up to twelve thousand sheets an hour. Of
course, there are limitations that enter in there.
There was another thing that was very important.
Chemically, the inks were improved, too. When I went into
the business, a lot of our colors were what they call
"earth colors." In other words, they ground up stone, and
they had certain substances that they precipitated and used
for their colored inks. They had different materials that
were used. They ground up, as I say, stone and different
precipitations and different things that they could
precipitate and use for color. But the invention of
aniline colors, the use of aniline colors, and the
development of certain chemicals and things that they mixed
in the ink, they got it so that the inks-- You could print
Even though the offset press could run at twelve
thousand an hour, they couldn't run it that fast, because
they didn't have ink that would work on it. I know at one
time I bought a press that had a capacity of twelve
thousand an hour. I thought I v/as going to go right to
town with it. I got a long run and made a good price on
it, thinking that I was going to be able to run it at
twelve thousand an hour. I stepped it up to about eight
thousand an hour, and the ink just flew into the air. It
covered a lot of our stuff in my plant and everything else,
so that I had to reduce the speed of the press down quite a
bit in order to get it to print. It just tore that ink
apart and just threw it into fine mist throughout the
plant. But today, they have presses that run up to fifteen
thousand an hour, and they can print one color over the
other immediately. When I went into the business, we would
print one color, and then we would let it lay until it had
set. Then we'd take it and run another color over it, and
another and another. Four-color printing that way was a
lengthy matter. It was a hard thing to do. We hadn't gone
into air-conditioning, which is another factor that had to
be dealt with in the printing business. It became
necessary to air-condition our plants in order to get the
high speed. At first, we were printing one color over the
other, and we had two-color presses. Then it went into
four-color presses. They have presses now that you can
print as high as six colors, once through the press.
KISTLER: Once through the press. It goes through, really,
six presses, one after the other, to print the six
colors. Most of these magazines now are printed in four
colors. They may have one or two extra colors that they
want to print that are special. So they'll have five and
six colors on some of them. They've got the inks made so
that they will run on those presses and can be printed one
after another immediately. Because the six-color press is
really six presses set up one after the other, so that the
sheet of paper goes through--one, two, three, four, five,
six--one right after the other. It's almost immediate,
because they run very fast. They print up to 4,000 and
5,000 impressions an hour on them now. So it has been a
combination of the mechanical presses and the chemicals and
chemicalization and the inks and the handling of the
paper. It's all done automatically today, almost.
RATNER: Was your father the first printer in Los Angeles
to convert to an offset plant?
KISTLER: No. There were a couple. All of the printers
were interested in them. My father was one of the first.
He bought a one-color offset press, a 35" X 45" press. We
made our own negatives. We stripped our own and put them
together, put the negatives together, and printed them down
on the plates and made the plates. We did the whole
process in our shop. We sent the binding out, however. We
did simple binding: folding and things like that. But
books that we printed were bound outside of the shop. The
binding of the books was done outside of our place of the
RATNER: How receptive were his customers to the change?
KISTLER: It was a rather hard job to sell the new method
to people. They didn't understand it. There was a lot of
educational work that had to be done. In other words, they
knew how to prepare the copy for letterpress printing, but
they didn't know how to prepare for offset work or how it
was going to come out. We had to do a lot of experimen-
tation. We did a lot of advertising printing, and we had
to do a lot of talking in order to get people to use the
RATNER: I guess eventually you convinced them, or at least
most of them.
KISTLER: Yes. Well, we were fortunate in that regard. My
friend Carl Haverlin made friends with Merle Armitage, who
was the manager of the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company that
was operating along in the twenties and early thirties.
Merle was interested in prints, and he was interested in
books. When we put in the new process, why, he was one of
the people that was willing to go along with what everyone
figured was an experimentation. It was an experimentation
on our part, too. We had to run experiments before we
could even convince him. But he was interested in doing
books, so he brought his books to me through my friend Carl
Haverlin. Carl Haverlin brought Merle Armitage into my
plant and introduced him to me. He was impressed with the
letterpress work we were doing. He was also enthusiastic
about the offset, the possibility of printing books by
offset. So the first book that we did for Merle Armitage
was a book of-- Let's see, what--?
RATNER: Here's something from 1932, The Work of Maier-
Krieg . Was that it?
KISTLER: Yes, [Eugen] Maier-Krieg. That's what I was
trying to recall. We did a book for Merle Armitage and
Maier-Krieg. We did the photography on it and we made the
plates, and it came out a very handsome book. He was well
pleased with it, and we were well pleased with the work
that we had done on the book. It created quite a
Merle Armitage was interested in prints, so I found
out something about stone printing. It was awfully
difficult to get any information, even from our own
workmen, about methods and about improvements and about
special things that people knew about that they could do
with lithography. They wouldn't pass the information
around. It was very secret, a secretive sort of thing. So
Merle was a collector of prints, and he had gotten some
prints that were made from stone. I decided that I would
go back and get what information I could and start right in
at the bottom and build the thing up from the start so that
I understood the process from start to finish. In order to
do that, why, I got some stones in. At first, I took zinc
plates around, small zinc plates around to my customers.
By that time, I was out of the plant and was doing sales
and contact work. I was calling on artists and advertising
agencies and Merle Armitage. Armitage had a very fine
collection of prints. Amongst them were a lot of stone
So I got ahold of a book [ The Invention of
Lithography ] . It was published by the Fuchs and Lang
[Manufacturing Company] people. It was a book that was
written by the inventor of lithography, whose name was
Alois Senef elder. Lithography was one of those inventions
that didn't have any background at all. Senef elder started
out-- He wanted to print music.
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE TWO
JANUARY 3, 1989
RATNER: Okay, when we flipped the tape, you were saying
Senef elder started out wanting to print music.
KISTLER: So he practiced writing music backwards, which he
had to do because the printing plate they made would print
backwards if it was written on the plate the right way. So
letterpress printing and the early lithography was done by
pressing the paper against the printing plate, so that what
you got was a reverse of what was on the printing plate.
So you had to have it backwards to start with. Do you
KISTLER: So he lived in Munich near the Solnhofen
quarries. That was a big quarry for the limestone that was
being used at that time in lithography. Not in lithography,
but it was being used in building. Lithography hadn't been
invented yet. So he got some of this limestone, and he was
practicing reversed writing on it. He would etch it so
that it stood up in relief, and he could ink it at the top
and it would print. Progressively, he found it was not
necessary to etch it so far. Finally, he got it down to a
chemical method of printing where it depended upon creating
a greasy surface from which to print, and a hydroscopic
surface could be chemically established. So you had a
planographic plate, but there were two different-- You
changed the character of the stone on the surface to--
First, the printing surface has changed to a surface that
would take ink. The other surface was treated chemically
so that it would only take water. So one place the water
was was where your printing surface was, and it wouldn't
take water because it was greasy. And the blank surfaces
would not take ink because they were damp. You'd dampen
the stone first, and then you rolled it with an inky
roller. The printing surface would pick up the ink. The
hydroscopic surfaces were damp, and they would repel the
ink. You inked the stone and you put a piece of paper on
it, and you'd pull your print and you'd get what was on the
stone. It would be the right way, because it was backwards
on the stone and it would come out reverse. So that was--
Let ' s see, where was I?
RATNER: You were telling me that you had gotten this book
from Fuchs and Lang to learn about lithography.
KISTLER: Oh, yes. Lithography was an invention of one
man. There was no background to it at all, except that he
wanted to make a printing process that he could print music
with. So, progressively, he worked this method out until
he had a planographic plate, and from there it took off.
But all of the work on the stone at first was done by
hand. Of course, there was no photography until very late
in the nineteenth century. Senef elder invented lithography
in 1796. So just about a hundred years [later], approxi-
mately, why, it commenced to come out, the whole process.
So I went ahead and went through all of his
explanation of stone work. I accumulated some stones to
experiment on. I experimented, went to artists and asked
them to make a drawing on a stone or on a zinc plate, which
was also possible to work on lithographically at that
time. I'd bring them back and pull a half dozen or a dozen
prints, and I'd give the artist half the prints and I'd
take half myself.
RATNER: Instead of charging them?
KISTLER: Yes. I couldn't get anybody to pay for it.
[laughter] Merle Armitage was a friend of artists: Edward
Weston, the photographer, and-- Well, one day, he walked
into our plant, and I was working on some of the things
that I was doing there. He brought a man by the name of
RATNER: Right. We mentioned that a little bit last time.
KISTLER: Yes, into the plant. He introduced me as "the
best lithographer in Southern California." Chariot was
impressed. I had some big stones there, the size of that
RATNER: How big is that, would you say?
KISTLER: Well, that's about 26" X 30" I guess. I agreed
to print this piece for Jean Chariot.
RATNER: Which is called Woman with Child on Back , is that
KISTLER: Yes, that's right. I did that with the help of
one of my men, Tom [Thomas] Barr. He was one of the men
that I could get information from. He was a friend of the
family, too. He gave me some information on it. I went
ahead and I printed it and pulled about twenty prints in
two colors. That was my start in the thing.
RATNER: So that was very ambitious to start with color
when you'd never done a stone print before.
KISTLER: Well, I was kind of stuck, because Merle Armitage
was my best customer at that time. I was doing books for
him. Or he was getting ready to do books, rather, at that
time. So, after that first work, the first book that I did
with Armitage-- I guess I had printed about five or six
books on the offset press by the time I had gotten in touch
with Chariot. Chariot was a Frenchman. He'd spent about
four or five years down in Yucatan making drawings of the
stone work at Chichen Itza. So he had made friends with
[Jose Clemente] Orozco and [Diego] Rivera and a lot of
those Mexican artists. They were doing some work on
stone. They were drawing on stone. So when he came up
here, he started to look around for a printer to do
stone. Merle Armitage, who was interested in his work.
brought him into my shop. That's the way I got acquainted
RATNER: And had he ever done color before?
KISTLER: No. He had never done any color lithographs
before. So we pulled that one off, and it came off so
well. Then I expanded and I did, oh, maybe a couple of
hundred different lithographs for him. He had quite a
number of drawings, and he wanted to put them into a
book. So I talked my father into doing it on this large
offset press that we had. We had eight different images on
a sheet, and we printed them in from one to six colors, and
they had to be run through separately. Each one of these
drawings had to be registered with the whole sheet, and all
of them had to hit right in the right position. The size
of the sheet that we were running was 35" X 45", which is
pretty big. It was really an ambitious undertaking to
undertake a hand-drawn book from four to eight colors . We
had to run each color separately, let it dry for a day. We
had no air-conditioning. It was awfully hazardous running
them. We had five forms on them. We had four forms of the
drawings. We turned out this book [ Picture Book ] . It was
really an accomplishment because of the problems, the
undertaking. I don't believe that there ' d ever been
anything done like it, and I've never seen anything like it
anyplace that was done before we accomplished this in our
plant. Each color was drawn separately on a separate
plate. Then the colors were printed separately, one at a
time. It would take us about a week or more to finish the
printing on one of the forms that we had. We had five
RATNER: But a total of thirty- two lithographs made up that
RATNER: So that must have taken an awfully long time. Do
you remember how long the entire project was?
KISTLER: Well, it took us about six months, I guess, to
RATNER: I have here too that it was designed by Merle
Armitage. What does that mean?
KISTLER: Well, he laid out the book. He was the designer
of the book, and I set the type. It was a handset type. I
set the type, and we had to make a separate plate for the
printing that went with it. You haven't seen the book,
RATNER: I saw just one. I saw a copy at the [William
Andrews] Clark [Memorial] Library.
KISTLER: Oh, you did?
RATNER: I enjoyed looking at it. If you had a copy here,
I'd like to look at it again with you if there was anything
you wanted to tell me more specifically about it.
KISTLER: Well, I'll go and get it. [tape recorder off]
RATNER: So this is the original Picture Book right here?
KISTLER: Yes. There was a wrapper that went around it,
and I had--
RATNER: Instead of a slipcover like that?
KISTLER: Yes, instead. This was a wrapper, but it
deteriorated. I found one in a bookstore and bought it.
So I made a slipcase out of it.
RATNER: Oh, that was a good idea. So you printed five
hundred of these, I know.
KISTLER: Yes, that's right.
RATNER: And to whom were they sold initially?
KISTLER: Well, they were sold to subscribers. They sold
them by subscription.
RATNER: So that's how you financed the project?
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: That's right.
RATNER: Well, maybe you should be showing it to me and
KISTLER: Well, I don't know. It's a picture book.
[laughter] That one, I believe there are four or five
colors on that. Each one of those colors was drawn on a
RATNER: On a separate plate.
RATNER: I know at the Clark they have-- I think maybe you
gave them some of the trial proofs or something, because I
know I saw something that was progressive stages of colors.
KISTLER: Yes, yes.
RATNER: Then whose idea was it to have--? Paul Claudel, I
guess, was the Frenchman who wrote the inscriptions?
KISTLER: Well, he [Chariot] was a Frenchman, and he was a
friend of Paul Claudel. He wanted to sell some in
France. So he had a friend of Merle Armitage's [Elise
Cavanna Seeds] translate. It was written in French at
first, and this friend of Merle's translated it from French
RATNER: Then it also won an award, right? It was one of
KISTLER: One of the Fifty Books of the Year from the
American Institute of Graphic Arts.
RATNER: So considering this was your first effort at
something like this, you must have all been very thrilled,
beyond words, I imagine.
KISTLER: [laughter] I'm still thrilled with it, you
know. It's one of the things that I'm proudest of that
RATNER: Was your father resistant at first?
KISTLER: No, he was-- He should have spanked me instead of
letting me do it. [laughter] But he was very cooperative.
RATNER: I remember also reading in some of the
correspondence at the Clark that, I guess, if you can even
find this in a rare bookstore now, it's quite costly. Do
you remember what it cost when it first was completed in
KISTLER: Fifteen dollars, I believe.
RATNER: Fifteen dollars. What's it going for now? Do you
KISTLER: Well, it has sold for as high as $3,500 for a
single book. That one there I think I bought from a
bookstore recently--about two years ago, I think--and I
paid $1,000 for it! [laughter]
RATNER: My goodness. So you didn't keep any for yourself
at the beginning? [laughter]
KISTLER: No. I've always wanted to get my work out. I
printed because I wanted people to have prints. My
ambition was to print and make good artwork of important
artists available at a reasonable price. I was interested
in doing that, and I thought that lithographs were suited
to that purpose. So I always priced everything as low as I
could and tried to get widespread distribution. But I
think my idea was wrong, because if you want to impress
anybody you want to put a high price on it, and then
they'll want it real bad.
RATNER: [laughter] That's unfortunately true.
KISTLER: If it's too cheap, why, they don't think it's
RATNER: You're right about that. I think I also remember
reading that initially you couldn't sell all of them and
that you sold some of the plates individually. Is that
true? Am I mixing that up with another project?
KISTLER: I think that I did frame some of them and sell
them signed, individual prints.
RATNER: This is in beautiful condition. The quality of
the paper is really lovely. That was during the
Depression. How difficult was it to get good quality paper
and inks and things at that time?
KISTLER: Well, the paper industry had not recovered at
that time. This was the best paper that I could buy, and
it was from the Strathmore Paper Company, which had a very
good name at that time. It was the best paper that was
available. I had it shipped in from out of town. They
made the special paper that they were making at that time.
RATNER: How had the Depression affected the lithography
industry, in Los Angeles in particular?
KISTLER: Well, eventually it put my father out of
business, really, is what happened. Financing wasn't as
available. We had a lot of equipment. We had a good
business, but we hadn't-- That is, we had good equipment
and everything, but we didn't have enough to keep us in
RATNER: And it was that way pretty much across the board?
KISTLER: Yes, it was pretty much that way. A lot of them
went out of business at that time.
RATNER: What year was that that your father finally went
out of business?
KISTLER: Nineteen thirty-six.
RATNER: Well, I know you said last time also that after
you had printed your first lithograph with Chariot, the
Woman with Child on Back , you wanted to do nothing but
print from stone. I think you said that that was a crazy
thing to want to do. What was so crazy about that?
KISTLER: [laughter] Well, there was too much promotional
work to be done, and there were not enough artists that
were available that could do the work, that their work was
available. There was really no market for it, except an
occasional collector like Merle Armitage. There weren't
any of the fine marketing techniques that they have today,
you know, to get people in to buy things. Gee, the way
that they razz you on the television. The amount of
advertising matter that we get here is just-- Well, it
disturbs me that there's so much of it, just loaded. The
advertising is written by people that studied psychology,
and they're highly educated in the use of the products and
everything. Marketing has become-- Well, I think that it's
a nuisance today. I don't think that half of the products
that are on the market are worth the money that they ask
for them if they do what they're supposed to do. But
they're just sold on the basis of the pressure that's put
on people. You get on the television here, and almost all
of the stations are just loaded with advertising. Look at
your newspapers and look at-- I'll bet you get a lot of
direct mail yourself.
RATNER: Yes, I do.
KISTLER: We get a stack like that almost every day,
solicitations of various art. And these people are
experienced in changing your mind, too. They know how to
do it. They just keep after it, and in spite of the fact
that you say no, why, they've got yes in their mind all the
time. That's what happens to you when you get so much of
this stuff. We throw away tons of stuff here that we don't
even open the letters on. Some of these solicitations that
are made almost make you cry, they're written so well and
are so persuasive. And they don't take no for an answer.
You tell them no once, why, they send you some more, and
then they pass it around. They pass your name around.
They trade names with other people. I don't know what's
going to become of this advertising business. When people
get as smart as I am about it, well, then-- [laughter]
RATNER: Then maybe they'll stop a little bit.
[laughter] They won't be getting any money in the mail.
RATNER: Well, I thought we'd go on now and talk about-- In
1933, after you had, I guess, gotten some artists to print
from stone- -
RATNER: As you say, after you had done this print with
Chariot, and I guess actually even completed the first
Picture Book . You must have done a fair amount, because I
have a little brochure here from an exhibition that you
held. It was your first exhibition of your work, entitled
"Impressions Printed by Hand from Stone and Zinc by Lynton
Kistler at the Stendahl Gallery." Then that little catalog
includes an introduction by Merle Armitage. Here, I can
show it to you. I don't know--it's a xerox--how well you
can see it, but-- I wondered how that project came into
KISTLER: Yes. Well, I don't-- I'm just trying to think
when that was done.
RATNER: Nineteen thirty- three, I think it says.
KISTLER: Well, that was done when I was still at my
father's shop. Yes. Yes, I remember it now. Thomas Barr,
Edwin Botsford, John Breneiser, Stanley Breneiser, Jean
Chariot, Richard Day, Franz Geritz, Paul Landacre. I did
one of the few lithographs that he ever did.
RATNER: He did mostly etching, Landacre?
KISTLER: Yes. He was a very good friend of mine. He
wanted to do more, but I advised him to stay with his wood
engraving, because he had a specialty there that he was
trying to sell. Gerd Lovick, Warren Newcombe. Yes, I
remember that .
RATNER: And then there are more names here, too.
KISTLER: Yes. Warren Newcombe, Elise Seeds. That was
Merle Armitage's wife at that time. He was married several
times. I think he was married six times.
RATNER: Oh, my goodness.
KISTLER: Henrietta Shore, Blanding Sloane, Beatrice
Wood. That was all.
RATNER: So what made you decide to mount this exhibition?
KISTLER: Well, I wanted to sell the prints. I wanted to
get more printing. I wanted to get more printing to do by
selling the prints. It was the whole idea.
RATNER: And did you know [Earl] Stendahl before this,
before you asked him if you could have the exhibition
KISTLER: Yes, I think I did.
RATNER: And did many prints sell?
KISTLER: Not very many. The trouble was that the people
came in and-- Well, when I had my gallery at Third [Street]
and Carondelet [Street], why, they'd come in and go through
my whole stock and pick one or two and say, "Well, I'll be
in in a couple of days, and I'll think about it." They'd
go through everything that I had. They'd come back and
then decide that they didn't want it. Or if they did buy a
print, why, it was $5 or $10 I got out of it, which didn't
amount to a hill of beans as far as keeping me in business
was concerned. I had my prints in several galleries, but
the galleries just used them as a come-on. They get them
in and they find out that they liked a certain artist, why,
then they would try to sell them a painting--and usually
did before they got through- -rather than a lithograph. It
was just too big an emotional job for me to undertake all
RATNER: Right, to do the printing and to do that, too.
KISTLER: Yes. But I liked the work, and I did work at it
for quite a number of years.
RATNER: How much increased business from artists, for
example, did you get from having that exhibition?
KISTLER: Well, I had regular contact with artists right
RATNER: So, I mean, additional artists that hadn't known
about you, then they found out about you from that?
KISTLER: Yes. Yes, they came from all over. I had them
come from Arizona and New Mexico. I was back in New York
at one time. I was walking down the street. At the
Rockefeller Center there's a gallery on Fifth Avenue there,
and I saw some pictures of some horses. Bug-eyed horses.
I've got the lithographs in the back that I made.
[Florencio] Molino Campos, he was an Argentine who was run
out of Argentina by [Juan] Peron. He either had to get out
or they were going to shoot him. So he came up to this
country, and he made calendars for the International
Harvester Company. He had some paintings on exhibit in the
window on Fifth Avenue. I saw these paintings and them
bug-eyed horses, and they're as cute as they can be. So I
said, "Gee, I'd sure like to get him into my studio and get
him to do some work." After I opened my studio at Third
and Carondelet, why, he walked into my place one day--
RATNER: Just coincidentally?
KISTLER: Just coincidentally, yes.
RATNER: Oh, my goodness.
KISTLER: What a thrill that was for me. I thought, gee,
I'm going to get some marvelous lithographs now, even if I
have to print them for nothing. [laughter] But he
couldn't work in black and white. He had to have color.
And I wasn't in the position at that time to do color. I
had quite a bit of black and white work that I was doing.
But later on, when I got into printing offset lithographs,
why, I printed some in color, and they turned out
marvelous. But they didn't sell any better than any of the
others. There was a sales problem there that needed
solving, and it needed somebody to take it over and sell
RATNER: From the works that you showed in the Stendahl
show in '33, were those artists--? How were you paid for
KISTLER: Well, some of it I printed just for experience.
Some of them were the pictures that I had printed in my
father's plant in experimentation. I'd go around to these
artists and I'd tell them about it and give them a piece of
zinc and say, "Make a drawing on it with a lithograph
crayon, and I'll print them for you." I would take half of
the prints, I'd give them half of the prints, and we were
RATNER: So at that point you were still maybe taking part
of the edition.
KISTLER: Yes, I'd still. And some of those that I
included in that Stendahl-- I think that those were done in
that catalog. I think that's the first catalog that I put
RATNER: I think so, from what I read.
KISTLER: Yes. They were all printed either in my father's
shop or in my garage. It didn't work out very well for me
to have my stone printing in the shop, in my father's
shop. So I bought a lithograph press, a lithograph
transfer press. I took it out and I put it in my garage.
A lot of the things that I've printed were printed in the
garage there. I set up a place to grain my plates and
everything. Saturdays and Sundays, why, I would put in my
time printing. And I had the neighbors all upset. There
was one neighbor that was upset, the man across the street
from me, because I had so many people in my place. I was
doing it for nothing then because I was doing it just as a
trade-off. You know, I'd give them prints and not charge
them for them, and I'd take prints as pay for my work.
That's the way that I had to do most of it. So that there
wasn't very much money coming out of it, but of course I
didn't have any rent there. But there was a time when the
artists were interested enough that they would come to my
place and, well, practically, there would be no place to
park on the street because of the people who were there.
This one neighbor went to the planning commission and
complained about it. I said, "Well, it's a hobby. What
are you going to do about it?" [laughter] So he couldn't
do anything because I wasn't taking any money for what I
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE ONE
JANUARY 10, 1989
RATNER: We spoke last time about your show in 1933 at the
Stendahl Gallery. I'd like to know a little bit more about
some of the other galleries that were active in Los Angeles
during the thirties, and particularly their interest in
prints, such as the [Dalzell] Hatfield Gallery and Jake
KISTLER: Yes. Well, I would say that Hatfield and Zeitlin
were the best known galleries. Dalzell Hatfield was a
dealer in paintings, of course. With his wife Ruth
[Hatfield] , they had quite an extensive business in Los
Angeles here. They were the leading dealers and very
active in handling the work of local artists and bringing
new things into the area here. They had several rooms in
the Ambassador Hotel, and they were the most active people
in paintings. Unfortunately for printmakers, they used--
All of the dealers here used the prints that were delivered
to them to drum up business. They [the customers] would
come in interested in prints, and they would swing them
over to paintings. They were more interested in selling
their paintings. Of course, you couldn't blame them for
doing that, because they had considerable expense.
Prints at that time needed quite a lot done on them to
make them popular, make them generally collected. Merle
Armitage, who was the most active print collector in this
area at that time, he had a considerable collection of
etchings and lithographs and things of that sort that
antedated all the work that I had done. He was immensely
interested in the work that I had taken up in the printing
of lithographs, the fact that I got interested in printing
the art lithographs. So that there weren't too many
galleries that were handling the prints. We not only had
to print the prints and promote the media of lithography
amongst the artists, but we also had to do our best to sell
some of the prints in order to get people interested in
them. There was a lot of work to be done. There still is
a lot of work to be done as far as prints are concerned. I
think that prints are really a very fine opportunity for
the average person to accumulate first-class artwork and
fine artists' work at a reasonable price. It brings it
within the reach of the average man, so that the average
person can possess the work of real well known artists.
Here on my walls right now, I've got the work of Jean
Chariot and [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright and these two
woodblock cutters. Let's see, it's Thomas Wolfe and-- I
can't think of the other one right now.
RATNER: Paul Landacre?
KISTLER: Well, yes, Paul Landacre. And, let's see, Wolfe,
and I don't know this other one here. What's his name?
RATNER: [pause] I can't read it. Henry something maybe?
KISTLER: Oh, isn't that something? Gee, he's well
known. [pause] Hmm. Well, put it aside. It will come to
me. My memory's not as good as it used to be.
Then there are two there that are very well known.
Laura Knight, there's an aquatint by her, and a lithograph
by Rockwell Kent. At the time that I accumulated these
things, I couldn't afford a painting, so I feel as though
it's a real opportunity to own something worthwhile, not
just have a lot of junk on the wall. You don't have to cut
magazines apart and put them up. I got the real artwork
on. I appreciate it very much, being able to have them. I
think that lithography is something that the average person
can afford. Even the watercolors of some of the better-
known artists are very expensive. Prints that are signed
are really of real value.
RATNER: Why do you feel there was so little regard during
the thirties, for example, for prints? You know, by these
gallery owners who preferred to sell paintings over prints.
KISTLER: Well, because they got more money for them, they
promoted them more. The artists didn't hold their work as
valuable enough. The prices that are asked for prints
today are far above what we were able to ask for, I mean.
Ask for them and not get it. [laughter] You get an
idea. Not even get the sale of them. They used to come
into my place and they would go through all of the prints
that I had. When I was at Third [Street] and Carondelet
[Street] , why, I was operating in the whole field of the
business. I was producing the prints and doing everything
but drawing them. I had a gallery as well as a printing
shop. I sent prints that were printed in my plant
throughout the United States, up and down the coast. I had
a little gallery in my place, and then I sent all of the
shows up as far as Seattle and over to Brooklyn, New York,
Cleveland, and places like that. At the Los Angeles
[County] Museum [of History, Science, and Art] , when it was
over in Exposition Park, I had shows every year of
prints. I had from a third to a half of the prints that
were shown in the show at that time, sometimes. For four
or five years there, I had--
RATNER: How actively were they collecting prints?
KISTLER: Well, they were taking all that were given to
them. They were not buying any or anything like that.
There were no prizes offered, but they did run a show every
year for several years while they were over in Exposition
RATNER: How about Jake Zeitlin's gallery? Because wasn't
he more oriented towards prints?
KISTLER: Yes. He was very active in prints. Of course,
he was more interested in prints than he was in paintings.
because he didn't have a painting gallery. The Los Angeles
museum and-- Let's see, that outfit there that was out
there next to Jake's. Wasn't that the Los Angeles museum
of--? Hmm. I can't remember. It was the Southern
RATNER: In the thirties?
KISTLER: Yes, yes. Helen Wurdemann was--
RATNER: I think I came across her name somewhere. I'll
have to check. Her name sounds familiar to me. I'll have
to check on that, but that does sound familiar.
KISTLER: Yes. I ought to be able to tell you these
things, but I'm just [snaps fingers] --
RATNER: That's all right. I'll check on that and then we
can talk about it next time.
KISTLER: Do you know where that gallery is out there? It
RATNER: I don't know where it was originally. I know on
La Cienega [Boulevard] .
KISTLER: Yes, and it was next door to Jake Zeitlin's
place. I can't remember what that was called, and I am an
honorary member there, too. I can't think of it. I can't
be sure of the name.
LELAH KISTLER: Is it in your date book?
KISTLER: Yes, I think it is. Southern California, it
might be that. Or it might be Los Angeles. I can't
remember now. [Los Angeles Art Association]
RATNER: So that was located, though, next to the Zeitlin
gallery, and it was interested in prints also?
KISTLER: Yes. Then there was another lady that had a
gallery. That was along in the sixties and seventies.
RATNER: Yes, a little later. And I know there were some
more in the forties, too, that I'll want to talk to you
about in a few minutes.
RATNER: What about some of the artists that you worked
with during the thirties? For example, I know you worked
with Conrad Buff and Palmer Schoppe. How did you happen to
KISTLER: Well, I think that they came into my place. Or I
may have looked them up. I called on a lot of the artists
and would go around and see them and talk to them about
doing lithographs. I'd try to get them interested in it.
Palmer Schoppe, I don't remember just how I did meet him,
but he worked with me. He was one of the early ones that I
worked with, because he was my assistant for quite a little
while. I tried to get him to take up the printing of
lithography, but I couldn't get anybody else interested in
doing the printing. I was going to do the promotion, but I
had to do the promotion and the printing, too.
[laughter] I didn't have much choice. I had to do
everything. I had to provide the gallery, I had to do the
printing of the prints and had to promote it and everything
else. I used to take my press apart and take it around the
city here in various places. I don't mind telling you that
it really was a job to do.
RATNER: I bet! It must have been very heavy.
KISTLER: Yes. Sometimes it was upstairs and things like
that, but I'd take it down in order just to make one
demonstration, you know, get people interested in it. I
think that I did encourage the first interest in
lithography. But it was too much of a job. I had to do it
all. There was nobody else that was interested in it.
There was the man at the Times . These names escape me just
when I want them. I can't think. He was editor, the art
editor of the Los Angeles Times . He was very helpful in
promoting the work, and he gave my gallery and my work
quite a bit of publicity, and the artists that I was
RATNER: Is that Arthur Millier?
KISTLER: Arthur Millier, yes. He was very active. He
really deserves an awful lot of credit for putting this
city on the map as far as art was concerned. He was very
active in telling people about the new artists and the
artists that were accomplishing something.
RATNER: So when you were printing for these early artists.
how did that work? Most of the people would take a stone
or a zinc plate to their studio and then come back and have
you print it? Or did they work in your studio? What was
KISTLER: Well, the setup was-- I ran a school, too.
RATNER: When was that? That was like in the forties, I
KISTLER: Yes, in the fifties, sixties. When I was on
Third and Carondelet.
RATNER: Yes. What about when you were first starting out
in the thirties there?
KISTLER: Well, I got interested in lithography. My father
[William A. Kistler] bought an offset press.
RATNER: Right, we talked about that.
KISTLER: And we couldn't get an awful lot of information.
The craft was closed pretty well.
RATNER: Right, you were telling me about that. So when
you were able to entice the artists to work, to get them
interested in lithography during the thirties, were they
working right in your studio, or were you taking the things
KISTLER: Well, I didn't have a studio to start with. It
was my father's business. My first impulse was to learn
more about lithography and find out about it. I couldn't
get information on it, and we had a lot of misinformation.
We had workmen that had secrets that if we lost the
workmen, why, we lost our ability to produce work. So the
time that my father got into lithography was a time in
which there was a conversion being made. There's two
things that had happened: there had been an offset press
invented, which made high-speed production possible, and
there was a tremendous step forward in photography, in the
accuracy with which they could make negatives. Whereas
they used to have to do a lot of staging and etching and
photoengraving and a lot of handwork on the negatives and
on the plates to make them, they got the negatives to the
point where they could take a photograph or anything and
they could make a halftone of it and just print it directly
on the metal and not have to do a lot of handwork on it.
When they got to that point, why, then it was applicable to
the lithography. It wasn't possible to do that before
because you couldn't work by hand on the lithograph
negatives to correct them if it needed correcting. When
they got to the point where they could put the subject up
and photograph it and make a halftone and get an accurate
reproduction without a lot of excess handwork, why, then
they could go ahead and apply lithography to general
printing. When we got to the point where we could do
halftone work, why, then we could expand into the
letterpress market, and we converted a lot of the
letterpress work to lithography.
So, in order to understand the situation from start to
finish, I went clear back and got books on lithography, the
few that existed, which probably-- The Fuchs and Lang
[Manufacturing Company] book on lithography [ The Invention
of Lithography ] was just about all that was available in
English, and one or two English books that were available
that I had access to. I got stones and just started in
working. And then I would go out to-- I was doing sales
work at that time, and I'd go to the advertising agencies
and people who were doing artwork and I would talk to them
about it. I would get them to sketch on the zinc plates at
first, and then I commenced to get stones and--
RATNER: So you brought the stones and the plates to the
KISTLER: Yes. They would make drawings on the plates or
the stones, and I would print them and would give them ten
copies and keep ten copies for myself. I got so interested
in it that I finally bought material, bought equipment, and
took it out to my home and worked in my garage. I'd get
home at night and work for a couple of hours after I got
home, and I'd put in my Saturdays and Sundays making
lithographs. A lot of the work was done for nothing. I
couldn ' t charge for the work that I was doing when I was
printing it at my home, because it was in a residential
district and the people objected to it. So the only way
that I'd get by was to just print and give the artist some
of the prints and keep some myself.
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: That was the only way that I worked for two or
three years. A good many of the things that I made for
Jean Chariot, the first ones, were done that way.
RATNER: After you had been printing for a little while, I
guess, you began using your chop, which is a stylized "LK"
in a circle. Do you remember when you began to use that?
KISTLER: Well, that was after I established the studio at
Third and Carondelet.
RATNER: Oh, so that was later.
KISTLER: Yes, that was later. That was in the forties and
RATNER: Who designed that?
KISTLER: Well, the Marsh Art Service drew it for me. I'd
laid it out. I told them what I wanted, and it just kind
RATNER: How unusual was it to use a chop at that time?
KISTLER: Well, there had been some artists that had used
it, but they hadn't made a real practice of it. I was the
one that got it started and got it going. There was nobody
else that was doing it regularly that I know of.
RATNER: Did anybody raise objections to your using it, any
of the artists or anything?
KISTLER: No, none of them. They were glad to have the
chop on there.
RATNER: Okay. Also, just to jump back to the thirties a
little bit, I was wondering how aware you were of the
activities and efforts of the New York-based Associated
American Artists, particularly during the thirties. In
doing some research--I think it was during the thirties--!
noticed that you printed some lithographs for them, and I
wondered how that all happened.
KISTLER: Well, that came through Jean Chariot. It was
Jean Chariot's prints that I did. He was out here, and
they wanted him to make lithographs, and they sent the
order out here. Jean drew them on the stone, and I printed
them and sent them back to New York. That's the way that I
got that. He was the only one that I ever printed for for
the Associated American Artists. Most of that work was
done in the East. Millard [Sheets] had been in business
for quite a while at that time.
RATNER: I know part of their idea during the thirties was--
I guess they were maybe the first group to start packaging
and marketing prints. I read that they wanted to market
them through department stores and mail subscriptions and
that they really believed that there was a market for the
$5 print. I wondered at the time how you felt about that
whole concept .
KISTLER: Well, I thought that $5 was pretty low for the
prints. We had to compete with them, of course. But it
was a lot of work to do. When you figure that the artists
today are getting $5 and $10 apiece just for pulling one
print-- We had to print prints for as low as fifty cents
apiece for Associated American Artists. They were taking
advantage of the situation amongst the lithographers to get
a low price. I think that that is the reason that it
didn't work out, because they didn't make the prints
valuable enough. They didn't put a high enough price on
them. Gee whiz, just hinky-dink artists today get $200 and
$300 for one print.
RATNER: At least.
KISTLER: Yes. All of them think that they ought to have
more than that, too. But, gee, we were selling prints for
$5 and $10. The prices were too low and there wasn't a
high enough value placed on the work. There is a print
right there- -
RATNER: The Chariot?
KISTLER: Chariot, yes. Chariot priced that print at about
ten dollars, and the last price that I saw on it was
$600. This print here of Macdonald-Wright , that print, the
last price I saw on it was about $1,750.
RATNER: So they've gone up a lot. Prices have escalated.
KISTLER: Yes. This print of Millard Sheets, I think I
sold that for $1,200. I don't know what price is on it
now. But we didn't value the work high enough. That was
the trouble. And there was some beautiful work done.
RATNER: How much impact do you feel the Depression had on
the fact that people weren't buying prints during the
KISTLER: [laughter] I think that lithography took a
beating along with the rest of the things- -
RATNER: Right, it would seem like that would happen.
KISTLER: Yeah. People didn't buy more prints because they
were cheaper and they could afford them. All of us had
difficulties with money at that time. Things were cheap.
You have no idea how cheap things were, how inexpensive it
was to live in those days, back in the thirties.
LELAH KISTLER: She wasn't alive then.
RATNER: No. [laughter] Just from reading my history.
KISTLER: We used to get a hot dog or a hamburger for
fifteen cents. A dime for a hot dog or fifteen cents for a
hamburger. You can imagine that-- [laughter] They get four
dollars and five dollars for just one hamburger today. Of
course, they fancy them up a little bit, but there isn't a
difference there, I can tell you. [laughter]
RATNER: I also wanted to ask you what you knew about a
group called the California Printmakers. Does that ring a
KISTLER: Well, I just knew of them. That was all. I had
some of them that worked on this-- I can't recall a lot of
these names now. [inaudible] Los Angeles Art Association
is what I was thinking of.
RATNER: And that was a print gallery?
LELAH KISTLER: They were on 325 North La Cienega Boulevard.
KISTLER: Yes, they were right next door to Jake Zeitlin.
Helen Wurdemann was really a-- She contributed an awful lot
to the print world here, the promotion of it and
everything. Do you know her? Do you remember?
RATNER: No. As I said, in doing the research I know that
I came across that name, because it sounded familiar. But
there was very little information on her. That's why it
didn't stick with me.
KISTLER: I think that she would be a very good one to do.
RATNER: Is she still alive, do you know?
KISTLER: The last that I heard. I hadn't heard that she
passed away. No.
RANIER: I was asking about that group, the California
Printmakers, because I know in doing the research I came
across something about the Cleveland Print Club, which, I
guess, was one of the most famous print clubs for selling
subscriptions and having works printed by very well known
artists. I just wondered-- I couldn't find anything about
the California Printmakers, and I wondered if they did
anything similar to that, you know, whether you had printed
anything for them.
KISTLER: No. They were just a group of artists, and they
were mostly etchers.
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: Let's see, there's one girl that's still-- I can't
remember her name. Gee, I'm sorry that I'm so fuzzy about
these names. If you had been in touch with me a couple of
years ago, I could have given them all to you, but I just
cannot recall a lot of them now. [tape recorder off]
And then here, this is a book of prints that I think I
sold to Lord.
RATNER: Jack Lord?
KISTLER: Jack Lord.
RATNER: And those are the things that went to the
KISTLER: I think so.
RATNER: Okay. Well, that will be a good thing to go over
later, maybe at the time you sold those. You didn't sell
those till like the sixties or seventies, right?
KISTLER: Yes, that's correct.
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE TWO
JANUARY 10, 1989
KISTLER: --Southern California something. I can't recall
just what it is now.
RATNER: That's the Los Angeles Art Association, run by
Helen Wurdemann? You were just mentioning Stephen
Longstreet. He was involved with that?
KISTLER: Well, I think that he is president now, or had
been for the last four or five years. But that has been a
print gallery principally.
RATNER: And so you showed your work there also?
KISTLER: Yes, I showed my work there and other galleries,
the Dalzell Hatfield Gallery and there were some other
galleries I can't remember. There's a gallery out in
Beverly Hills that--
RATNER: I know a number opened in Beverly Hills in the
forties. There were a lot more galleries then. But I just
wanted to go ahead and finish up the thirties, if that was
okay. Because one thing that you spent a lot of time doing
during the thirties was printing books with Merle Armitage.
RATNER: I thought maybe we could talk a little bit more
about that. There apparently was an exhibition of the
books that you printed in 1975 at Cal[ifornia] State
University, Northridge. They put together a catalog. So I
have a copy of that here with a list of the various books
that you did. Although you printed beyond the thirties, it
seems like the majority of the books that you printed with
Merle Armitage, in particular, were done in the thirties.
So I thought if it was okay with you, I'd just ask you
about some of the books, and you could tell me what you
remembered about printing those or if there was anything
particularly special about the books. I know last time we
talked about the first book you did with Merle Armitage,
which was The Work of Maier-Krieg .
RATNER: How did that whole project, the very first one,
come into being?
KISTLER: Well, Merle Armitage was the manager of the Los
Angeles Grand Opera Company. I had a friend by the name of
Carl Haverlin, who is a lifelong friend. He was quite
active around town. He worked for me for a while as a
salesman. He called on Merle. He's the one that
introduced me to Merle, brought Merle down to my place and
showed him what we were doing and the fact that we had put
in an offset press and that we were a progressive firm and
trying to get ahead in the world. So Merle was interested
in designing books. He designed, I guess, some hundred
different books, and I printed about fifty of them. I
printed the first ones. I printed Eugen Maier-Krieg and
the work of Richard Day [ The Lithographs of Richard Day ] .
He was interested, too, in the fact that we could print by
offset rather than by letterpress. I had three of the
books that were accepted as Fifty Books of the Year [by the
American Institute of Graphic Arts] . The first Picture
Book was one that we printed by offset. It was done in
from four to eight colors. There were thirty- two pictures,
mostly material from Mexico. Jean Chariot had just come up
from Mexico, where he had been making sketches of the stone
work at Chichen Itza. He came to Los Angeles here and met
Merle Armitage, and Merle Armitage brought him into my
place. That way we got started on it, and that's the way I
got started on the books of Merle's. We felt as though we
were taking a step forward in printing books that were hand
drawn and also printed by lithography rather than
letterpress. Because up to that time, practically all book
work was done by letterpress rather than lithography.
Lithography at that time had degenerated into box labels
and things of that sort. Stationery and fruit-crate
labels. There's quite a collection on those, too. There's
been a lot of work done on those box labels and been quite
an interest in them, too.
RATNER: So when you and Merle Armitage would get together
to work on a book, for example, what was your part in the
whole process? Did he make all the aesthetic decisions
ahead of time, or how involved were you with that?
KISTLER: Well, I would work along with him. We'd consult
together just what type we were going to use and how we
were going to set it. The format was very often left to
me. I would make up a dummy. Then Merle would sketch out
the way that he thought it ought to be, and I would
interpret it and type. My father had a very fine
collection of type. We had one of the best type
collections in the city. I had quite a bit of latitude in
what we could do with putting type together in various
ways. Merle would make a sketch of it, and I would make
the type and the size in the way that it was to be set and
oversee that it was set properly for the book.
RATNER: So it was a real collaboration?
KISTLER: It was a collaboration, yes.
RATNER: I think it was the third book, at least according
to this catalog, that you printed with Merle Armitage that
was one of the ones you mentioned that was one of the
American Institute of Graphic Arts' Fifty Books of the
Year. That was on Warren Newcombe?
KISTLER: Yes. [ Warren Newcombe ]
RATNER: And that had a photograph of Newcombe by Edward
Weston, it looks like.
RATNER: What do you remember about that project?
KISTLER: Well, Newcombe was an employee at the Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer company. He had a studio there, and he had a
key to it. I think I told you this before.
KISTLER: He had his own studio at Metro-Goldwyn. He is
the man that worked out this proposition where-- They had
to have a scene on, say, the capitol steps. Of course,
they couldn't build the whole thing, but they would have to
make a set of maybe the steps. Then they would take a
picture of the capitol. They would photograph each one of
those separately and put them together. It would be the
actual top of the capitol, and they would fit the other
material that they needed for the lower half. They would
make a set of that. They would put those together, believe
it or not, all of the columns and everything fitting. If
they happened to cut them in half or anything like that, it
would come perfect. You wouldn't be able to-- You couldn't
tell because they-- And they still do it, I think. They
just build a part of the set and then take a picture of
something else and fit the lower part with a motion picture
set. Isn't that amazing?
RATNER: It is. I didn't realize it was done like that.
KISTLER: So that was the kind of man that Warren Newcombe
was. He was the one that worked it out. Metro-Goldwyn
valued his work and everything, but they failed to renew
his contract when it came due. So when he didn't have a
new contract, he had the only keys to this studio, and he
just walked away. They didn't know where he'd gone or
anything. Metro-Goldwyn closed down for two weeks because
they didn ' t know where Warren Newcombe had gone or why or
how to get ahold of him or what to do, and they didn't have
the keys to the place. They didn't have anybody that
understood it if they did have the keys. So they were good
boys when he came back. [laughter] He got his contract
amended. They didn't neglect to sign him up.
RATNER: And get an extra copy of the keys. [laughter]
KISTLER: No, they never got an extra copy of the key. But
the method is generally known now.
RATNER: There's a little picture on here of the cover of
that particular book. Then at the bottom, I guess, it was
KISTLER: E. Weyhe.
RATNER: I came across their name a lot in association with
your work with Armitage. What--?
KISTLER: Well, Weyhe handled the books in New York.
Armitage had an agreement with E. Weyhe, and he worked with
E. Weyhe. E. Weyhe sold a lot of books that we printed
together. I don't know where Merle got the money, but he
always came up with enough to-- That was the principal
thing, as far as we were concerned, [laughter] getting the
books paid for. Then we collaborated on the printing of
the books and the design. We collaborated on that. We did
RATNER: So there were five hundred copies of that one
RATNER: It seems like a lot of books. Was it a lot of
books? I mean, for somebody-- How well known was Warren
Newcombe that they would have been able to sell five
KISTLER: Well, you've got something there. [laughter]
Five hundred books proved to be an awful lot. The first
Picture Book , before we got through, we had sold a good
many of them.
RATNER: Then here's another one, also from 1932--you were
busy that year — The Art of Edward Weston . [laughter]
RATNER: And that was also distributed by this E. Weyhe.
RATNER: It had thirty-nine plates?
KISTLER: Yes. We printed that to letterpress. I've
forgotten just how many reproductions of Edward Weston's
work-- About thirty or forty reproductions of his work. It
was one of the finest letterpress, halftone jobs that had
RATNER: This particular book was inscribed, too. It says,
"Inscribed to L. K. , a real craftsman. Ever since we first
met, I knew that no effort would be spared to make this
book a splendid work. In gratitude, Edward."
RATNER: That's nice. So what do you remember about
working with Edward Weston? I guess you printed two books
of his work?
RATNER: But what do you remember about that first
experience? He obviously was very happy with you.
KISTLER: Yes. Well, it was an unusual thing. It was a
large book. I think it was 12" X 16" in size, something
like that in size. It was one of the Fifty Books of the
Year. It was the finest reproduction of Edward Weston's
work that had been done at that time. He was very much
pleased with it.
It took us a whole week to get the first form
printed. We just printed two illustrations at the time.
It was quite a long job. It took a lot of skillful work.
We had worked out a couple of blocks of metal that we
thought would anchor the thing right so that there couldn't
possibly be any difficulty about printing it at all. We
found out, when we got started, that we couldn't get it to
print. It took us a whole week. We worked on it. We
would get streaks in it and we didn't know why. We thought
maybe the blocks were rocking, you know. But inasmuch as
we had metal foundations for them--and blocks are usually
mounted on wood, you know- -we thought that there would just
be no chance of getting any slur in them at all. So we
were just about to give up on the thing because we couldn't
get the streaks out of it. A pressman came in on Friday
afternoon. He wanted to know if he could get a job. So we
told him that we had a problem and if he could solve it,
why, he'd have a job. He went back and he worked for a
little while and got the press all set up and the ink all
set and everything. Then he went and got a gasoline can,
and he poured it on these plates that we had. He lit the
gasoline, and it heated those plates, and they printed.
RATNER: My goodness! You must have been surprised.
KISTLER: Well, we were certainly relieved after that,
because we had a lot of money tied up in the cuts. We'd
had the cuts made already, the plates made. Los Angeles
Engraving Company furnished the plates. We gave them
credit for it, and they were glad to do it. About thirty-
two plates, and they were about the actual size of Edward's
work. They were very fussy in working out Edward's work,
because in photographing, Edward didn't have small films
that he enlarged. All of his work is photographed on
negatives the same size as the photographic print that he
makes from them. He just does it complete. So they're all
big negatives. None of these small negatives or
anything. It was really quite an accomplishment all the
way through: working it out, getting a plate company that
would make the plates for us, and also printing them after
we got them made. We were afraid we weren't going to be
able to print them, they were so large. We had excellent
equipment, too, and we had a very good pressman outside of
this man that came in. But this man that came in was just
an itinerant printer and had run into trouble like that
before. Just put a little gasoline on it, on each one of
the plates, and then he would light it. It would get warm,
and he would start his press and get his job off. So
there ' s more than one way to skin a cat in the printing
RATNER: Yeah, that's a great story. [laughter]
KISTLER: We were amazed. My father had been at the
business for thirty-five years at that time, and I knew a
little bit about printing then, but there's always a new
trick in the printing business. There's always some way to
overcome difficulties that you have. So that the printing
of the Edward Weston book was quite an accomplishment. It
was quite a triumph when we got it done. And it became one
of the Fifty Books of the Year.
RATNER: So two of the books you printed that year--which
was the first year it looks like you printed books --became
one of the Fifty Books of the Year. Because Warren
Newcombe was printed in ' 32 and the Edward Weston book was
printed in '32.
RATNER: So that was quite a way to begin.
RATNER: That's great. Another book you printed in '32 was
on Rockwell Kent [ Rockwell Kent ] .
RATNER: This one says, "Printed under the supervision of
Lynton Kistler, " whereas the other ones have said, "Printed
by." What was the difference there?
KISTLER: Gee, I don't think there was any difference,
really. It was printed by lithography.
RATNER: How well did you know Rockwell Kent?
KISTLER: I never met him. He was one of Merle Armitage's
customers, one of the people that Merle Armitage admired.
He wanted to do a book on Rockwell Kent.
RATNER: Okay. We talked about the Picture Book last
time. Then another one that was done in '33 was the work
of Henrietta Shore.
KISTLER: Yes. [laughter] Well, that was an amusing
situation, too. We had all of the plates on Henrietta
Shore's book [Henrietta Shore] made. Jean Chariot came to
town at that time. It was when we first contacted Jean
Chariot. The Henrietta Shore book was one of Merle
Armitage's babies. Jean Chariot saw the work that we were
doing then on it and he said, "Well, I'd like to make the
frontispiece for it. " So there was a frontispiece added to
this book by Jean Chariot, and Henrietta Shore didn't know
anything about it at all. He did a portrait of Henrietta
Shore. It was a modern version and did nothing to
compliment Henrietta Shore's looks. She was furious when
she saw this thing. There are only two hundred of those
books printed. She became reconciled to it finally, but it
raised quite a ruckus for a while when it was published.
RATNER: She was a local artist?
KISTLER: No. She was of that group up there in Carmel .
RATNER: Okay. Then how about another one from 1934? That
was--I was just curious--a book called Elise . Was that
Armitage's wife at the time?
KISTLER: Yes. [Elise Cavanna Seeds]
RATNER: So now he's only printing the books in copies of
two hundred. I guess maybe--
KISTLER: Yes. Well, some of them are more or less
promotional work, you know? On the record, there were
people that hadn't pushed to made a big splash, but their
work needed promotional work, and that was one way to
RATNER: You said you don't know how he was able to finance
all these projects.
KISTLER: Well, he got his friends to put up the money on
it. He was doing very well himself. He was manager of the
Los Angeles Grand Opera Company, and he made a good salary
and spent most of it on this kind of work.
RATNER: This one also had a portrait of Elise. It says,
"Drawn directly on the zinc plate and hand colored by
KISTLER: Yes. Yes, that's true. Elise and Beatrice Wood
were good friends. They were both screwy artists.
RATNER: And you had both of them included in your show
that you did at the Stendahl Gallery ["Impressions Printed
by Hand from Stone and Zinc by Lynton Kistler at the
KISTLER: That's right, I did.
RATNER: Okay, here's one from 1935 on Millard Sheets. It
says "Millard Sheets in Los Angeles, Dalzell Hatfield."
KISTLER: Yes. Well, Hatfield put up the money on that
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: Of course, Dalzell Hatfield was handling all of
his work at that time, all of Millard Sheets 's work. So he
was glad to promote it and put up-- So that was a book
[ Millard Sheets ] that I printed for Millard Sheets.
RATNER: Had you worked with Millard Sheets prior to this?
KISTLER: I'm just trying to think. Yes, I had. We
printed a great big lithograph in four colors. It was one
of the largest things I ever did. It was printed on a
sheet 35" X 45" in four colors for the WPA [Works Progress
Administration] process. It was a WPA project. They were
making work for the artists, and Millard furnished it. It
was drawn in four colors. That's an awfully big plate, you
know, 35" X 45". I saw one for sale up in Santa Rosa for,
I don't know, I think it was $1,200 or something like
that. It was one of those prints that we made for the WPA
people. Millard probably got a couple of copies, and that
gallery [Annex Gallery] up there was handling a lot of
RATNER: This particular copy that they had in the
exhibition was inscribed, "This copy for the fine printer
Ward Ritchie, 1935, from Merle Armitage." How well did you
know Ward Ritchie?
KISTLER: Well, I knew him very well. We conferred
together. We went over each other's work and were
interested in each other's work. We get together every
once in a while and meet in various places, have
meetings. Ward's a very fine printer, a very good
designer, and we're very good friends.
RATNER: So there were a thousand copies of Millard
Sheets ' s book printed?
KISTLER: Well, Millard was a little more ambitious, and I
think he paid for printing on that. I've seen copies of
that book for sale at Millard's shows, oh, as recently as
ten years ago. So he used it for promotion for quite a
RATNER: Was there any text in a book like that? Had Merle
Armitage written something about Millard Sheets or--?
KISTLER: Yes. Merle usually wrote an article in each one
of the books. He had something to say about it. He had an
opinion on everything that there was. [laughter]
RATNER: So it seems. [laughter]
KISTLER: It was an opportunity for him to express himself
and make himself known. He was very knowledgeable. He was
a very active man and into everything, acquainted with
everybody. He knew everyone and was interested in things
like grand opera and people that were talented. Mary
Garden was one of his outstanding-- He had the running of
her productions for a while and did quite a bit of work for
her and brought her things to the Los Angeles area. You've
heard of her, presumably, Mary Garden? Never heard of
her? She was as big as, oh, any of the big stars that you
RATNER: She was a singer?
LELAH KISTLER: Grand opera.
RATNER: Grand opera.
KISTLER: Yes. A singer. Mary Garden. So Merle was
interested in telling about these people. He had some
weird experiences with them. One time, the [Los Angeles]
Philharmonic [Orchestra] was held up. He had all of the
cash in the bottom of the drawer that he had taken in.
And, of course, he had to pay off the Philharmonic and give
Mary Garden her cut on the thing and pay all of his
advertising expenses and everything on top of that.
Shortly after the show had opened, why, this man came and
stuck a gun in his ribs. He had put this money in a false
bottom in a drawer. He pulled the drawer out and he says,
"Eh? There's nothing here." I don't know, there was some
change or something like that, a few dollars. This robber
took that. But it was a pretty courageous thing to do, to
open the drawer and say, "Here, look. There's nothing in
there. You can take it all if you want it." He said,
"That was sent to the bank already. There's nothing you
can do about it." All of his income from this appearance
of this outstanding star-- He had sold out the house and
had I don't know how many thousand dollars in that bottom
drawer that he had to protect. The police department told
him he was silly for doing it, but he was that kind of a
guy. He got away with whatever he was doing. [laughter]
He didn't let anybody put anything over on him.
RATNER: Okay. Well, I think we need to wrap it up here
for today, but we'll continue on talking about the books
next time. You can tell me any other stories you remember
about Merle Armitage, and then we'll go on and talk about
KISTLER: All right.
KISTLER: All right. I'll try to be better prepared.
RATNER: No, you don't-- You just leave the work to me.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE ONE
JANUARY 17, 1989
RATNER: When we ended our last meeting, you were telling
me how Merle Armitage had been robbed when he was working
at the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company, and then you said
that he had had many unusual experiences. I was wondering
what you remember about some of those experiences.
KISTLER: Well, I remember that he had a theatrical company
come over from Russia and land in Seattle, and they just
attached themselves to him. It was one of the most
remarkable experiences that you ever heard of. It was
completely unorganized and without finances at all, and it
really created quite a stir in the United States here. It
was one of the first Russian cultural things that came to
this country. It was very colorful. Armitage was one of
those men that could take an unorganized thing with a lot
of hazards in it, without finances and everything else. He
took it throughout the United States, and it made quite an
impress. It was one of the first cultural things from
Russia that we had here. I didn't have anything to do with
it, so it was just one of those stories he told about.
Most of his things were done without a great deal of
organization. He took the loose ends and put them together
so that they really were enjoyed by the people of the
country. He took the shows and people like Mary Garden and
others throughout the United States and was an impresario
and an outstanding cultural developer on the Pacific Coast
here. He was responsible for the introduction of Edward
Weston's work, and he was very enthusiastic about anyone
that he ran into and any cultural thing.
He was very aggressive in helping me promote my
work. He was very much interested in the fact that what I
was doing was introducing something to this coast here and
to the West. It turned out to be the United States, that
my work got to be known throughout the country. He gave me
a lot of encouragement and a lot of information on how to
go about it, to introduce lithography to the artists. He
was interested in artists. He knew many of the working
artists and he brought them into contact with me. He also
did everything he could to promote my work, and he gave me
quite a few things, like that Laura Knight and those others
that we spoke about. He was never heavily financed
himself, I mean in his own right, but he was able to get a
good many people to put up money to have the books printed
that he was interested in. He did an awful lot to promote
the work of authors and things like that and people that
had accomplished things. The first book that I did with
him was Eugen Maier-Krieg [ The Work of Maier-Krieg ] .
Maier-Krieg was a German who came to this country, and his
work was outstanding. Merle raised money to print a book
which cost quite a bit, and it was an experiment on our
It was the first book that we attempted to publish at
the Kistler Company when we put in the lithograph
equipment. It was really over our heads in a lot of ways,
but we had the complete outfit and we had a man with us by
the name of Ludwig Melzner who we bought the lithographic
equipment from. We had a complete printing plant for the
conversion of all kinds of printed matter to printing by
the lithographic method, the offset method/lithographic
method rather than the letterpress method. We turned quite
a bit of our work over into the lithographic method, and it
entailed a tremendous amount of information that was not
available, only through our workmen and one or two books
that were available.
The lithographic work had become almost a label
business entirely. By the time that we got into it, it had
become offset lithography, and they had dispensed with the
stone work, except that they would put an original on stone
and then they would pull transfers from that and stick a
lot of them up on a plate. It was used more for printing
labels and colors. It was used also for printing of
stationery. Now, that was about the extent of the
lithographic work when it came into our hands. The people
who were established in the lithographic work in Los
Angeles-- There was the Neuner Stationery Company and there
was the Los Angeles Lithograph Company. The Neuner
lithograph company, they didn't attempt to convert ordinary
printed matter to the offset lithograph method.
Ludwig Melzner didn't have the financing to carry his
work on. He had a lithograph press and he had a camera and
all the facilities that went with the method of
lithography, and we depended upon him for the information,
the initial information. We expanded our work so that we
made our plates in the plant and did all of the operations
that were necessary for the lithographic business. In the
printing business we bought our printing plates out. It
was done by photoengraving. But the lithography allowed us
to go ahead and convert ordinary printing into-- Well, to
produce ordinary printing by the offset lithograph
method. It was due to the fact that photography had
developed to quite an extent. There had been a lot of
improvement in the quality of negatives that we get. But
there was a lot that we needed to know besides what we
could get out of our workmen, which was available from
talking to others that had lithographic equipment. But we
went ahead and actually converted a lot of printed matter
to the offset lithographic method. This book of Eugen
Maier-Krieg ' s, it was a book of his sculpturing. He was
one of the outstanding sculptors of that particular
period. His work was fairly well known, and the book
itself created quite a sensation, because it came out
We could do a lot of things with lithography that we
couldn't do very well with letterpress printing.
Letterpress printing might-- If we had halftone work, why,
we had to use a very smooth, slick-coated paper. With the
offset lithography, why, we could print on papers that were
rough and papers that were antiques and things like that.
It made it possible to do a lot of very creative work.
Also, the fact that we could make our own plates allowed us
quite a bit of latitude, because you could actually stand
over them and see what was being done. But we did need a
lot of information that wasn't available to us through
books or through our workmen, so I undertook to go back
clear to the stone printing and research it and build it up
and see the steps it had gone through in order to bring it
to the point of offset lithography.
RATNER: I was wondering, then, how long did it take to
print the Maier-Krieg book? I mean, from the beginning of
the project to the end, since it was the first one, was it
a rather lengthy process?
KISTLER: Well, it was in the plant a month or maybe a
month and a half.
RATNER: And was that about average or--?
KISTLER: Yes, yes, it was. I don't know whether I told
you that [Jean Chariot] was just back from Mexico--
RATNER: Right, we talked about that last time. We got
that on tape.
KISTLER: Yeah, yeah. And the making of Picture Book .
RATNER: Right, we talked about that. We talked about a
number of the books that you printed during the early
thirties, but we didn't talk about all of the books that I
wanted to talk about, so I thought maybe we could go on and
continue talking about some of the books that you printed
with Merle Armitage. Another one I wanted to ask you about
was called [ Giovanni ] Napolitano; Fifteen Reproductions of
His Work .
RATNER: What do you recall about that? What kind of an
artist was he?
KISTLER: Well, he was a muralist and a working artist and
not very well known. The book that we printed for him was
a rather small one, and it was done in one color. It
wasn't as elaborate as the book that we printed for Maier-
Krieg. The format was smaller, and it was only done in one
color. It was done to promote Napolitano 's work.
RATNER: How did Armitage select him as a candidate for a
KISTLER: Well, Armitage selected him the way he selected
me: he liked his work and he liked his approach.
Napolitano's approach to his sculpturing was unusual. He
had an unusual presentation of his work. He had an unusual
style, and his background loaned it to an unusual
RATNER: Where was his home base?
KISTLER: Los Angeles.
RATNER: Los Angeles.
KISTLER: Yes, he was a Los Angeles man. He's still
living, as a matter of fact, and he has quite a few of the
Armitage books. I don't believe that there are very many
of the first Picture Book left, because quite a few of them
RATNER: Oh, really?
KISTLER: Yes. There were only five hundred printed, which
is rather a small edition.
RATNER: Why were some of those Picture Books destroyed?
KISTLER: Well, they disappeared one way and another. As
quite a few people were fascinated by the pictures
themselves, they simply cut them up and framed them.
RATNER: Oh, I see. So they took them apart, the books
KISTLER: Yes. Did you see one of those books?
RATNER: I did. Yeah, I enjoyed looking at it.
Well, here's another one you printed in 1935 that was
on a little bit different track from the ones we've talked
about. It was Modern Dance . This one says it was compiled
by Virginia Stewart, that it was designed by Merle
Armitage, and printed by you. It had an original
lithograph drawn directly on the stone by Elise [Cavanna
Seeds] and hand printed by you.
RATNER: What do you recall about that book?
KISTLER: Gee, I don't remember very much about that right
now. I hadn't thought about that for quite a long time.
It was one of Merle Armitage 's enthusiasms, one of the
people that he was very enthusiastic about. He got
Virginia Stewart to write the book, and we printed it for
RATNER: Who was Virginia Stewart?
KISTLER: Virginia Stewart? Well, she was a person that
was interested in cultural matters and interested in
dancers and Martha Graham and a number of others that were
in the limelight at that time. She researched all of these
people and made quite an outstanding book of their work.
RATNER: It said inserted in this book--it must have just
been inserted by the person who owned it--were two articles
on the Armitage-Kistler collaboration, one by Carl Haverlin
and one by Jose Rodriguez. I would have liked to have seen
those articles. Do you happen to have copies of those?
KISTLER: Gee, I'd forgotten about them altogether. I
don't know where I could get those.
RATNER: That would have been nice to have looked at.
[pause] Okay, now here's another one that was
interesting. This was a series of concert programs it
looks like you did for KECA concert programs?
RATNER: From October 1935 to September 1936. These all
included wood engravings of the composers on the covers by
RATNER: How did you get that project?
KISTLER: Well, Carl Haverlin was my friend. He was
program manager at Earl C. Anthony's. Earl C. Anthony had
the KECA. And Carl was another enthusiast, like Merle, and
he was enthusiastic about Paul Landacre 's woodblocks. He
was also enthusiastic about the programs that were being
put on by KECA. I don't know, it's hard to explain. It
was a publication like is put out today by the television
people, you know, to promote their programs.
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: That's what they were, and we printed those.
That was printed by letterpress rather than lithography.
It was a letterpress project, because it was all material
about the musical concerts that were coming up, and it was
over radio. It wasn't television. It was before the
development of television.
Joe Rodriguez, who was at KECA, and Carl Haverlin and,
oh, another printer-- What was his name? Well, there were
quite a number of us printers who were interested in Paul
Landacre's engravings. He has become one of the finest
wood engravers in the country, and his work is very well
known. Of course, he's passed on now. He was from the
Midwest. I believe he was from Ohio, and he was an athlete
and was very outstanding in athletic work and everything.
But he contracted this infantile paralysis. It crippled
him so that he didn't have good control of his limbs and
things, and he had to take up something besides running.
So he took up woodcutting. He started out with linoleum
blocks and finally got down to wood engraving. He bought a
Washington handpress and not only engraved his blocks, but
he printed them too. I have one of them here. I don't
know whether you're acquainted with his work or not.
RATNER: Yes, it's very beautiful. I've always admired it.
KISTLER: Yes. But his work was more or less limited
because he couldn't produce rapidly. His wife helped him
in his work. They were very, very devoted. She passed on
in her fifties, I think, and that just devastated him. He
finally died in a fire. I think he set it himself. He was
just so despondent, because his wife was so essential to
his getting on and doing his work. He felt as though he
had nobody to help him out at that time, so that when she
passed on, why, that just ended things for him. It was
really very tragic.
But what there is left of his work is beautiful, and
it is well appreciated. Ward Ritchie has printed a book on
him [ Paul Landacre ] . He did two lithographs with me, and
his drawing on the stone-- He was a very meticulous worker
and a beautiful worker, and his concepts were just
marvelous. He was a natural artist. I steered him away
from lithography, because it was drawing, and I thought
that he should just concentrate on woodblocks. So that I
didn't encourage him to go any further with the
lithography, although the one or two things that he did
with me were really quite beautiful. But the woodcutting
was unique, and he had established himself, more or less,
for that. He did make a name for himself, and there is no
other woodcutter that I know in this area that has achieved
what Paul Landacre did.
His work was quite beautiful, and it's due to the fact
that he concentrated on wood engraving rather than working
in so many areas. Because he just didn't have the time to
do it. He was a very slow worker, and it was difficult for
him to work, even with his wife's help. His wife helped
him at the press, too. She helped him pull the lever on
the press and exert some of the physical exercise that ' s
necessary in working a Washington handpress. It's a
physical thing. It's necessary to exert yourself quite a
RATNER: There was a show a few years ago at the [Los
Angeles] County Museum of Art of his work ["Paul Landacre:
Prints and Drawings," 1983]. Did you happen to see that?
KISTLER: Yes, I did. Yes.
RATNER: It was nice. I think they did a small catalog
KISTLER: Yeah. Yes, we went. Do you remember, Lelah? We
went to see Paul Landacre ' s prints at the Los Angeles
LELAH KISTLER: I've gone to so many places and seen so
many people's prints, I'm not sure I remember that
KISTLER: Don't you remember we were surprised at the way
that the Los Angeles Museum had been--
LELAH KISTLER: Oh, the last time we went up there?
LELAH KISTLER: Yes. They remodeled the museum and added
to it and so forth. It's beautiful now. Yes, but I didn't
remember it was Landacre ' s work in particular.
RATNER: It was a nice show. Okay, here's another one that
you did for the Hollywood Bowl, and this was by Isabel
Morse Jones and designed by Merle Armitage and printed by
Lynton Kistler. What was that for?
KISTLER: Well, that was just a history of the Hollywood
Bowl. It was all typeset, and there was nothing really
outstanding about it except it was a well-printed job. It
was another one of those things that Merle Armitage was
enthusiastic about and promoted. Isabel Morse Jones at
that time was the historian of the Hollywood Bowl, and it's
a complete story of the Hollywood Bowl up to the thirties
RATNER: Right, 1936. It was 203 pages, so I guess it was
KISTLER: Yes. It told how the Bowl was started and the
people that were connected with it, how it grew. She had
kept a record of the whole thing. It was a very good
exposition of the history of the Hollywood Bowl.
RATNER: Here's another one from 1935 on Stravinsky [ Igor
Stravinsky ] . I guess this was one that Armitage wrote
also. "Designed by Merle Armitage, printed under the
direction of Lynton Kistler, 158 pages."
KISTLER: Yes, well, that was another one of Armitage 's
enthusiasms: Stravinsky. He was interested in music. He
was not a musician himself, but he appreciated people who
had accomplished things in music, and Stravinsky was one of
them that he was interested in. He designed the book and--
I've forgotten who it was who did some artwork on that. It
was very nicely done.
RATNER: On this little thing it doesn't mention that
there's any artwork.
KISTLER: Well, it was just design.
RATNER: I see. Here's one. Two Statements by Pablo
Picasso . It says, "New York, Los Angeles, Merle Armitage,
1936, designed by Merle Armitage, printed by Lynton
Kistler." And bound in was an original lithograph by
Giovanni Napolitano, pulled from the stone by Lynton
KISTLER: Gee, I don't remember much about that really.
RATNER: It seems interesting that it says "two statements
by Pablo Picasso." I wonder whether Merle Armitage had
just found those particular statements interesting and
decided to put them in a book or what.
KISTLER: Well, I think that that is probably what
happened, yes. He was in touch with all of these artists
and musicians. It's quite possible that he did get that
directly from Picasso. He knew them. He presented them on
the stage here. Most of these things were done at the [Los
Angeles] Philharmonic [Orchestra] . He was the manager of
the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company. In the off-season,
why, he brought in these people, these musicians.
RATNER: Where was Armitage's home base?
KISTLER: Los Angeles. He put in quite a bit of time with
Edward Weston. He was very much interested in Weston's
work. I did two books [ The Art of Edward Weston and Fifty
Photographs by Edward Weston ] on Edward Weston, and
Armitage got financing for them. It [ The Art of Edward
Weston] was a large book. It was about 9" X 12" in size,
and there were thirty-six, I think, reproductions of
Edward's work. It was printed letterpress, and I think I
told you the experience we had in starting the book.
KISTLER: It was beautifully designed. It was one of the
[American Institute of Graphic Arts'] Fifty Books of the
RATNER: Right, that was the earlier one. Right. And I
know that you did do another one later also, the second
book. In 1947 was the second one.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE TWO
JANUARY 17, 1989
RATNER: Okay, we were talking about some of the books you
had printed with Armitage before we flipped the tape.
Here's another one [ Martha Graham ] from 1937 that was done
on Martha Graham. You mentioned her a few minutes ago and
his interest in modern dance. What do you recall about
KISTLER: Well, it was just a book of essays. I've
forgotten just what the material was on it, but it was just
a well-printed book. It was done letterpress. It was one
of the fifty books of Armitage 's that I did. I guess it
was the first book that was printed on Martha Graham. From
the standpoint of design, just well printed is all that I
can say about it. There was no departure there as far as
printing is concerned. Of course, it was unique because of
Armitage 's layout and his approach to it and the material
that was presented. The book was well bound-- It was a
full-bound book. But it was another book we printed.
RATNER: It says, "Binding by C. Frank Fox." Was that a
KISTLER: Yeah. Well, that was a bookbinder that did some
very good work for us, and he did the binding on quite a
number of our books. He was a man that was willing to put
in a little extra effort on his binding work. He was a
very competent man and he bound, well, I guess, several of
the books that we printed, if it was a full-bound book.
RATNER: What does that mean, full bound?
KISTLER: Well, it means that it had the stiff covers and
it was bound in cloth. It wasn't a paperback. As a matter
of fact, all of the books we did were full-bound books.
Henrietta Shore and the Warren Newcombe book were
paperbacks. We didn't have the money for a binding, but
they were well put together, and some people rebound them
in boards. Full binding, even in those days, was pretty
expensive and hand sewed, usually. They didn't have the
automatic machinery for binding. They were put together by
RATNER: So I guess that added pretty significantly to the
cost of the book.
KISTLER: Yes, it did. Then it's amazing the amount of
progress that there has been made in the printing business
since I got into it. It is of a different character today--
the printing itself--the way that it's put together and
everything. When I came into it, the average printer was
just getting to the point where they were getting into
setting type. I mean, setting type by machinery, and doing
a lot of it. My father [William A. Kistler] was one of the
first printers in Los Angeles, commercial printers, to put
a typesetting machine in. Even newspaper work, when I
first came into the business, a lot of it was being set by
hand. It picked up every letter individually and put it
into a stick and put it together. There were two
machines. One was the Monotype machine, which my father
had, and that set and justified, or made the lines all the
same length, so they came out just as-- Better than you
could do it by hand setting. It was absolutely perfect
setting. But they were individual letters. They cast them
and put them together at the same time. There was a
keyboard that had-- Like a typewriter, you know. It made
the letters of different widths just like they were in hand
setting, and it duplicated hand setting right to a tee, but
it improved it. It did perfectly what, you know, you were
doing in the hand setting. That is, it justified those
lines so that they came out all the same length. It was
really a marvelous machine. I learned that. I learned to
run both the keyboard and the caster. I wasn't very good
at it, but it was one of the things that I got into
learning in the printing business.
RATNER: So your father had you learn everything?
KISTLER: Yes, I was into everything in the plant. I
didn't do an awful lot of presswork. I did some, but I was
more interested in the typography, and my father was a
compositor. He got into the business of setting newspaper
by hand .
RATNER: So it seems to have served you well to have
learned all the bits and pieces.
KISTLER: Yeah, I got a smattering of all of it.
RATNER: That's good.
KISTLER: But I got hooked on the lithography. That was
the thing that fascinated me more than anything else. It
is my ambition to have lithography accepted as fine art,
and I just never had the financing to do it. The artists
couldn't afford to pay me the modest sums that I asked for
printing their work, and I didn't have the money to do the
exploitation that has been done on lithography. It took
years to do it and it's pretty well accepted now. But it
was my ambition to get the best artists that were available
and get their work into the hands of collectors. I gave
talks all over the city to every organization that would
listen to me. I'd even take my presses apart. They were
handpresses. I'd take them apart and take them out and
give demonstrations for printing, just for one evening.
One year I took the whole outfit to Sacramento to the
[California] State Fair and took a bunch of stones, and I
worked with quite a number of artists up there in San
Francisco at that time.
There are a lot of heartbreakers, too, about the
thing. I wanted to get as many presses as I could, and I
used a transfer press to do my printing. They were a press
that was used in the lithographic industry, and they were
commencing to be phased out. They could make the plates
without making these transfers. But there was a very neat
little press that you pull pictures on. There was one firm
up in San Francisco that had about six or eight of these
presses. When I came back from Sacramento, why, I made a
point to stop in at San Francisco to see this firm. I knew
that they had these presses. I asked and I tried to get
them to let me buy the presses, and they wouldn't sell any
of them to me. "Oh," they said, "they might come back
again a little bit later, " and they might need them. So I
waited three or four or five years, something like that,
and I went up to San Francisco again when I was up there.
I stopped in and asked them if they were willing to turn
over some of the presses to me, if they were ready to
release them. They said no, that they had just sold them
for old iron--
RATNER: Oh, no.
KISTLER: --and that they had that day sent them down to a
wrecking company, and they broke them up for the iron that
was in them. I went down to the wrecking company and I
tried to get the presses, and they said no, they had just
broken them up.
RATNER: Oh, that is a heartbreaker .
KISTLER: It is a heartbreaker, for a fact.
RATNER: What year was that? About what year?
KISTLER: Oh, that was during the thirties sometime. I
can't recall just when it was. One of the big lithograph
companies in San Francisco found it possible to get rid of
their stones. They were working on metal then. They had
gone to offset lithography, so they just had tons of stone,
great racks of this stone. I was anxious to get stones,
and I went up there to San Francisco and tried to buy this
stone from them. My capital was limited, so I could only
get so much of it. What I wanted to do was go up there
with a truck and load the truck with all of the stone that
I could and bring it down to Los Angeles, here. I told
these people that I would be glad to take a whole load of
this stone if they would sell it to me. They said, "Oh,
we'll sell you all that you can pay for, but you will have
to pay for it in cash. " They took tons of it and dumped it
into San Francisco Bay, and, of course, it was no good
after it had been in the salt water, no good at all. It
really broke my heart.
RATNER: I would think so.
KISTLER: That was during the forties and fifties when I
was at Third [Street] and Carondelet [Street] . I thought
it was awfully shortsighted, because I could have sold the
stones to the artists, you know. The artists wanted to buy
my stones. I wouldn't sell them because I had a limited
number of stones, and most of them--the artists--were
working on them. But I needed the supply because the
stones disappeared. The artists would take them out, and
the artists would disappear and the stones with them. So
that I had stones all over the place that were out, and I
needed a new supply all the time. If I could buy them
cheaply enough, why, it would have been possible for me to
sell quite a bunch of them. I could have sold a truckload
of this stone. I had places to store it and everything.
That was the way that the materials disappeared. So that,
eventually, it got to the point where there wasn't very
much stone available. I sent back to New York and bought a
whole two or three tons of stone, and I told them that I
would be glad to have used stone. By that time, why, they
had a lot of original stones that had never been used at
all, and they shipped me brand-new stone. I was surprised
to get a stone that had never been worked at all.
RATNER: Was the stone all from Germany?
KISTLER: Yes. The German stone is from the Kelheim
quarries in Munich, and it's a-- I don't know whether it
was a good sales job that determines bid, but according to
lithographers who were using this stone, there was only one
stone that was any good at all, and that was the stone from
the Solnhofen and the Kelheim quarries, which is just
outside Munich. And Munich is where lithography was
invented. So that it's quite an interesting thing that--
But I know that there's been stone found in-- Well,
limestone is a pretty generally known kind of stone.
RATNER: And the German stone was limestone, right?
KISTLER: Yes. Well, limestone is the only stone that was
good for lithography--they ' re right about that--but
limestone is known all over the world. They even made
cement out of it. It's really quite an ordinary stone.
But this stone from these quarries just a few miles outside
of Munich-- The finest limestone came from there, and we
all wanted the German stone. It was strange here when some
of the lithograph companies closed their stone department.
Why, a lot of them took and paved their patios with them.
That was a very hazardous thing to do, because they became
very slippery when they got wet, and they found out that
they couldn't walk on them. A lot of them had to take the
stone up again. But a lot of the stone ended up in that
way--they built walls of it and made cement of it. A lot
of the very fine lithograph stone disappeared that we would
have liked to have had.
RATNER: How often could a stone be reused? Because I know
it could be regrained and--
KISTLER: I don't know how many times. I never wore out a
stone. I had over a hundred myself. Of course, I used
them, I passed them around. But lithograph stones, the
real fine stone is unique. It runs in grade from almost
chalky white clear through to a gray or a blue-gray that is
so hard that you can hardly use it for artwork. And the
quality of the work varies according to the stones, so that
the first job that a lithographer has is to select a proper
stone for the work that the artist is doing. Just the
light gray stones are the ones that are the best, because
the drawing shows up on there more like on white paper than
on any of the others. The real soft ones, the chalky ones,
don't hold the work well, but they can be used for, oh,
tint blocks and work that isn't critical. But that
lithograph there is one that is done--
RATNER: The Chariot?
KISTLER: Yes, that Chariot. It was done on the best stone
that I had. It was a light gray stone, and it was hard
enough so that it held all of the work that was put on
it. And it would stand the etch, so that I didn't etch off
the light work that was put on by the artist. It would
hold light work and it would also print the solids, so that
it really was an exceptional stone.
RATNER: What's that piece called?
KISTLER: That's called [The] Tortilla Lesson . The
tonality there is really remarkable. It's a good example
of what a lithograph can do in holding real delicate work
against real dark areas. That's one of Chariot's.
RATNER: Okay, there's just one last book that you printed
with Armitage that I wanted to ask you about. It was
called Fit for a King: The Merle Armitage Book of Food .
RATNER: It was a little different than the others, and it
was printed in 1939 with four photographs by Edward Weston,
designed by Armitage, printed by you. In this particular
copy it's inscribed, "For Carl Haverlin, the man we hope
will come to dinner. Salute, Merle." And then, "For Carl
Haverlin, a darn good egg. Lynt." You must have written
KISTLER: Where did you run into that?
RATNER: Oh, it was in this catalog from the Cal[ifornia]
State [University] Northridge show.
KISTLER: Oh, it was? I wonder who has that now.
RATNER: I don't know. Oh, it also had drawings by Elise.
RATNER: What kind of a book was that? A cookbook?
KISTLER: Cookbook, yes. Merle was a gourmet and very much
interested in food. He ate all kinds of food and drank all
kinds of wine, an authority on all of it, so he put
together the cookbook and we printed it for him.
RATNER: So that was the last book you printed--at least it
seems that way from this catalog--during the thirties,
before you left for New York, which we had talked about.
maybe in our first session, that you had gone to New York
in the forties. You closed up your shop and went to New
RATNER: You mentioned that on your New York trip, you
worked in a printing plant. What type of work did you do?
KISTLER: Oh, just commercial printing for one of the
printing firms in New Haven. Worked for them for a
while. Nothing spectacular at all.
RATNER: I also read somewhere that during the war you met
George Miller, the well-known New York lithographer.
KISTLER: Yes, I did.
RATNER: Who introduced you?
KISTLER: Well, I just went up there and said hello to
him. We talked for a while.
RATNER: At his plant?
KISTLER: Yes. His plant was on Fourteenth Street, and he
had one press up there and he was doing the work. He did
more for lithography than I did. He got into it before I
did. I don't know just how he got into it, but I think
that his son [Burr Miller] is still carrying on in New
RATNER: Oh, really? I didn't know that. So you knew
about him in Los Angeles?
KISTLER: Yes, I knew about him.
RATNER: How impressed were you with the quality of his
KISTLER: Well, his work was tops. He was an excellent
man. He's probably the outstanding lithographer in the
United States. He started several years before I did. His
work was very well known. There was an outfit that
published lithographs for a while and sold them for $5
RATNER: Right, Associated American Artists.
KISTLER: Associated American Artists. Of course, there
was nobody here that took up that work and tried to sell
them, but Miller had that work available and did quite a
bit of it, quite a number of prints for them. He had a
business going. Well, I did one or two prints for
Associated American Artists, but they wouldn't send their
prints out here, and I couldn't get enough out of them. If
there had been a large volume, I might have done something
with it the way that Miller did, but I just got a job like
that once in a while. I think that they printed somewhere
between one hundred and five hundred prints. But I had to
print them for fifty cents apiece, and I just couldn't get
RATNER: It's too low.
KISTLER: Too low. I didn't have volume and I didn't have
the price either. Associated American Artists were very
tough to work with. I tried to get the prints down to less
than half of that. And it cost money in those days to ship
the stones back and forth. I can't blame them for it. But
I did one or two stones for them. They accepted them.
They thought they were good. I think the largest edition
that I ever printed was five hundred.
RATNER: For them?
KISTLER: It was for-- I can't remember. I can't recall
the artist's name now, but I can look it up if you'd like
RATNER: Yeah, if you think of it, that would be
interesting. You also, while you were in New York, gave a
lithography demonstration at the New York World's Fair.
How did that come about?
KISTLER: Well, the people asked me to come and demonstrate
lithography, so I went there and had a group. I gave a
talk on lithography, told them what I knew about it, and
showed them how it was done. I pulled my prints and
RATNER: Well, how did they know about you, though, in New
York? Your reputation had preceded you?
KISTLER: Oh, yes. My work was known in New York. By that
time, I had work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and had
quite a-- My work was pretty well known. They tried to get
me to go to work there, but I didn't want to because, well.
I thought they had enough lithographers there.
RATNER: While you were in New York was during the war.
What kinds of limitations were there at that time on
available lithographic materials?
KISTLER: Well, they had commenced to curtail the
manufacture of some materials at that time. Good paper was
hard to get ahold of until, oh, about ten years ago good
handmade paper became available again. Well, it was
available all the time I was printing, but there wasn't
very much of it, and I had to resort to the use of some
machine-made papers. I had papers from the Strathmore
Paper Company, who were the best makers of fine paper at
that time. I did quite a few of my editions on Strathmore
paper, but it was machine-made paper. I could get some
handmade paper, but it was very expensive and a lot of it
wasn't properly made. It would deteriorate if you weren't
RATNER: How about inks?
KISTLER: Well, the industry was changing all the way down
the line, and some of the materials and some of the things
disappeared. For instance, it was hard to get grainers at
one time. It got to be impossible, almost, to get plates
grained properly. Not the stones. The stones were always
grained by hand, so that wasn't a problem. But when we got
into working on metal-- A lot of the hand lithographers in
later years did work on metal quite a bit, and they
couldn't get the plates grained properly.
RATNER: This is during the forties?
KISTLER: Yes. Another thing that was very bad-- At the
time when I put my lithograph presses in, why, we used a
lot of zinc plates. And the zinc plates were very good.
They were almost like a stone. You would get almost the
same quality. But aluminum is not as sensitive to ink as
zinc is. Zinc was very hard to run. It would get all
clogged up if your inks weren't just right and if you
didn't have just the right etch on them and it wasn't done
just absolutely to perfection. So that when aluminum came
in, why, aluminum wasn't quite as sensitive to the taking
of the ink, but then the place was run cleaner. You didn't
have the trouble with them scumming up and things like
that. So that now, the last time I tried to get some zinc,
I couldn't get it at all. Nobody had any zinc. It was the
right thickness, you know. Because the zinc and the
aluminum plates are very thin, and aluminum and zinc are
the only metals that have worked out satisfactorily in
lithography. By the time that I got to working on this
print here of [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright ' s, why, I had to
do it on zinc or on aluminum. It was very hard to get what
we wanted there. Aluminum won't take a nice grain like
zinc will, but it will run clean. And that's the--
RATNER: That was the key.
KISTLER: That's the incentive. So it disappeared. Zinc
disappeared in the industry altogether. I was very
fortunate, as far as ink is concerned. When I first
started printing, we were working with earth colors. I
mean, they ground up certain minerals--
RATNER: Right, I think you were telling me something about
KISTLER: --and they precipitated certain things to make
their colors, you know. We had an awful lot of earth
colors. Some of them are quite fugitive and very hard to
handle, very hard to have colors that wouldn't fade or
wouldn't change color after a period of time. Eventually,
we got a lot better ink. I worked with a firm here, the
Gans Ink Company, and Bob [Robert] Gans was very helpful in
making inks for me and mixing inks and things like that.
The later printings are done with aniline colors, and they
are much better, but you have to be careful to get colors
that will last. Those colors there have been on the wall
for, I don't know, maybe twenty years, something like that,
and they stand up. Even the delicate colors are not faded
in that, and those are all aniline colors.
But the industry changed as to equipment that was
available. The printing industry has just changed
tremendously, clear through the whole industry. When I
started in the business, why, a lot of press printing--you
know, 90 percent of the printing--was done with type. When
I first got acquainted with the business, my father used to
set me up on a stool and give me a stick to put the set
type in, and he taught me to set type. I set type when I
was just a kid, about ten years old. I learned to set
type, how to justify it and everything, make use of it.
But then it went from handset type-- It was one of the
first things that-- And machine automatic presses came into
being during my time. The first presses that I worked on
were hand-fed presses. I put the paper into the press and
let the press take a whack at it, and then I'd pull it out
and put in another one. They were called "snappers."
RATNER: Snap the paper right up.
KISTLER: Yeah, platen presses. Then they commenced to get
the-- Oh, rotary presses came in. Then they got automatic
typesetting. Now there's very few people that have type in
their plant. They don't work with type at all. It is done
on computers and things like that. I don't know anything
about it at all.
RATNER: It's changes so much.
KISTLER: I didn't get into that.
RATNER: It will probably keep changing, too.
KISTLER: Well, I don't know what else they can do except
to think about it and it will put itself on the paper.
RATNER: That's right, all by itself.
KISTLER: Yeah. These machines that they have, that's done
by precipitation of some sort. I first saw that in New
York when I went back there and spent three years, and they
were commencing to work with this precipitation and it
has-- [tape recorder off]
KISTLER: There are a lot of printing processes that have
been worked out on the basis of precipitation and
sensitizing the paper to take the image, so that that was
just beginning to be worked on during the later fifties and
early sixties when I was back in New York.
TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE ONE
JANUARY 24, 1989
RATNER: I'd like to begin today by discussing your long
and very productive relationship with the artist Jean
Chariot, whom we've mentioned during our previous
discussions. You had told me that Merle Armitage
introduced him to you and that the first two projects you
worked on together were the lithograph Woman with Child on
Back and the book entitled Picture Book . So I'd like to
move on from those projects in 1933 to a letter you
received from Chariot in May of 1935 in which he says--I'm
quoting here-- "You were handsomely represented in the
Graphic Arts Book Show here in New York. The school has a
little gallery for shows, and I would like next season to
give a show of your group of lithographers. I saw a nice
article in Prints about you." What was Chariot doing in
New York at that time?
KISTLER: Well, he was just doing artwork and working
there, as he usually did. He did some lithography,
principally, I think, for that outfit that was marketing
lithographs at that time. I can't recall the name of it
RATNER: Associated American Artists?
KISTLER: Yes, Associated American Artists. He made a
number of lithographs for them. There was one of them that
I printed. I sent a stone back to Chariot, and he made a
drawing on it. And I printed the edition, and it turned
out very well. I can't remember what the subject was
RATNER: What was the size of the edition for something
KISTLER: I think it was about a hundred.
RATNER: So when he says in here that the school has a
little gallery for shows and "I'd like to give a show of
your group of lithographers, " what school was he talking
KISTLER: Gee, I can't recall, can't recall.
RATNER: What about the lithographers he says he wants to
show? Who might that have been at that time?
KISTLER: Well, I'll have to look it up in this book here,
just to be sure that I'm reminded of them.
KISTLER: There was Warren Newcombe and Phil Dike and Phil
Paradise and Bob [Robert] Majors, Elise [Cavanna] Seeds,
and-- I'm trying to think of the name of that gal that was--
[pause] There was Carl Beetz, Standish Backus, John
Baldwin, Thomas Barr, Ivan Bartlett--
RATNER: A big group.
KISTLER: Yes. All of these may not have been represented,
but they were the ones that I was working with at--
RATNER: During those early years.
KISTLER: Yes. I'd have been in that group. Jean
Negulesco and Clinton Adams.
RATNER: He was a little later, I think, wasn't he, Clinton
Adams? In the late forties?
KISTLER: Yes, he was one of the later ones. I guess that
he wasn't in that group that was shown there. Beatrice
Wood is the one that I was trying to think of. I'm trying
to get the early ones that-- Emil Bisttram, I think, was
one of those that I was working with then. This is the
early group. George Biddle, Fanny Blumberg, Edwin
Botsford. He was a very competent artist and was with an
advertising company, one of the first ones that I worked
with. John Breneiser and Stanley Breneiser--
RATNER: So these are a lot of the people who were in the
Stendahl [Gallery] show, too, that you had had in '33.
RATNER: I recognize some of those names. So it sounds
like he was organizing some sort of exhibition while he
KISTLER: Oh, I was into everything. In other words, I was
not only printing, but I was trying to promote and trying
to get a wider acceptance of lithography as a fine art.
That was my purpose. I was very successful in getting a
lot of artists interested in it, but as far as reaching the
public, I didn't do so well with that. Another very fine
artist was Tom [Thomas] Craig. He was really a splendid
artist. He was also interested in growing flowers.
Richard Day was another one, one of those early ones that
might have been in that show.
RATNER: What about the article in the journal Prints ? I
think that was one of the very top print periodicals in the
country at that time, wasn't it?
KISTLER: The Print journal? I don't remember that. I
don't recall it. Tom [Thomas] Farmer was another one. Tom
Farmer was the son of the man who promoted the first
Olympics. Lorser Feitelson was one of the first ones that--
He was a very good artist, but I could only get him to do
one lithograph in all the time that I've printed.
RATNER: That was the early thirties? This is like 1935.
KISTLER: Yes. This is early, even before '35. Alexander
RATNER: So those are records that you kept at the time in
that notebook? Like receipts or something?
KISTLER: No, this was a list that I made of the prints that
I had that's an appraisal of what was made down on my--
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: I believe that this collection went to the
Smithsonian Institution and is on exhibit there now. Gene
Fleury. Don [Donald] Freeman, who was a New York man.
RATNER: The children's books.
KISTLER: I've mentioned him before. Mary Finley Fry could
have been in that group. I don't suppose that all of these
people would have been in the show, but--
RATNER: No, that would have been a lot.
KISTLER: Richard Haines, who was a very fine artist
here. Peter Hurd was another one that I printed for. As a
matter of fact, that was one of the largest editions I ever
pulled. I think it was five hundred prints that I pulled
RATNER: You mentioned that last time, but you couldn't
remember the person's name. I was going to ask you if you
had remembered .
KISTLER: Yes, Peter Hurd. He was a very well known
RATNER: And that was that early? The thirties, the early
KISTLER: No, that wasn't the early thirties. That was in
RATNER: Maybe we could talk about some of the people you
printed later in a little bit and stick to the group in the
KISTLER: All right. Yes, I'm trying to pick out those of
the thirties now. Paul Landacre was one of those. Helen
Lundeberg was another one. She's another one that I did
just one lithograph with. Of course, Helen Lundeberg
finally became Lorser Feitelson's wife. Robert Majors was
one of those early ones. I believe that Fletcher Martin
was another one. [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright was one of the
early ones, and William E. McKee was an early one. As a
matter of fact, William E. McKee was the first one that I
did any lithographs with. He was a friend of the family
and an artist, and he's the one that made that poster for
the First World War: the farmer and the mechanic and
somebody else, the three of them marching with the fife and
the drum and the flag. A takeoff on that early
association. Ivan Messenger was another one. James
Patrick was another one in that time. Elmer Plummer, James
Pinto. Herbert Ryman, who was the designer of practically
all of Disneyland.
RATNER: Oh, really?
KISTLER: A lot of the attractions in Disneyland. He had a
very lively imagination, and he adapted a lot of the rides
and things like that to Disneyland, the Disneyland
experience. Palmer Schoppe was another one who I worked
with in the early times. As a matter of fact, he worked as
an assistant to me. He did my stone grinding and helped me
out with the handling of the paper, wetting it down and
flattening the prints. There was quite a lot of just
regular, routine work that had to be done, and he helped me
RATNER: Did you teach him how to do all that?
KISTLER: Yes, I did. He did a lot of lithographs. I paid
him in lithographs principally. [laughter]
RATNER: It was a good deal for both of you.
KISTLER: Yes. Henrietta Shore was one of my early ones.
That association of the artist and Northern California
around-- Oh, what is the name of that place? I'm trying to
push myself too much now and--
RATNER: Did you tell me one time she lived in Carmel?
KISTLER: Yes. I had an association with Edward Weston and
that whole group of artists there too at that time, and
that came through Merle Armitage. Merle was very active,
and he got me into a lot of the associations with the
artists. Jack Martin Smith was one of the early ones that
I worked with. For a while it seemed to me like every
motion picture that came out. Jack Martin Smith's name
appeared on it as the art director. I did work with guite
a number of the art directors at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer . He
was one of them. Jean Swiggett, I think that I mentioned
him. He was one of those that was in that era. That just
about covers the early ones that I can remember. Okay?
RATNER: Okay. So the article in Prints is not something
you remember? Apparently, it must have been an article
KISTLER: Yes, it was, but I can't recall.
KISTLER: Do you have the date on it?
RATNER: No, he didn't say that in the letter. It must
have been sometime in 1935 though, possibly a little
earlier. Maybe I can track it down. Then later in '35, in
July, Chariot writes to you--he's still in New York--that
he's concerned about settling his account with your father
on the Picture Book , and he offers to buy each book for $10
to enable him to settle the account. You had begun work,
we mentioned, on the Picture Book in 1933, and this is mid-
'35, so I guess the edition had not sold out at that point.
KISTLER: No, it had not.
RATNER: What was the reason for that extended period of
time to sell out the edition, do you think?
KISTLER: Well, I don't know. I can't recall what the
circumstances were and how it turned out. It just is
blotted out of my recollection. Where do you get all of
RATNER: [laughter] In the correspondence that you gave to
the [William Andrews] Clark [Memorial] Library.
KISTLER: It is?
RATNER: Okay, then there's a jump in that correspondence
with Chariot. I came across a letter from 1947, when you
have returned from New York to Los Angeles, and you have
written to Chariot about a new register rack which brings
the prints, apparently, into perfect register. There was a
man named Bill [William] Philbrook who was apparently
responsible for working on that register rack with you.
Tell me a little bit about that innovation.
KISTLER: Well, it is a method that I worked out that was
unusual. It was a three-point register and it was a frame
that went around the stone, and then there was a rack that
you could put on this frame. Then you would lay the paper
to a three-point register just like you would in a printing
machine, and it was a kind of complicated thing. You have
to take it off to pull it through the press, but you had
perfect register, and I could register very rapidly and
very accurately for color work when I commenced to work on
color work. I worked out that frame myself, and this
Philbrook helped me in really putting it together. I told
him what I wanted, and he did the work that I laid out for
RATNER: So how often were you tinkering with all the
various technical features?
KISTLER: Oh, all the time. I was always doing something.
Experimenting with different acid strengths and things like
that, and doing just blanks on stone, just grinding a stone
and laying some tones on the stone and seeing how they
would come out. I did quite a bit of that at that time.
too, just to find out what I could get by the use of
certain crayons and certain etches that I used. One thing
that I found out was that if I put a little-- Oh, let's
see. What is that acid in it? I'm sorry I'm so fuzzy on
RATNER: You're doing fine.
KISTLER: [pause] I can't think of some of these things
now. I can't think of the names of them.
RATNER: Well, you will later, and then we'll get it.
KISTLER: Yeah. I'm not doing very good on this, I'm sure.
RATNER: Yes, you are. Don't worry about it. It's fine.
Well, so it was some kind of acid?
KISTLER: Yes. It was recommended, and it was generally
the practice, to use just nitric acid and gum in order to
etch the stone. But we had quite a bit of trouble with the
stone catching up and filling and the work spreading. With
the use of this acid that I worked out, which included two
other acids-- Hmm, I can't think of the names of them
now. Well, anyway, it will come to me.
RATNER: So it was an improved method with the other acids.
KISTLER: Yes. [tape recorder off]
RATNER: In 1947, and I think actually even earlier, you
and Chariot frequently worked through the mail. In fact,
you had mentioned that before.
RATNER: When he was in New York, you would send him zinc
plates, I guess, through the mail?
RATNER: How did you work out that system? How did that
KISTLER: Well, I grained the plates and I sent them back
to Chariot, and he drew on them. I would then send him
proofs, and he would-- Sometimes I would send the plates
back with him, and he would make corrections on the plates
and, if it was necessary, take out work he didn't want on
them. Then I would pull the editions and I would send them
back to him. I sent some stones back to him, too.
RATNER: I wondered about that. That must have been very
expensive to send a heavy stone like that through the mail.
KISTLER: Well, at that time it wasn't as expensive as it
is now. It would be practically impossible to do it at the
present time because rates are so high, but it wasn't so
awfully expensive to do it. And I had a very nice box
worked out so that you could draw on both sides of the
stone and clear out to the edge if you wanted to. That way
the artist could work on both sides of the stone. That
gave them an opportunity to get two prints for the price of
one, as far as the shipping was concerned.
RATNER: How often, if at all, actually, were the stones
damaged because they had gone through the mail?
KISTLER: I never had any trouble at all with them.
I^TNER: Oh, that was lucky.
KISTLER: Yeah, I never once had difficulty. It worked out
very well, the method I had. The stone was held rigid in
the box so it just couldn't move at all. They were very
heavy plywood boxes that I had, so I shipped them all over
the United States. That way the different artists who
wanted to work-- I had several boxes that I used and sent
the boxes to the artists and did quite a few stones that
RATNER: So even though, I guess, it was a little more
time-consuming, because you had to be sending the proofs
back and forth, it seems to have worked out very well.
KISTLER: Yes. Lithography is a very responsive medium to
work in, very well suited to artists working with a great
deal of freedom, you know. It's just like drawing on a
piece of paper. It can be corrected and it can be
modified, and you can open the stones up and redraw on them
if they haven't got enough work on them. It's a very
practical method of working.
RATNER: Okay. Then later in '47, in the letter you've
written to Charlot--this is in regard to what you were
saying about promoting the work--you said, "The prints
arrived, and I am getting them into retail outlets. I'm
handling sales of some of them myself. I am sending a set
to E. Weyhe this afternoon. The Chouinard school
[Chouinard Art Institute] is putting these later prints on
display again and a note that they can be bought on time as
we discussed." What kind of an arrangement did you have
with these outlets?
KISTLER: Well, it was a consignment proposition. I
couldn't get them to buy the prints and buy the editions,
but I would put them up in mats and frames and things like
that in consignment to them. It was an effort to get
acceptance of the prints. I talked to different groups,
clubs, and organizations of one sort and another about the
prints and tried to get them to handle the work, but I
never did get, you know, the kind of distribution that I
hoped for. [laughter]
RATNER: How about any of the other art schools in Los
Angeles? How receptive were they to showing some of the
prints and trying to sell them?
KISTLER: There were about a half a dozen art schools in
Los Angeles, and they were all quite cooperative in working
with me. They attempted to sell the work, both to the
artists and to the public, too. Do you have the names of
those art schools?
RATNER: Well, there was Otis [Art Institute].
KISTLER: Otis Art Institute, yes. They had presses, but
they didn't have anybody that was interested in developing
lithography. There were two or three others, too, that--
RATNER: During the forties there was a place called Jepson
[Art Institute] , also.
KISTLER: Jepson art school, yes. I had some of the
artists from Jepson' s, and they were quite helpful. I will
have to say that Chouinard was the most active and the most
helpful. They sent the most students to me. Richard
Haines there and Ernie De Soto and, oh, quite a number of
others came over to me and worked out prints with me. But
it was all on that $30, six-stone deal. There wasn't much
RATNER: What does that mean?
KISTLER: Well, I had a proposition that I would give the
artist six stones that were grained, ready for drawing, for
$30, and I would pull two prints for them. If they wanted
more, they'd have to pay for them. I don't know, about
seventy-five cents or a dollar apiece. So it wasn't a very
profitable thing, but it was a promotional deal, and there
were quite a number of the artists that took it up. But
they were short on money the same as I was. [laughter]
There wasn't a great deal of financing at that time. I
also had the competition of the WPA [Works Progress
Administration] . The government had instituted a course in
lithography too, and some of the artists that I might have
gotten a few dollars from to help me out-- The promotion of
the work was done by and paid for by the government through
the WPA. It didn't help me out very much.
RATNER: No, I guess not. [laughter] Except for I guess
it had-- At least there were more people in Los Angeles
working on lithography.
RATNER: From that standpoint-- It seems like, from what
you're saying about Chouinard-- Also, here in another
letter from '47, you talk about Mrs. [Nelbert M. ]
Chouinard, who started that art school. I think one of the
prints you're talking about when you say that "The prints
have arrived, and I'm getting them into retail outlets"-- I
think one of them was Chariot's Sunday Dress . About that
you say, "I would like to give one set to Mrs. Chouinard
and inscribed to her, because she has been very helpful
promoting sales among the students."
KISTLER: Yes. Well, that was done, I know. Where it is
now, I couldn't say.
RATNER: That was a print, Sunday Dress , that you had done
through the mail?
KISTLER: No, no, that Sunday Dress was done in my shop on--
I had my shop at various places. I had it at Union [Avenue]
and Venice Boulevard. I had a little shop in there. I had
my shop there before I moved over to Third [Street] and
Carondelet [Street], where I rented that shop.
RATNER: Which is where you must have been in '47, Third
and Carondelet. I think that's where you went right after
KISTLER: Yes, that's right.
TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE TWO
JANUARY 24, 1989
RATNER: Okay, before we flipped the tape we were talking
about the location of your studios and your relationship
with the various art schools. How had you met Mrs.
KISTLER: Oh, I think I went over and said hello to her, as
I recall, and told her about my-- Probably that's the way
that that came about. I did a lot of just ordinary contact
work, you know. Go in and see people about the proposition
and try to get them interested in doing lithographs or
handling lithographs or doing something that had to do with
RATNER: So in addition to all the things we've talked
about already in '47--I guess that was really a busy year
for you--in December of that year. Chariot writes to you
and mentions that you've been-- He must have curated a
show, I guess, because he says that you've been mentioned
in his catalog foreword with appropriate honors for a show
called "Brooklyn Museum Retrospective Print Show, 1913-
1947." You had apparently loaned some lithographs for that
show. Brooklyn, of course, was really in the forefront at
that time for collecting and exhibiting prints. Tell me
about that exhibition and your involvement with it.
KISTLER: Well, I just sent prints to it. I don't remember
just-- I sent everything that I could. All the artists
that had recognition. I think that they paid me for
sending them. I'd mount them up and send them in. There
was quite a bit of recognition of the work in Brooklyn at
RATNER: How involved was Chariot in that exhibition?
KISTLER: Well, many of the prints that I had made for him
up to that time were in the exhibition. I know that I sent
RATNER: It just seems like, from what he says, that he
either helped curate it or he did curate it by himself,
since he says in his catalog foreword-- Or maybe he just
wrote the foreword, I don't know.
RATNER: Here's an example of when you were talking about
promoting the work. In 1948 you're talking about how
actively you're promoting Chariot's work, and you've just
sent his Sunday Dress and The Tortilla Lesson to a national
print show in Washington. When you were working through
the mail like that, how did you work out the aesthetic
decisions in terms of--? I know you would send him proofs,
but what about the size and the size of the edition and
things like that? Who made those decisions?
KISTLER: Well, the artists usually made them or we made
them together. I did an awful lot of work just on
speculation, you know, hoping that we'd sell the prints.
So if I did make any money from the editions that I
printed, why, I put the profits right back into the
promotion of the work of lithography. I was really very
enthusiastic about it and just devoted all my time and
effort to the promotion of lithography. I still think that
it's a wonderful medium. The only thing is that it's too
facile in a lot of ways. Because it's so easy to make
these prints and buy lithography, people don't value them
in the way that they should. They're really very fine
works of art.
Usually, it's necessary to have a collaboration in
order to turn out a lithograph. Because a lithographer has
to work at it every day-- And I did work at it every day.
It's just like playing a musical instrument. If you're not
doing it all the time, why, you get so that you're stale at
it. So if you don't have a sufficient amount of work, if
you don't have contacts, if you don't have the work coming
to you all the time, why, you won't turn out good work.
The more work that you're turning out, why, the better work
you're turning out, because you keep your hand at it. It's
necessary to have skills in the making of the
lithographs. It's necessary to have actual physical and
mechanical skills. Those are important. The average
person can take up with the lithograph, but if they don't
keep at it all the time, keep alert on the skills that are
necessary, why, they won't get good work. Just like
anything else, it is a skill that takes constant
practice. [pause] Isn't that funny? I can't think of the
name of those acids.
RATNER: It will come to you later. Moving on with
Chariot, then-- Well, from what you were saying, it was
obvious that's why he wanted to continue to work with
you. That's the difference between a master printer and
somebody else, which is why, I guess. Chariot was willing
to work through the mail, because he wanted to work with
you. Because you had such a long relationship. In the
spring of '49-- Apparently he had been in Colorado Springs
for some time, where I think he was running an art school.
RATNER: He left there in the spring of '49 and was
considering opening a small printing school in Los
Angeles. What happened to that idea?
KISTLER: He was?
KISTLER: I don't remember a thing about that.
RATNER: Okay. Then we move on--
KISTLER: He was head of the art department of the
University of Colorado, and he worked with Lawrence Barrett
RATNER: Barrett was a printer?
KISTLER: Yes. Yes, he was a printer and very well
known. Chariot went over there as a teacher, and he was
more interested in teaching than he was in administration.
They wanted to put him in charge of the art department, the
administration of the art department at the University of
Colorado. He left there because they insisted on it, and
that's when he went to Hawaii. He went to Hawaii as a
teacher, and I don't think that he had any duties beyond
teaching. He was interested in art and in archaeology and
things like that that had to do with art. He was
interested in philosophy and languages too, to the extent
that-- Well, it was amazing to me. French was his native
tongue. He went to Mexico and learned the Mexican language
and one of the ancient Indian languages. He mastered it.
When he went to Hawaii, why, he took up Hawaiian and
learned to speak all of these languages and wrote a series
of plays in the Hawaiian language.
RATNER: Wow, a very versatile man.
KISTLER: Yes, he was a scholar, and he was very bright and
very much interested in everything that he associated
himself with. He was very, very strict in his-- In the
observance of his-- He was very religious. He had what I
thought were some very cute things that came up that had to
do with his religion, his ethics. There was an art
collector in Los Angeles here that was very active in
building an art collection and was buying modern artists.
When Chariot came to town, why, Armitage got him in touch
with this man. When he met this man-- I won't mention his
name, but when he met this man, Zohmah [Day Chariot] was--
He came to Los Angeles to see Zohmah, really, because--
RATNER: Who would be his wife.
KISTLER: His wife, yes, at his home. She was a young girl
and didn't have any-- Well, she was just a young girl.
That's the only way to put it. She was with Chariot when
he met this man. This man asked Chariot to come to
dinner. He said, "Miss so-and-so. Miss Zohmah, we'd like
to have you come, too." But when the actual invitation
came through to come to this dinner, why, it was just for
Chariot and not for Zohmah, too. So Jean asked this man,
he says, "Isn't Miss Day invited, too?" And this man said,
well, he didn't think that she'd fit into the group and
that she wouldn't be interested anyway. It would be best
just for him to come alone. And Chariot said, "Well, in
that case I won't be able to attend either," which I
thought was a very fine gesture for him to make, because
this man was really buying prints and artwork in Los
Angeles. So he got Zohmah there, too.
Some of his religious predilections entered into this
thing, these associations, too, which I thought were very
amusing and indicative of the integrity of the man. He was
a very strict Catholic. At that time the Catholics all had
to eat fish on Friday, and he was religious about it. Some
of these parties turned out to be on Friday, and he
wouldn't attend unless he could have fish. He used to come
to our house on Friday night and stay over until Monday
morning when I was living and working at Patricia Avenue
and had my press down in my garage. He'd insist on having
fish every Friday. We weren't very crazy about it, but we
were fond of him, and so we had fish. So along in the time
while we were working together there, why, the Catholic
church decided that it would no longer be necessary for
them to have fish on Friday, that they could dispense with
that particular thing. So the first time he came to our
house after the necessity to eat fish had been removed from
the Catholics, why, I said, "Well, come on over to the
house tonight and we'll have fish." He said, "Lynton, you
know, I'm a little tired of fish." I thought it was so
cute. [laughter] But that's indicative of the way that he
ran his life. He had his ideas about everything.
But he was very generous with his students. I saw
some of the most, well, inept students make drawings. You
know, their first efforts were almost childish. And it
didn't make any difference how bad the drawing was, why, he
didn't dwell on how bad it was, but he would always find
something about them that was-- He would say, "Well, that's
a very nice idea that you have there, and it needs a little
here." He didn't intimidate his students. He tried to
encourage even the most inept students that he had, and
some of them were pretty bad, of course, and never did get
very far. He would always find something that was
interesting or something that he could point out to them,
and that was the reason that he was so popular with the
students. I think that he's one of the most popular
teachers that I ever ran into.
RATNER: Was his wife related to the artist Richard Day?
KISTLER: No, no.
RATNER: No, just a coincidence. Well, it seems like maybe
after he left Colorado Springs that he thought for a while
about coming to Los Angeles before he went on to Hawaii,
because there's a letter from you to him in October 1952,
and in the postscript you mention that the Los Angeles Art
Institute is going to be changing directors. You say that
Lorser Feitelson and Kenneth Ross are in line for the
job. "Both are friends of mine, " you say. "Would you like
to have me contact them in regard to your being engaged
there?" What do you recall about that?
KISTLER: Nothing came of it. He went to Hawaii. Yes,
that's really what had transpired.
RATNER: But he had initially hoped to come back to Los
KISTLER: No, he became enamored with Hawaii. He fit in
there with the culture, with the life in Hawaii. It is a
delightful place to live. And Chariot was at home no
matter where he was, because he had a love of people and a
tremendous art interest. He settled in there very easily,
bought a home there, and did teaching. He taught in the
university, was very well known and very well liked by all
the students. I never ran into a student that didn't like
RATNER: How well did you know Kenneth Ross, who, I guess,
did become director of the L.A. Art Institute?
KISTLER: Well, I never had much contact with him. He had
his own niche and I had mine, and he wasn't much interested
in what I was doing.
RATNER: Oh, okay.
KISTLER: He was interested in the school itself. They did
have a lithograph press there, but they never did much with
it, because there was no one that was sufficiently
interested that got it off the ground in the Los Angeles
RATNER: I guess if Lorser Feitelson had taken that job,
things might have been a little bit different.
KISTLER: Probably would. But I don't think that
lithography would have gone any further than it did anyway.
because Lorser was not interested in lithography as a
medium of expression. He did one lithograph. The only one
that he ever did in his life, he did with me. It was a
beautiful lithograph, well done and everything. He had all
the skills and the materials, but he and his wife, neither
one could I get to do more than one lithograph. And they
didn't work with anybody else either.
RATNER: They just wanted to paint, I guess.
KISTLER: Yes, they were interested in painting.
RATNER: Okay, moving on with Chariot then. We move up to
1961. You've written a letter to Chariot, and I'm quoting
here. You say, "The news about the Metropolitan Museum is
very much appreciated. I do think it most generous of you
to include me in this honor. Your generosity is fully
appreciated." What was all that about?
KISTLER: Well, the Metropolitan Museum of Art got a lot of
his work. And I had quite a bit of recognition from the
Metropolitan Museum in New York because of Chariot's work
and because they were impressed with what I was doing
because of Chariot ' s promotion of the efforts that I was
making. So that when I went back to New York during the
war, they made an effort to get me to stay there at that
time, but I didn't want to locate to New York.
RATNER: Who were they? The Metropolitan?
KISTLER: The Metropolitan, yes.
RATNER: Because they were already aware of your--
KISTLER: Yes, they were already aware of my work. They
didn't want to put up any money or anything like that.
They didn't offer me any jobs, but they did try to get me
to do in New York what I was doing in Los Angeles . But
there were several people working in New York-- [George]
Miller principally, really — who were doing a very good job
there, so I didn't try to break into that field.
RATNER: But still that must have been very flattering for
KISTLER: Yes, it was. But New York is that way. They try
to get all of the people that they can there that are doing
any work at all. They try to get them to work in New York
RATNER: When you say that the Metropolitan received a
number of Chariot's works, how did that happen? Through
donation or purchase?
KISTLER: Purchase, I believe. Yes, they have a
considerable collection in New York there of his work, both
the lithographs and paintings.
RATNER: Okay, then there's another big jump in the
correspondence to 1970, where you discuss in the letter
with Chariot the proofs for a print called Hawaiian
Drummer . It seems that it was quite involved. What can
you tell me about that project?
KISTLER: Well, I don't remember now. I think that there
was quite a bit of correction and things like that that had
to be made on the stone . I don ' t know whether he was
here. He must have been here to work on it. He went back
to Hawaii, I believe, before it was finished, and we had to
do some of the corrections and things like that after he
had gone to Hawaii. So that's what that was about.
RATNER: I have a copy of the letter here, and it says, "I
had much trouble with the background due to the tusche you
used and was relieved to get as much from it as I did.
There are some faults in register still, and some areas
will need some correction. This can be done here with a
correction sheet from you."
KISTLER: Well, I don't know, that says about all that I
could say about it. There just were corrections made on
it. I don't recall what they were. I remember that there
was a red plate that was added after he got to Hawaii that
improved the print considerably.
RATNER: So once he was in Hawaii, his subject matter began
to reflect what he was seeing there?
KISTLER: Yes, that is true. His work is pretty well
contemporary with his residence.
RATNER: I guess he had also in this print reversed his
signature, not realizing, I guess, that the offset press
eliminated the need to reverse the image. Then you go on
to say, "New materials, inks, and lacquers now make
possible this way of working, making lithography more
responsive to the artist's talents and removing many of the
difficulties." So you were pleased with working in this
KISTLER: Well, Hawaiian Drummer was done on stone.
RATNER: Hmm, well, maybe-- It seems like that's what
you're talking about in this letter, but maybe it's
something else. Hmm. I don't know.
KISTLER: Yeah, I don't think that that can be in regard to
Hawaiian Drummer , because that was done on stone.
RATNER: Maybe there's a little piece missing from the
letter or something. It seems like that's what you're
talking about, but I guess not. Okay, well, what I thought
maybe we would do is go ahead and wrap it up here, because
the next thing I wanted to talk about was Picture Book No.
II , which you began in 1971, and that was kind of a big
project. Maybe we'll just pick up with that next time and
talk about that whole project, and then the last portfolio
that you did with Chariot as well.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE ONE
JANUARY 31, 1989
RATNER: At our last meeting, we were talking about your
long relationship with the artist Jean Chariot, and I
thought we'd continue discussing your work with Chariot
today. In October of '71, you and Chariot began discussing
a second Picture Book , which would be called Picture Book
[ No. ] II , and I'm wondering what inspired the idea to go
ahead with that project.
KISTLER: Well, Peter Morse was a moving spirit in that
book. He was so intrigued by the work that I had done and
the success of the first Picture Book that he had wanted to
have another Picture Book printed. So he arranged the
financing on it, and we went ahead with it. It was handled
by mail entirely. Chariot was in Hawaii, and I was in Los
The equipment on which it was printed was a good deal
different than on the first Picture Book . There was a
period of some forty years between the two Picture Books ,
so by that time I had my own plant and I had my equipment
set up on West Washington Street. I was doing nothing but
lithographs directly drawn on the plate, and I was not
doing any photographic work, or very little, at that
time. I had worked out a method of registry that proved to
be quite effective and very easy to use, but there was some
photography that was included in it. The artist drew on
the plate the right way a linear outline for each one of
the pictures that he was going to draw in color later.
Then I took that outline and I took a naked negative from
it and printed it down on each one of the plates. For each
color that was used in the picture, I made a print, an
outline, and that way Chariot could draw right to the area
of color where he wanted to use the various colors. I just
printed two pictures at a time, and I didn't have eight
pictures on a plate as I did in the first Picture Book . It
made it a little more colorful. We could print with less
colors and get a good deal different effect in the second
Picture Book than we had for the first. Jack Lord, the
motion picture actor who was in Hawaii, was the one that
furnished the finances for that book.
RATNER: So it wasn't sold through subscriptions?
KISTLER: It wasn't by subscription, no. But Peter Morse
is the one responsible for getting the whole thing together
and getting Lord's finances on it.
RATNER: And who was Peter Morse?
KISTLER: Well, Peter Morse is a friend of Jean Chariot's,
and he is very knowledgeable in art and is especially
interested in oriental art. At the present time, he is
working on a catalog of the work of Hokusai . He has been
in Japan several times to work directly in that country
with the Hokusai prints, and he is considered the most
outstanding authority on the Hokusai art at this time,
oriental art and Hokusai in particular.
RATNER: So at the time he lived in Hawaii--that ' s how it
KISTLER: Yes, he lives in Hawaii and is in Hawaii now,
working on this Hokusai catalog.
RATNER: So what did Jack Lord get in return for putting up
KISTLER: Oh, I think he got a hundred books or something
like that for putting up the money. As I recall, I got
about $26,000 for doing the job. It was a big job.
RATNER: And who distributed the books?
KISTLER: Jake Zeitlin.
RATNER: So he handled that end of it.
RATNER: And given the success of Picture Book number one,
how did Picture Book II sell?
KISTLER: Well, the edition has never been exhausted, but
it has had very wide distribution. The subject matter in
Picture Book II was mostly Hawaiian and some South Seas
experiences of Jean's.
RATNER: I wanted to ask you a technical question about it,
too. I was reading one of the letters between you and
Chariot from October of '72, and it talks about splitting
colors on the plate. What exactly does that mean?
KISTLER: Well, it didn't work out very well and we didn't
follow through on that, but what we planned at first-- We
had two images on the plate, and we were going to run on
half the press one color and on the other half run another
color. But it didn't work out well, so we didn't follow
through on it, and we just ran one color on a plate.
RATNER: What would have been the advantage of doing that
had it worked out?
KISTLER: Well, we could get a greater variety of colors
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: We only used four colors on each one of the
plates that we had. On each one of the pictures in the
book, we just used four colors. So it cut down the number
of colors that we could use. For instance, we could run
red, yellow, blue, and black on one side, and we'd run a
chartreuse and an orange and a powder blue and gray on the
other picture, all at one-- If it worked out. But it
wasn't practical to do that, so we didn't carry through
RATNER: That must have been costly to do that. Would it--?
KISTLER: No, it wouldn't have been costly, but it
complicated the problem too much to match both of those
colors. Another thing, the mechanism on the press didn't
lend itself to printing it that way. There's an
oscillation on the rollers, you know, to distribute the
ink. It works back and forth, as well as around like
that. We had to cut down the oscillation of the rollers in
order to keep the colors from mixing, and that didn't prove
to be a practical answer either. We didn't go through with
RATNER: So how disappointed was Chariot that he wasn't
able to use these additional colors?
KISTLER: Oh, not too disappointed. It worked out,
nevertheless, that we needed extra colors. Our basic
colors were four different colors in each one of the
pictures, and, if necessary, why, we ran an extra color to
give a difference in it. It wasn't necessary for us to do
that very often, but I think that we did that several
I had a great deal of help from the Cans Ink
Company. They furnished all of the ink on the job for me,
and all of our colors were mixed to a match. They all had
to be permanent colors so they wouldn't fade, and the color
matches had to be very accurate. Sometimes we'd have to
get two or three mixes on one color before we got to just
what we needed. Cans Ink Company furnished all of the ink
on the job. Bob [Robert] Cans was very helpful in
following through with that. He went out of his way to
give us what we wanted. To mix colors it costs, especially
to mix just the one pound, and we never needed more than
one pound for a run. To mix a pound of ink it costs a good
deal more than what he got for it. As a matter of fact, he
furnished a lot of ink without cost to us. I gave him a
RATNER: [laughter] Because you'd had such a long
relationship with him?
KISTLER: Yes, I did. But he cooperated with me and was a
very fine friend and very supportive of my work.
RATNER: That's great. I also read in a letter from about
this time, while you were working on Picture Book II , that
you were apparently having some difficulty getting plates.
You said something about the fact that you had ordered some
from Chicago in September and they had yet to arrive.
RATNER: Why was it so difficult to be getting plates at
that time, in the early seventies?
KISTLER: Well, I don't recall why it was, but I think that
that had to do with the graining. We were having a hard
time getting the proper grain. As a matter of fact, today
it is almost impossible to get plates grained the way that
you want them, because for this handwork it takes a little
coarser grain than we used to use on the plates for
commercial work. The plates that were furnished at that
time, most of them didn't have a grain on them at all. I
went all over the country trying to get a little coarser
grain on the plates than they were willing to put on
them. Even people that were in the business of working
with artists, they didn't seem to understand at that time
that different grains were necessary on the plates for
different results. I even went into graining by, oh, the
people who grained for us, you know, and put a grain on the
glass, and I did get some satisfactory results that way,
but I didn't work with it long enough.
Along about the time they were closing the plant, I
had to quit working entirely because I got to-- Well, my
pressman became ill and quit, and I was commencing to get
difficulty with my breathing and things like that, and so I
decided to close my plant, too. I was financially able to
do it at that time, and so I just closed the plant rather
than try to-- It became apparent to me at that time that
lithographic work should be carried on in a plant that was
completely, oh, air-conditioned, and that would have been a
very expensive thing. At the same time, I would have had
to train a pressman. It was with a great deal of
reluctance that I did close my plant for those two
factors: the fact that it would have cost me literally
thousands of dollars to properly air-condition my plant and
the fact that I would have had to, at the same time, train
My pressman that left me at that time was Ernest
Perry. He was very cooperative, although much of the time
we didn ' t agree on how things should be done . But we
always came to an understanding before we went ahead. He
very often did things on the press that I asked him to do
that were out of the ordinary. For one thing, at that time
we printed a plate for Marcia Maris--that is Peter Morse's
wife--with a plate that was drawn to print four colors from
one plate. That was done by running the four colors
separately and turning the plate a quarter of the way
around and returning it to four different positions and
printing one color over the other. And the design fit
exactly. To start with, I can't imagine getting another
artist that could draw so that you could rotate the plate
that way and get a result out of it. That was the first
problem. Then there was a problem on the press turning it
around. My pressman was not in favor of doing it at all,
but my plant was an experimental plant, and we did a lot of
things that were unorthodox as far as work was concerned.
Marcia Maris, who is at the University of Hawaii now as one
of the instructors, also made a plate with-- There are
twenty-eight plates [for the print Rainbow Castle ] that she
made with separate colors. It was all made of little dots,
and there was a white line between all of these dots. With
the method of registry that I had worked out, it was
possible to make the twenty-eight plates, and all twenty-
eight plates fit exactly. We got perfect register so that
the twenty-eight plates printed just exactly where they
RATNER: That must have been an interesting print.
KISTLER: It was. Well, both of those were interesting,
and they were indicative of the experimentation that we did
in the plant and the lengths that I was willing to go to to
achieve a different result. Marcia Maris, I believe, has a
set of progressive proofs of each one of the plates
separately, so that you can see how they are put
together. That's either in her hands or it's in the hands
of the Smithsonian Institution, I don't know which now.
RATNER: So when you were working on Picture Book II , it
was you and Ernest Perry in your plant at the time who
KISTLER: That's right.
RATNER: So it was just the two of you.
KISTLER: He deserves a lot of credit for the work on the
Picture Book . It was under my direction that we used this
method of registry that I found to be so effective.
RATNER: I also read in a letter from November of '72 that
the assistant curator of prints from the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art [Joseph Young] was coming to your plant to
see the printing of Picture Book II in process. What came
of that visit?
KISTLER: Gee, I don't-- [pause] I don't remember it,
really. I don't remember it.
RATNER: Was a copy of Picture Book II purchased by the
KISTLER: I think that it was, yes.
RATNER: So Picture Book II was ready for delivery in July
of '73, and you personally took it to Hawaii to Jean
Chariot. After you returned you wrote to him saying--I'm
quoting here-- "I had no desire to see Jack Lord on my trip
to Hawaii. The delivery was"--I guess this must have been
to Zohmah [Day] Chariot-- "for Jean and Peter, so there was
no disappointment. I am put out, however, that Jean was
not invited to this presentation." End of quote. So
evidently the relationship with Jack Lord had maybe turned
a little bit sour. What happened there?
KISTLER: Well, it was at this point I had spent quite a
bit of money getting over to Hawaii. It was expensive to
get there, and I thought that I would see on that trip-- I
really put in a whole day waiting around just to present
the book to him, and I was disappointed, but there were no
hard feelings about it. I know that he was busy and that
it was difficult for him to get away. He did keep me
waiting all day long, saying that he would be there in an
hour, or two hours or something like that. Instead of
enjoying the island I had to wait at Jean's house for Jack
Lord to show up, and he never did show up. I spent the
whole day in. But I did meet Lord before, and he was very
gracious with me. There's no hard feelings about it. It's
just indicative of the pressure under which Lord was
working at that time.
RATNER: What was the presentation that you were talking
about? You said, "I am put out, however, that Jean was not
invited to this presentation. "
KISTLER: I don't remember about what that-- What I told
you now is what transpired there.
RATNER: Okay. Then shortly after you returned- -
KISTLER: I don't care about having that included in this.
RATNER: Okay, we can talk about how you can take that out
if you want.
KISTLER: I don't want to cast any reflection on Lord,
because I appreciate the fact, as far as I was concerned,
that he did put up the money for the book. I could also
appreciate the fact that he was a very busy man and that he
had a lot of difficulties, a lot of things going at the
same time that I was there and that had to be taken care
of, and for that reason he missed seeing me. So I didn't
necessarily feel slighted or anything like that.
RATNER: Okay. In September of '73, not too long after you
had returned from Hawaii, you began, through correspondence,
to discuss with Chariot the production of a miniature book,
with Dawson's Book Shop handling the distribution.
RATNER: Tell me about how you decided which book to
produce as a miniature and about that whole project.
KISTLER: Well, that was the first Picture Book . I've got
one out in there. I'll give you one. I took the Picture
Book itself and reduced it in four colors to a small book,
a miniature book, and the reason I did it was that-- Jean
wrote the original text for the Picture Book . He wanted to
sell the book in France as well as the United States, and
so he got the ambassador to Brussels-- Now then, that name
skips my mind just when I want to bring it up. Paul
Claudel. He got the ambassador, Paul Claudel, to write his
version of the pictures in the original Picture Book .
RATNER: Claudel ' s version.
KISTLER: Yes. I thought that Jean's text was so
interesting that it ought to be preserved in some way, and
so I got out this little picture book that was principally
to give Jean's version of the pictures. That was done
quite a few years later. Let's see, that was done in the
sixties, I think.
RATNER: ' Seventy- three, I have here, I think it happened.
RATNER: What was the relationship with Dawson's? Did they
publish a lot of miniature books, or why were they so
interested in--? Apparently, they approached you and asked
if you would be interested in producing a miniature.
KISTLER: Dawson's? Well, I had a relationship with
Dawson's over the years. I think I told them about it, and
they said they would like to handle the book and would like
to be the publishers.
RATNER: How well did that sell?
KISTLER: Well, it's sold very well. I think that I
printed three hundred copies, and we sold half of them
anyway and we gave away quite a few.
RATNER: So that was completed forty years after the first
Picture Book . That must have made a nice companion piece
for people who had collected the first one.
RATNER: What kind of equipment, special equipment, did you
need to print a miniature like that?
KISTLER: I printed it on a regular press. It didn't take
any special equipment. It took a lot of special work
though, special binding. The A-1 Binding Company did a
beautiful binding job on it, made a nice little slipcase
RATNER: What did it sell for?
KISTLER: A hundred dollars.
RATNER: How about the Picture Book II ? What did that sell
KISTLER: I don't recall. I don't recall what that sold
for. I could find out from Peter Morse.
RATNER: I was just curious about the difference in the
prices from the first Picture Book , which I guess sold for
$15. Is that correct?
RATNER: How the prices have changed in forty years.
KISTLER: I think that it sold for-- It must have sold for
$125. And the special edition, which had a sketch bound in
of one of the plates, sold for $500, I think.
RATNER: And those were signed?
KISTLER: Yes, they were signed, too.
RATNER: Then later in '73, December, you mention in a
letter to Chariot that your friend Carl Haverlin, who we
mentioned before, had volunteered to present some material
on the fortieth anniversary of the Picture Book to Time
magazine. What, if anything, came of that?
KISTLER: Nothing. Nothing came of it, I'm sure. There
may be an article on it, but I don't recall it. Carl
Haverlin was the manager of Broadcast Music Incorporated
[BMI], and he had quite an important job in New York and in
the industry. He is the one that set up an opposition to
ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors, and
Publishers] , who were attempting to take over the whole
radio industry at that time. He got the radio stations
together and researched a lot of work, everything that he
could find in the field of the public domain. He gathered
all of the public domain work, in which there was no
copyrights or the copyrights had expired, and he made them
available to the industry so that they didn't have to
depend upon ASCAP ' s copyrights. That way, why, he kept the
TV industry free of monopoly by ASCAP. He was quite an
important man in the industry and a boyhood friend of mine,
so when I was in New York, why, I printed a catalog of all
of the things that were in the public domain for-- [tape
recorder off] The things that were in the public domain
were published by BMI and made available to the industry,
and I printed it at the Blanchard Press, where I was
working at that time when I was in New York. That is one
job that I did in New York.
Another one is when the war broke out there. I was
working at Blanchard, and I got together a booklet of the
silhouettes of all of the planes that were available. And
we published that for the public defense people so that
they could recognize any of the planes that came over--the
German planes principally. We published the complete book
of all of the German planes at that time, and that was done
for the Richfield Oil Company, and they distributed them.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE TWO
JANUARY 31, 1989
RATNER: Okay, before we flipped the tape, you were just
telling me a little bit about some of your jobs in New
York. If you had anything else to add, you could.
Otherwise, we could go ahead and talk about Chariot again.
KISTLER: Well, we can go ahead and talk about Chariot. I
have nothing to add to that.
RATNER: Okay. Following the project with the miniature,
apparently Chariot went to Caracas for a while--this was in
the fall of '74--and you sent him some plates there.
Though it seems that by this time zinc was becoming
unavailable and you had to send him aluminum. Why was the
zinc so difficult to come by?
KISTLER: The metal plates that we were using were those
that were used on the offset press. Originally, the plates
were of zinc but they found that aluminum worked a lot
better than zinc, as far as the commercial industry was
concerned, and so they had no reason to roll this thin zinc
anymore. So the zinc plates are impossible to get, even to
the present day. I spent an awful lot of time trying to
find out where I could buy the zinc, and I couldn't get it
at all. The zinc lithographic plates, for handwork, are
more sensitive to the drawing on the plate than plates
drawn on aluminum. But the aluminum runs cleaner and is
easier to keep from filling and easier to keep from
scumming up. They're sensitive to the grease and are more
sensitive to gum arabic, and for that reason they were
preferred in the industry. We had to depend upon the
materials that were available to the industry in doing our
lithographs on the offset press. That was a consideration
there. It doesn't have-- Did I make it clear?
KISTLER: The zinc plates were better for the artwork, the
work that was put on the plate, but they were very
difficult to keep open, keep them from scumming. The
aluminum plates were not quite as sensitive, but they were
not as liable to scum or fill in, and they were easier to
keep open in production. For that reason the industry had
gone to aluminum plates, and they no longer rolled the zinc
plates. As far as I know, those thin zinc plates were the
only reason that they rolled zinc in the first place.
RATNER: How was it working through the mails to a foreign
country like that?
KISTLER: Well, Chariot's daughter had married a man who
was in the oil business in Caracas, Venezuela. He and his
wife went down there to Venezuela to visit them. At the
same time, why, we had a project making a lithograph. The
Little Seamstress I think it is called. So I sent two
plates down there, all prepared for printing, and that put
a-- Well, the whole thing was handled by mail. They were
down in Caracas for a couple of months visiting his
daughter, and we handled the whole thing by mail. Of
course, the mail was very slow between the United States
and Caracas, and we had some trouble with the immigration
people about getting these plates back after I had sent
them down there. Jean had drawn them. I had a hard time
getting them out of the immigration department, because
they wanted to put a price on the plates because they came
from a foreign country. But I went down there and talked
them out of it. They released them without charging me
anything in the way of a fee for getting them out of the
But we handled the whole thing by mail. I sent the
plates down there. It took two or three weeks to get the
plates down there and two or three weeks to get them back
up here. We were using aluminum plates at that time, but
even at that, it made it very difficult for me to get out
of the drawing what Chariot had put on it, because the
plates had a decided tendency to fill by the time that-- It
had taken two or three weeks to get them down there, and
then it took Jean a month or so to do the plates. It was
in a tropical country, and it was hot and sticky there.
Then he sent them back, and it took two or three weeks to
get them from Venezuela to the United States again. And
they stuck around in the-- Not the immigration but the--
KISTLER: Customs department for a week before I could get
them out of there, so they were really a mess by the time I
got ahold of them. It was one of the most difficult
printing jobs that I ever did to get anything out of those
plates because of the way that they were handled, the lapse
of time and the fact that they were done in a tropical
country, hot and sticky. I really had a job on my hands.
RATNER: Yeah, it sounds like it.
KISTLER: But we did get a very presentable-- The Little
Seamstress , that was the name of the lithograph. It was
done in two colors.
RATNER: Once you actually had it there to print, how much
extra time did it take because of all those problems?
Because it started to fill in and things like that.
KISTLER: Well, I don't know how much extra time I put in
on the art form or whatever. I know that it was difficult.
Not time-wise, as far as that was concerned, so much as it
was the elapsed time between the time I sent the plates
down there and the fact that they went through so much
handling and so much time elapsed after the drawing was put
on the plates and the elapsed time between when they were
drawn and when they were printed that made the difficulty.
RATNER: I see, I see. Okay, then we move ahead to
February of '76, and you apparently made another trip to
Hawaii, this time for the launching of the Jean Chariot
catalog of prints [ Jean Chariot's Prints: A Catalogue
Raisonne ] . Who organized that?
KISTLER: Peter Morse did. That is a resume of prints of
Jean Chariot. My work is represented in there, and all of
the prints that I printed are designated there. I have a
copy of it if you want to see it.
RATNER: Yeah, I ' d be interested.
KISTLER: Isn't there one at the [William Andrews] Clark
KISTLER: I have a copy of it here.
RATNER: Okay, then I came across a letter from July of '76
from Chariot to you, where he says, "Regarding yours of 28
July, saying that using colors for the text is a new idea
and would cost more came as a surprise. I enclose passages
from my letter explicitly stating my desire to use color
from the beginning. If we can't resolve it, it would be
the first failure in our long collaboration and nothing to
rejoice about." But I couldn't figure out what project he
was talking about.
KISTLER: I couldn't say. Using color for the text?
KISTLER: I don't know why you should want to use color in
RATNER: That's what it said, but it didn't make any
reference to which work he was talking about.
KISTLER: Well, it must have been the second Picture Book ,
but there would be no reason to use multiple colors on the
RATNER: It was a little later than that. I was just
curious what had happened there.
KISTLER: Yeah, well, we resolved that.
RATNER: Whatever it was.
RATNER: Okay. Then by February '78 you have sold your
plant, as you mentioned earlier, and you sent to Chariot
what you hoped would be the last draft of the prospectus
for the portfolio of the Melanesian images. I don't know
how to pronounce that.
KISTLER: I'm not an expert. I just pronounce it the way
it's spelled, Kei Viti .
RATNER: Okay. So anyway, you sent him what you hoped
would be the final prospectus for that. That turned out to
be a portfolio that used a rather large format. It
contained eight original lithographs printed in four to six
colors. The paper size was 20" X 26", and the image was
16" X 20". How did this project, which was your final
collaboration with Chariot, how did that evolve?
KISTLER: Well, I just wanted to do a portfolio of Jean's
work in full color. He had been down to the Pacific
islands. So he wanted to make some lithographs, and we got
together a portfolio. I think his portfolio is at the
RATNER: Yes, I saw it.
KISTLER: I had one here, but it's packed, ready for
shipping, and I--
RATNER: I did see the portfolio at the Clark.
KISTLER: You did see. There were only five lithographs in
that. But it turned out very nicely.
RATNER: Was that sold through subscription also?
KISTLER: No, it was just published on speculation.
RATNER: And how successful was it?
KISTLER: Very successful. We sold all of them except one
or two that I kept, one for each one of my grandchildren.
I have one that is wrapped here, ready to ship to one of my
grandchildren now, when he settles down and is ready to
keep it, when he has a place to keep it.
RATNER: I guess it sold for $600, I have. The portfolio
sold for $600 and the individual prints sold for $175.
RATNER: What was Jake Zeitlin's involvement in the
project? I came across his name in reference to it.
KISTLER: Well, he undertook to sell them.
RATNER: To sell them for you. So was he involved from the
KISTLER: Yes. He didn't put up any money. I think that I
financed that printing of it.
RATNER: Then later, in July of '78 in a letter from you to
Zohmah Chariot, you say, "Unless we can get someone to buy
the plates and take a tax deduction on them, our best out
is to get an appraisal on the plates and donate them to the
Smithsonian Institution as stated in our brochure." What
KISTLER: It went to the Smithsonian. One way I made a
RATNER: Good for you. [laughter] So that was your final
project with Chariot. He died not too long after that, I
KISTLER: That's right. He was quite ill at the time that
he finished his-- He was settled in his own mind that he
was on his way out and-- But he did a very nice job on it.
RATNER: Whose idea was it to go with the larger format on
KISTLER: Well, I guess it was mine.
RATNER: So during your long collaboration with Jean
Chariot, you produced more than 250 lithographs. Quite a
RATNER: How would you explain the longevity of your
relationship with him?
KISTLER: Oh, very pleasant. He used to come out to my
house when I first started, and we'd work on weekends.
When I started out, I did my work down in the garage, and
it was a collaboration then. The neighbors-- Well, the
neighbor across the street from me, who was kind of fussy
about things, got upset and went to the city and tried to
put a stop to it. I told them, "I'm not charging anything
for doing these prints at all. They're a recreation and
it's not a business. It just happens that I've got a press
there in my garage and that I'm doing them there. But I'm
not selling anything. " So it squashed the whole
business. The artists were coming to my place at that
time, and sometimes they would fill up the street pretty
well with cars, which made the parking a little difficult
right there at the time. But I felt as though I was
entitled to deal with this. It was a recreation, and I had
people at my house to enjoy recreation with me. It
couldn't be interfered with. So he didn't get to first
base with it.
RATNER: So how would you explain--? Obviously, you and
Chariot were very compatible in order to be able to work
together for so long, especially the fact that you worked
through the mail for a good part of the time because he was
living in Hawaii for so many of those years. What was
it? I mean, how do explain that longevity? For instance,
you didn't work with somebody else for so many years, but
with him you must have been simpatico in some way.
KISTLER: Well, I don't know. He liked my work, and I
enjoyed doing it. That's the only way that I can explain
it. I had quite a number of artists that I had a long
association with, that were with me for a long time.
RATNER: Was there something about his philosophy towards
KISTLER: Well, he liked the way I printed.
RATNER: Just liked the way you printed. Okay, good
KISTLER: I followed his desires, I followed his
instructions, and the work came out onto my hand the way
that pleased him. So he brought all of his work to me.
RATNER: If you had to pick one particular project or one
particular print that was a favorite to do with him, does
anything stand out in your mind?
KISTLER: Well, I think that Picture Book number one was
the highlight of our whole relation. It was early. Many
things happened-- When Chariot first came to me, we had a
book underway for Henrietta Shore [ Henrietta Shore ] , who
was a friend of Jean Chariot's. It was all just about
ready to put together, and Jean said, "Well, gee, you ought
to have a picture of Henrietta in there." We said, "Well,
we haven't got a photograph or anything." And he said,
"Well, I'll draw a picture." So he made a two-color
lithograph which we printed, a lithograph that we printed
at my father [William A. Kistler]'s plant. It wasn't a
spitting image of Henrietta Shore. It was a little bit
wild, you know. When Henrietta saw it, why, she plumb
nearly dropped to the floor, because she didn't know that
it was going to be in there. It was a surprise. She got
very upset about it, but finally she realized that it was
what it was and it was a very nice thing, and she became
very fond of it. But it didn't make her out to be a movie
star or anything. [laughter] But that was one of the
things that came up.
I told you about the difficulties that Chariot had
with the print collector. Yeah. I think since his name is
not mentioned there that that's all right to tell it, don't
RATNER: Fine. I couldn't figure out who it was.
KISTLER: Let's see, what was his name? Well, he was a big
collector in Los Angeles here. But I thought it was
indicative of Chariot's character the way that he acted,
the fact that he had refused to go to this dinner. There
had been a tentative invitation, and it wasn't carried
through. So he told the man that he wouldn't come unless
Zohmah was invited.
RATNER: So is there anything else about Chariot that you
would like to add before we finish this little session
talking about him?
KISTLER: Let's see.
RATNER: Of course, if you think of something later, that's
fine, too. But just if you think of anything now.
KISTLER: Yeah. I can't think of anything else right now.
I told you about coming in about the fish on Fridays, which
I thought was kind of cute.
RATNER: Okay, well, we'll finish up here then and pick up
with your return from New York another time.
TAPE NUMBER: VII, SIDE ONE
FEBRUARY 21, 1989
RATNER: We spent our previous two meetings talking about
your relationship with Jean Chariot. I thought that we
would back up today and talk about your return to Los
Angeles from New York following the war. We've discussed
that briefly during some earlier meetings, but I thought we
could talk about it a little bit more in depth today. I
know you came back to Los Angeles in 1945 when you set up a
shop in your house--I guess you purchased a house at Third
[Street] and Carondelet Street--at which time you decided
that you would work exclusively as a fine art lithographer.
How did you come to that decision?
KISTLER: Well, I had severed-- We had severed our relation
in the East, that is, and had decided to come back to Los
Angeles, and the war was ending at that time. I hadn't
been able to carry on the kind of activity that I had
planned in working with artists through the wartime. I
hadn't found any application there for the work. I had
this house on Patricia Avenue. It had increased in value
considerably, and I practically had it paid for, so it gave
me capital to go ahead and put in a plant. I made up my
mind that I was going to go ahead with the work in working
with artists. So I sold the house, and I had sufficient
capital to buy a house at Third and Carondelet, and we set
up our lithograph business there. We lived upstairs. It
was a two-apartment flat, and the upper part of the house
we used for living, and downstairs, why, I put in a gallery
and a workshop, moved my stones and things into the lower
part of the house and started soliciting artists and the
people at Chouinard art school [Chouinard Art Institute]
and several other art schools that were operating at that
time. They sent their students over to me. There were
three or four other art schools--I can't remember the names
of them--but Chouinard was the principal art school here.
The University of California, through Stanton
Macdonald-Wright, who I had done work for before I went
East-- He was in charge of the art department at UCLA. He
arranged to have the teachers at UCLA come down to my shop
and learn about lithography from me. Of course, they did
lithographs at my shop, and that's the way that I got
along. Amongst them was Clinton Adams, who was one of the
instructors at UCLA, and June Wayne, who was not connected
with the university, but she walked into my plant one
day. She was sent there by a friend of hers--I can't
recall his name right now [Jules Langsner] --but she wanted
to learn about lithography. I had an arrangement that I
had made as an introductory offer, which was of no profit
to me at all financially, but I thought it would get the
artists interested in the work. June came in and looked
around the place, and I told her about this proposition
that I had to print six prints. I prepare the stone and
give her instruction on the drawing of the lithographs on
six of the stones and would attempt to sell any of the work
that she produced. I had complete arrangement of the sale
of the prints and also the printing of the prints worked
out. For $30, why, I agreed to do these six stones. She
said that she didn't think that was any sort of a deal that
she would be interested in. It didn't seem like I had
earned my $30, and she wouldn't have any part of it. And
after looking around for about thirty days, at the end of
thirty days she came back to me and said that she would
like to have individual instruction in lithography from me,
and she paid me quite well. But she was the kind of a
person that wanted complete attention when you were working
with her. She didn't want anybody else around at all. She
even wanted me to clear out the rest of the plant and give
instruction to her and have my time available completely,
which if it was convenient for me to do and make
arrangements, why, I did. I worked with her that way
directly. We made quite a number of lithographs.
But even at that, there was not sufficient income from
the whole setup that I had. I couldn't generate enough
activity to continue in the work as an exclusive thing, and
the property that I had bought had increased in price in
the four or five years that I was at Third and
Carondelet. To the point where I found that I could go
into commercial work and do so much better that I decided
that I would continue with the stone work as far as I
could, and in the new plant that I set up I bought two
offset presses and went into commercial work. Of course, I
was experienced in commercial printing at that time. I was
able to go into business, and I had a name in the Los
Angeles area as being a successful printer, and so I've
built up a very nice business. I could never become
completely out of the artistic business. The artists kept
coming to me to do lithographs, so I commenced to work out
a deal where I could handle the work on an offset press
rather than on the stone work.
RATNER: Which is what you were doing exclusively at Third
and Carondelet, correct, just stone work?
KISTLER: Yes, I was doing it exclusively. So then I sold
the property at Third and Carondelet and took the money and
put it into a plant on Temple Street. I never did get over
the idea of working with the artists, and I converted many
of them to lithographs that were printed on offset press.
As far as I know, I was one of-- Well, the first one, I
guess, that went into the business of printing fine art on
offset presses. For a while I did have my stone presses
there too and I did some work on the stone press. Those
artists that were able to work with me, why, I converted
them to the offset work, and they did very well with it.
As long as zinc plates were available, which were the
plates that were first used in the offset work, why, it
went very well. Then they commenced to bring the aluminum
plates into use and banned the zinc plates. They quit
making--rolling--zinc, so it was not available to offset
work, and I had to work it out in aluminum. The difference
there is that the zinc plates have many of the
characteristics of stone. The zinc is sensitive to the
same materials that you use on stone. But they are also
very difficult to print because they have a tendency to
fill. You have to have a very skillful pressman, and you
have to be very careful in working with them or your work
will fill up and you'll lose your design. I was able to
overcome those characteristics. By the time it was almost
impossible to get zinc plates, why, the aluminum plates had
taken over, and I had to convert to aluminum plates rather
than zinc plates.
RATNER: About what year was that that you couldn't get
KISTLER: Oh, I don't have any dates in mind.
RATNER: Like by the sixties or something? Or later than
KISTLER: Yes, in the sixties. I found that some of my
artists could convert very well, and it gave me more of an
opportunity to work in color than I had before. Jean
Chariot and Stanton Macdonald-Wright and one or two others,
Millard Sheets, all had a color concept and could work in
both the zinc and the aluminum, and I worked out
considerable work. It was drawn directly on the plates.
I printed Picture Book No. II . It was financed by
Jack Lord; it was promoted by Peter Morse. Jean Chariot
drew a second Picture Book , thirty- two lithographs, and
made quite a different proposition for me to work with,
because I could only print two pictures at a time on the
press, whereas in the first Picture Book we did eight
pictures on a sheet at a time. My presses were smaller.
They were more up-to-date.
I did quite a bit of color work and experimental work
in converting the original lithographs drawn on the plate
to the offset press. I worked out methods of registration
and working with the Cans Ink Company, and we developed
inks that were suitable for the artwork. They mixed the
colors for me just the way that the artists wanted them,
and I worked out registration and things like that. I
worked out a method of registry where the artist would make
a line drawing which served as the color registration
guide. Then we photographed that and photographed it onto
the plate. Then the artist drew the plate so that the
colors all registered exactly. It saved us quite a bit of
time in registry work. Then this color guide that we put
on the plate didn't print. We worked it out so that we
could get rid of the original color guide on the plate and
we had just the drawing left, with the register marks to
keep the design in register. I worked with Marcia Maris
making one color lithograph [ The Castle ] that we ran
twenty-eight colors on.
RATNER: Right, I think you told me about that last time.
KISTLER: Yes. And I did another one with Stanton
Macdonald-Wright, and there were eleven colors on that.
That's that one we have on the wall there.
RATNER: What's the title of that?
KISTLER: That's Gershwin's Music . I did a couple of
prints with Millard Sheets the same way. But I commenced
to run into trouble, because my pressman [Ernest Perry] had
developed an allergy from the acids and things that we
worked with, and he quit. The materials that were
available for making lithographs, even on aluminum plates,
were disappearing from the market, because they were no
longer required in the commercial printing business. I had
to depend upon that source for the materials that were
available. And it was quite evident to me at that time
that to continue with the work I would have to air-
condition my plant, which would cost me several thousands
of dollars, more money than I could afford to spend on
it. So I decided at that time not to go ahead with the
work any further and let it lie where it was. I also did--
Well, I told you about the thirty- two-page design book.
Picture Book II . That's about it.
RATNER: No, you skipped a lot. You don't know what I have
in store for you. [laughter] I want to back up to the
forties for a few minutes if we could. I just want to ask
you, when you first returned to Los Angeles, how available
were materials, given the war situation?
KISTLER: Real good paper had disappeared, but the industry
was converting entirely to offset lithography rather than
stone lithography, and there is a complete difference
there. The presses were improved and materials were
changing very rapidly. Let's see, where were we, anyway?
What was your question?
RATNER: I was asking how available the materials were
right after the war, so that's right on line.
KISTLER: Yes. Oh, a flood of new materials came into
being, and the ink situation changed from earth colors and
things like that to aniline dyes entirely.
RATNER: That was around that time.
KISTLER: That made some of the colors more fugitive and
others it made more permanent. New mediums for mixing the
colors were developed, and the Gans Ink Company, who I
worked with, had put in a department for mixing the inks
for the printers, so I could get the kind of ink that I
wanted and get the colors that matched very accurately by
then. It saved us quite a bit of work and gave us
permanent colors in the things that I have printed, which
have stood up over the years and have not faded. Previous
to the working out of formulas that Bob [Robert] Cans
worked out for me-- My colors were not only brilliant and I
could get very clear and very precise colors, but they were
permanent too, which was an essential thing as I saw
But the combination of my pressman quitting and the
fact that I would have to spend more money than I had on
the plant-- There didn't seem to be enough available
business at that time to continue with. It wasn't possible
for me to spend $100,000 in air-conditioning the plant, and
that would have been on an experimental basis, too. So
that about covers the situation as it was in the time that
RATNER: Well, I also read in some of the earlier
correspondence at the [William Andrews] Clark [Memorial]
Library that you did some work with some of the [Walt]
Disney [Studio] artists in 1947. How did that all come
KISTLER: Let's see. That came about through a combination
of my work with some of the artists in the studios. I made
an acquaintance with quite a number of artists in the
studios and had done work for them on stone. Then my
aquaintance with Herbert Ryman, which I told you about.
KISTLER: He introduced me to artists at Disney, and word
got around, one way and another, to the studios that I was
doing lithograph both in offset and on stone. That helped
out my contacts. I worked with practically-- Many of the
well-known artists at the studio. Warren Newcombe was one
man that I worked with. He was the man that worked out the
proposition that they would build a set portraying the
capitol steps and then they would take a photograph of the
capitol. He worked it out so that they would photograph
the lower part first, where the action took place, and the
background would be from a photograph of the capitol
itself. It was all fit together, but it was photographed
separately, the top and the bottom. It was a very
complicated deal that I can't describe because he wouldn't
even let the principals at Metro-Goldwyn[ -Mayer] into his
studio there. He was a man that worked it out, and I guess
it is still used today. He was one of the men that I had
RATNER: That's right. I remember we talked about him a
KISTLER: Herbert Ryman worked at the studios. And he
talked about my work, and it got around town that I was a
competent lithographer. The artists came, floods of them,
on Sundays. Weekends were the only time the artists had to
work when I first started in and was working in my home at
Patricia Avenue. They'd practically fill up the streets
there with their cars, and the neighbors got upset about
it. One man undertook to go to the city, and I had quite a
stew about it, because they wanted to stop my doing work.
But I carried it on as a hobby. I wasn't charging them any
money for it, and it wasn't a commercial business at that
time, so they didn't do anything about it. They just said,
well, I had a right to such parking as was available, and I
wasn't doing anything that was against the law.
RATNER: How much competition was there in Los Angeles,
during the late forties, amongst fine art lithographers?
KISTLER: The only competition that I had was workmen who
in their spare time would work with the artists on it.
RATNER: So you were really it in terms of a full-time fine
KISTLER: Yes, I was the only one that made my time
available on any reasonable basis. Most of the
lithographers, by the time that they put in a full week's
work, which at the start was six days a week, why, they
didn't want to do any more of it. They didn't want to work
on it any further with the stone. But there was one man by
the name of Graff who worked for me in the Kistler plant,
my father's plant. He used to pull prints. Another man,
Paul Rohrer, he was a very fine printer and a very fine
lithographer. But they weren't very anxious to give me any
information on the printing of stone. They wanted to keep
it as their own prerogative.
RATNER: Right. But you fooled them.
KISTLER: So I wasn't able to get much information from them.
RATNER: But that was early on, right, that you're talking
about, when you proceeded to learn yourself.
RATNER: When you were mentioning earlier about the--
KISTLER: This is as rambling as my life has been. We've
been going back and forth here. I really had no
organization, I think. I didn't keep any real records. I
never have, so it's--
RATNER: Well, in all the correspondence that you have, I
was able to, you know, come up with an outline that told me
what you were doing and when. So that's what I'm trying to
worm out of you. [laughter]
KISTLER: Trying to pry out of me. [laughter]
RATNER: When you were mentioning earlier about your
contact with the people at UCLA through Stanton Macdonald-
Wright-- That's how you met Clinton Adams and other people
as well. How much did that contact with UCLA increase your
KISTLER: Well, it was a substantial part of it.
RATNER: It wasn't like a onetime thing with those artists?
They became genuinely interested in lithography? I guess
that's what I'm trying to find out.
KISTLER: Artists draw pictures when they feel like it,
when they feel a picture coming on. That is, unless they
have an assignment. I didn't have any assignments and they
didn't have any assignments, so it was just whenever they
got a feeling that they wanted to make a lithograph or that
they wanted to make a drawing that they came to me.
Sometimes it would be a year or more. There were-- When I
was working with June Wayne, I printed an awful lot of work
for her. I did work on both stone and offset work with
her. There were lapses the whole year when I wouldn't see
her. She was just doing something else. The same way with
the other artists. I had no permanent customers. I had
nobody that I could get interested in or would work on
lithography and make it a medium. If I had had more time
and more money, I could have gone ahead with it and done
more promotional work. But I did lay the groundwork for
its acceptance amongst the artists, and there were two or
three other people who went into business after I started
the work in Los Angeles.
TAPE NfUMBER: VII, SIDE TWO
FEBRUARY 21, 1989
RATNER: Okay, before we flipped the tape we were talking
about your relationship with various artists and the fact
that you had laid the groundwork for an interest in
lithography in Los Angeles. I wanted to ask you, I know
that you had your own gallery in your plant because you
felt you needed a place to show the work, because there,
for a time, wasn't a lot of interest in prints. But I know
by the late forties that there were more fine art galleries
in the Los Angeles area. I believe that Vincent Price had
opened his Little Gallery in Beverly Hills, as well as
helping to found the Modern Institute of Art, which was in
Beverly Hills. Also by this time, Frank Perls, Felix
Landau, William Copley, and Paul Kantor had also opened
their own galleries. Also Associated American Artists
opened up a short-lived, but apparently very lavish,
Beverly Hills branch in '47. There was also something
called the American Contemporary Gallery run by Barbara
Byrnes. With all this new activity, I wondered how much
interest there was in prints.
KISTLER: Well, there wasn't enough to keep a printer
going. None of those people have cooperated with me in
developing prints. You mean that those people were active
in the sale of prints at that time?
RATNER: No, no, no. I don't know. I know that they had
opened up galleries. What I didn't know was whether they
were showing paintings exclusively or whether there was
some interest in prints by this point. I didn't know. I
just knew that the galleries had opened by then.
KISTLER: Yes. Well, none of them took up the cudgel and
went after print sales and specialized in prints. It was a
sideline, entirely, with them. I don't know. I didn't get
any real help from any of the galleries. There weren't any
of them that made prints a specialty, you know. None of
them that had galleries that specialized in prints and saw
the value of marketing them.
RATNER: Why do you feel the Associated American Artists
decided to open up a place out here for a little while?
KISTLER: I don't know, because they didn't make much of a
splash. I didn't know that they had opened up a gallery
here. That's how much it amounted to. I think I was
pretty alert for anyone who could have helped with the
promotion of prints. But there wasn't a one of them that I
knew of that-- They didn't use my facilities, they didn't
bring any customers to me, and, frankly, I wasn't even
conscious and am not at the present time that Associated
American Artists opened. I don't remember their having
opened a gallery here, so they certainly didn't contribute
much to this area of prints. There were some of them that
were very enthusiastic about my work, and if I had had the
work of major artists to offer them, it would have made it
possible to work out the work more. There was one gallery
that was owned-- I don't-- Name over those galleries again,
RATNER: Was it the Copley Gallery that you're thinking of
that you worked with?
RATNER: That was considered by many to be the most avant-
garde of the galleries at the time.
KISTLER: Yes, I did work with Copley. That was one
gallery that did work with me quite a bit. I printed a
couple of books for them and also did an etching for the
man who was the outstanding-- Oh, what do you call it?
RATNER: Well, you did two projects with the Copley
Gallery: one in '48 with Man Ray and a second one in '49
with Max Ernst.
KISTLER: Yes, and Max Ernst is the one I was trying to
RATNER: Let me ask you about the one with Man Ray, since
that occurred first, in '48. In 1948 the Copley Gallery
published the first edition of Man Ray's Alphabet For
Adults , and that was designed by the artist and printed by
you. How did you become involved with that project?
KISTLER: Well, he came to me and worked with me, and I
printed a book for them that was done on an offset press.
And that's about it. Then I handled their commercial
printing, too. If I had had two or three more people of
that caliber that had money to spend or were willing to
work with me, it would have gotten me a good deal further
RATNER: Then you also collaborated on one lithograph with
Man Ray called Le Roman Noir . How did that develop?
KISTLER: Well, he just wanted to make a lithograph. He
came in, and I gave him a stone, and he--
RATNER: Went to work.
KISTLER: He went to work on it. I handled it like I did
the others. He had some innovations in that printing.
I've forgotten just what they were now, but--
RATNER: Well, I read something about the fact that he- -Man
Ray--suggested using four colors, blue, red, black and
brown. And then they were blended together, which was
something that neither of you had done before.
KISTLER: Yes, I knew how to do it. I knew what he wanted
RATNER: Apparently, that was some kind of innovation, I
RATNER: So how would you describe him, Man Ray? How was
he to work with?
KISTLER: Well, he was very imaginative and placed quite a
bit of requirements on my imagination and everything. He
was stimulating to work with because he did have ideas
about lithography that we could have carried out. I would
like to have done more work with him.
RATNER: But he wasn't interested in doing more litho-
graphs? Is that what happened?
KISTLER: Well, he was interested in painting and things of
that sort that were paying more money. That was the breach
that we had was the difference in price between a painting
and a lithograph. Lithographs were selling-- For even fine
artists, they were seldom priced at more than a few
dollars; and paintings, they were really getting high
prices for them.
RATNER: Then, as we mentioned, another artist you worked
with that was connected with the Copley Gallery was Max
Ernst. In 1949, I guess carrying over to '50, the Copley
Gallery held a Max Ernst retrospective. The artist
designed the catalog and you printed it [ Max Ernst: Thirty
Years of His Work ] , apparently, in an edition of 513
numbered copies, of which the first 22 contained an
original etching printed by Joe [Joseph] Funk at Jules
Heller's USC [University of Southern California] workshop.
RATNER: How did you become involved with that project?
KISTLER: Well, Copley was working with me at that time,
and I handled some commercial printing for them. I worked
with whoever was available to pull the prints. That was
just collaboration that I had. When something was outside
of the scope of my facilities, why, I went someplace else
to get them. I did occasionally use a letterpress printer
and another lithographer and a compositor in that case.
RATNER: How would you describe Max Ernst?
KISTLER: I didn't know him very well. I just got his"
plates. I'm not sure that I ever met him.
RATNER: Well, in an interview I read that you later did
with Clinton Adams, you recount a story to Clinton Adams
about Ernst and his desire to print with you if you would
take part of the edition as payment. You said that you
refused because you had a policy to take only cash for your
work. But then you later said you regretted it as a major
error in judgment on your part.
KISTLER: Well, I found out later the importance of the
artists. It was one mistake that I made. If I had been
alert to the value of Ernst's work, as it finally worked
out, why, I wouldn't have had to have worried the rest of
my life. [laughter] I'm sorry now that I didn't go ahead
with it on that basis. But I did have to eat, too. That's
RATNER: That's right. You couldn't eat prints. So up
until that time, you weren't real familiar with his work?
He was just somebody that the artist was bringing you to
KISTLER: Yes, yes, he was just another artist that was
RATNER: What sort of a working relationship did you have,
if any, with any of the other Copley Gallery artists? I
know that they showed the other surrealists: [Roberto]
Matta, [Rene] Magritte, [Joseph] Cornell, and [Yves]
KISTLER: Well, most of those artists were out of the
country even. They specialized in-- Oh, a man from Chile
and another one from Peru and French artists that weren't
even in this country, Man Ray and Max Ernst were two of
the artists that they brought to this country in person.
The rest of them weren't able to come here. They didn't
have the finances and they didn't have the standing.
Copley was specializing in abstract art, and it was having
quite a time getting by at that time. It wasn't generally
accepted. It wasn't even as accepted as it is today, and
so not so many of them got to this country.
RATNER: So those were the two main artists that you worked
with from that gallery, other than commercial work that you
just did for the gallery.
KISTLER: Yes, that's right.
RATNER: I mentioned a minute ago that Joe Funk had printed
that etching at USC for the Ernst project. What was your
opinion of that lithography workshop at USC? It was begun
in the late forties.
KISTLER: Well, I think that it was valuable, but I wasn't
very well acquainted with what they were doing. They
weren't poking around my shop, and I didn't poke around
theirs. But I suppose that I could have. If there had
been more cooperation, lithography would have taken hold a
good deal better than it did.
RATNER: But you just both kept to yourselves.
KISTLER: Yes, we worked independently, and they didn't
seem to be interested in what I was doing.
RATNER: So even though you had been in town for quite a
while and had been operating even before they opened up,
they didn't come to you ahead of time seeking any advice or
anything like that.
KISTLER: No, no.
RATNER: Okay, also in '48, as you mentioned earlier, that
was when June Wayne first came to your plant, and you
worked with her over the next nine or ten years. Because
you worked with her for such a long time-- I know you've
worked with other artists for a long time as well. But
what would you say makes a good collaboration between an
artist and a printer?
KISTLER: Well, it's a mutual viewpoint. It is an
appreciation of the work, the skill of each of them, and
the concept that they have. Their respect for each other's
viewpoints. It's kind of like a marriage, you know. You
get along because you get along, or you just don't get
along at all. Very often there is an awful lot of patience
on the part of one side or the other. Eugene Herman was an
awfully impatient man to work with, very critical of
everything that was done. He criticized the things that I
did and the way that they were printed, and I was just
patient with him to get what he wanted. On the part of the
printer, it's a matter of being able to project the
concepts of the artist by cooperation and patience with
sometimes rather pointed criticism. Other times, you find
artists that are very easy to work with, that they are not
critical and that they are cooperative. It's a question of
the temperaments of the people that are working together.
There are all kinds of combinations between patience and
impatience and charitableness towards each other's work and
their-- Well, it's just living together, really. You've
got to forgive a lot of things that occur, a lot of things
that are said. The printers make mistakes, and the artist
has to be patient with it. And the artist sometimes puts
demands upon the printer that are almost impossible.
For instance, in working with Stanton Macdonald-
Wright-- He was a very fine artist, very competent and very
capable. He didn't know exactly how colors would work out,
having drawn them on a plate, how they would print. With
my experience, I could tell him, "Stanton, this thing here,
you've got to put more crayon on that if you want that to
come out the way that you want it to." And he'd say, "I
want to see how it looks from here just the way I've drawn
it there." I would have to be patient enough to go ahead
and print it, put it on the press and print it and go
through all the motions of making a trial print. And he'd
say, "Well, gee, that isn't what I wanted at all." He'd
come back to the original concept that I had. Sometimes
that went on two or three times on a color. Or if I was
doing a color, I'd tell him that there had to be more
drawing on the plate or something was going to come out too
dark, or something of that kind, and he would demand to see
it. He lived way up on the beach, up north of Santa Monica
there, and I would have to take proofs to him, clear down
to his place, which was a matter of twenty or thirty miles.
I'd have to take them down to him for his approval. He had a
funny thing about being afraid of traffic and everything, so
I had to do all the legwork on that. I couldn't be in my
plant when I was in my car and going to consult with him. It
made it an expensive thing to work out. But he helped me out
so much in bringing artists to me and things like that that I
felt that it was worthwhile to work with him. On this
expense, my time ran considerably more than he'd pay for,
than he was willing to pay for, and I had to reduce the bill
considerably from what I thought was a fair and reasonable
charge. It was indicative of what I was willing to do to
please the artist. I think that a printer has to be that way
if he is going to work with an artist. Either that or you
won't get anyplace at all.
RATNER: I wondered how you felt about that in terms of
subject matter, because, speaking of June Wayne again, to
prepare for this interview, I was reading an interview done
with her. In it she mentions a print that she was working
on with you, the subject matter of which you apparently
didn't approve of. Initially you refused to print it.
RATNER: But you ultimately did agree to print it, and I
wondered what you remembered about that particular situation.
KISTLER: Well, I just didn't think it was worth printing.
RATNER: Aesthetically or because of the subject matter?
KISTLER: Oh, the subject matter and aesthetically. It
didn't seem to come up to her standard or mine either.
RATNER: What was your feeling regarding the artist's
choice of subject? Was that the artist's decision, or was
there a point at which you felt--?
KISTLER: Well, there's a fine line between promiscuity and
art, and sometimes that was the basis at which I didn't
want to print anything that was pornographic. I wouldn't
print it, as a matter of fact.
RATNER: So what--? It had more to do with that than, say,
for instance, a political subject or something like that?
KISTLER: Yes. That was the only thing that I drew the
line on. I wouldn't handle pornography of any kind or a
print that I felt bordered on pornography. There's an
awful lot of things that I wouldn't print today.
RATNER: But how often did that come up when you were
KISTLER: Not very often.
RATNER: Not very often.
RATNER: Okay, I discovered that during the late forties
and early fifties, most of Southern California's prominent
artists came to work with you, including William Brice,
Hans Burkhardt, Phil Dike, Lorser Feitelson, Rico Lebrun,
Helen Lundeberg, Dan Lutz, Phil Paradise, Millard Sheets,
Wayne Thiebaud, and June Wayne, some of whom, of course,
we've already mentioned. With whom did you particularly
KISTLER: Oh, I enjoyed working with all of them. I
enjoyed the work all the time. There isn't an artist that
I worked with that I would say that I didn't enjoy working
with them. I enjoyed my work.
RATNER: You just loved printing so much.
KISTLER: Yeah. There isn't an artist that I ever worked
with that I didn't enjoy my experience with them.
RATNER: Well, that's a pretty impressive list I just read,
and I know that it's much longer than that. Those were
just a few names that I pulled out. Are there any
memorable experiences with those people? Any of those
people that stand out in your mind?
KISTLER: Oh, I probably could dredge some up, but I can't
think of any right off.
RATNER: Well, maybe you'll think of it over the next week
or so, and you can tell me next time if you think of
anything that was--
KISTLER: Well, I had the closest association with Jean
Chariot of any of them.
RATNER: Right, which we covered last time.
KISTLER: Yes, and I did-- I think that I have told you
some of the--
RATNER: Right, of those stories.
KISTLER: --experiences that I had with him.
RATNER: Right. I just wondered if anything stood out in
your mind with any of these other artists, but maybe it
will just come to you while you're thinking about another
KISTLER: I don't know. It's hard for me to recall —
RATNER: I know I'm putting you on the spot here.
KISTLER: Yeah, I'm just trying to--
LELAH KISTLER: He worked with over seven hundred artists.
RATNER: I know. Well, maybe we'll wrap it up here for
today. Then if some funny story or interesting situation
comes to you over the next week or so, maybe you'll
remember it or jot it down or something, and you can tell
me about it next time we meet.
KISTLER: Well, some of the experiences I had were outside
of the printing experience: personal experiences and
things like that. And I've told you about the association
that Jean Chariot had with one collector here--
RATNER: Right. Yes, you told me about that.
KISTLER: Which I thought — I don't like to place the man
in any bad judgment at all, because we all have our
peculiarities, and to me they were just little strange
quirks that they had. The same way as I have some strange
quirks. I find there are people who feel that I am strange
in a lot of ways.
RATNER: Okay, well, maybe we'll wrap it up here, and then
we can pick up with some other subjects next time we meet.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, SIDE ONE
MARCH 7, 1989
RATNER: I'd like to begin today by talking about some of
your publishing and publicity efforts. The first thing I
wanted to talk about was in regard to your publication
entitled Bulletin . I first came across a mention of this
in some correspondence dated from February 1948.
Unfortunately, it was only mentioned--I wasn't able to see
a copy. But in a letter to Jean Chariot of that date, you
say that the publication is doing quite well, that the
artists like it very much, and it's bringing in both new
artists and buyers. What can you tell me about that?
KISTLER: Oh, gee, that's so long ago I can hardly tell you
very much. It was a publicity effort on my part, and I
carried on for a short length of time, maybe a year or two,
and sent out little bulletins about the artists' work and
about the work that I was doing there. It was promotional
entirely, and that's about all it amounted to. It did
attract some attention and it got me some business, and
that's what it was, a business-building effort. It was
slanted towards the interests of the artists. I didn't
take any editorial positions. I didn't try to change any
of the marketing or anything like that, or the movement,
but it was just to tell them about what we were doing in
the business. And getting artists to come into the print
room and get them working on stone- -that was my principal
object. It was an effort, too, as far as possible, to
reach the public in the distribution of prints and get them
to come in, and it did have some effect. One thing about
it that would bring them in-- They'd come in and they'd go
through my entire file of prints, and they'd have one or
two that they thought that they might like and that they'd
be back in a day or two and tell me whether they wanted
them. And after having put in two or three hours with them
and going through my files and everything, why, they
decided that that wasn't exactly what they wanted, but they
wanted something else. [laughter] So it was one of those
things that made an awful lot of work and didn't pay off as
far as the sale of prints was concerned, although I
remember it did bring in one print collector that bought,
oh, $1,000 or $1,500 worth of prints at one time. Of
course, that hooped things up greatly.
RATNER: I bet.
KISTLER: That helped a lot, [laughter] and kept it going
for a while longer. But it was my means of keeping in
touch with the artists and letting them know that I was
still active and everything.
RATNER: What was the format like?
KISTLER: Oh, it was just a little 4" X 9" folder that I
think was either six or eight pages.
RATNER: And where did the mailing list come from?
KISTLER: Well, it came from a good many sources. It was
sent out to the art schools and all of the artists that I
had on my list. And I did have a pretty good list of
artists. I had 400 or 500 that I was working with at one
time, and during the time that I was active in printing
from stone, why, I printed with over 700 different
artists. I had a list of most of them. I had a list of
450 names when I finally compiled it, but I know that there
were more than that during the time that I was in the
business that I worked with.
I wasn't in the business of collecting as much as I
was trying to get distribution, and I should have kept a
file of everything that I printed. It would have been a
nice thing to have, and it would have been very valuable
today. But I was so anxious to get people to buy just that
one copy of the thing that they wanted, why, I sold it to
them, and in some cases gave it away if people were
interested in my work and I felt they could be of help to
promote lithography. If they liked something, why, if I
thought that it was important enough, I would give it to
them to get them started, so that my files were depleted.
Sometimes I had two or three copies and I could dispose of
them. I'd give away the third copy, in lots of cases, if
it was something that seemed to have a possibility of
furthering my work.
RATNER: How about the list of potential collectors? How
did you come up with that list?
KISTLER: Well, people were interested in what I was
doing. They came to my place, and I kept their names. I'd
see their name in the paper and look up their address, and
I'd put them on my list. I'd accumulate my list of
collectors in various ways. The dealers, of course, would
not cooperate with me to the point of where they would put
their customers' names in my hands, and so I had to compile
my own list. It was the kind of a job that I had to do on
my own. I couldn't depend upon anyone turning a list over
RATNER: Do you have any copies of it left anywhere, do you
KISTLER: No, I don't. Oh, I may in some of my papers.
RATNER: You could try and track one down. In that letter
to Jean Chariot that I just mentioned a few minutes ago,
you ask him to write a short signed article for the
Bulletin of two hundred to three hundred words on the
importance of a competent printer. Then in a later
correspondence. Chariot mentions to you that Lawrence
Barrett, I guess, was hoping that you would publish a
Barrett-submitted article in your Bulletin , so I guess you
were asking a variety of people to write articles as well.
RATNER: Who else did you ask to contribute?
KISTLER: I can't remember. I just —
RATNER: So you think you published that for about a year
KISTLER: Oh, a year or two. It didn't have a regular
publication date. It just came out such times as there was
something to publish.
RATNER: Well, then in 1950, shortly thereafter, you
published your own lithography manual [ How To Make a
Lithograph ] . I want to read a few of the remarks on the
book jacket, which are really eloquent testimony to your
skill. [Kistler laughs.] They are!
So I'm going to start with Jean Chariot. Of course,
he was the artist that you printed with for a long time.
It says, "Lynton Kistler and I started printing colored
lithographs together close to twenty years ago. He is one
of the master printers today and has done more to raise the
quality of original art on the West Coast than most
Then Carl Zigrosser, who was curator of prints at that
time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art--of course, went on
to do other things--says, "Mr. Lynton Kistler--" So here's
somebody all the way on the other side of the country who
is writing about you. "Mr. Lynton Kistler is one of the
most distinguished lithographic printers of our time, and
it is indeed good news that he is preparing a handbook on
the craft. Technical manipulation in the graphic arts,
particularly in lithography, too often has been treated as
a jealously guarded trade secret. It is, therefore,
gratifying that one more master is willing to share his
know-how with the world. As to Mr. Kistler's competence in
the field, I need but say his work speaks for itself."
Then--I'm not f inished--Lorser Feitelson, of course a
Los Angeles artist, says, "I consider Lynton Kistler's book
on lithography an important contribution to the technical
literature of the graphic arts. Kistler's long experience
in fine art lithographic printing has established him as
one of the leading authorities in this specialized craft."
Then Stanton Macdonald-Wright, of course an important
modernist and a professor of art at UCLA, says, "Lynton
Kistler is, in my opinion, one of the most craftsman-like
lithograph printers living today. His sensibility to fine
art goes far beyond that of all save the most savant
artists. His book should be welcomed by every department
of art of our educational system that cherishes excellent
So with that said, how did that whole project come
KISTLER: [laughter] I don't know. Well, I just wanted to
publish a manual on printing lithographs. You've seen it,
RATNER: Yes, I did.
KISTLER: It isn't an outstanding printing job, but I still
think that it is one of the most concise books of
directions that anyone could have. It covered the whole
field, and if you followed the instructions in the book,
why, you'd get a good lithograph. That's my feeling about
RATNER: So what made you decide to do that at that
KISTLER: Oh, well, I can't remember. I can't tell you
what the motive was. I was active in everything that had
to do with lithography at that time, and I felt as though
if there were more printers and more people interested in
the art, it would be beneficial. If there were more people
that were bringing promotional efforts to lithography, that
it would be beneficial to me and to the whole movement in
the long run.
RATNER: To whom did you distribute the book?
KISTLER: Well, everybody that would buy it. I sold it
through the bookstores. Dawson's Book Shop handled quite a
few of them. People bought them by mail--I sold some by
mail. Libraries bought it. It received general
distribution. I was cramped for funds and I had to resort
to reproduction for the text. I printed it on 8 l/^" X 11"
sheets, the text. Then it was published with a series of
illustrations, and those were printed in regular offset
printing. The size of the book, I believe, is 9" X 12".
It was a fairly good size. You've seen it.
RATNER: Yes, with really nice photographs in it.
KISTLER: Yes, the series of photographs I felt were
exceedingly good. There was a young chap [Fred Swartz]
that was taking a course in photography at one of the art
schools here--I can't remember which one it was--but each
one of them had to have a project, and he came to me and
asked me if I would allow him to photograph my process. I
told him that I would be glad to, and he made a project of
photographing my work. He was an excellent craftsman and
did a very good job, I thought, both in the selection of
the various stages of the process and in posing the people
that were involved. I engaged him to do some work for
me. I didn't have-- One feature of the thing was that he
did it, but it didn't cost me anything, and he gave me a
set of the photographs for the privilege of doing the work,
so that it worked out awfully well for me. Then, later,
when he went into business, why, I did buy some photography
from him. He photographed quite a number of the people
that I was working with, but that was rather hard for me to
carry the burden of the expense, and also it was difficult
to get the artists into the shop at the right time and
everything. There were a lot of arrangements necessary.
But I did photograph quite a number of people that I worked
with: Eugene Herman and Chariot and Phil Dike and quite a
number of others that I worked with.
RATNER: How long was that book in print?
KISTLER: Well, until it was sold out.
RATNER: So you just did the one printing?
KISTLER: Yes, we just did the one printing. I always
intended to revise it and bring it out in a regular library
edition, but I never got around to it. It's still kind of
a hanging activity that might crop up someplace. Peter
Morse was very anxious to do a complete book on lithography
with me, but it didn't seem to come off in my mind, so we
never got to it. I'd rather do, I think, a series of books
on lithography than do a thing like Peter Morse had in mind
and wanted to get out, a complete searching of the process
and going into a lot of the technical, chemical aspects of
it, which I wasn't interested in. I was interested in the
art of lithography rather than its technical aspects. It's
been done by Tamarind [Lithography Workshop]. A thing that
I should have done, I guess, but it seemed too much to
undertake. Too much research, too much fiddling around in
the libraries and things like that. And I was interested
in getting my sleeves rolled up and doing things on the
lithograph press. That was the thing that interested me.
My work was done from that standpoint. I wanted to see a
product when I did it. I didn't want to write about it
very much. I was willing to give such information as I
had. A lot of people came to me and asked me about various
aspects of the lithography, and I went out to clubs and to
art schools and to various groups and talked about
lithography and told them how it was done and everything.
But I wasn't much interested in researching the chemical
reactions and just how they turned out. I was interested
in the artistic end of it.
RATNER: Well, it's obvious that you enjoyed that part of
KISTLER: I did. I loved to print. It was a great thrill
to me to pull a piece of paper off a stone and have a
beautiful print. I loved it.
RATNER: I bet. It must have been exciting.
KISTLER: As long as I could eat, why, I was satisfied.
RATNER: Not too much to ask. [laughter]
KISTLER: All I wanted to do was print and eat. Eating was
a very necessary adjunct to my printing. [laughter]
RATNER: Well, it's evident that you wanted to share your
love of the work with other people. Not only so you could
eat, but just, you know, all the incredible effort you put
into promoting the work, I read in one place that in
October '51 you're saying in a letter, I think to Chariot,
that you have so much to do in the way of promotion:
spending three hours for the promotional work versus one
hour for production time. Then in 1951, also, I read that
you were planning a catalog and a traveling show that would
include about twenty-five artists, which is kind of a big
show to circulate yourself. What was the level of interest
in prints at this time, in the early fifties, around the
country that you were able to circulate a show like that?
KISTLER: Oh, gee, I don't recall. I don't even recall
right off the top of my head where I sent them, I know
that I did exhibit in Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, and
on the East Coast--Cincinnati and Chicago and New York,
RATNER: So a pretty wide distribution.
KISTLER: Yes, I did. Anyplace that would make a place for
my show, why, I sent it. I don't remember just how many
there were. I don't even remember any of the prints, but
if I knew the date on them, why, I could probably tell you
who the artists were. But Jean Chariot was very helpful.
His name became very well known. He was a much loved
teacher, and the artists followed his work quite
actively. His name meant quite a bit. There were other
artists that their name meant a lot too, as Joe [Joseph]
Mugnaini, who was a very, very well known teacher. I got
an awful lot of work through him. I did quite a bit of
work with Mugnaini. He was very prolific and imaginative
and well founded in mythology and history and art, and he
was a very good man to work with. I think that his work
will be worth a good deal, and I did quite a volume of
printing with him. I did a ten-lithograph portfolio with
him that I think someday will be sought after with a great
deal of effort. One of those is that print up there.
That's one of the ten.
RATNER: What's that called?
KISTLER: That is called-- Oh, I think it's [pause] A Tower
on Mars .
RATNER: A Tower on Mars .
KISTLER: And there's this one here, which I think has a
lot of imagination and a tremendously interesting print.
RATNER: And does that have a title on it?
KISTLER: What is the title?
RATNER: I might be able to get up and look at that. Let's
see how far I can go. It's this one right here--
KISTLER: No, no--
RATNER: The Dragon , it's called. Yeah, The Dragon . He
did some work with Ray Bradbury, I think, didn't he?
KISTLER: Yes, he did. Ray Bradbury worked with Joe
Mugnaini, and I think he is still working with him. He is
someone that you ought to look up and do the same thing for
him that you're doing on my work here. You'd have a
tremendous lot. I think that you'd find him really
KISTLER: He's been a teacher for a long period of time.
He works in all kinds of media and is very prolific, quite
profane in a lot of ways. But his imagination has a broad
aspect to it.
RATNER: Well, I was wondering how you had time to organize
those kinds of activities when you were also so busy
KISTLER: Well, they just came off the top of my head, that
RATNER: How much help did you have, though, to pull those
kinds of things together?
KISTLER: I don't remember. I think that I did them when I
didn't have anybody to print for.
RATNER: So you were really a one-man show in a lot of
RATNER: You had a pressman, I know.
KISTLER: --really I was too much that way. I should have
put in some time organizing a lithographic club and gotten
a group together, and I think that my work would have
received more attention if I had worked on a broader
basis. But I think that my work was more or less
personal. I just liked to print, that was all. And I went
about it in the most direct way, and that was to get
artists in. When they came to me, why, I printed for
RATNER: Well, in addition to all these promotional kinds
of things we've talked about and the publishing of the
Bulletin and the book on lithography--! can't believe how
busy you were--in April of '51, you mention in a letter to
Chariot that you are going to begin to give lithography
classes with guest artists. Each session would last
approximately one month and would teach both technique and
the art. The teachers that you had lined up included
Stanton Macdonald-Wright , Clinton Adams, and Richard
Haines. I guess you asked Chariot, also, if he would be
willing to teach.
KISTLER: Yes, I did, but I never got that organized.
RATNER: That program never got off the ground?
KISTLER: No, no, it didn't.
RATNER: Oh, it was a great idea.
KISTLER: Well, it was, but it would have been a great idea
if I had gotten the artists that I had expected to and had
RATNER: So it was on the part of the artists that it
didn't work out? You couldn't get the--
KISTLER: Oh, I can't blame them.
RATNER: Artists who were going to come in and learn or
artists who were going to teach?
KISTLER: They were going to teach.
RATNER: Those were the people that you were having trouble
RATNER: I see.
KISTLER: I really bit off too much sometimes.
RATNER: Well, you certainly had a lot going in those two
or three years there.
KISTLER: Yes. I tried to work in too many directions. I
should have had people that could help me out on it. But
there was nobody that was available. There were one or two
teachers and a teacher at USC [University of Southern
California] . And UCLA finally got their own art department,
and June Wayne ran off in her own direction, and--
RATNER: Then here's another thing you planned at about the
same time also, which I'm not sure happened, but in a
letter to Jean Chariot dated July '51, you mention plans to
write a definitive textbook for students on lithography.
Apparently, a number of people had already agreed to
contribute chapters, including Merle Armitage, Clinton
Adams, June Wayne, William Brice, Richard Haines, and
possibly Eugene Berman and Rico Lebrun. You go on to say
that you're basing the book on the best artists that you've
printed and that each artist would discuss how he had
approached the medium, the technical aspects, etc., and
that it would include one example of each artist's work
with the individual ' s commentary on how the work was
accomplished. Then you would, in turn, discuss what was
involved in printing that particular work. What was the
genesis of that whole project?
KISTLER: Well, I think what you read there is a genesis of
it. It was a thing that I wanted to do that I just had too
much that I was trying to do. I couldn't bring it all off.
RATNER: That was another good idea.
KISTLER: Yeah, it was a good idea.
RATNER: Well, that's great that all of those people had
agreed to participate and to contribute.
KISTLER: But none of them ever turned in their papers or
anything, so I never-- I had too many fish to fry all in
one skillet. [laughter] Some of them just never got into
the frying pan. Maybe I had too many ideas. Sounds to me
like I did, now that you bring them to my attention.
RATNER: Well, they were a lot of very good ideas.
KISTLER: Yes, I think they were.
RATNER: At least the ideas you had were good ones.
KISTLER: Well, I've had a lot of good ideas. My whole
trouble is getting them going.
RATNER: Well, here's something you did do. In 1952 you
prepared and circulated a catalog of prints for Jean
Chariot and Eugene Berman. You mailed it to art schools,
museums, and collectors to help sell their prints. And
you, in previous sessions, mentioned Eugene Berman, but we
never talked about how you met him.
KISTLER: Well, I met him through Jean Chariot. He brought
him to me, and I worked with him. He was one of the
outstanding artists that I did work with. He was not
particularly fond of the lithographic medium. He expected
more of it than he put into it, really. He worked very
hard, but he was a hard man to satisfy and he was very
critical of the work that I did. He didn't think that I
was getting out of the stone the thing that he put on it,
and I tried to convince him that I did do his work as well
as it could be done. He seemed to think that there ought
to be things that come out of the stone that he didn't put
on the stone. He was not a finished technician, and I
couldn't take him beyond his own abilities.
So he started to look around town for another litho-
grapher. He thought he'd get somebody who would do a
better job than I was doing. And he went to Lorser
Feitelson, and he said, "Lorser, I'm working with a litho-
grapher down here, and I don't think that he's getting--"
[tape recorder off] He went to Lorser and said, "Lorser,
I'm working with a lithographer down here, and I don't
think he knows his business." So Lorser says, "Well, who
are you working with?" He said, "Well, I'm working with
Kistler." And Lorser said, "Well, good Lord," he says,
"that's the best man there is. What do you want?"
[laughter] So he very humbly came back to me, and he was a
good dog after that. [laughter] I had no more trouble
with him. He realized that I had my problems in getting
out of the stone what he expected of it, and if it wasn't
there, that we could work around some way to get it out of
the stone or get it on the stone so that I could get it out
of the stone.
There's one print that I did with Eugene Berman which
is called Nocturnal Cathedral . It was a four-color
lithograph, and we worked on it quite a long time. I
remember one proof of the Nocturnal Cathedral that I pulled
for him, and, gee, he just marked it up in all kinds of
ways. This was wrong and that was wrong, too dark here,
too light there, too much this, too much that, the ink
wasn't right, and everything else. Then he left for the
East, and I sent him the final print on it. He sent it
back as a proof for me to work to, and it said, "Bravo!
Beautiful." [laughter] But I've never had so much markup
and so much to correct and so much to do on a stone to
bring it into what he expected of it, and I was very much
elated when I got it back. Both the print that is all
marked up and also the final printing of the print is in
the Smithsonian Institution now.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, SIDE TWO
MARCH 7, 1989
RATNER: Okay, before I flipped the tape, you were just
telling me--wrapping up the story about Eugene Berman--that
the print's in the Smithsonian. What else did you want to
add about that?
KISTLER: Well, that's about all. It ended up in the
collection in the Smithsonian Institution: the marked-up
print, the corrections that he wanted on it, and also this
final print that had written on it, "Bravo! Beautiful.
RATNER: That's great, that's great. Those were prints
that were part of your collection that went to the
RATNER: What gallery represented him in town?
KISTLER: I don't believe he had any recognition here. He
was more a set designer for stage sets and things like
that. The work that we did together, they all reflected
that theatrical aspect. This print the Nocturnal Cathedral
was very, oh, theatrical, you know. It reflected that, the
theater, very much.
RATNER: Okay. Well, shortly thereafter, in 1952, which
we've talked about a little bit previously, actually, you
apparently developed a really painful allergy to the acids
used in the hand printing.
RATNER: And so you had stop most of your printing from
stone. I guess your wife at the time, Helen [Mikesell
Kistler] , she seems to have been fairly involved in the
business. I read somewhere that she was really urging you
to increase your commercial clientele, which was not only
more lucrative, but it seems it was less abrasive on your
skin. So you sold the property at Third [Street] and
Carondelet [Street] and set up a shop at 1653 West Temple
[Street], which you've mentioned before, where you
installed power printing equipment.
KISTLER: I bought two printing presses there to start
with. The business went very well. I could never get away
from the artistic end of the thing, and this thing with
Stanton Macdonald-Wright and several of the prints that I
did with Jean Chariot-- The second Picture Book [ Picture
Book No. II ] was done by a direct printing from a
lithographic plate on an offset press. I explored the
possibilities there to quite an extent.
RATNER: That's what I was wondering. By using the offset,
what additional or innovative materials were you able to
use, in terms of the fine art printing, that you couldn't
do with stone lithography?
KISTLER: Well, I think that what I did was to try to apply
to the offset press the results that I got in hand
printing, and I think that I did it to an unusual degree.
RATNER: What kind of effects would the average printer
lose in offset, as opposed to stone, that you were trying
to achieve? Do you know what I'm saying?
KISTLER: Oh, that's a tough one. Well, principally, the
intimacy of working on the stone. The printer could have
greater access to corrective facilities. I never-- There
are certain things about a stone quality that are awfully
hard to duplicate exactly on an offset press, but I think
that I came pretty close to doing it. I could print larger
editions on the offset press than I could by hand because
of the cost, because it costs too much to print them by
hand. But, on the other hand, you had to have large
editions to make it pay, because it was more expensive to
set up the press, get it started, and get the prints
printing the way that you wanted them to. On the offset
press it was harder than on the handpress.
KISTLER: On the handpress I could run up a proof in a few
minutes. Simply put the stone on the press and yank it up
and pull it through the press. But on the offset press you
had to make so many adjustments. You had to accommodate
the press to the size of the paper that you were printing
on, the kind of paper that you were printing on, and you
had to get your ink set. You'd have to pull numerous
proofs just blank, and I had a stack of paper about three*
or four feet high that I used as wastepaper that we had to
run through the offset press. You'd have to set the press
as it was running. You had to set a feeder on the press
and the pressures and everything, and they all had to be
accommodated in running condition. To print a hundred
prints, why, you'd have to pull two hundred or three
hundred prints to get it set, to get the ink flowing evenly
over the whole surface of the plate and get the proper
amount on and set up all of the requirements.
So that you had an expensive piece of machinery tied
up, and sometimes it was just laying there while the artist
was making changes on it on the offset press. Whereas you
could lift the stone off of the stone printing press and
give it to the artist and he could work on it on a bench,
and you put another stone on and go ahead with it. But you
couldn't do that on the offset press, because once you've
started the job on the press, you had to achieve your
printing, your final printing. Your edition had to be
printed at that time, and the artist had to make up his
mind in less time to give his okay. For instance, if the
artist wanted to think it over for a day, why, that would
mean that you would have to lay up your press for a day,
because you had it set just the way that it would be for
the printing. There are a number of things like that that
are really mechanical and indigenous to the offset printing
that do not occur in the stone printing.
In printing some of the things that I did for
Macdonald-Wright and some others that ran into several
colors, it became quite complicated and stretched out over
a long period of time. You take a press that commercially
you could make $200 or $300 a day on just printing
commercial work, make that much profit, it became a
financial problem. Because, also, if you only had one
press, why, you'd have one pressman. You're losing the
pressman's time, and also it costs money to keep an offset
press on the floor just sitting there. So there was a
financial problem that had to be met, and the artist, for
that reason, was pushed quite heavily. When they started
the thing, they had to be-- Well, they had to know what the
result was that they were trying to achieve so that there
wasn't too much wasted time in laying around.
That could be overcome with larger editions. It would
take a day's time to pull a good edition of fifty to a
hundred prints by hand in a stone printing, and your
capacity on the offset press was several thousand. You
could do fifteen thousand or twenty thousand prints in a
day. It had that capacity. I never printed quite that
many, but you could if you had distribution for them.
When I closed my plant completely, I was up against--
I told you before that I had this problem of allergies
amongst myself and my health, and my pressman was
quitting. It had taken me quite a long time to get
somebody that could do the work and would do it and was
patient enough to the unorthodox method of running an
offset press that we used it for, that is to stop it and
sometimes stand around for an hour or two while corrections
were made on the plate or a new plate was provided by the
But, by and large, the result that you could get on
the offset press matched that that you could get on the
stone, that is, if you could get zinc. The commercial
people quit using zinc--
RATNER: Right, you mentioned that.
KISTLER: --because it was difficult to print from, and
aluminum came in. Aluminum was a much better metal as far
as reproductive work was concerned, and so they just quit
rolling zinc. So it came down, eventually, so that you
couldn't get the zinc grained properly and you couldn't get
the metal in the first place, and so we had to accommodate
ourselves to the aluminum in the offset work. That was
overcome by the number of colors that you would print on a
print, for one thing--one way of getting around it--and
various accommodations that we had to make in putting the
work on the plate.
The supply people who were able to furnish good
lithographic materials like etches and gums and things of
that sort commenced to change their chemicals and things,
and that made it a difficulty as far as doing artists' work
on the offset press. But it could be worked out. Then
this other problem of the fact that you'd have to air-
condition your plant for the health of the employees and
take some good many other ramifications and use different
materials to protect people from, you know, just-- They
would develop horrible sores and rashes and things like
that, and you'd only overcome it by eliminating materials
that you were using. We were up against that. So today
they've worked it out so there are more facilities for
adjusting the press. You don't have to get your hands into
an offset press today to run it as much as we did when I
was doing it. We had to have our hands in the acid and in
the water and everything, and it's just hard on you, hard
on a printer physically. So with all of those problems
that I was faced with, I just figured that I couldn't go
any further with it. Some of them have been worked out,
and I don't know just what they're doing now.
RATNER: Well, let me back up just a little bit to when--
When you first moved to the new location, you started using
these power presses. A few artists that you had already
been printing with for some time, such as Chariot and
Clinton Adams and Eugene Berman and June Wayne, they
continued to print with you. Did you still have a stone
press in this place, or were they all using the offset?
KISTLER: Yes, I still had a stone press, and I did some
stone work for a while.
RATNER: Then I know some artists resisted the idea of
using the offset. They just wanted to do the stone
printing. I know you just gave me a number of reasons.
Were there any other major reasons why an artist would
prefer to remain with the stone rather than using the
KISTLER: Well, the cost of short editions was so high on
the offset press that there were only a few of them that
could use it. The costs went up considerably on the offset
press, which at that time was maybe $30 or $40 an hour.
The artists just couldn't stand it. It was too much. I
couldn't stand it either.
RATNER: You'd think, without knowing all the details, that
being able to print more per hour, of course, would be less
expensive. But then you don't realize all the setup time
and everything involved.
KISTLER: Yes. The whole thing is too big a thing. It was
too large a project. In other words, you had to have an
expensive printing plant. You had to have the following
that wanted the lithographs that would take the
production. You could overcome the situation by printing
enough prints. If you could print a thousand of a print--
And you could do that in a few minutes of actual running
time. After you'd gotten it, of course, set up, it was
nothing at all. You could run a thousand prints in fifteen
or twenty minutes after you had gotten it to running. But
what are you going to do with a thousand prints after
you've got them? You've got to have a large organization
that is really pushing them the way that things are pushed
on the television now and on radio and newspaper. Gee, the
advertising that is done today is just stupendous. You're
not buying the product. You're buying today the privilege
of being sold. The selling of the product doesn't anywhere
match or has no relation to the cost of the materials at
the time of the manufacturing of the product. Many of
these things, particularly things like canned goods and
toothpaste and things like that, there's no relation.
RATNER: Though I guess a lot of artists probably wouldn't
have even wanted such a large edition anyway.
KISTLER: They had no way to get rid of them.
RATNER: Yeah, yeah.
KISTLER: Never able to establish a distribution. It's
open today if somebody would take it up and really push it
and put it on television. People buy anything you —
KISTLER: And at any cost.
RATNER: What was the gallery and museum situation in terms
of interest during the early fifties? I know I have here
in a letter to Jean Chariot during the early fifties, this
period when you have just moved your plant and prior to--
You say, "There is considerable new interest in prints
here. One or two galleries are specializing in them."
This is a gallery I hadn't heard of: "Chabot Gallery is a
small gallery on the edge of Beverly Hills with a very good
following." What do you recall about that?
KISTLER: Well, Chabot tried to sell prints, but they just
didn't see far enough or see big enough, and they didn't
have the capitalization to do the job.
RATNER: So how long were they around?
KISTLER: Oh, they were around for eight or ten years,
something like that. They eked out a living at it.
RATNER: So they were one of the few that were really
concentrating on prints, it sounds like.
KISTLER: Yes, but they couldn't sell any great body of
prints. You'd have to have a hundred galleries that were
interested in it, and it's something that could be done
today if you had enough money--a matter of money entirely —
and put on an advertising campaign. That thing there, the
television, would be just absolutely perfect for doing
it. But I never was in contact with anybody that had the
money, because it might run into $2 or $3 million. It
would pay off proportionately, but it costs money. It
costs more money to sell the goods today in so many
instances than it does for the manufacture of the goods.
The advertising and the distribution is so expensive. You
buy toothpaste, and the cost of the materials that go into
the toothpaste, there isn't twenty-five cents worth,
including all of the packing, the printing of the boxes,
and the materials to make the toothpaste, and everything
else. It has absolutely no relation to what you pay for
it. It is a few cents, and it sells for three and four
dollars a little dinky tube.
RATNER: Yeah. I also just wanted to ask you before we
wrapped up today a couple of things about kind of what was
happening in Los Angeles during the fifties. I think I
mentioned to you before that I had read an interview with
June Wayne to help me prepare for your interview, and she
recounts an incident that occurred during the McCarthy era,
when some members of the Los Angeles City Council attempted
to censor the subject matter in various artists' work. I
guess a whole group of artists went down to the city
council and protested or something, and I wondered what you
recalled about any of those incidents or that period in
KISTLER: I didn't get involved in that at all.
RATNER: Okay. Then finally, following some of these
incidents, I guess to help people understand modern art
better, the Ford Foundation funded a series called "You
and Modern Art, " which was organized by Jules Langsner, and
I wondered how familiar you were with that series.
KISTLER: Well, I wasn't familiar with that at all. That
was the thing that he tried to do. It never got off the
RATNER: It didn't?
RATNER: I guess the idea there--which, of course, would
have helped you in a way- -was to help people understand
modern art a little bit better, and, of course, to increase
the interest in the market.
KISTLER: Well, Jules Langsner was the man who brought June
Wayne to me. I was the only one that was doing any offset
printing at that time on stone. He was the man that got
June Wayne to come into my place.
RATNER: Okay, I think maybe we'll go ahead and wrap it up
here and pick it up next time, unless you have anything
else you wanted to add about what we've talked about today.
KISTLER: Well, I don't know of anything.
KISTLER: You pull things out of my memory that I had
forgotten about entirely.
RATNER: Well, good, that's my job. Okay, well, we'll pick
it up again next time.
KISTLER: All right, and what do you want to talk about
RATNER: We're going to talk a little bit more about the
fifties and the opening of Tamarind and then the move of
your plant from Temple to Menlo Avenue.
TAPE NUMBER: IX, SIDE ONE
MARCH 21, 1989
RATNER: We're going to begin today by looking at a series
of slides, both from your book on lithography [ How To Make
a Lithograph ] and then some lithographs that you've printed
over the years. So why don't you just go ahead and begin
with this first slide.
KISTLER: All right, this is one of my students who
established himself in San Francisco, and he is working in
his lithograph shop. The stone is on the press. He has a
sponge in his hand, and he is damping the stone and getting
ready to roll it. [next slide] This is a first operation
that I had in making a print. The paper was all damped
down so that it was just limp. It wasn't real wet. It was
just limp so that it made-- It fit down onto the stone, and
you didn't have to use so much pressure to get the
impression off of the stone. [tape recorder off]
Well, this is the first operation in preparation of
the stone. You put one stone on top of the other, and you
grind off the old image, if necessary, and get a nice grain
on the stone and get it ready for the artist to work on.
[next slide] That stone must be absolutely level all over
the same surface. It is leveled out all over by putting a
straight edge on the stone and a piece of tissue paper
under it, and pull it out and you judge how much the stone
has been ground. You go over the whole stone with that
straight edge and the piece of tissue paper and pull it
out, so that you get the same level all over the whole
stone so that it's even. [next slide] That's where the
final finish is put on. You start out with a coarse grind,
and then you put a finer grain on the stone according to
what the artist wants and whether you want a coarse grain
or whether you want a fine grain. The grain varies from a
very fine grain to a very coarse grain. I've used all
kinds of grain in making lithographs. [next slide]
That is the artist drawing on the stone. This is Jean
Chariot working on one of the stones. The drawing is made
with a grease crayon, and various hardness of crayon gives
you a difference in the grain on the stone and the
intensity of the drawing. [next slide] The artist draws
the design on the stone the right way, and the stone-- Of
course, some of them object to their drawings being
reversed, so this is a method that is used when the artist
wants the drawing to come out the way that they have it
drawn on the stone. So they draw it backwards, and then it
prints the right way.
RATNER: So she's using a mirror there?
KISTLER: She is using a mirror. The sketch is put up and
it's reflected into the mirror, and the artist follows the
design in the mirror rather than the original.
RATNER: Who is that drawing?
KISTLER: That's Mary Finley Fry. She was one of my
lithographers, and she was a very fine lithographer. [next
The printer has to judge the strength of the etch
according to the drawing, whether it's on a stone light or
whether the stone is grained heavily or lightly. According
to the drawing, the etch, which is composed of gum arable
and nitric acid-- And I used a few drops of phosphoric acid
and a little bit of tannic acid in my etch. Using several
different acids did a great deal for the print. The nitric
acid, of course, bit into the stone and cleaned it so that
the gum arable would adhere to the stone. The phosphoric
acid had a cleaning effect and made the stone run cleaner
than just with the plain nitric acid that some of the
lithographers used. And the tannic acid had the effect of
making the gum a little bit tougher and lasted longer. I
could print longer without re-etching. I found that it was
necessary to re-etch the stone as I went along, and using
this complicated etch I could pull more prints without re-
etching. The phosphoric acid was not a mordant etch, so it
cleaned the stone and made the gum arable adhere to the
stone more firmly in some ways and got away from scumming
as it printed. It made my prints come clean. I didn't
have to etch so often. [next slide]
The etch was put on with a wide camel's hair brush,
and it was smoothed down and dried. Sometimes we would let
it, the stone, rest overnight and we wouldn't print until
the next day. But I found that with my multiple etch--that
is, using three different acids in my etch--that I could
print immediately and I wouldn't have any loss of my
image. I would get as good an impression as I could if I
left the stone overnight. [tape recorder off]
Those are the rollers that I used to roll the ink onto
the stone. [next slide] The first thing was to clean the
old ink off. I started off by scraping the old ink off of
the stone. That's a leather-covered roller, and you
scraped it to get it so that it was clean. You get the old
ink off, because the ink and the water on the stone have a
tendency to unite there and make it kind of muddy. You had
to scrape your roller every once in a while to keep it nice
and clean. [next slide] The ink is rolled out on a
slab. I had a large piece of glass that I rolled out my
ink on and got it very thin, a nice thin film of ink to go
onto the stone. [next slide] The first thing that we did
was to wash all of the drawing off of the stone. I used
water and turpentine to wash all of the crayon off. And it
didn't damage the image at all. When I got through, why,
[next slide] there was just the ghost image left on the
stone. And the water, of course, went where there was no
ink on the stone, and the turpentine took the ink off of
the stone, so that you have an absolutely flat surface that
you're printing from. [next slide] That is-- I'm rolling
the stone up there, and usually one or two rollings of the
stone puts enough ink on so that you get a nice, brilliant
print. [next slide] The edges of the design were usually
cleaned up before the edition was pulled, because very
often the artist wanted a sharp edge on their print, and so
I cleaned it up with a stick of-- Oh, I can't seem to
function right now.
RATNER: It was some kind of an eraser?
KISTLER: Oh, it's just a-- I'm sorry I can't-- [a pumice
RATNER: That's all right. It will come to you. Do you
want to just go ahead to the next slide and then maybe
you'll think of it?
KISTLER: [next slide] The stone was dried after it was
rolled. It was dried, and then the paper was laid. It was
fanned dry. Each one of these prints-- The stone had to be
dried before I could pull the print. [next slide] The
paper was laid on the stone, and then [next slide] it was
pulled through the press. That's the scraper press. You
put packing on top of the paper and then a tympan for it to
ride on, and you pull it through the press. It's a
scraping effect. You put a little grease on the tympan to
make it slide easily, and you pull the stone under the
scraper, which is held as a part of the press. The stone
is pulled under the scraper to get the impression. [next
slide] And that is pulling the impression there. You pull
the paper off, then you have your print. [next slide]
It's examined by the artist, and if there are any
corrections, why, you can take out parts and you can put in
new parts. The drawing can be corrected or changed
considerably after it has been drawn. I have made
corrections and changes that changed the complete aspect of
the print after the first impression. I use a Carborundum
grit to regrain the stone. You take a small piece of
stone, and you regrain it right at the point that you want
to correct it. And you get so that-- It is something that
has to be done with a great deal of precision and skill on
the part of the artist and very carefully by the printer
not to ruin the whole drawing. [next slide]
This is a device that I made. It's a three-point
device for registering the print. I found that I could
print much faster with this device. You lay the three
points on the paper, which must be uniform. Each one of
the pieces of paper that you print from must be uniform,
and you can lay it on there and you can print much
faster. I had to arrange to take the guide, the three-
point guide, off before I pulled it through the press. It
was quite an ingenious rig that I had. It gave me a very
close registry without too much difficulty, and I could do
my own laying. It's necessary to have two people to lay a
print to register if you use needles. And I like this
method very much. It worked out.
RATNER: Did you patent that or anything?
KISTLER: No, I didn't patent it. I had screws that I
could change the register so that it fit just exactly in--
very precise. [next slide]
After the prints were printed, they had to be dried.
The ink had to be thoroughly dry, and the prints had to be
thoroughly dry. They had to be wet down again, and I put
them between blotters individually and a piece of tissue
paper over the print to keep it from smudging. I had to
stack up a stack of prints, fifty or a hundred, and put
them in this press and press them down. That way I got the
paper back so that it was smooth. [next slide] That is
the device that I used to put my chop on the prints that I
made. I think that I was the first one to use a chop, and
it is universally used by printers throughout the country
now. They put that embossing on and that identifies the
printer, and that's the printer's mark. [next slide]
This is a man by the name of [Theodore] Van Soelen,
who was the sheriff of a town in New Mexico. He came over
to Los Angeles and worked with me, and I made about a dozen
prints with him. I had people come from all over the
country to work with me. [next slide] That is Phil Dike,
who is one of my artists. I made quite a number of prints
with Dike. [next slide] This is Eugene Berman, who I
worked with, and he is working on the stone there. [next
slide] This is Clinton Adams and myself. He is examining
a print that I've pulled for him. [next slide] This is
Joe [Joseph] Mugnaini and myself. I did quite a number of
prints and a portfolio with Joe Mugnaini. He was one of my
finer printers. [next slide] This is a class in
lithography. I'm explaining to them about the prints and
how to put the work on the stone.
RATNER: Where was that at?
KISTLER: Well, that was at Third [Street] and--
RATNER: Carondelet [Street]?
KISTLER: Carondelet, yes.
RATNER: At your own place.
KISTLER: Yes. And this is a demonstration that I had up
in Sacramento at the state fair. The Southern Pacific
Company shipped my press up to the state fair and a number
of my stones, and I worked before the public there and
explained to them-- I'm rolling up stone there, and there
is an artist in the background there and one over at the
right that is working on the stone. [next slide]
That's Jean Chariot examining a print that I pulled
for him. So that gives you an idea of the work that I was
KISTLER: I haven't explained it as well as I should.
RATNER: It was very interesting. So now we're going to go
on to some of the actual lithographs?
RATNER: Okay. [tape recorder off] Okay, so we're
beginning here with the lithographs printed by Lynton
KISTLER: Right. I've got to recover that last one. I
didn't-- [clicks through slides] There we are. That's the
first print that I ever made. It's Jean Chariot. It's two
colors, and it was about 22" X 30" in size.
RATNER: And that's Woman with Child on Back ?
KISTLER: Yes, Woman with Child on Back . [next slide]
This is a four-color print that I did with Jean Chariot,
and it is called Sunday Dress . It is one of the first
prints that I ever made in color. It came out very well
and was very popular. I think there were about five or six
colors in that. [next slide] That is one of the best
prints that I made of his in black and white. It's called
The Tortilla Lesson . I have it, a copy of it, in the front
room there. It is very fine because of the delicate
drawing that there is in the drawing against an absolutely
solid black, one of the features of lithography that is so
valuable. You can get so many shades of color in one
printing. A lot of very delicate work there that has to be
held and one of the nicest prints I ever made in black and
white. [next slide] That is a Mexican dancer, and it's a
little print from the pamphlet that we got out for the
first Picture Book , the printing of the first Picture
Book . That was printed on my machine. It was drawn on
zinc plates. It had six colors in it, I believe. Malinche
is what that one's called. [next slide] That is Indian
Man and is another Chariot. [next slide] This is one of
the things he made after he went to Hawaii, and it's
RATNER: Hawaiian Drummer it says right on there.
KISTLER: Yes, Hawaiian Drummer . And it was rather a large
print. It was on a 15" X 20" stone, and the print was, oh,
about 14" X 18" in size, approximately. [next slide] That
is one of the first color prints that I made. It was in
four colors, and that is called Pilgrims . [next slide]
Wherever Jean Chariot went he was very much interested in
the primitive peoples, so when he went through the Indian
country, why, he made quite a few things that had American
Indians as the subject, and these are our Indian dancers,
Those prints that you see up above there, they are
printed on a machine. The plates were hand drawn, and the
printing was directly from the plates themselves. They
were printed by the offset process. The advantage in the
offset is that because there is a double impression-- You
print from the plate itself to a rubber blanket, and then
you transfer it from the rubber blanket to the paper. Then
that way, the artist can work the right way on the plate,
and it is quite an advantage. I experimented with that
method of printing and did quite a number of prints by the
offset method. When I first started printing, for the
first few years, we had thin-rolled zinc, which we put onto
the press and wrapped around a cylinder, and they were very
receptive to the artists' drawings. They were very good to
work with. They seemed to have an affinity for the ink,
and for that reason they were very good to use. Later, the
commercial industry disposed of the zinc plates because--
They quit using them because they were difficult to print
from. You had to be very careful in working with them.
They started using aluminum plates. The aluminum plates
ran much cleaner without so much trouble in keeping them
from scumming and keeping them from filling in. You had to
have a very good pressman to print by this [the zinc plate]
RATNER: So this was called Mock Battle ? How many colors
was this, do you think?
KISTLER: That was four colors, four colors on that.
That's Mock Battle . [next slide] And that's Mock
Victory . They were a pair, and they were both printed from
the same plate. That is, the press was large enough so we
could draw both images on the plate and then print them
both at the same time. [next slide] That is a stone
print, and it's Hawaiian Drummer .
RATNER: That's different from the other Hawaiian Drummer
KISTLER: Yes, he did quite a number of different prints.
RATNER: Was that later or earlier than the first one?
KISTLER: That was later than the first one. The first one
that I showed you was made from stone. I think that this
one was on a zinc plate. I had quite a few zinc plates
left, and I used those when I first started making prints
by the offset method. I don't think that Jean was with me
when-- He was in Hawaii. I sent the plates to him and he
made the drawing and he sent the color that he wanted back
to me, or the sample of the color, and I matched it and I
printed from a metal plate. I think that one was printed
from a zinc plate. I liked them to work on those because
they were so sensitive. But quite a number of the prints
that I made were made on aluminum plates, and they were
harder to get a good impression from. [next slide]
That is a proof for a cover for a slip-case; I think
^^'s °" Picture Book [No.] II. That is made by stomping
out the edges all around the gum arabic, and then the
drawing was made with a brush. The drawing was made with
an etch. Then the gum arabic was dried, and I took some
ink and mixed some ink with asphaltum and rubbed that over
the whole surface of the plate and smoothed it down and
then put it in the sink and washed it. And wherever the
artist had drawn with the gum arabic, the plate was
cleaned, and you have that reverse image coming through,
That is a two-color aluminum plate. Jean was on a
trip to Venezuela at the time, and I sent the plates down
to him in Venezuela. I sent him two plates, one for the
blue and the other for the orange, and he made a tracing on
the plate and-- He drew that and made his drawing to that
tracing. The tracing was the same on both plates, of
course, so that the drawing was in register. It was a very
difficult thing to print, because the plates were in
transit about two weeks going and coming, and--
TAPE NUMBER: IX, SIDE TWO
MARCH 21, 1989
RATNER: Okay, we were talking about how long this print by
Chariot, then in Venezuela, was in transit, which made it
more difficult to print. I think we talked about that a
little another time too.
RATNER: It's interesting to see which print it is. What
is this called?
KISTLER: [ The Little ] Seamstress . These plates were of
aluminum, and the tropical weather down in Venezuela as
well as the shipping, being in shipment for over a month,
made them very difficult to print. They were not in very
good condition, and I had a very hard time printing them,
[next slide] They were printed offset. This is a series
of five prints [ Kei Viti prints]. It's the last
lithographs that Jean Chariot made, and they were in
1978. [next slide]
That's a kava ceremony. That's the first print in the
series. There's three colors in that, and it's printed
offset and from aluminum plates. [next slide] This is
number two, and that is weaving baskets. There are three
colors in that as well. [next slide] This is music.
Let's see. He is playing on that, and that's an ancient
South Pacific method of playing music, bamboo music. Just
how it's done I don't know, but this is a trip that Jean
took to the Fiji Islands, prints of Fiji. [next slide]
That's bamboo music again. That's just a single piece of
bamboo, and he's making music with it. It was two
colors. [next slide] And this is the fifth one. It's not
a reproduction, but it's the same design as this painting
that I have here, and there's two colors in that. There
are just five prints in the series. [next slide]
This is a young chap that I worked with, and he was a
paraplegic. He could do nothing with his hands, and he did
all of his work on the plates with a crayon that was held
in a crayon holder that was long enough to reach the
plate. He drew this, and I made this a two-color
lithograph. He got it in register and everything, in spite
of the fact that he was drawing with a crayon held in a
holder in his mouth. He was very persistent in doing the
work, and I thought it was very remarkable that he was able
to do anything at all. To attempt a color print with his
limitations I thought was really a very persistent and very
remarkable thing. There's two colors on that. The plates
were aluminum plates, and they were printed in the offset
process. [next slide] This is another of his drawings.
RATNER: What was his name?
KISTLER: Gee, I'm sorry, these names escape me. I knew
them all very well, but my memory is not as good as it
should be. [next slide] That is a stone print by
Henrietta Shore. That's one of the nicest prints that I
ever did. It was a very coarse-grained stone, and it
worked out beautifully.
RATNER: It's really nice. What's the title of that, do
KISTLER: It's Waterlily . [next slide] This is Eugene
Herman, and that's Pisan Fantasy . That's on stone. [next
slide] That's Appian Way .
RATNER: Also by Herman?
KISTLER: Also by Herman, and it's on stone. [next
slide] This is one of the most difficult prints that I
have ever worked on. It's four colors by Eugene Herman,
and it ' s Nocturnal Cathedral .
RATNER: Is this the one that he wrote "Hravo" on that you
were telling me about last week?
KISTLER: Yes, this is the one that-- He left for New York,
and he was very much disgusted with the print. I sent the
proof to him in New York, and he turned it down completely.
But he marked it all up. Hardly anyplace that he didn't
want "A little darker here" or "A little lighter here" and
"Take this out all together." I worked over that whole
print and sent him this proof of it, and he was very happy
with it and sent me a copy. He marked "Bravo" on it and
sent it back, and I was very pleased. That's in the
Smithsonian [Institution] now. [next slide] That is
another Herman print, and the distance that he has achieved
in there, by his drawing, has always amazed me. You can
see right down through the canal there. That is called
Verona . I was in Verona, and I didn't see anything that
looked remotely like that. [laughter] [next slide] This
is a print that I did with [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright . It
was one of those problem prints. There's eleven colors on
that, and I had a terrible time with it. He was ill at the
time and lived way up the coast in Malibu, and I had to
take proofs of this print to him on every one of the
colors, all of the eleven colors. It made a lot of running
back and forth. He was not an easy man to work with,
although I could tell by looking at his drawings very often
that he had not put enough work on them to reflect what he
wanted to get out of the print. I had to print it anyway
and take these proofs down that I knew were not suitable,
and it made an awful lot of running around. There were
eleven colors on it by the time that I made about twenty-
two to twenty-five trips down to Malibu. But I felt as
though the print was important enough to do the work on it.
RATNER: It's called Gershwin's Music or something like
KISTLER: That's called Gershwin's Music .
KISTLER: This is one of Joe Mugnaini ' s prints. I have
that now, and I'm having it framed and I'm going to put it
on my walls. Joe had tremendous imagination--has, I should
say, has a tremendous imagination--and he was a delightful
man to work with. Everything that he brought in had a new
concept to it. I think that the imagination that is shown
there is really remarkable. I'm very fond of that.
RATNER: What's it called?
KISTLER: Balloon Ascension . [next slide] And that is
called Carnival .
RATNER: Also by Mugnaini?
KISTLER: Also by Mugnaini. Another example of his very
vivid imagination. [next slide] That is called Flores ,
and it is a piece that I sent out as an advertisement.
It's drawn directly on the plates and printed from the
plates on an offset press, and it is four colors. It was
one of those things that I'm very fond of.
RATNER: Is that a Chariot print?
KISTLER: No, that's a Joe Mugnaini print.
RATNER: Oh, also?
RATNER: It looks a lot different than the other ones.
KISTLER: Yes, it is. I think I printed about 525. Yes,
525 is the edition on that. They were printed on the
offset press, directly from the plates, and it was my
Christmas card. Its size is about 16" X 20". It's a good-
sized print. [next slide] This is a portfolio of
Mugnaini's, and it's called Ten Views of the Moon . It was
done in collaboration with Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury and
Joe Mugnaini consulted together, and the prints that we
have here are an outcome of these conversations that the
two men had together. The prints are signed by both
Mugnaini and Bradbury, Ray Bradbury. [next slide] That
is-- Can you see that?
RATNER: I can't read that line. Let me see. Let's see.
April Witch .
KISTLER: April Witch , yes, that's right. That's a four-
color print. [next slide] And that is--
RATNER: Robot World this one's called.
KISTLER: Yes, Robot World . There's four colors in that,
and it is a protest print. Really, there's quite a bit of
protest in that print if you follow the symbology there,
[next slide] That is A Tower on Mars .
RATNER: You have that out in the other room, right?
KISTLER: Yes. [next slide] And this is The Hound . [next
slide] That is Halloween . [next slide]
RATNER: I can't read the writing on this one. Oh, The
Leviathan , is that what it is?
KISTLER: Yes. [next slide] That is A Town on Mars ,
[next slide] And that one —
RATNER: The Visitor .
KISTLER: The Visitor . [next slide] That is A Green
Morning . [next slide] And that's The Dragon , which has an
awful lot of imagination in it. [next slide] This is a--
I can't recall this man's name. I'm sorry. [next slide]
They're just sketches, and I've forgotten the names of
RATNER: Well, let me see if I can see it on-- Is it
KISTLER: Nutting, Myron Nutting, yes. He was a teacher
and, I think, a superb draftsman. [next slide] This is my
friend Jan Stussy. He was one of the students at UCLA, and
his things were very far out all the way through. That's
Unicyclist . [next slide] And that's a landscape. [next
slide] In order to get the ink set and the image in the
right position on the paper, it was necessary sometimes to
run, oh, as many as fifty to a hundred sheets through the
offset press. I had a stack of paper that was about three
feet high of these waste sheets. They were run through
again and again, sometimes as high as maybe eight or ten
times. Consequently, over this there were a lot of
abstract designs that just originated themselves.
RATNER: Oh, really? [laughter]
KISTLER: The artists became very intrigued with them,
particularly Jan Stussy. This is one that he made a silk
screen and printed that over that design, and this is the
abstract that evolved from it.
RATNER: Oh, that's interesting.
KISTLER: Of course, they were unique prints, all of them,
because there were no two of them alike, and that went on
and on in the plant. [next slide] This is called Wash
Day . It was by Bill [William] Pajaud. He was advertising
manager at the-- Oh, that insurance company at Adams
[Boulevard] and Western [Avenue] [Golden State Mutual Life
Insurance Company] . Well, anyway, he was an advertising
manager. I'm very fond of that. I think that's a very
good character sketch. [next slide] This is another one
of his, and that's Chicken Woman . That's four colors and
that is-- [next slide] This is another man that I had
quite a difficult time with in printing. He was at Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer , and he's the man that invented the method of
taking the picture of the capitol--
RATNER: Oh, right, you told me that. Warren Newcombe, is
that who that--?
KISTLER: Warren Newcombe, yes. They photographed the
upper part first and then built a scene that matched right
with it. The lower part they had the action on. They
couldn't tie up the capitol and they couldn't build a set
that big, so they built a construction and photographed the
upper part and then the lower part later. How they did
that I don't know. But he was so important to Metro-
Goldwyn that when his contract expired, why, he just locked
up his studio and left and didn't tell them where he was
going or anything, and he was gone for two weeks. They
practically shut down the studio for that length of time.
So they got busy right away, and he got his contract.
RATNER: What was this print called?
KISTLER: That's The Corral . [next slide] And that's
another one of his, Malibu Mountains . [next slide] That
man — I don't remember his name. I've got it someplace,
but I've forgotten what it is. But that's a proof there.
It's not a signed proof, but he was another motion picture
director. His little sketches on the edge of the stone
there where he tried out his crayons and things, I thought
it was kind of nice to keep the whole thing.
RATNER: Right. That is nice to be able to see that.
KISTLER: [next slide] I can't-- That's another one of
his. Maybe his name is on that.
RATNER: Yeah, it looks like it is. Let me get situated
here. Let's see. Herschel Sanders?
KISTLER: Yes. I'm glad that I discovered that name,
Herschel Sanders. Let's see, do I have a slip of paper
that I can write that down on?
RATNER: Well, I'll write it down for you. I've got it
KISTLER: Yeah, I've got it listed and I couldn't think of
his name, and so I'm glad to discover-- [next slide] This
is a man that did Two Coins in a Fountain . You know that
film? It was very popular at the time. The remarkable
thing here is this was done on the offset press, and the
plates were made with a pen that fed the ink down to the
plate. He drew these without a design or anything. This
one here, the black, was drawn without his taking his pen
off of the plate. The other one, I think he didn't do it
that way, but he drew several and he never took his pen
RATNER: What was his name? I couldn't see up there.
KISTLER: Hmm. I can't recall his name now.
RATNER: Okay. [next slide]
KISTLER: I'm trying to think of it. [Jean Negulesco]
Gee, I'm sorry that--
RATNER: It's all right. It will come to you. It's fine.
KISTLER: --my memory is so bad on these things. I--
RATNER: Your memory is great. I can't believe you can
remember all of the titles.
KISTLER: You should have interviewed me about two or three
years ago. I was really sharp, and I don't seem to
remember-- This is called House on Fire . His name is
Herbert Ryman. He is a man that did the overall designing
for all four of the Disneyland parks.
RATNER: That's right. I remember you were telling me you
went to his funeral a few weeks ago, right?
KISTLER: Yes. He died just about a month ago, and I went
to his funeral. It was quite a thing,
RATNER: Right, I remember you told me about that.
KISTLER: But this, I thought, was one of his best
lithographs. It's the last one that he did. He was very
much dissatisfied with it. He said that he didn't want it
printed at all, but I pulled two prints. I have one of
them, which I have at the framer's now, and the other one
was sold to one of the motion picture people. I don't know
who. One of the [Walt] Disney [Studio] people, I
presume. [next slide] That's June Wayne. That's Man and
Woman . [next slide] That's another one of hers, and I
don't know what that one is called. Those two are from
stone. I don't have any of her work left. And that's The
Tunnel . [next slide] I don't know what that one is
called. It's another one of June's. [next slide] That's
another one of hers. [next slide] That's another version
of The Tunnel . [next slide] I taught her the lithographic
process, and I worked with her for four years. She was
very demanding in her work. She was very imaginative. Her
concepts were very good, but [next slide] I did an awful
lot of work with her. I worked with her for four years and
taught her the whole process.
This is John Kelly, and that's the three-color
lithograph on aluminum. [next slide] That's another one
of his. He was an able seaman and never graduated from
high school--or any school, as far as I ever knew--but he
was at sea for a number of years and was an accomplished
artist and made a complete set of the ships that came over
here on the two hundred year anniversary of the--
RATNER: For the bicentennial.
KISTLER: Bicentennial of the United States. They sent
ships from all over the world, and he drew quite a number
of them. And I made lithographs of quite a number of
them. [next slide] That's another one of his. He was
interested in trains as well. He was an Englishman. [next
slide] That's another one. John Kelly was his name, and
that's San Francisco Cable Car . Rather peculiar
construction that they have in San Francisco, built right
up to the edge of the street. [next slide] That is the
winter scene by John Kelly [ Winter, New York ] . He was a
very good artist. [next slide]
That is Millard Sheets. [next slide] That's another
Millard Sheets. The first one is called New Arrivals , and
the next one--this one here--is Horse Frightened by
Lightning . [next slide] This is Richard Haines, another
one of my very fine artists, and this is Pueblos in the
Rain. [next slide] This is Bus Stop , and they're both on
stone. [clicks through slides] This is Phil Dike, and
this is Balboa Harbor . [next slide] And this is Balboa
again. This is Phil Dike, another one of his. [next
slide] This is Marcia Maris, She was the wife of Peter
Morse, who is an expert on prints.
KISTLER: Do you know of him?
RATNER: Well, we talked about him, and I know a little bit
about him, too.
KISTLER: Yes. [next slide] This is a very complicated
thing. This is four colors printed from a single plate.
RATNER: This is by her also?
KISTLER: Yes, Marcia Maris. I turned those around each
time, and there's four colors over the four printings: red,
yellow, blue, and black.
RATNER: That's interesting.
KISTLER: They all fit, and how she did that I don't
know. It's an impossibility as far as I'm concerned,
because every one of those had to fit over the other.
[next slide] This is another thing that I did with her,
and there's twenty-eight plates on that.
RATNER: What was that called?
KISTLER: Rainbow Castle I think is what it was called.
Those are all little spots of color, and they're registered
perfectly. It's a method of registration that I worked
out. The way that she did that was to make an overall
drawing, line drawing, of the whole thing, and then she
colored the various areas with twenty-eight different
colors and twenty-eight printings in that. White lines run
between each one of the little dots that make up the
picture and are absolutely in register. It's a wonderful
piece of work as far as her work is concerned. The
registration method that I worked out on it was quite
unique, too--make twenty-eight plates that print and
register. That's twenty-eight plates printed and
registered. [tape recorder off]
Yes. That's the only lithograph I ever did with
Lorser Feitelson. It's a very fine piece of drawing. I
put in about ten or twelve years trying to get him to do
another one, but he never would do it.
RATNER: It's really lovely.
KISTLER: Yeah, it's really a very nice thing.
TAPE NUMBER: X, SIDE ONE
MARCH 21, 1989
RATNER: Okay, so we just flipped the tape, and we're
continuing on looking at some of the prints that you've
KISTLER: Yeah, well, this is just a bunch of — I've
forgotten this man's name. I did-- Well, there it is
RATNER: Is it Noel something or--?
KISTLER: Noel Quinn.
RATNER: Noel Quinn.
KISTLER: Yeah, I did a series of racehorses with him, and
they were impressionistic. I thought that the horsemen
would be crazy about this because it reflects the racing
spirit and everything, but I found out that the horsemen
were not in the least interested in the spirit of the
race. The thing that they were interested in were the
points on the horses and things like that. I worked with
one woman that was up on the various aspects of the horse,
you know. I did some lithographs with her on that, and
they had to be exactly right as far as the horse was
concerned. And they'd just go for those. She sold quite a
number of the things that I printed. [next slide]
This is Pablo O'Higgins, an American who migrated to
Mexico and became a Mexican. He was quite a character and
has quite a display in the museum in Mexico City of his
work. [next slide] This man was very delightful to work
with. His name is--
RATNER: Don Freeman?
KISTLER: Don Freeman, yes. He had a drawing in the New
York Times for something in the theatrical section once a
week, in the Sunday edition, for about, oh, ten or maybe
twenty years. A very competent artist. He was interested
RATNER: And what was this one called?
KISTLER: That's the —
RATNER: Plights of Stardom it's called.
KISTLER: Yeah, Plights of Stardom . That's a two-colored
lithograph. He was a San Diego man that migrated to New
York and really made a name for himself. He, in
collaboration with his wife [Lydia Freeman], who lives in
Santa Barbara and is still living, wrote, oh, a number of
children's books. [next slide] That's the sort of thing
that he was interested in, the Man with Bird on His Head .
[next slide] This is one of the few lithographs that--
What ' s his name? He did The Woodcutter .
RATNER: Paul Landacre?
KISTLER: Paul Landacre, yes. It's a beautiful drawing,
and his use of the various tones that are possible is
outstanding in this. He wanted to do more, but he was
cutting woodblocks and he became a very fine wood
engraver. I encouraged him to keep on with his woodblock
work and abandon lithography, although he was very good at
it, but his woodblocks are outstanding. [next slide] This
is a son of one of the prominent actresses. She was a
comedian. I can't think of her name. Is there--?
RATNER: No, there's nothing on there.
KISTLER: That's not signed. I can't recall that. [next
slide] This is Peter Hurd. It's called Pioneers , and I
printed five hundred copies of that by hand from stone. I
did just this one lithograph with him. [next slide] That
man, I can't recall his name now either. I think it's
signed there. But he was interested in Indians and did
quite a number of Indian things. Can you see his name
RATNER: Well, it wasn't on the other one. Let's see if
it's on this one. John-- Oh, I can't read his last name,
[next slide] I can't tell what his last name is.
KISTLER: This is the son of a man that did all of those
African things, books on Africa. His name is on there.
RATNER: John Coleman- -
KISTLER: Burroughs. Yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs was his
father. He was a splendid artist. [next slide] That's
another man that was very prominent in Los Angeles here.
RATNER: Ejnar Hansen.
KISTLER: Yeah, Ejnar Hansen. He had this plate, and he'd
bring it in to me, oh, four or five times I think. He'd
just have one or two or three prints pulled, and that's
all. But he kept adding to it. [next slide] This is Bob
[Robert] Majors, who was a very fine artist. [clicks
through slides] And this is by that girl there. Geez, I
just can't seem to dredge up any of these names. But look
RATNER: Alice Asmar?
KISTLER: Yes, Alice Asmar. [next slide] Tyrus Wong, a
Chinese boy. These are a couple of horses that he drew,
[clicks through slides] That's one of the finest prints I
ever pulled. I can't think of his name right now.
Probably it's on there.
RATNER: Very faint. Let me see if I can see it. I can't
tell. It's on there so lightly I just can't tell.
KISTLER: [next slide] This man was a barkeeper at the
Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. His things were all
abstract. This is an unusual print, because he covered
this whole area that's on stone with tusche and then he
scraped back there. And he had these kind of forms in
mind. Is that signed or not?
RATNER: I don't see it on there. [next slide]
KISTLER: This is a San Diego man. He is very well
known. His name is on there.
RATNER: Everett Jackson?
KISTLER: Everett G. Jackson, yes. [next slide] This is a
Texas gal from San Antonio. She came over here and did
quite a number of prints with me.
RATNER: Vera, let's see. Vera — I can't tell what her last
name is. [Vera Wise]
KISTLER: [clicks through slides] That man, he-- That's a
gold dredger on the Sacramento River [ Gold Dredger ] . He
was a marvelous artist, but he ended up drawing pictures of
Campbell's Soup cans. With that talent-- Let's see, what
was his name? I think it's on there. He was well known.
[Wayne Thiebaud] [next slide] This man was a very good
RATNER: Oh, this is Phil Paradise.
KISTLER: Phil Paradise, that's right. [next slide]
That's another one of his. Those first two were Maria and
Tomas , and I don't know what that one was called. [next
slide] This is Nicholai Fechin. I did one print with
him. He was really a very good artist, but he didn't like
it, because I was printing from stone at that time, and he
objected to his drawings being reversed. They didn't print
the way that they were drawn, and I don't think anybody
could tell it--
RATNER: Was that a self-portrait?
KISTLER: No, it's not. It's just a Mexican-- But he did a
whole portfolio that he wouldn't work with me because I
wouldn't reverse his work. [next slide] Here's Palmer
Schoppe. He worked with me as an assistant for a while and
did quite a number of things. [next slide] This is a San
Diego woman. I had quite a few people come up from San
RATNER: Yeah, it sounds like it. [next slide]
KISTLER: This is Beatrice Wood. She had these screwy
ideas. She called this one Holiday . [laughter] It's kind
of cute, I think. [next slide] This one here, I think, is
her impression of an operation [ Operation ] . It's quite
graphic. [next slide] This is Dan Lutz. That's The
Harpist . I did a number of lithographs with him. He was
well known here. [next slide] That one was done by a
woman by the name of Muriel Tyler, and it's a printing of I
think about six colors by stone there. That's before I had
worked out my registry thing. You can see the registration
marks on the edge. I had to put those on there to get them
in the right place. [clicks through slides]
This is kind of interesting. I'm walking down Fifth
Avenue one day and it was during a war, and I saw these
pictures, these strange horses. I said, "Gee, it would
sure be marvelous if I could get that man to do some
lithographs." So he came into my studio one day after I
got back to Los Angeles and was doing lithographs again.
His name was Florencio Molino Campos, and he's one of the
men that-- [Juan] Peron told him to get out of Argentina or
he'd have him shot. So he came out here and he went to
work. He made calendars for about four or five years for
the Moling Plow Company. Walked into my studio one day--
RATNER: You about fell over, I bet.
KISTLER: Yeah. He had quite a bit of trouble with the
medium, but I think that we did capture the spirit of his
work pretty well. [next slide] The first one is Gaucho
Rider and this one is Gaucho Bronco Buster , and those are
four color. [next slide] This is Helen Lundeberg. She's
the wife of--
RATNER: Right, Lorser Feitelson.
KISTLER: They were both lone artists as far as lithographs
were concerned. They didn't work with anybody else, but
they just didn't make any more lithographs. She is a very
well known artist. [next slide] This is Arthur Beaumont,
and he was lieutenant commander in the navy. I did quite a
few things with him. This is Carmel Mission . He was a
very good artist. [next slide] That's Conrad Buff. I did
a couple of lithographs with him. That's American
Pioneers . [next slide] Mary Finley Fry, she did quite a
number of Indian things, and she was a very good
lithographer. I did quite a few things with her. [next
slide] That is Boulder Dam by William Woollett. William
Woollett, Boulder Dam . [next slide] And that is the man
who was in the picture there in the lithograph studio, a
student of mine. And that finishes that now.
RATNER: Great. Well, that was very interesting. A very
wide variety of styles and subject matter also.
TAPE NUMBER: XI, SIDE ONE
MARCH 28, 1989
RATNER: I thought we'd begin today by talking about the
increased interest in lithography beginning in the 1950s.
During the years of your involvement with the field,
interest in lithography seemed to increase. For example,
two well-known workshops opened in New York in the 19 50s.
In 1955, Contemporaries Graphic Art Center opened. The
precursor, I believe, to the Pratt Institute. Then in 1957
Tatyana Grossman started Universal Limited Art Editions,
which, of course, is still going strong. But perhaps the
greatest evidence of the increased interest locally was the
opening of the three print workshops in Los Angeles between
1960 and '70. These, of course, are Tamarind [Lithography
Workshop], which opened in 1960; Gemini G.E.L., which
opened in 1966, by Ken [Kenneth] Tyler, a Tamarind alumnus;
and Cirrus, which opened four years later in 1970, by Jean
Millant, another Tamarind alum. I wondered how you felt
about the opening of Tamarind and its program.
KISTLER: Well, I cooperated with them in the establishment
of their shop as much as possible. It was somewhat of a
departure from my approach to it, and it was a fresh
approach. My approach was to make a place where artists
could have their prints pulled by competent people. I also
did as much as possible to promote the sale of the prints,
but none of it was coordinated enough to really make an
impression. June [Wayne] 's approach was to get more
printers into the field. I didn't feel as though it was
necessary to have more printers. I felt as though it was a
matter of getting competent artists to be interested in the
process. But she felt that by making a lot of printers,
there would be more artists interested in lithography. It
hasn't proved to be the case at all. There has been a loss
of interest in it. And until the artist's work can be
presented to the public in such a way that they will
appreciate the beauty of lithography and the fact that they
can own the work of important artists-- The printers will
develop themselves, and there will be more printers to come
into the work. I would have trained another man to work
with me if there had been enough work available and I had
had enough cooperation.
I was working on to get the people who were competent
to do the work and getting them interested in the method
and in the advisability, the fact that they could
distribute their work on a broader field, and it would make
more work for the artist if I could get it started. But I
was always in competition with what was regarded as more
desirable work, like watercolors and oils. And I thought
that the lithographs would lead to the interest in some of
the other processes. In working that way, I found that I
could make work that was just as interesting as paintings
themselves. But it has never been exploited and is still
open, I think, for exploitation. The idea that I had of
getting people interested in art, in good work and
important people in the art field through something that
they could afford to start out with-- It should appeal to
younger people who desire good work, but they haven't
reached the point where they can avail themselves of the
finer work. The things that I have here are satisfying to
me like a very fine painting. I mean, I have work of
important people here that has relatively small cost to
me. I think that that is the way to give people that are
just starting out life an opportunity to have fine artwork
earlier in life. That was the way that I looked at it. It
wasn't so much a matter of having somebody who could make
the prints and do printing from stone; it was a question of
getting the artists that were important and making their
work available to people that could afford it. It broadens
the field of art. Later on, when they get into the money,
why, they can spend $50,000 for a painting. But I felt
that by making these things available at a nominal price,
it would give the artist a broader field and it would make
more work for the artist.
I still think that if somebody would take up this
method right today and pursue the matter vigorously that it
could be as important as many of the other interests that
people have in collecting. My friend Merle Armitage was
not a rich man, and he could never afford the more
expensive things, but he did have the work of very
important people that he bought for a reasonable price.
Like Dame-- Oh, what's her name? That English artist.
[Laura Knight] Her work was very desirable, but my friend
Armitage couldn't afford to buy a painting of hers. But he
could afford that and another one. He gave that to me.
And here's a Rockwell Kent, who was a very desirable
artist. His work was very desirable. For a few dollars,
maybe $25, $50, why, Armitage could afford to pay that much
and he had something of value of his work. And it's an
original. It's not a reproduction. He really got me
interested in the production of prints, and it would take a
man like him to exploit this work. But it never occurred
to me to put him at that, because, at the time, he was
manager of the Los Angeles Grand Opera Company, so he
couldn't give an awful lot of time to it. But he had a
collection of, oh, maybe a hundred or two hundred prints
that he had bought .
I was interested in getting more people interested in
collecting from that standpoint. It would sharpen their
critical sense of art by owning these things. So when they
got enough money that they could afford the paintings and
things like that, why, they would have the experience at a
younger age that would make more art collectors and broaden
the field for the artists. I think it is an important
thing that should be done right now. I would like to see
somebody take it up. I can't do it now, as I'm just too
far along, but it could be done. There could be-- Well,
some of these printers that are working today-- I guess
Cirrus is still going, and some of these others. Another
man that has come here from New Mexico from the Tamarind
Institute [University of New Mexico] is Toby Michel, and I
think that he is probably one of the most competent
printers that I know of.
RATNER: Getting back to Tamarind [Lithography Workshop] a
minute, I did read somewhere, and I didn't know if it was
true or not, that at one point you were asked to be the
head printer at Tamarind.
KISTLER: That's right.
RATNER: What happened with that?
KISTLER: Well, I had established myself and I had
commitments that I had made. I had made commitments in
commercial work. I had to do something to make a living.
I wasn't making enough money out of it, and I had to get
the base for working, so I went into commercial work. It
was fortunate that I did. Otherwise, I don't know where I
would have come out.
RATNER: So when Tamarind got started, I think I also read
that you sold some of your stone presses or your stones to
KISTLER: Yes, I sold most of my equipment to Tamarind, I
sold a couple of presses to them, I think, and my stones
and some things that I had.
RATNER: Then later, after Tamarind moved to Albuquerque,
as you just mentioned a little bit ago, I saw in some of
the papers at the [William Andrews] Clark [Memorial]
Library that you had a subscription to their fax sheets,
you received their press releases, and you began, I think
about 1975, getting copies of The Tamarind Technical
Papers . Then Clinton Adams, who was running it at that
point, invited you to submit a manuscript.
RATNER: Can you tell me about that?
KISTLER: Well, I never did anything with it.
RATNER: Oh, you didn't?
KISTLER: No, I was too involved. I hope to be able to
submit some papers now, starting with Ryman, Herbert
Ryman. I was about to call his sister, who has some
essential information and dates and things like that. I'm
going to get in touch with her, and I'm going to do a paper
on his lithographs. I'm starting to work on it now.
RATNER: I think, though, that you did submit something--
maybe it was just a small article — called "Correcting or
Changing Lithographic Drawings" that was printed in those
papers in 1979.
RATNER: That was a smaller article, I guess?
KISTLER: Yes. I don't remember much about it, but I
presume I did.
RATNER: So then when Gemini opened in '56, how did you
feel about that program?
KISTLER: Well, I don't know. They were just another group
in the field. I didn't have much contact with them. I was
so busy in my own shop that I couldn't get around to
theirs, and I guess they were so busy that they couldn't
get around to mine.
RATNER: And how about Cirrus, which focuses primarily on
Southern California artists?
KISTLER: Well, they were just another competitor in the
field. I didn't have any contact with them much.
RATNER: So there evidently was some increased interest, or
there wouldn't have been a need to open those shops.
KISTLER: Yes, but that was the later things. I was in the
field back in 1932.
RATNER: Right. You paved the way.
KISTLER: Yes. The only competition that I had at that
time was the Works Progress [Administration] . They
established a lithograph shop. There were a few artists,
but they just took anybody that came along- -as I did,
too. They didn't concentrate on trying to get good men in
the field to work for them. They just tried to develop the
artists into lithography that were on the Work Projects.
They were on the Work Projects because they didn't have
sufficient income from their work to sustain them. It was
sort of a charity situation.
RATNER: Okay, then in 1970, after you had been in the
field for a very long time and had been in a variety of
locations, you moved your plant, once again, to 970 Menlo
Avenue. What prompted that move? I guess you had been at
Temple [Street] before that.
KISTLER: Well, 970 was my home. That was an apartment
that I lived in. I think that I had a plant at that time
at Washington [Boulevard] and Normandie [Avenue] .
RATNER: Okay. I must have misunderstood that. So what
prompted the move from Temple Street to this next location
at Washington and Normandie?
KISTLER: From Temple Street? Well, I was doing so well
with my commercial work that I had to have larger
facilities, and I just expanded my business, that's all.
RATNER: So it was a bigger space.
RATNER: Well, in a letter of about that time to Jean
Chariot, you say--I'm quoting here--"The print business is
good and getting better all the time. I have worked in
offset rather than stone for a long time. I have had quite
a time getting my work accepted, but the turn has now
come. After much experimentation, I believe I have
achieved quality in my printing equal to that of handwork
on stone." Then that's the end of the quote. What do you
feel changed the tide of opinion?
KISTLER: Why, I couldn't tell you what it was.
RATNER: You're just glad it happened.
KISTLER: Well, yes. I think somebody came along and
offered me enough money that I was justified in getting out
of the business. I was getting along pretty well in years
at that time. In 1970 I was seventy years old.
RATNER: Well, so when you said the print business was good
and getting better all the time, were you speaking of the
commercial end of it or the art end of it?
KISTLER: I don't know what prompted me to say that. It
was just enthusiasm that--
RATNER: Because you say in this letter to Chariot for
November 1970, "I'm sure you didn't realize all of my work
is now done on offset, eliminating the need for reversing
the image. New materials, inks, and lacquers now make
possible this way of working in lithography more responsive
to the artist's talents and removing many of the
RATNER: So you were-- I know, as we've talked, you were
still printing for Chariot at that time and for Millard
Sheets. How often were you working with other artists
during the seventies?
KISTLER: Well, I was also working with Joe [Joseph]
LELAH KISTLER: Well, you were past seventy in 1970.
KISTLER: Well, I meant in the seventies. I was, yes,
getting along pretty well in years, and I wanted to-- I
felt as though I had done an awful lot of work and I was
RATNER: So were you printing with any other artists
besides Mugnaini, Sheets, and Chariot at that point?
KISTLER: Well, I did some work with Millard Sheets and
with-- Yes, there were several artists who came to me that
I worked with at that time. I can't remember the names of
all of them.
RATNER: But you focused primarily on commercial work.
KISTLER: Yes, I had to have an income. Then there's an
outfit that came along and offered me enough money to take
over my commercial business, and I thought, "Well, gee,
there's no use fighting this any longer," because the
printing business is a very demanding business. You've got
to be at it-- Or you did at that time have to keep your
attention on your business very actively to make a
success. I had a successful business, and there's an
outfit came along and offered me a good price for my
shop. So I sold it.
RATNER: That was in 1976, I think I read, that you decided
KISTLER: Yes. I did retain one press, though, which I
worked with. That's when I moved, first to-- Let's see.
There was a print distributor that I worked with for a
while, and I took my press out there and printed. Then I
moved from there down to Washington and Normandie. At that
time my pressman got this allergy to the acids and
things. I saw that it was necessary to make a large
investment to make a safe plant, and I didn't want to bring
anybody else in and train them unless I could put in an
RATNER: Right, I remember you mentioning that.
KISTLER: Tamarind has found that it is necessary. Their
whole operation is air-conditioned. They work with a great
deal of care as far as the handling of the chemicals and
the acids and things like that are concerned. I wasn't so
careful, and I commenced to have trouble with my hands
breaking out and everything. So I just figured that it
wasn't worth my going ahead with it. Because I was in my
eighties then, and that seemed to be too far along to take
up a big project of putting in a plant and paying for it,
because I knew that it would take quite a long time to
develop it to the point where it would be profitable.
RATNER: I know that you did some printing after 1976, when
you sold the plant, though. Where was that press that you
kept? Because I know, for example, in '77, and even a
little later, '78, you were still working with Chariot. So
where was the press that you were using for that?
KISTLER: Well, that was at Washington and Normandie.
That's where I did the last thing with Chariot, which was
Kei Viti .
RATNER: Right. That Polynesian--
KISTLER: That series of five prints. And I also finished
up the Ten Views of the Moon for Joe Mugnaini there.
RATNER: At that plant.
KISTLER: But I found that I would have to train another
printer, and it was hard to find anyone that had the
temperament that could work with the irregularity that we
had in printing by the offset method, that needed to be
organized in such a way that it could be profitable. Air-
conditioning was an absolute necessity at that time. It
became evident as an absolute necessity.
RATNER: Okay, I also wanted to ask you-- Actually, a year
before you sold your plant, in 1975, Merle Armitage died.
How much contact did you have with him during those years
previous to that?
KISTLER: Well, Armitage moved out into the mountains out--
oh, let's see- -near Mount San Gorgonio. He found a place
there that he was fond of. He discovered it when he was
with the military and he was doing procurement work for
them. He was sort of the man that would take and push
things, you know, and get them done. He was rather
reckless with the chances that he took, and, of course,
it's people that take a chance that really make the
discoveries. It's these people that sit around and have to
have everything perfect before they do anything that never
get anything done, although they might be quite competent
if they'd just move. But Armitage was one of those people
who could take a situation and make it work. He was a very
good executive in that respect. He was the kind of man
that overcame difficulties as they arose. Very often it
seemed as though he was putting himself very much out on
the limb, but he managed to get them through. There was a
demand for getting things done in the Second World War, and
that was what he was doing. So he had to do quite a bit of
flying for procurement and things like that, and he passed
over this area around the back of Mount San Gorgonio that
he liked. So when he got out of the army, he decided he
would retire there. That's out at Apple Valley. So that
was the reason that he located out there, because he loved
the outdoors, and he was pretty well along in years too at
that time and was ready for retirement. I used to go out
and see him quite often, maintained an association with
him, but we had no projects or anything after he came out
of the army.
RATNER: Then also in 1975, that was the year you had a
show at Cal[ifornia] State University, Northridge, of the
books that you had printed, many of which, of course, you
printed with Merle Armitage, and we discussed those earlier
RATNER: How did that exhibition come to be?
KISTLER: Well, it was arranged through my friend Carl
Haverlin, who was the manager of Broadcast Music
Incorporated [BMI]. He was a boyhood friend, and we had
projects together in later life of one sort and another.
He was always interested in the printing work that I was
doing, and he got me in touch with some of the people at
Northridge. And I gave them some books out of my library
and some prints. My work was known amongst artists in the
[San Fernando] Valley, so that they became interested in
what I was doing. I have a collection of books that I gave
to them. They have quite a few of my prints out there.
Carl Haverlin was responsible for making that exhibition
possible. They had a meeting at which I was the honored
guest, and that's how it came about was through my
friend. Interestingly enough, Carl was one of those
people, too, that could get things done. I usually figured
out what we would do, and he, with his enthusiasm, would
take them up and put them over. [laughter] I gave him the
idea very often, and he was the one that carried out the
execution of them. He was a very good organizer and things
of that sort.
RATNER: It seems like it was an interesting exhibition.
KISTLER: Yes, it was, and they have my work out there now
RATNER: The books and things.
RATNER: That's great. Then in 1975, I discovered--!
wasn't sure if this was before or after you sold your
plant- -you were on a trip to New York and you met with the
art historian and print expert Hyatt Mayor, who urged you
apparently to establish a printing plant in New York. Tell
me about that meeting and your reaction to his suggestion.
KISTLER: Oh, that was during the war, and I didn't want to
locate in New York. He urged me to come back there and go
to work, but it was during the war, and there was
substantial competition there in [George] Miller, who was
doing a very good job and has done more extensive work than
I have in lithography. So I didn't think that it was a
good idea. Of course. New York tries to get as much
notoriety there as they can. They saw a possibility of
getting some of Southern California's notoriety, but I knew
that I didn't want to locate there permanently. So I
didn't do anything with it, although he did urge me to
establish my work there. But during the war it wasn't a
good idea. I left before the war ended and came home
anyway, and I was glad to get back in Southern
California. My reason for going to the East was my wife at
that time [Naomi Tucker Kistler]-- Her sister had married a
man and gone back East, so she [the sister] was pregnant--
and I had my home at 3060 Patricia Avenue in Los Angeles at
that time--and she said that she was going to go back to
stay with her sister until the baby came. I happened to be
at loose ends at that time, and I told her that I would go
back there with her if she was going back there. Because
she went back once before and stayed about four months, and
I practically had to get the police out to get her back,
[laughter] So I--
RATNER: You didn't take any chances that time.
KISTLER: No, SO I went back, too. Because I didn't want
to be alone in my house. I had a beautiful house on
Patricia Avenue. It was individually designed and
everything. One of the builders came and went through the
place and said, "My God, this man put more wood in this
place than is needed." He says, "It's built like a
[inaudible]." [laughter] It was really very nicely
done. At that time I bought a lot in a very nice
neighborhood in Cheviot Hills for $1,000--
KISTLER: --if you can imagine that.
RATNER: No, I can't.
KISTLER: This house, which was all individually designed--
It wasn't put up like they are now, you know. They take it
and make a whole lot of houses and cut them up and have
them so they are put together. You've got to have a
pattern to put them up in, but they're all the same. There
would be dozens of them in a tract that would have the same
layout and everything else. But mine was individually
designed, hand-rubbed ceilings and everything. It was a
beautiful five-room bungalow, two bedrooms and a dining
room and a living room and a kitchen. And the building
cost me about $2,500. Isn't that amazing?
RATNER: Yes, it's upsetting today. [laughter]
TAPE NUMBER: XI, SIDE TWO
MARCH 28, 1989
RATNER: Okay, right before I flipped the tape, you were
telling me about your house that you built for $2,500.
What were you able to sell it for, then?
KISTLER: I sold it at the end of the war for $20,000.
RATNER: So you had quite a profit.
KISTLER: Yes, it was a profit. That gave me the money to
buy the place at Carondelet [Street] and Third Street. The
Carondelet and Third Street nearly broke my wife's heart
because-- I had to do something. There weren't any jobs
that I could get that would pay a decent wage, and so I had
to get out and hustle them myself.
RATNER: Oh, so that's when you opened that plant.
RATNER: Okay, well, jumping way up to 1981, I read a
letter from Clinton Adams to you dated July 1981. He was
responding, I guess, to a letter you'd written to him
because you were interested in providing Tamarind with
regraining services. I didn't know if stones had become
unavailable or they were--
KISTLER: Well, they were getting scarce.
RATNER: So did you end up doing that?
KISTLER: I was going to do some regraining for them?
RATNER: That's what it said.
KISTLER: Well, that must have been some mistake, because I
never got into that.
RATNER: Maybe it was just an idea or something.
KISTLER: I might have sent them some information on
graining, but I never contemplated doing any graining for
RATNER: Okay. Also in 1981, in November of that year, the
Heritage Gallery in Beverly Hills held an exhibition
"Homage to Lynton Kistler. " Tell me how that came about.
KISTLER: Well, the man who owned the place-- Let's see,
what was his name? [Benjamin] Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz was
interested in my work, so I made my prints available to
him, and he put on an exhibition there and tried to sell
them. But there-- Things that are successful today are
successful because somebody gets behind them and pushes
them, has money to exploit them. The galleries at that
time-- I don't know how they do now, but at that time, they
were just merchants in art, and there hadn't been enough--
Even today there hasn't been enough exploitation of the art
field and the possibility that there is for selling fine
art. It hasn't been done on the scale that some of the
other things are done. Almost everything is sold today
like Campbell's soup. In other words, they spend a lot of
money on the cans and on the labels and on getting people
to buy the product, and the product doesn't cost half as
much as the advertising and the packaging and promotion of
the product. There's never been that effort put on fine
RATNER: But still some changes have occurred since the
thirties in terms of interest in prints, and I'm wondering
how you might characterize the changes in gallery interest,
increased patronage, the increased interest on the part of
museums as well as the increased value of prints over, you
know, this span of time since the thirties when you began
KISTLER: Well, there's been more interest. For instance,
the Los Angeles County Art Association has started out at
what was Exposition Park. They had a gallery out there,
and I did my original exhibits out at Exposition Park. For
three or four years, I think I had nearly half of the
prints in the show sometimes that I printed of various
artists. You know what has happened as far as-- There are
more art dealers today and they're more sophisticated and
they are doing more promotional work, but there has been no
real organization in the associations to sell art to the
public and promote it, and that certainly could be done.
RATNER: Well, how would you summarize your contributions
to the field?
KISTLER: Well, I would say that I became interested in
making art available to the general public on an
inexpensive basis and used lithography as an introductory
method. I feel as though I made a contribution in drawing
attention to an art medium that has developed considerably
since I had my first shop in my garage. I explored the
possibilities and introduced quite a number of innovations
in working and in the method of working in the materials
that were used. I feel as though the work that I did in
the early thirties and forties made a field that some of
the other hand lithographers have been able to exploit
since I first took up hand lithography. I had the first
organized hand-printing shop for artists in Los Angeles. I
was the first one that established a shop for artists where
they could have their work done. I tried to sell it, too,
and did sell quite a bit of it.
RATNER: What would you say were some of your very best
moments as a lithographer?
KISTLER: Oh, I think some of the prints that I've pulled
from the stone. I think that this two-color print here was
one of the--
RATNER: The Chariot Woman with Child on Back ?
RATNER: That was your first one, right?
KISTLER: I think that the work that I did with Chariot was
the most important that I did. The work that I did with
Joe Mugnaini was another one. I was very much pleased with
the work that I did with [Stanton] Macdonald-Wright . He
was a man of great imagination, and he had a theory that
there was a relationship between artwork and music. The
print that I did with him was one of the highlights. The
books that I printed with Merle Armitage were of great
pleasure to me. The first book that we printed offset,
which was a departure from regular book production, was the
[Eugen] Maier-Krieg book [ The Work of Maier-Krieg ] . I was
very much delighted with that, because it was a departure
from regular book production, which depended almost
entirely at that time on work from-- Work in the typeset
books. The first Chariot Picture Book was a high point.
The thirty-two lithographs all hand drawn on the plate and
printed on an offset press from the work of the artist and
from four to eight colors on a 35" X 45" sheet, eight of
them on a plate, registered, I think was-- I don't think it
has ever been equaled to this day. I don't think there is
anybody who has printed anything quite so important as that
book. Did you see it?
RATNER: Yes, I did.
KISTLER: That was a triumph as far as I was concerned. I
also printed a book in my father [William A. Kistler]'s
plant of a collection of Edward Weston's work [ The Art of
Edward Weston ] . Both of those books made the [American
Institute of Graphic Arts] Fifty Books of the Year. So
that I not only excelled in printing in offset, but also in
letterpress. The Edward Weston book was printed by
letterpress, and it became one of the Fifty Books of the
Year. Then there was another book [ Warren Newcombe ] that I
printed. It was the work of Warren Newcombe, a collection
of his paintings, all done in black and white, and that was
printed offset, which at that time was a departure to
reproduction. So that all three of those books represented
a different approach. The first one was printed from
plates that were drawn directly on the lithograph plates
and printed offset. The Warren Newcombe book was a
reproduction of his paintings in black and white. It made
the Fifty Books of the Year, and that was a reproduction
job in offset. The first one was printing from original
plates, and the reproduction in offset, and the third one
was the photographs of Edward Weston, and that was a
letterpress job. So that I was working in all of those
different mediums. My father was a very competent printer,
and I was working for him at the time, but it was my
association with Armitage and my interest in art that
brought those books to our plant to be done. I was as
proud of the work that I did there as any that I turned
Of course, the work that I did with Macdonald-Wright I
thought was outstanding, particularly the eleven-color
lithograph that I printed in my own plant. Those things I
thought were the highlights of my work. I'm very proud of
the work that I did with Joe Mugnaini. I thought that that
was very important. And, of course, this lithograph of
Herbert Ryman I think is one of the finest that I've ever
seen in printing. It was a very demanding thing to
print. We only did two copies. The artist didn't want to
make an edition of it. I pulled one copy for the artist,
which he disposed of to one of the prominent people in the
motion picture business, and the other one, of course, you
saw. So that that was the utilization of the lithographic
process for the qualities that are inherent in the method
itself, which are so important. I think that the print
that I showed you on the door there of Ryman ' s is one of
the finest lithograph prints that I've ever seen. It was
made possible by the selection of the right stone and the
right artist, and I do say myself that I did a good job
printing on it.
RATNER: It's a lovely print. Those things sound worthy of
being highlights definitely.
KISTLER: Another thing that I was very much pleased with
was the little miniature book that I gave you of the
Picture Book , which I thought came out awfully well. I had
a very good binder on it, and it is well done. It tends to
be a little bit muddy in some of the prints, but unless you
just faked a lot as you-- The making of the plates-- It was
made for more or less a record anyway, so that most of them
came out awfully well, came out as well as they did in
their original. But I was very much pleased with that
job. So that's about it.
RATNER: Well, we've talked at length about your career as
a lithographer, and I wondered if there was any--I know
that took up so much of your time. I wondered if there was
anything else with which you were involved over the years
that you might want to mention.
KISTLER: Gee, I don't know. I've just been a lithographer
all my life.
RATNER: A busy one, too, I know. Well, those are really
all the questions I have. Is there anything else at all
that you'd like to add?
KISTLER: No, I don't know of anything.
RATNER: Okay, well, thank you very much.
KISTLER: I can't think of anything except that I've
enjoyed working with you. I think you've been very patient
RATNER: Oh, you've been great. You worry too much. Thank
you very much on behalf of UCLA. I enjoyed the experience
very much myself and learned a tremendous amount. Thank
Adams, Clinton, 130, 185,
196, 202, 224, 225, 237,
250, 283, 295
American Institute of
Graphic Arts, 51, 80, 81,
American Society of
Composers, Authors, and
Annex Gallery, 91
Anthony, Earl C. , 103
Armitage, Merle, 17, 18,
26, 41-42, 43, 46, 47,
49, 54, 56, 57, 62-63,
78, 79, 80-81, 83, 88,
89-90, 92-94, 95-96, 100-
102, 103, 107-9, 110,
119, 128, 134, 149, 225,
281, 289-91, 299, 300
Asmar, Alice, 273
Artists, 73-74, 121-22,
128, 197, 198
Backus, Standish, 129
Baldwin, John, 129
Barr, Thomas, 19, 47, 56,
Barrett, Lawrence, 147-48,
Bartlett, Ivan, 129
Beaumont, Arthur, 276
Beetz, Carl, 129
Berman, Eugene, 205, 219,
225, 227-30, 237, 250,
Biddle, George, 130
Bisttram, Emil, 130
Blanchard Press, 171
Blumberg, Fanny, 130
Botsford, Edwin, 56, 130
Bradbury, Ray, 222-23, 261
Breneiser, John, 56, 130
Breneiser, Stanley, 130
Brice, William, 208, 225
Incorporated, 170-71, 291
Retrospective Print Show,
Buff, Conrad, 67, 276
Burkhardt, Hans, 208
Burroughs, John Coleman,
Byrnes, Barbara, 197
California Printmakers, 76-
California State Fair, 113
78, 119, 291-92
Chabot Gallery, 239
Chambers, Mary Richards
Chariot, Jean, 18, 28, 46,
47-48, 51, 54, 56, 63,
72, 74, 80, 88-89, 94,
100, 118, 128-29, 135-39,
142, 144-45, 147-70, 172-
85, 189, 209, 210, 211,
214, 215, 219, 221, 224,
225, 227, 231, 237, 239,
244, 250-52, 254-56, 285-
87, 298, 299
Chariot, Zohmah Day, 149,
151, 166, 179, 183
Chouinard, Nelbert M. , 142,
Chouinard Art Institute,
22, 140, 141, 142, 185
Cirrus, 278, 282
Clark, William Andrews,
Memorial Library, 49, 52,
135, 176, 178, 192, 283
Claudel, Paul, 51, 168
Cleveland Print Club, 76-77
Contemporaries Graphic Art
Copley Gallery, 197, 199,
201, 202, 203
Craig, Thomas, 131
Dawson's Book Shop, 168-69,
Day, Richard, 56, 80, 131
De Soto, Ernie, 152
Dike, Phil, 129, 208, 219,
Disneyland, 133, 265
Doolittle, James, 11
E. Weyhe, 83, 84
Ernst, Max, 199, 201, 202-3
Escondito Blade , 6
Farmer, Thomas, 131
Fechin, Nicholai, 274
Feitelson, Lorser, 131,
133, 151, 152-53, 208,
216, 227-28, 269, 276
Fleming, Alexander Patrick,
Fleury, Gene, 131
Ford Foundation, 241
Foshay, M. Amelia, 9
Fox, C. Frank, 110
Freeman, Donald, 131, 271
Freeman, Lydia, 271
Fry, Mary Finley, 132, 245
Fuchs and Lang Manufac-
turing Company, 43, 45,
Funk, Joseph, 201, 204
Cans, Robert, 125, 161-62,
Gans Ink Company, 125, 161,
Garden, Mary, 92-93, 95
Gemini G.E.L,, 278, 284
Geritz, Franz, 56
Graham, Martha, 102, 110
Great Depression, 19, 53-
Griner, Jenny, 3
Grossman, Tatyana, 278
Haines, Richard, 132, 141,
Hammond Lumber Company, 12
Hansen, Ejnar, 272-73
Hatfield, Dalzell, 62, 90
Hatfield, Ruth, 62
Hatfield Gallery, 62, 78
Haverlin, Carl, 10, 17, 34,
41-42, 79, 102-4, 170,
Heller, Jules, 201
Heritage Gallery, 296
Hollywood Bowl, 107
"Homage to Lynton Kistler, "
Hurd, Peter, 132, 272
"Impressions Printed by
Hand from Stone and Zinc
by Lynton Kistler at the
Stendahl Gallery, " 56
Jackson, Everett G. , 274
James, George Horton, 8,
Jepson Art Institute, 141
Jones, Isabel Morse, 107
Kantor, Paul, 197
KECA radio station, 103,
Kelly, John, 267
Kent, Rockwell, 64, 88, 281
Kistler, Helen Mikesell
(second wife), 231
(grandfather), 4-5, 35
Kistler, Lelah Morris
(third wife), 2, 3, 4
Kistler, Mamie Chambers
(mother), 5, 6, 9, 11
Kistler, Naomi Tucker
(first wife), 19, 21,
Kistler, Rodney J., 30
Kistler, William A.
(father), 2, 5, 6-9, 11,
14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21,
27, 30, 31-33, 35, 40-41,
51-52, 53, 54, 69-70, 87,
111-12, 126, 135, 182,
195, 299, 300
Knight, Laura, 64, 96, 281
Landacre, Paul, 56-57, 63,
103-6, 132, 271-72
Landau, Felix, 197
Land of Sunshine , 30
Langsner, Jules, 185, 241
Lebrun, Rico, 208, 225
Little Gallery, 197
London, Jack, 31
Lord, Jack, 77, 159, 166-67
Los Angeles Art
Association, 66-67, 76,
Los Angeles Art Institute,
Los Angeles Art Students
League, 23, 24
Los Angeles City Council,
Los Angeles County Art
Los Angeles County Museum
of Art, 106, 165
Los Angeles County Museum
of History, Science, and
Art, 23, 65
Los Angeles Engraving
Los Angeles Grand Opera
Company, 17, 41, 79, 90,
95, 108, 281
Los Angeles Lithograph
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Orchestra, 17, 93, 108
Lovick, Gerd, 57
Lundeberg, Helen, 132-33,
Lutz, Dan, 208, 275
23, 24, 26, 63, 74, 124,
185, 189, 190, 195-96,
205-7, 216, 224, 231,
234, 259, 299, 300-301
Maier-Kreig, Eugen, 42, 79,
96, 98-99, 299
Majors, Robert, 129, 133,
Man Ray, 199-201, 203
Maris, Marcia, 165, 190, 268
Marsh Art Service, 72
Martin, Fletcher, 133
Mayor, Hyatt, 292
McKee, William E., 133
Melzner, Ludwig, 97, 98
Messenger, Ivan, 133
134, 193, 263-64
Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Michel, Toby, 282
Millant, Jean, 278
Miller, Burr, 120
Miller, George, 120-21,
Millier, Arthur, 68
Modern Institute of Art
(Beverly Hills), 197
Molino Campos, Florencio,
Morgan, Marian, 11
Morse, Peter, 158, 176,
Mugnaini, Joseph, 221-22,
250, 260-61, 287, 289,
Napolitano, Giovanni, 100-
Negulesco, Jean, 130, 265
Neuner Stationery Company,
Newcombe, Warren, 26, 27,
57, 81, 82-83, 129, 193
New York World's Fair, 122
Nutting, Myron, 262
Oceanside Wave , 6
O'Higgins, Pablo, 270-71
Orozco, Jose Clemente, 47
Otis Art Institute, 22,
Out West , 8, 30-31
Pajaud, William, 263
Paradise, Phil, 129, 208,
Patrick, James, 133
Perls, Frank, 197
Peron, Juan, 276
Perry, Ernest, 164, 165,
Philbrook, William, 136
Picasso, Pablo, 108
Pinto, James, 133
Plummer, Elmer, 133
Price, Vincent, 197
Prohibition Party, 4
Quinn, Noel, 270
( grandmother ) , 1
Richfield Oil Company, 172
Rivera, Diego, 47
Ritchie, Ward, 91, 105
Rodriguez, Jose, 102, 104
Rohrer, Paul, 195
Roosevelt, Theodore, 7
Ross, Kenneth, 151, 152
Ryman, Herbert, 133, 193,
194, 265-66, 283, 301
Sanders, Herschel, 264
Schoppe, Palmer, 67, 133-
Seeds, Elise Cavanna, 51,
57, 89, 90, 102, 119, 129
Senefelder, Alois, 15, 43-
Sheets, Millard, 22, 26,
73, 75, 90-92, 189, 190,
208, 267, 287
Shore, Henrietta, 57, 88,
89, 134, 181-82
Sloane, Blanding, 57
Smith, Jack Martin, 134
77, 131, 165, 179, 229-
Steep, George Vail, 8, 32
Stendahl, Earl, 21, 57
Stendahl Gallery, 19, 21,
23, 60, 62, 90, 130
Stewart, Virginia, 102
Strathmore Paper Company,
Stravinsky, Igor, 107
Stussy, Jan, 262-63
Swartz, Fred, 218
Swiggett, Jean, 134
Tamarind Institute, 282-83
Workshop, 219, 242, 278,
Thiebaud, Wayne, 208, 274
Tibbets, Lawrence, 11
Tyler, Kenneth, 278
Tyler, Muriel, 275
United States Army, 12
Universal Limited Art
University of California,
Los Angeles, 22, 23, 185,
195-96, 225, 262
University of Colorado,
University of Southern
California, 22, 201, 204,
Van Soelen, Theodore, 249-
Walt Disney Studio, 192-93,
Wayne, June, 185-86, 196,
204, 207, 208, 225, 237,
240, 241, 279, 283
Weston, Edward, 26, 46, 81,
84-85, 86-87, 109, 134
Wise, Vera, 274
Wong, Tyrus, 273
Wood, Beatrice, 26-27, 57,
90, 130, 275
Woollett, William, 276-77
Administration, 26, 91,
Wurdemann, Helen, 66, 76,
Young, Joseph, 165-66
Zeitlin, Jake, 62, 65, 67,
Zigrosser, Carl, 215-16
INDEX OF BOOKS AND PRINTS PRINTED BY
Alphabet For Adults ,
American Pioneers ,
Appian Way ,
April Witch ,
Art of Edward Weston, The ,
Balboa Harbor ,
Balloon Ascension ,
Boulder Dam ,
Bus Stop ,
Carmel Mission ,
Castle, The ,
Chicken Woman ,
Corral, The ,
Dragon, The ,
Fifty Photographs by Edward Weston ,
Fit for a King: The Merle Armitage Book of Food ,
Gaucho Bronco Buster ,
Gaucho Rider ,
Giovanni Napolitano; Fifteen Reproductions of 100
His Work ,
Gold Dredger , 274
Green Morning, A , 262
Halloween , 261
Harpist, The , 275
Hawaiian Drummer , 154 155
Henrietta Shore , 88-89, 111,
Holiday , 275
Horse Frightened by Lightening , 267
Hound, The , 261
House on Fire , 265
How To Make a Lithograph , 215-20, 243
Igor Stravinsky , 107-8
Jean Chariot's Prints; A Catalogue Raisonne , 176
Indian Man , 252
Kei Viti , 177, 256, 289
Le Roman Noir , 200
Leviathan , 261
Lithographs of Richard Day, The , 80
Little Seamstress, The , 173-75, 256
Malibu Mountains , 264
Malinche , 252
Man and Woman , 266
Man with Bird on His Head , 271
Maria , 274
Martha Graham , 110
Max Ernst: Thirty Years of His Work , 201, 204
Millard Sheets , 91
Mock Battle , 253-54
Mock Victory , 254
Modern Dance , 102
New Arrivals , 257
Nocturnal Cathedral , 228-30
Operation , 275
Picture Book , 28-29, 48-53,
56, 80, 84,
70, 181, 189,
252, 299, 301
Picture Book No. II , 156-66, 169-
70, 177, 189,
191, 231, 255
Pilgrims , 252
Pioneers , 272
Pisan Fantasy , 258
Plights of Stardom , 271
Pueblos in the Rain , 267
Rainbow Castle , 164, 268-69
Robot World, 261
San Francisco Cable Car, 267
Sunday Dress , 142, 145, 251
Ten Views of the Moon , 289
Tomas , 274
Tortilla Lesson, The , 118, 145, 251
Tower on Mars, A , 222, 251
Tunnel, The , 266
Two Statements by Pablo Picasso , 108
Verona , 259
Visitor, The , 262
Warren Newcombe , 81, 88, 111,
Wash Day , 263
Waterlily , 258
Winter, New York , 267
Woman with Child on Back , 47, 54, 128,
Woodcutter, The , 271
Work of Maier-Kreig, The , 42, 79, 96,