Interview with Andre Emmerich for the Artists Research Group Oral History Project by George Hofmann on May 9, 2001.

GH: This is George Hofmann on May 9th, speaking with the eminent Andre Emmerich, great dealer and collector of note in New York.  And we’ll begin.  

If you would, going back to the 1950s, you mentioned the other day the fact that people perhaps have forgotten the difficulties of those times for artists, for modern art.

AE: Yes.

GH: Among them, many who have taught at Hunter [College]: [Robert] Motherwell, [William] Baziotes and so forth.

AE: They were real life-savers, the teaching jobs.

GH:Yes.

AE:At Hunter, also at Brooklyn – because they allowed artists to teach and get a salary on which they could live in New York City.  There were always jobs in Iowa and places like that.  But that would take you out of the place where you wanted to be, where your fellow artists were, where the museums were, where the galleries were, where the magazines were, where everything happened.  It was a kind of exile.  So that was to be avoided at all costs.

[Laughter]

AE: On the other hand, therefore, the relatively few teaching jobs at Hunter were  triply sought after and fought for.  And from the school’s point of view, Hunter had a kind of preferential access to the best and the brightest.

GH: Absolutely.  Yes.  And, of course, as you mentioned the other day, the artists were really working in a considerable atmosphere of ignorance, really, about modern art, about.

AE: In the world.  Absolutely.

GH: And perhaps the provincialism.

AE: I worked for Time and Life magazines at the time when Dorothy Seiberling – who was the art editor for Life –   ran the now famous article on Jackson Pollock with Hans Namuth’s photographs of Pollack dripping paint on a canvas lying on the floor, and so making his art.

GH: Was it she who wrote that article?

AE: I don’t think she wrote it, but she was in charge of it.  She was almost fired because there was an avalanche of letters to Life as you cannot imagine. Many canceled subscriptions, readers asking: How could you?…; monkeys, children, savage, etc., all were cited.  

GH: Yes.

AE: Whatever was philistine in the world was focused on that article.  There was serious talk that her job was in danger.

GH: But I was under the impression that there was .. somewhat of an interest from Henry Luce, or from the top, in this phenomena of.

AE: There was support, but there was also a very hostile world out there.  After all, Life did run the article.

GH: Yes.

AE: It wasn’t a universal negativism.  But the response was.

GH: Oh, an ape could do this or something.

AE: Exactly.

GH: To that effect.  

AE: A crucial event for my  generation of artists – the generation that had fought WWII – was the G.I. Bill of Rights. And where did everybody go with their GI bill?  They went to Paris.

GH: Of course.

AE: Where did I go when I wanted to become a dealer and see the real art world?  I went to Paris.  And we all came home not long afterwards.  [Jules] Olitski was there, Sam Francis, Ellsworth Kelly, Paul Jenkins, Joan Mitchell .

GH: Jack Youngerman , like that .

AE: All these people went to Paris on the GI bill, where you could live very handsomely.  I had a job for a while there, that paid me half-time a hundred dollars a week on which I could live like a prince.

GH: Of course.  [Laughs]

AE: Especially because it wasn’t taxed by anybody over there.

GH: Right.  [Laughs]  I spoke with Norman Bluhm.  He was one of those who went, and married a French woman, and lived there.  In fact, in his case, it was interesting because he.as some of these others. straddled the Paris art world and the New York art world then, later.

AE: But we all came back.  Now the interesting thing about that is, why didn’t the earlier generation, the Abstract Expressionists, go to Paris?    It’s very simple.  

One goes to Paris in one’s early twenties, when one is free, independent, young, as yet without any roots – no emotional ties except perhaps to one’s parents.  By the time the Abstract Expressionists could  go back to Paris – go to Paris in the late forties – they were into early middle age.  They had roots.  They had wives.  They had jobs.  They didn’t pick up and go off anymore.  They were in their thirties and forties.

GH: They had been too old for the war.

AE: And many had been too old for the war.  A few had tried to go to Paris: Motherwell had gone to Paris, but only briefly. Gottlieb had gone to Paris in the early thirties, but had came home because of the Depression. Motherwell came home because war was clearly on the horizon.  And you couldn’t go to Paris from ’38, ’39 on, until ’49,�50, after the worst effects of the war had begun to recede.  

GH: And then, of course, that generation had the advantage of having some of the French here in New York.

AE: They had all the French here.  That famous photograph of the Pierre Matisse gallery of all the refugees: everybody was here.  And while there wasn’t that much contact, still they were here and you saw their work.  

And suddenly, New York was no longer a provincial outpost but a place where major artists were painting.  And that was a psychologically very important realization, that important things were happening in New York.  

In fact, the world of contemporary art was very, very small.  As late as the late fifties, early sixties,  the show – what was it called?  The Stable [Gallery] Show.  Remember how little the Stable was?

GH: Yes, I do, in fact.

AE: And it had everybody.

GH: That’s true.

AE: And not only in terms of attending the opening, but on the walls!  It was very small.  Openings were on Tuesdays, from five to seven.  And you met everybody.at Betty Parsons, at Sydney Janis, and Sam Kootz, and that was sort of it.  

GH: There was a handful of galleries really .

AE: There was a handful of galleries.

GH: Of any substance at all.

AE: A handful of galleries.  And.

GH: Very small.

AE: I mean abstract painters were out on a limb.  There was, during the war  and in the years afterwards, a great desire to have an American school of painting.  I worked my way through college at Oberlin with a job assisting, as assistant to a curator at the museum.  I think I got the job because I could type catalogue in four languages.

[Laughter]

AE: It paid five cents an hour better than working as a waiter so I got thirty-five cents an hour, not thirty. Big difference!

GH: Yeah.

AE: But.

GH: And there you.

AE: Oberlin bought American regionalist prints, Thomas Hart Benton, John Stuart Curry, Luigi Lucioni .

GH: Grant Wood.

AE: Grant Wood.  I’ve blocked the others.  It was that that was believed would be the great American school of art.  [Leonard] Baskin.  Ben Shahn. Alfred Barr thought Ben Shahn was the most significant American painter.

GH: Yeah. Wow.

AE: In retrospect.

GH: [Pavel] Tchelitchev was another figure of… in this period.

AE: Yes.  That big Tchelitchev hung in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art .

GH: Oh I’ll never forget it!  Fortunately, one flight up was “The  Piano

Lesson” by Matisse!

AE: Yes.  But it was a very small outer-edge world, not in…. 

Today, [Mark] Rothko and [Jackson] Pollock and [Clyfford] Still and so forth, are seen as giants.  There were giants in the land in those years.  However, they weren’t  seen as giants. The world didn’t know they were giants.

GH: This goes to a point that I think is critical for this history, in that I think that their naivet�, in a way, helped them, kept them from pomposity and self-importance.

AE: Yes, no question.

GH: I think maybe.

AE: No question.  And I think they gained a certain amount of support from each other.

GH: Absolutely.

AE: Which was very important because they were very much alone.

GH: Yes.  I sensed this even looking, in the Hunter files, in Baziotes’ records: the letters were extraordinary:  Rene D’Harnancourt, and the head of every museum.  And Motherwell’s letters…. there’s this sense of comradeship amongst them.

AE: Extraordinary, and very much the case.

GH: So amazing, which I don’t think exists.

AE: I met all these people really through a growing friendship with Bob Motherwell, at his house.  And of course,  the other great meeting place was the Cedar Bar.  We forget the degree to which alcohol fueled our social life – 

GH: Right.  [Laughs]

AE: Social intercourse.  And the amount of alcohol that was drunk, generally, in New York.not just by the artists —  

I said I worked at Time and Life.  Nothing much got done after lunch.  I mean – these guys went out, had a double martini and then, in the afternoon, were very relaxed.

[Laughter]

AE: In the morning you got things done. Unless there were deadlines.  

GH: Yeah.  Interesting.  I think that, along the same line, I don’t think that anyone realized at this point that art education, the educating of artists, was in itself changing, because of their involvement with the colleges.  I think it was a radical thing for Motherwell to be teaching at Hunter.  I can see, looking in the Hunter files, how trying it was for the administrative … you know, the academics, the president, the deans, the provosts – to accept these art world figures.

AE: And they didn’t have education degrees.

GH: Of course  not.  And Motherwell was, maybe, the only painter with a university degree at all.

AE: That’s true.

GH: So.

AE: It was — it took courage on the part of the universities and the colleges.

GH: Absolutely.

AE: To take on the artists they did take on.

GH: I think so.

AE: It speaks very well for them.

GH: And I don’t think that anybody quite realized that what then was going to happen in the classroom, was that these artists were going to – very much intersperse their formal teaching with – life experience.  [Laughs]

AE: No question.  They did not adhere quite so strictly to the syllabus.

GH: Absolutely not.

AE: And what they gave their students, I think, was the excitement, the taste, the passion that would lead, those who were reachable, to pursue the field, to learn what there was to be learned.

GH: Yes.  I.

AE: I had a person…  You mentioned, when we were chatting at lunch, the many major painters who came out of those classes.

GH: Yes.  It’s quite amazing. Yes. Well, as I said to you, William Rubin spoke of Meyer Shapiro’s course at Columbia.  And here were all these second and third generation artists: Frank Stella and Carl Andre and Don Judd, as the students, and Allan Kaprow, in that seminar, which in itself was a major turning point, the university-trained artist.  Much more cerebral and so forth, that whole group.

AE: Yes.  That’s certainly true.

GH: Yeah.  

AE: But that was the interaction within the university, and the students and the teachers both.

GH: Yes.  Yes.  I think that’s a little recognized fact that that contributed.  But the significant thing, I think, is that it altered completely the way art has been taught, really, throughout the world, ever since – because, I think, this took root, and went to other cities, other countries and became the norm, the university-trained artist.  

Do you recall at all–?  You know there are…  I think that there are at least two of the artists who eventually were part of, a major part of Hunter: Ray Parker was one, and the other was Ralph Humphrey, whom you may have known –

AE: I knew him.

GH: More closely.

AE: I only knew him through his friend, [Theodoros] Stamos. 

GH: Oh, yes, of course.

AE: And I represented Stamos.

GH: Of course.  I’d forgotten about that.  Yeah.  And do you remember Parker’s coming up at all as a young man?

AE: Yes.  I liked his work.  I thought he was a very good painter.  I still think so.  I think he is now with Joan Washburn.

GH: Yes.  Yes.

AE: And very rightly so.  I think he was always underestimated.

GH: Yes.

AE: But he is still alive or no?

GH: No.

AE: He was a wonderful painter.  I liked his work.  I did not take him on because there are only so many artists you can handle.

GH: Of course.

AE: And I had the impression that his work commercially was not going to do all that well.  It wasn’t doing all that well.  And there was not even much I could do about it.  

I mean, I had the hubris to think that Pierre Matisse didn’t do a good job for Sam Francis, and Martha Jackson either, because they didn’t succeed very well with him.  So I took on Sam on that basis that I could do for him more than Martha Jackson and Pierre Matisse had done.  I couldn’t do very much more for him in New York either because Sam is one of those instances where you have a painter in whom there was always very little interest in New York City.

GH: Because he was so West Coast.

AE: Yes.  Well we’ll come back to that in a moment.

GH: Yeah.

AE: But I sold stacks and stacks of Francis’s to Chicago and Boston and California and Texas, just not to Manhattan island.  

GH: Oh, how interesting.

AE: Just as today, for example, there’s a sculptor called Robert Graham .

GH: Oh�.

AE: From California.  Every California collector’s got a Robert Graham or two.  I’ve never seen one in a Manhattan collection.

GH: Me either actually.

AE: He is a West Coast phenomena.

GH: �. Interesting.

AE: Increasingly, there are artists with a big reputation on their home turf that cannot be sold elsewhere.  In part because they’re already so successful in terms of sales and prices on their home turf that for that kind of money you can get someone much better known over here where you live.

GH: Yes.

AE: For example, a Riopelle, Poliakoff, those post-war School of Paris painters have a major market in Europe, not here.  And if one comes up by chance at auction, they’re bought by European dealers.  But it’s part of the growth of the art world.  

In the fifties, prices were, for art in general, were very low compared to now.  So you could take a flier on this or on that.  And there was altogether –  I’m now talking about collecting and not about Hunter – an open mindedness on the part of the gallery going and art buying public that no longer exists.  

There are two reasons for that, I think.  One is the influence of Surrealism, which had an enormous influence on the taste of my time.  The idea that primitive art, tribal art, American Indian bead necklaces, etc., South Seas objects of all kinds – were beautiful, were worth collecting –  came out of the surrealists.  

GH: That is a very interesting point.

AE: When Surrealism started to ebb this universalist approach shrank. And today people collect a field, a specific more and more narrow field for two reasons: the lack of this catholic.with a lower case c.minded collector who bought a Greek vase and a Maya pot and an African mask and a contemporary painting and a Picasso print or a drawing.

GH: For the form.

AE: For the pleasure.

GH: Yes.

AE: Very typically: a successful young woman executive at Sotheby’s spoke to me one day not long ago and says, “Andre, what field do you think I should collect in?”  Now, to work at Sotheby’s is to be surrounded every week by treasures of all kinds going up for sale – would make me so bankrupt!  I would always want all kinds of wonderful.

GH: Well, perhaps that’s why she said that.  [Laughs]

AE: But now, as you know you must have a field you focus on.  That’s partly fueled, as I said, by the ebbing away of Surrealist taste and by the enormous rise in prices.

GH: The market considerations.

AE: The market.  Everything is suddenly serious money.  When it wasn’t, collecting was much more fun.  

You know that Harvard ran a famous museum training course.  And part of the training course was that the students were given, I think, thirty-five dollars, and later fifty dollars, to buy in the market in New York an object that the Fogg would want to own and would in fact get, and defend that choice to the class.  

GH: Wonderful.

AE: Twenty-five dollars and then it went up to thirty-five or fifty.

[Laughter]

AE: Good luck today!

GH: Maybe in the fifties or the.

AE: Good luck today!

GH: Oh, of course, of course….  yeah.  Interesting, interesting.

AE: I bought a college roommate – when he got married (it must have been in �46) a wedding present at Shatzky’s.  H was a print dealer.  I bought seven Daumier prints.  I think the series was called Mariage a la Mode.  And the prints were seven dollars each.  And I had a colander box made.  The whole thing cost sixty, seventy-five dollars, box, and prints and all.  Well, good luck today!

GH: Right.  [Laughs]

AE: Everything has now become a very serious expenditure – is now  – to be weighed very carefully.  Anyway, in the �50s, there was an open mindedness, too, about art abroad.  Americans loved to buy art by painters no one had ever heard of on a trip to Italy or else Paris.  But that doesn’t happen much anymore.

GH: Well I feel that the war was instrumental in this openness.

AE: Oh, very much so.

GH: Young men at eighteen and nineteen being forced into situations of great foreignness and uncertainty.  I think one of the effects was that it opened them to new things.

AE: Very much so.  They were–.  There was an open mindedness in America in the fifties, forties and fifties that’s remarkable.  

GH: So the Life magazine article was an honest question being posed.

AE: Oh yes.

GH: Skeptics aside – that there was an interest, or curiosity, let’s say.

AE: There were also, of course, remember, at the same time, the philistines.  I certainly remember the Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover with Jackson Pollock’s mother stands there wearing an apron stained with spaghetti all over.  And the kid looks at it.

[Laughter]

GH: It’s a perfect picture, perfect simile for this situation.

AE: That was–.  There is of course, a truth.  People had great difficult in accepting that high art could be made in this fashion.

GH: Yes.

AE: You know, Bismarck made a famous statement.  He said, “No people should know how sausages are made or its government is run.”  

I represented Larry Poons when he had a retrospective at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  And Ken Moffett wrote the introduction to the catalog.  And he made the grave mistake of describing how Larry worked.  Larry worked by taking ten, twelve foot high rows of canvas, tacking them up like a tent all around the room and then standing in the middle with a bucket and throwing bucketsful of paint at the canvas.  That revelation killed his market for a number of years.  How could you make serious art by throwing buckets at the wall?

GH: Oh, it should be a great secret!  I completely agree.  

AE: But when you take people in the back room and show them that, or describe the painting process, then you.

GH: ….seriously –

AE: Take you seriously.

GH: Absolutely.  [Laughs]   Absolutely.

AE: It can’t be.

GH: Yeah.  And yet that period left it’s legacy I think, by spreading out throughout America a certain receptivity.  I mean it was impossible for the universities to keep out modern art.

AE: Absolutely.  They took it in.  I used to joke: I said that Martin Luther was the first abstract expressionist because he threw the bottle of ink at the devil on the wall.  

GH: Absolutely.  [Laughs]  I mean something did happen which eventually melted all of that resistance.

AE: Absolutely.  It melted away.  But I think it melted– it melted with the coming of another generation, with time.  There were many, many obstacles.  I remember that when I joined the Century Club, lady visitors – there were no women members at that time –

GH: Oh really?

AE: Whenever I would walk up the Club’s grand staircase I was reminded that ladies had to use the elevator.  Why?  Because  pictures of nude ladies were displayed in the stairway.  Now why ladies shouldn’t see of undressed ladies always escaped me.  But it was an example of the kind of prudery that translated to many, many forms.  

Good fathers did not buy pictures of nudes if they had daughters living at home.  Why?  Again that would give them bad ideas, presumably.  Very….  

Pictures of nudes always sold at a discount until the Japanese came  into the market.  And they didn’t have nudes in their own art.  So they loved Renoir nudes and other such nudes, and paid a premium for them.  And now, in fact, there is a premium on nudes as opposed to a discount, as there was in the forties and fifties.  

But certainly, the method used to produce art, when it was not seemingly craftsman-like, upset another generation.  It threatened them.  And it’s only with their fading off the stage that these changes have really come in to play.

GH: Well exactly.  The prudish parents’ daughters and sons were attending the universities where they were being taught by these rabid individuals.

AE: And how you got the paint on the canvas was no longer an issue as it had been for earlier generations.

GH: So much of that, I think, happened in the 1960s.  I think it had its roots in the fifties, but blossomed completely in the sixties.

AE: That was a page turned.

GH: Yes, definitely.

AE: A page turned.  The sixties were a watershed decade.

GH: Absolutely.

AE: The fifties were still prim and proper.  And the artists were not prim and proper and therefore were looked at a little bit askance.  

GH: Yes.  It–.  Yes.

AE: I mean–.  I’ll give you–.  The acceptance of art as an important thing, as an important aspect of cultivated life, that was a relatively new thing.

GH: Yes.

AE: There was a charming article about Paul Mellon in the New Yorker a few months ago, a kind of obituary.  And in it is described how his stepdaughter, who went to the Madeira boarding school, came home one weekend with a friend from school.  The girl must have been fifteen, sixteen years old.  And the friend looked around the walls in the Mellon house and said, “Oh, does somebody paint here?”  Whereupon the daughter, the Mellon daughter, said, “Oh dad just buys these at the store.”  

But it is impossible today to conceive of a Madeira student  hearing names like Cezanne, Gauguin and Picasso, and seeing them on the walls of a home, not knowing that these are works of art by important artists.

GH: It’s inconceivable.

AE: It’s inconceivable.

GH: Almost inconceivable.  Yes.  There is a wide, wide.which I think we see reflected in the numbers at the Metropolitan for every exhibition, ten deep in front of every painting.

AE: And not just the Metropolitan.

GH: Yes.

AE: I was amazed…  I’m on the visiting committee at Oberlin.  At one of the meetings there they bussed us to Toledo to see a great Rubens show.  

Now Toledo’s an industrial town.  Rubens is not everybody’s taste.  But there was a line around the block.

GH: Isn’t that amazing.

AE: To see the Rubens show in Toledo, Ohio.

GH: Isn’t that just divine!  [Laughs]

AE: I was really impressed.  And remember that Rubens painted many heavy-set nudes that are not our ideal aesthetic anymore.  Still it was filled to the rafters.

GH: How extraordinary.

AE: With a line around the block.

GH: It’s wonderful.

AE: In Toledo.

GH: That’s wonderful�.. 

Speaking of the sixties, one of the …probably our major figure of that period, of course, was Tony Smith.  And, you know, it is the irony of ironies that his daughter is now an art world favorite.  

AE: But it’s such a very different vein.

GH: Oh completely, completely.  I think what is quite evident in the history of Hunter was how many artists of the next generation were taught by someone like Tony.  So that….  I mean, aside from those faculty who are still there, Doug Ohlson and Robert Swain and painters like that.  

But I remember someone telling me that Pat Lipsky, who is now Pat Sutton, was a student of Tony’s, in a painting class.  And it was, I think, apocryphal, she was said to have been very aggressive and said.

AE: That’s Pat.

GH: “Just tell me how this works.  Just tell me how this goes, this painting stuff”, you know.  

AE: Absolutely.

GH: She was going to, you know, succeed.  And, of course, she did.

AE: She did.

GH: You showed her work.  And she was a very able painter.

AE: Well, we sold her work.  One season we sold twenty-four paintings of hers.

GH: My God.

AE: But then she changed her style.

GH: Yes.

GH: In a way, I think that Ralph Humphrey caught a certain wave for a period�.  So his career ended.

AE: I can think of any number of artists who had very promising beginnings, and then, in terms of popular success, lost their way.  Frank Stella, who is a very intelligent artist, always knew that if you change your image or style, it’s a year or two until the world catches up with it.  Very important to remember that.  

Of course, particularly so in the sixties, when artists were almost required to have an image.  Gottlieb had his bursts.  Pollock his drips.  Rothko his super-imposed rectangles.  And Motherwell his Spanish elegy, and so forth and so on.  If you changed your icon you had to, in fact, make a whole new career.  But that’s no longer quite so true.

GH: Not quite so true.

AE: But it’s… there’s still remnants of it.

GH: But still somewhat that, somewhat that, yes…

AE: Last night – a good example: the little Jasper Johns – one fetched much more than the other.  The numbers didn’t do quite as well as the spiral.

GH: Oh really.  Interesting.  

AE: David Hockney, whom I represented, his swimming pool pictures will fetch five to ten times what another subject will.

GH: Of course.  Yes.

AE: If you want a Hockney, you want a swimming pool.

GH: You want a swimming pool.  Well, it’s again a certain price you pay.

AE: David is so successful that it doesn’t trouble him or impinge on his lifestyle.

GH: Right.  Right.  I’m…  

There are a few artists who.. briefly… were a little at Hunter.  I wonder if you had any contact with some of them.  Helen Frankenthaler, certainly you’ve had a great deal of.

AE: Yes.  I mean I was her dealer from ’59 until what? ’95.

GH: A very long time.

AE: That’s a long time.

GH: Yes.  Yes.  And she is certainly a towering figure.

AE: Well, at the time she was not seen as a towering figure.  I mean Helen is an example of a woman who succeeded in a very big way, after a long period of being written off as only a woman artist, a decorative artist.  And the resistance to her, particularly in Europe – because she is a woman – was major.   She had a harder time being taken seriously.

She, by the way, has done a lot of lecturing at colleges.  I think she enjoys it, obviously.  And I think she influenced a lot of people.  

GH: I think that that could be said of a few people in Art History:  John Elderfield is one who taught for a number of years, a course or two at Hunter.  And I think, did shape some thinking there.

AE: He’s someone I admire enormously.  I like his taste, his eye, insights, his calm objectivity, very impressive.

GH: Yes.  Yes.  Barbara Rose is another person who over the years taught a couple of courses at Hunter.  And I think she, in her own way, was a subtle influence on.

AE: Oh, no question.  And Barbara is  provocative ,in a nice way… to make students think, to think about what they’ve not thought through, the basic premises.

GH: And I think, particularly in modern art history, that was very necessary.

AE: Oh, very.

GH: Because there is a tendency.. to stodginess.. naturally there.  

Two other figures, slightly less well known:  Kynaston McShine taught a little bit at Hunter, here and there. I can’t quite get a reading on him.

AE: Neither can I.

GH: …in a historical sense, except for maybe a brief time in the sixties and seventies… his going to the Museum of Modern Art.  Beyond that I can’t get much of a reading.  And you say the same.

AE: Kynaston… I never worked with him on any project, never really talked with him.

GH: Did you work at all with Lawrence Alloway ever, or.

AE: Yes, I did.  I liked him, in fact.  

GH: He was an interesting figure.

AE: Yes, very.  He was an intelligent early critic who made a real contribution.

GH: I think he did.

AE: I’m one of his fans.

GH: Yes. …shaped some  thought of his period.  In the context: is there anything else that you would want to add to this narrative that you think you want to leave – as a thought for the future.

AE: Well, a thought for the future was simply that Hunter was at the right place at the right time.

GH: Yes.

AE: And, therefore, like a fishnet: if you’re in the right stream at the right time, you’re bound to catch some fish.

GH: They’ll leap in.  [Laughs]

AE: And that’s where Hunter had the great good fortune… of being in the right place at the right time with a very supportive, understanding administration.

GH: Yes.

AE: From what I can tell.

GH: Yes.  And I doubt this would have happened in Des Moines.  I think it took New York to.

AE: It would not have happened in Des Moines.

GH: It took the sophistication of a place that was just in the…at the crossroads of all this coming and going in the forties and late forties – to instigate these changes, I think – of which you were a part.

AE: I went to Des Moines a couple of times in the early fifties because I was working with the publishers of Better Homes and Gardens.  And the man who had an account that I was supposed to try and get for my firm took me to the country club for dinner.  Afterwards, we went to his house for a drink.  And by the fireplace in an armchair was a fat, little black puppy.  My host said, “Get out of there, Grishkin”.  And I said, “Don’t chase the promise of pneumatic bliss.”  

It turned out I was the first man in Des Moines who knew where Grishkin’s name came from, which was in a T. S. Eliot poem about “Grishkin, re Russian eye underlined for emphasis/Her bosom gave the promise of pneumatic bliss”.

[Laughter]

GH: Right.

AE:    And later on, when I went to Paris, we became friends, he and I. He had a passion for the works of Henry Miller, which in those days of course, could not be sold, printed, or imported in this country.

GH: Yes.

AE: It was considered pornography.  And down the street from my little hotel on the Rue d’Universite  was the bookshop of the French Evangelical Church.  So that’s where I bought the Henry Miller books for him.

[Laughter]

AE: And, as it was a church-affiliated bookshop, no postal inspector bothered to open my packages with the Henry Miller books from the famous Olympia Press.

GH: [Laughs]  Thank you very much, Andre.

AE: My pleasure.

 

END OF INTERVIEW