Interview with Jeanne Bultman, widow of Fritz Bultman, December 12, 1997, in New York City, with Elizabeth Simonson and Jenesene Payne.
ES: This is Elizabeth Simonson and Jensene Payne, interviewing Jeanne Bultman on December 12, 1997. Well, I guess one of the first questions I was wondering about is how you met your husband…
JB: That was long before Hunter. I met him in Provincetown, where a friend of his had taken me for the summer, with another student. They were all students at the Hofmann School at that time. And I started going out with this man and he said, “Let’s drive up to Provincetown. I have a really good friend, Fritz Bultman. I really think the two of you will get along fine.” So we did, just casually, and he introduced me to Fritz, and he was working in the Hofmann Summer School. This was June, 1942.
JP: Let me ask you what the Hofmann School was?
JB: Hans Hofmann School. He had been in New York, and he had summer sessions in Provincetown. This was during the war. It was very small that summer, maybe ten to twelve students, and Fritz had been a longtime friend of the Hofmanns, so he was living in the house. It was connected to the school. So Mrs. Hofmann rented rooms to them. Anyway, that’s how we met. Then, I stayed for the summer and my friend went off to work somewhere, and I had found a little place. I said, “What am I going to do all summer?” I had to have something to do, to make a little money. And so I became a model in the Hofmann School that summer. I had been at the Art Students’ League.
JP: As a student yourself?
JB: No, as a model. I was not an art student. So that’s how we all became acquainted, and that’s how I met my husband. It was like a family. It was so small that summer. They had life
classes every morning, and so it sort of kept me going, and we all had a lot of fun besides. So that’s how I met him, and then later, in 1943, we were married. In 1944 we bought a little
place there and built a little house, and I still own it. And my children are grown.
Later Tony Smith, who was connected with Hunter, built this studio. That was 1945. And of course it’s still there, the studio, and Fritz always used it. But Tony and Fritz had a very close relationship. They were in the New Bauhaus in Chicago together in 1938, and Tony had come from Frank Lloyd Wright out West and Fritz had come from Germany, an advanced school in Germany. But he and Tony met and became very, very good friends. Then he built this studio for us in Provincetown. Then, much later, they both went out of the country together and they had this really good thing, giggling and laughing, saying how can Hunter hire the two of us? “Neither one of us have even been in college and have a degree.” But they did. And that was sort of amazing. Of course, they were professionals and people at that time, I mean, as artists, they were growing, and that was fine. You didn’t have to have a degree. And I think that was in the early sixties. Fritz had been teaching at Pratt with George McNeil, and Bob Motherwell. this is how Fritz happened to teach at Hunter – Bob Motherwell was our neighbor and lived behind us at that time, on 94th Street, and he and Fritz were very friendly. He’d tell me and Fritz, “I really am through teaching, I want to stop teaching, I’ve really had it. Would you take my classes?” or something like that. I’m not sure quite. But anyway, it was his suggestion that Fritz start teaching at Hunter. And he liked it, in the first place because he could walk to work if the weather was nice, and, and he only taught…I think he only taught at night, in the graduate school. And he was ready for that, too. I don’t know when Tony Smith started, maybe a little afterwards. He had been teaching at Pratt, too. But then the two of them were teaching at night. Of course they put Tony’s big piece of sculpture out in front [of Hunter] and so that was a nice sort of warm combination.
ES: Yes, that’s very interesting, the connections that were made during that year that…
JB: Maybe it was fifty nine, fifty eight.
ES: I think it was.
JB: I think it was the late fifties, it wasn’t quite into the sixties.
ES: Did he [Fritz Bultman] enjoy teaching?
JB: Yes, he just loved teaching. He liked knowing what the young people were doing and what they wanted to learn. He was a natural-born teacher. He really gave them so much. But he just liked to get in with them and talk to them, and he brought them home a lot, after classes, and talked and talked and talked, and really then he began to realize he wasn’t keeping much time for his own work. But he did enjoy teaching, because there were always two to three in a class that were very talented. He always managed, if there were twenty-five, he could find two to three that were really serious. Particularly I remember the girl students who said all they want is to get their degree so they can go on and teach. And they weren’t really dedicated to being individual artists, but he liked them, too. He kept up with a lot of them. But his real concentration was on these young people that really wanted to be artists.
ES: As I mentioned, I had spoken with Robert Huot a couple of months ago, and he spoke so finely of his involvement.
JB: Well, they had a great time and became very close friends. That’s why it was so nice he could do the retrospective at Hunter. He really threw himself into it, and had some projects for his students, because then he took Fritz’s job. Huot was like one of the best pupils that Fritz had, so he suggested that. I don’t know if it was right after or maybe a little longer, I don’t know. But anyway, that’s how he got into it, because he had graduated and he wanted to teach. Hunter… I
think has had this sort of chain reaction…. whatever it is.
ES: I had also read the interview between Fritz Bultman and Irving Sandler.
JB: Yes, it was in the Archives.
ES: Right. And the way that your husband spoke about his relationship with Hans Hofmann was so similar in admiration to the way Robert Huot spoke about Fritz Bultman.
JB: Yes. It was sort of father/son, father/son. It was just interesting that that would happen.
ES: And it was almost identical. I was wondering what your husband had shared with you about his experience with Hans Hofmann? You were probably actually there watching.
JB: I was there some, but not entirely. The Hofmanns had never had any children, and Fritz had been born and raised in New Orleans, and he wanted very much to get away from home. It was in 1935. He was very young. He graduated from high school, I think, at sixteen, and went right over to Europe. His mother and father wanted to give him the advantage. He really wanted to study art from twelve on, and in 1935 in New Orleans, there wasn’t very much art culture. I mean, there was a museum, but you know, there weren’t even very many publications out at that time. There were a few art magazines, but he hadn’t seen anything except what he’d seen in magazines, so he got over to Europe with a group; it was one of those junior year in Europe groups, and he just sort of tagged along with them. But once he got there, he didn’t stay with them. They were studying, and they had some classes classes going on, and they made a great deal over the fact that they mustn’t have a nude model, and he had already been drawing from a nude model out of school in New Orleans since he was twelve, and he said this was just ridiculous. So he kind of left the group, and he ran into a couple of them there, who said “Oh well, we have rented some rooms here with a lovely German woman, and she feeds us and takes care of us and she teaches us German”, and it was Mrs. Hofmann. Mr.Hofmann had left the country in 1931 and gone to San Francisco to teach, and this was 1935, and she had tried to keep his school up, but hadn’t done too well and wasn’t really ready to follow him yet. In those days she thought…a lot of people in those days thought…that Hitler would come and go. He was there, but they didn’t really take him that seriously.
JP: What city was this?
JB: In Munich. And she was not Jewish. They just thought “Oh well, he’ll come and go.” And they had a lot of paintings; she had this big apartment full of paintings. So Fritz moved in with her. There were two to three other Americans there also, and she started telling them where to go and took them. They did a little side trip to Paris and another little side trip to Rome, and she became part of his education. Of course, he adored her. She was warm and motherly.
So that was the way the Hofmanns became his family. Then he was there until 1938. He was there quite a while. Then when he came back, of course, and went to study with him, she didn’t come over until just on the last boat and was it August 1939[?], or whenever it was, that she just barely got over. She still didn’t really want to come, but then she had to. But then of course they became his parents in New York, and kind of took care of him, and he really just loved them like parents, and that was the connection.
ES: I’m not sure of some of the history here. I know at some point, maybe it was after he was in Europe, but he was at the New Bauhaus.
ES: Was that before he was able to work with Hans Hofmann?
JB: With Hans Hofmann.
ES: Did he contact him right away?
JB: No, he came back from Europe and went right to the New Bauhaus, and then he met a lot of other…
ES: How was that for him?
JB: Well, he and Tony didn’t like it at all. They broke up the school in the spring. They said they didn’t really teach fine arts. It was a design school, and they really wanted to teach them how to make wonderful commercial things. It was commercially oriented, instead of fine arts. And he and Tony and Gerry Kambrowski and some other artists, they just really fought the school, and then they didn’t leave until school was out in May, but that was the only year that it existed as “The Bauhaus” in America. The next year it became an institute, Illinois something. But it was more commercially oriented.
JP: Who was the chair?
JB: Moholy [Nagy].
ES: That’s what it was.
JB: Yes, he was there, and Chermayeff and the other one, an architect. Well, anyway, you can look all that up.
JB: That was his connection.
ES: That’s where he met Tony Smith?
JB: That’s where he met Tony, and their friendship really was strong. They were very funny together, were good friends. And he introduced Tony to his wife, Jane, and then we all lived
together for a while. You did in those years. Between marriages and getting life together.
JP: We were wondering about the community in this area [East 94th and 95th streets between Lexington and Third Avenues] There was Robert Motherwell…
JB: Well, Motherwell was first. He came up, and there were a lot of houses for sale. We bought ours in 1956. But he had already been here a couple of years, because he had children that
went to school in the neighborhood.
JP: Was he married to Helen Frankenthaler?
JB: No, he was married to the children’s mother at that time, her name was Betty. And then knowing Fritz through the art thing. Fritz’s mother died and we had $10,000, and Fritz had
thought, maybe we could buy a house, because we were living in an apartment. A studio separate wasn’t too good. Our children were already in school in this neighborhood a little over a month, so Bob insisted that we come up and look. We got home [and said] “The East 90’s, it’s much too far north. We want to live in the Village.” We looked in the Village, and the houses there were too expensive, we couldn’t afford them. And Bob said, “The houses up here, they’re all $30,000.” In those years, if you had $10,000, you could buy one. So we caught on pretty quickly. We looked around and there was this house and the one next door, and several others for sale too. So we kind of latched on to this, and we went looking for an artist to buy the house next door. And we found Giorgio Cavallon, who was also of that age group,[he] didn’t teach at Hunter. He was married to a painter, that was Linda Lindeberg. They were also moving out of the Village, because it became too expensive. So, that’s how it happened; …other artists came later, like Rothko, and other artists, lesser known… in the block. But it was quite a group of houses with artists in them.
ES: Then this group… because there’s so many that were living here that were also in the Provincetown area.
JB: Somewhat, yes. Motherwell went, also Cavallon, and so did Rothko at one point. Yes, he went to Provincetown. See, East Hampton was still…I don’t know, it wasn’t as populated as
it is now, but the artists more went to Provincetown because it was a longer tradition.
ES: I was interested in talking about that whole topic. You both ended up spending a lot of time up there. I know Judith Rothschild was there as well, and there was that whole group.
ES: So Mr. Bultman helped organize that Provincetown Art Association, right?
ES: He did not?
JB: No, that was organized in 1915, long before he came along. And he wasn’t even that interested in it. Neither was Motherwell or Hofmann, because they were not catering to the
abstract artists. They wanted the traditional New England artists who painted landscapes, and they had them there, a lot of them, like Edward Dickenson and Ross Moffett. They took old
timey people, so that still of course exists now, it’s all changed, and of course they’ve been accepted, abstract artists, it didn’t take them that much longer. They were slightly active
in it, but not much. I got more active in it now because I’m on the board, and the years have gone by, and they also have developed a very good group, they really have. And they do a lot
of very good programs, keep it all winter, keep it going [on] all the time. But at that time, in the early years of arts and Provincetown, they really didn’t pay much attention to the Art
Association. But some New York galleries went up and opened a summer branch, like Sam Kootz, he represented Motherwell and Fritz and Gottlieb, and a lot of other people, and he had a summer gallery there. And other galleries did, too. Martha Jackson, Virginia Zabriski, and they had maybe a year or two. It didn’t last too long, but there was a connection between Provincetown and New York.
ES: Well, I was also interested in talking about his work and his influences. Maybe we could even go as far back as his childhood. I know that he mentioned in some of these interviews the fact that Morris Graves and their relationship, was so influential. Did he share much of that with you?
JB: Some. Sure. But he always knew he wanted to be a painter, which always surprised me. If you decide at age twelve and then continue… it seemed a little unusual, but anyway, he did. I have a couple of early things from his school. They’re not here.
ES: I understand that his family wanted him to become an architect?
JB: Well, his family had a funeral business in New Orleans. It was very big and fancy. Of course his father wanted Fritz to go into business with him, but he couldn’t persuade him, so they said okay, [be an] architect. He said “Well, all right.” Anything to get away from home. And that’s what he was supposed to be studying in Europe, and of course he did, because Europe is a great place to study architecture, but he didn’t go to any regular…well, he went to something called the Munich Preparatory School, because he had to do something that was sort of official, and he went there for the first year that he was there. And I suppose he studied a little architecture there.
I’m not sure just what he studied. Fritz gave an awful lot of material to the Archives of American Art, so people can research it.
ES: I was interested in the relationship between his collages and his sculpture and when he started to make the sculpture?
JB: Well, I can tell you about that. He always painted, okay[?], but in the Hofmann School in the late thirties he did a few collages. I suppose it was just part of the school project.
And I had three or four of them. I still have one left. They’re not great, but they have been shown at some of the exhibitions. But then he quit and just did painting, painting, painting. But
he always drew from a model whenever he had a chance, and in New York he’d get a group together, sometimes Mercedes Matter and Jack Tworkov and Fritz, and they could hire a model together and draw for a couple of nights a week or something. That was very important to him, drawing from a figure. Although abstractly he did a lot, which he learned in the Hofmann School. So it was very important, the drawing. And then about the sculpture, he really, all through the forties, thought about sculpture. He had done a couple of small pieces in Chicago at the New Bauhaus. They were just sort of insignificant. I don’t have them any more. But anyway, he had sculpture in mind and thought about it during the forties. And then he was able to get a grant from the Italian government, [an] exchange grant thing, to go to Italy and study sculpture. He really was interested. He was interested in marble. He wasn’t too handy with his hands. He wanted to really study bronze casting. So he got the grant in 1950, the end of 1950, and our children were very small. We took the children and left them with their grandparents, his parents in New Orleans, and we went to Italy and spent a year, and he did learn how to cast bronze, and that started his whole sculpture thing really going, because he really did want to know how to do it. We went to Rome first, and looked and looked, and couldn’t seem to find a place which was just what he wanted. We were there in the fall, but about by Christmas we went up to Florence. And of course, there are a few Americans here and there that you do run into, who are studying, and …. they told him about a place in Florence, and he went. It was just exactly what he wanted. It was a foundry, but they took really young boys, like eight and nine years old, as apprentices and taught them the whole procedure all the way through. So he got in. He just got in there as an apprentice, and he was there until June, and just loved learning, from the whole thing, building the model and going through the whole lost wax procedure, to the bronze, and correcting the bronze. So by the time he came back (I had to come home a little early; he came back in the summer of fifty-one) he was really hot to get into sculpture. Now, he was still painting and still drawing also. He hadn’t got into collages as yet. But when we got back to New York, we heard about the modern art foundry in Long Island City, which we realized was very close to East 95th Street. So we went out there and there was an older man by the name of Mr. Spring, who had this wonderful foundry that he had built out of a carriage house. I can’t think of the family’s name. Anyway, it’s in Long Island City. There was a big, magnificent mansion, and then at the foot of the hill was a carriage house, and they were both tumbling down. But Mr. Spring and the sculptor, that you all know anyway, had started this foundry just to do this one man’s [casting]…just a sculptor who’s dead, who didn’t allow any reproductions to be done of his work, and we all know him very well, we all know the man…anyway……[Lipchitz]
ES: I’ll look into that.
JB: …that’s where he cast his work. (I’m sorry, his name gives me the slip.) But it was going along pretty well.
ES: So that’s where he did the work?
JB: Yes, and it was the early fifties, and by then he had quite a few people, and they were casting many other people’s sculptures, too, like Lachaise.
ES: I’m sorry?
JB: [Gaston] Lachaise. And they were working for [Peter] Agostini modern sculptures, too, and that was it. It was a modern art foundry. They didn’t do much traditional work. Oh, we just loved that place. It was sort of warm and homelike and everybody was very friendly. He had a number of Europeans that were working for him there. So Fritz would make the piece out of plaster, with wire and plaster, and then he’d finish that and we’d take it out there and they would go through the process, and he would try to stay and work with them. But at least they knew what they were doing and did a wonderful job. So as the years went by, he did quite a few sculptures in the fifties, a lot of small things, too, like table top – that size. He did some big ones, too, in the fifties. And then into the sixties. He had a show in 1960 at Gallery Mayer in New York on Madison Avenue. (It’s no longer there) of really all sculpture. And Tony came and helped him install it. Tony hadn’t gotten into his sculpture that much…
ES: I was going to ask if he was involved in any of that.
JB: He [Tony] was doing models and all, but he wasn’t really casting, and he really didn’t ever get into casting, he did fabricated sculpture.
JB: The artist’s name who started the foundry was Lipchitz. Of course. Who else?
ES: Oh yes, of course we would know that!
JB: Of course, we met him out there a lot, too, and he was European, was very friendly, because Fritz was fluent in German and Italian and everything by then. So he could speak with all these workers. A lot of them didn’t speak English. But it made for a nice feeling, and anyway, so he went on, he cast the Gallery Mayer show. The reason I brought that up: he had maybe six or eight, maybe more, pieces, and the way he sold them (they werenï¿½t terribly high priced) was if you could pay for it, if the collector would pay to cast two, and then he would get one, the collector, and Fritz would get one, and that way he’d get his casting costs paid.
ES: That was smart.
JB: It was. Because we couldn’t figure out how to pay for it.
JP: So these were mostly commissioned works?
JB: No, he did the models and Gallery Mayer, (he was crazy about Fritz), and he was able to sell people on the idea. Maybe he would get four, five or six sales from the plaster [model], and then Fritz was able to cast it, when he would give the collector one in bronze, and he could keep one in bronze for himself to sell at a later date. That worked out pretty darn well, and he was able to continue the casting a little more. Then with the teaching… I’ll stick to the sculpture story. I think in 1977, he finally got a Guggenheim. He had sculptures [cast], because he had some big things around and he didn’t have any way to get them cast. So he finally got the Guggenheim, and the way he got the Guggenheim, because he’d applied for it years and years and years nothing ever happened. Finally one year Bob Motherwell said, “You’d better apply this year, because I’m on the board.” Isn’t that great? And [Fritz] did, and he got [it], he got a grant of, I think, $10,000, which seemed a lot in those days. And he was able to cast three big pieces because that’s what they ran about, $3,000.
ES: Which pieces?
JB: Well, I’d have to look it up. I’m sorry.
ES: That’s fine. I’m familiar with some of the sculptures.
JB: It was three pieces. You know you have two pieces on your roof at Hunter still.
JB: I’m going to get them. I told them I’m going to get them off the roof some time, but soon. They’re out on the eighth floor, outside of the faculty [dining room]. There are two big pieces. After you had the exhibition, Bob [Huot] suggested we put them up there and people could come and see them, and it has been very helpful. But as I’m getting older, I’m going to try to place those as gifts somewhere. In some museum. I have a list that really would like to have a piece, because they are outdoor pieces, and some of those were cast from that Guggenheim grant. But during all the sculpturing, he started in with the collages heavily, in the early sixties. He started making a lot of collages. He had a Fulbright. After he quit teaching at Hunter…
ES: Let me just ask you about that. How did that come up?
JB: I’ll tell you how that came up. He’d been teaching and teaching, and he got ill, really ill. He had cancer later, but not that early. He had a severe intestinal thing, so he had
four operations, and he was just so sick. It was ’63. He didn’t feel he could continue teaching. So someone suggested he apply. There were two grades of Fulbrights at that time, one for teachers. So he applied for the teachers one and he got it, which was great, for Paris. I believe that was 1964 (maybe it went into 1965), because he couldn’t leave
right away. He was so ill. The Fulbright had to be [postponed] for a whole year, and it was honored the year later. I think we went…yes, we went in 1964, I’m sure about that, in the
summer. And we took one of our two sons. The oldest boy was in college, but the youngest son was in school here in New York and was ready to go to Paris. So we took him. He was fifteen. And it just worked out great. It worked out great for all of us. Went with a studio, and also a garage. We didn’t have a car. You could use the garage for plaster. But he started doing a lot of collages from torn paper, but paper that he had painted, not from found objects. I have been showing quite a lot of those, from the early sixties, and he came back with a lot of collages. It was something he could do. He didn’t have a model there. He had one for a little while, but
not long. He did some big paintings there too, it was a wonderful work time, because he didn’t have a lot of energy, and he had nothing to do but stay home and work. In Paris all it does is rain every single day in the winter, so he stayed home and worked a lot. Then he got into all these different things that he had, he had sculpture going in the garage and painting in the studio, collages all over the table. That was a very fruitful time for him, for accomplishing work.
ES: Well I’m just sort of backing up a little bit, but when he was in Italy learning about sculpture, I know that that was the time when this famous photograph of the Irascibles was taken.
ES: And he wasn’t able to attend.
JB: And he wasn’t able to be there. The photograph was taken in January, and he had already left the fall previous. The Irascible photograph.
JB: And Hans Hofmann wasn’t there either in the photograph, and the third person was Weldon Kees. He was a big friend of Judith Rothschild.
JB: Finally a retrospective show of his [Kees] is going to open in January at the University of Nebraska, where he comes from.
ES: This just made me wonder how he [Bultman] viewed himself in that whole art history?
JB: He felt he was one of the fellows, because he ended up showing at Sam Kootz, and they were all friendly. And he didn’t mind not being there for the photograph. If he had had any idea
what it was going down to, of course, but he didn’t push himself naturally, anyway. He really didn’t. I mean, even living in New York, a lot of times he just didn’t want to go to the parties and
openings. He’d just rather stay home and be quiet and work. He was really very, very work-oriented, and did a lot. Even if he was just sitting in the studio waiting for the idea to come, he
was still more work-oriented than anything else.
ES: I guess his father wanting him to become something other than an artist, and then he obviously moved on and succeeded as an artist.
ES: Did his family ever acknowledge that?
JB: No, they never really accepted it. They really didn’t. They just couldn’t. His father said, “What am I going to tell my friends at the Kiwanis Club?” You know, it was a hard thing for
that, for an older generation. I mean, they’d say, “Why isn’t he working here in your business with you?” And he’d say, “He’s an artist in New York,” and they didn’t understand it. It kind of
embarrassed his father. But he had to accept it in the end, especially after he began to teach.
Then his father could tell his friends “Well, he’s teaching art.” That made it better. But after he left early, he really didn’t ever go back there and live any length of time. I mean, somewhat. When our children were born, we went back and forth quite a bit, but he never settled back there in New Orleans. Because the folks were not that receptive to his work. His father hollered a lot. [Fritz said to his mother] “You sit down, and I’ll paint your portrait.” And he did, and she loved the portrait. It was very realistic, looked exactly like her. And she couldn’t understand about the abstract painting. It was very difficult for her generation to accept it, but of course they did, and then at one time we had to borrow some money from his father, so he sent him a lot of paintings, six to eight really good, big abstract paintings from the fifties and sixties, and his father hung them. Maybe Fritz had to go down and hang them for him, but anyway, they are all through the house, with all the nice antique furniture, and his father kind of got to like them, and thought it wasn’t so bad. His father didn’t buy any. He was not a collector of landscapes or anything, so it helped the house. He was very proud of his house, an old plantation, and he liked having it hung with painting furniture. So that sort of calmed him down. As the years went on, of course.
ES: One thing I remember, and I apologize for hopping around here. Things kind of come to mind when you’re speaking.
JB: We all hop around.
ES: When I read the interview with Irving Sandler, Mr. Bultman talked about this time when the art community used to hang out at a place called Rocco’s or something like that, it’s downtown.
ES: Rocco’s. Were you a part of that?
JB: No, I didn’t know him until after that. That was in the late thirties, of course when he lived downtown. See, when he first came, they all lived… he and Tony Smith lived with Anne Ryan. And she was an older woman who kind of took care of them. It’s interesting how these young men wanted to be taken care of, they were always fighting over who would cook for them. They adored Anne, and we have a few or two to three of the Anne Ryan collages from those days that she gave them. Tony had some, too. They lived down [town]… that’s why they went to Rocco’s, you see. They were all students, or out of school, or painting something. No, I didn’t know her until afterwards.
ES: Tony Smith and he remained friends that whole time?
ES: Robert Huot told me to ask you about some story about them.
JB: At one point in there somewhere -we weren’t angry at each other- it’s just that we were in different directions. Tony was living in Jersey and doing different things. We were up on
the Cape quite a bit. We would stay as long as we could, except for the teaching time we’d have long summers. We always went between semesters in February. And Tony didn’t have a place
there, so there were times when we didn’t see him as much as other times. But no, they weren’t angry or anything.
ES: One story that Mr. Huot was laughing about was something about Tony Smith singing in a bathtub, he said I should ask you about it.
JB: He lived with us at one point, right after we were married and we lived in that apartment on 57th Street, and Tony just sort of lived with us. He’d already married Jane. She was on the West Coast making a movie, and they didn’t have any place to stay, so he lived with us, and he spent a lot of time lying in the bathtub. At that time he had red hair and a big, red beard,
and he would smoke a cigar in the bathroom. He’d spend half the day. But we had a lot of fun together, and I finally said, “Tony, you have to get out of the bathtub and get a job.”
So he said, “Oh, all right.” “You’re going to have to pay for your cigars and your subway.” The subway was a nickel then. I was working at the Hotel Plaza at that time, doing accounting, and then I went over to the Sherry Netherlands, I guess about then. I said, “You can come work at the Sherry Netherlands as a house man”. And he did. And they just loved him. They had him move furniture. It wasn’t very much. And he wasn’t really a furniture mover. But everyone sort of took to him, and then he had a little salary every week. It didn’t last too long, but we had a lot of fun laughing about it. He was still living with us, but then he could buy his cigars.
ES: What about Tennessee Williams? I know that he stayed with you, too.
JB: That was before. That was also that Rocco group of artists and writers, and they all did know each other very well, and they were also…they spent time with you.
JB: Sure. We didn’t see Tennessee that much after we got married. He wasn’t in New York either. You know, people come and go.
ES: Also you worked with Mr. Bultman on some [projects], I’m talking about the stained glass project that you did together.
JB: Yes, that was later, after our children grew up and left home. We got into a project. The way it happened is, his father had built a chapel in New Orleans to go with the funeral
business, because this was one big funeral business. In the South, you know, they have all this tradition and everything, anyway, and he wanted to put four stained glass windows, so Fritz made four collages. They were nine feet high and three feet wide, to fit the window space, with a curve at the top, to go in the chapel. But of course they were modern.
JB: He made the four collages, which I have now, as a matter of fact. Anyway, we took the collages to stained glass fabricator in New Jersey to have them made in stained glass. First the man came to the house and made patterns from Fritz’s collages. They covered them with tracing paper, and then they drew the design of the collage, then they divided it not into gridding, but into pleasing lines, so it’s a drawing over the glass, and it had to be cut so the glass could be cut to size, not too big. Then we went out to New Jersey, and during the fabrication, watched them make these up. I said, “This is just like pattern-making.” I had studied dress design and pattern-making when I first came to New York. And I realized, I could do that. So we decided, well, the kids are gone, we can do some projects together. And then we did. He made a lot of collages. And I made the glass. We sold quite a number of them for people’s houses. Modern stained glass is not a big, popular thing. Then he continued to teach after Hunter, and lecturing jobs and different things around the country. And the man from Kalamazoo College, head of the art department, was here, and he saw what we were doing with our stained glass and collages, and he was a friend. This was in 1980,81, but they had just completed a fine arts building on the campus of Kalamazoo College, and they had a big auditorium building. They had a space above the auditorium doors. It was on a curve, fifty feet across and twelve feet high of clear glass. And he said, “I think we could put stained glass in there.” I’ll give you a postcard to show you. Anyway, we said “Oh, fine. Great.” It wasn’t a big commission, but they wanted to bring Fritz out to teach and make the collage with the students there. And then they wanted to bring me out to show the students how to make the glass. By then I had gone to an instructor, (by the way, I didn’t just pick up glass like a maestro), a very good instructor, to learn how to cut glass and put it together, because in spite of pattern-making, it’s a craft. You have to know how to put it together. So by then I had been studying with this man for two years, and I could really do it easily. So we did, we went, we spent a semester on the campus at Kalamazoo, Michigan, and we had the greatest time. And [Fritz] made the collage full scale on the floor of the auditorium, the lobby, with all these colored hand-painted paper, cut the paper and roll it on, glue it on, and everything. I will show you I have four by fives upstairs. And then I started the students on how to make the patterns first, and then cut the glass. We didn’t have enough time to really get into the glass cutting, but during the semester, he did complete this collage project, and we had made our patterns. So I got a couple of panels done with the students, but they weren’t really into glass cutting that much. They wanted to study art. So I brought all the patterns home, and over the next four years I made some of them at the studio here, and some on the Cape. It was in sections. There were actually forty-two sections, each about three feet square. So they’re easy to handle on a table. And when we’d finish one, we’d have it boxed and shipped out there, and they would put it into the space.
ES: Have you, or was he ever able to see the finished product?
JB: Yes, we finished the whole thing before he died.
ES: Oh that’s great. I was wondering about that.
JB: It went out, and it was totally finished and dedicated. This was very shortly before he died. So we were able to see the whole thing completed, and I will give you a reproduction,
because it was so exciting, really it was, to see it grow. It’s on the south of the building, and when the sun came in, and it had the white marble floor, it was reflective…it still is.
ES: I’d like to go sometime.
JB: It’s just something, and we hoped to have this collage show travel out there. But couldn’t get the time right, but I think I’ll take another show in two years and have it in that area, just collages, a collage show.
ES: It definitely makes me think of parallels between Matisse and his work.
JB: He took from Matisse and so did Bob Motherwell, they all loved Matisse, you know.
I mean, everybody took from him. But we did get him into the glass sort of through Matisse and his glass. We had seen it in Vence, at that chapel, in 1951. It wasn’t quite finished, but we
were able to go in the building and they were just beginning to put the glass in place. We didn’t do it until much, much later, but having seen it you know, it’s something that sticks with you.
ES: Did he ever meet Matisse?
JB: No. Too bad. Would have loved to. But he had that knowledge that Matisse could lie in bed and do all this terrific [work]…and he always thought when he got ill that that’s what he would do, but he never was really bed ridden, so he didn’t have to do that. Do you have some other questions?
ES: Well, just a few more. Maybe I’d like to just talk a little bit more about that period, to find out if you felt that his teaching influenced his work in any way.
JB: I don’t know. Teaching plus his own work? It was an up time, I mean, he really enjoyed the teaching. When he started, he didn’t think he would, although he’d been at Pratt first, and he had some good students there,e interaction between the young people, and himself, and seeing their work and what they were doing. I’m sure Bob Huot shared some with you on that, and then I know Ron Gorchov comes into here somewhere. Is he still teaching at Hunter?
ES: Yes, he is.
JB: Oh good. I think he got in there through Fritz. I’m not sure.
ES: I think that Huot told me.
JB: He would know. Fritz liked Ron very much, and they had a good friendship, but he also liked his work. They both began to show in New York in the early sixties, and we saw a lot of him. You know, he was a friend. They went back and forth with the work, and he was an important friend of Fritz. And I don’t think he was a student though, at Hunter. You can check on that, but it doesn’t seem to me that he was.
ES: I don’t believe he was either.
JB: I think he just went into Hunter as a teacher.
JB: But he might have been a student. You can always check that. And Bob Huot came along. Bob Huot I think had been a student of Motherwell.
ES: Actually what he told me was that he had registered for a Motherwell class…
JB: I made a list of a few of the students that were really very important; I mean he thought, he felt they were very talented. There’s a girl, Virginia Carteaux, and she still writes me a lot. She was very influenced by Fritz’s teaching and still is, seems to be in Indiana or somewhere.
ES: She’s still working as an artist?
JB: Yes, and she would like to come and go back to Hunter, and study ceramics. She asked me, and I said I know nothing about it, she’d have to call.
JP: We have a new professor…
JB: Do you have a ceramics [program]?
JP: And he’s really reorganized the whole program. And he’s doing very well there.
JB: Because I knew a year or so ago she couldn’t get too much (maybe it was two years), she couldn’t get too much into it.
JP: Well, it was in transition, but now it’s…
JB: Whatshall I tell her?
JP: Jeffrey Mongrain.
JB: And she can find out. Strange, strange, strange girl, but very, very, very talented. Her work was just so good.
JP: They’re really building the program.
JB: Yes, and I know she was sort of at loose ends, maybe she could do that. Carteaux, yes, and I think she’s married since and has a different name. She still writes me under her maiden name. Then there was a fellow, John Dooley. Is he around at all? He was a good student of Fritz, and Fritz thought he was so wonderfully talented, but he didn’t go into painting, he went into theater. I’m sure he’s still around, I just haven’t heard from him. And [he] lives on the West Side in one of those great, big new buildings. But I haven’t been in touch with him. Then there was Sherman Drexler, I’m sure he was a student obe of Motherwell, too, and very influenced by Fritz, I think. But anyway, Fritz had a close thing with these people. And a girl, Marilyn Sontag. She’s around. I don’t think she exhibits…yes, she does exhibits at times.
ES: Her name sounds familiar to me.
JB: I believe she teaches. I think she went right into teaching. These are the people he knew, that I thought of, but he really felt they were on their way.
ES: When he was there, Eugene Goossen was there.
ES: Was he close with him?
JB: Not terribly close. Motherwell was close to Goossen, as a friend, but no… Fritz got along with him all right, it’s just I don’t ever remember him in and out of the house a whole lot the way the students were. He’d bring the students home. He died last summer, too. I just realized. See, he and Motherwell ,and I think Tony Smith, also had all taught up at Bennington at one time. There was a Bennington connection. And that was their connection. Fritz never taught at Bennington. He went around the country and gave lectures here and there. Friends he had in Raleigh, North Carolina and different places that would ask him to have a show and give a lecture. And he did; The University of Texas and quite a lot of different places around the country. But it wasn’t steady teaching; he really didn’t teach steadily after Hunter of time. Like maybe two weeks, maybe a seminar or something.
JP: The exhibition in Athens, is there a connection with any students?
JB: Yes. Well, the connection is the curator, Evan Firestone, who was a New England fellow who had done an exhibition with Fritz up in Sandwich, Mass., in the late Seventies, and they became friends. He’s an art historian, not painter, but has always liked Fritz’s work very much, and kept up with Fritz. So he is the head of the department at the University of Georgia. He arranged this [exhibition]…you know you don’t just get [an exhibition]…somebody has to…
JP: Right. Sure, JB: There has to be some connection, so this show has been in the works for a long, long time. So he finally got it together, and they have a new building which is beautiful.
ES: Is it on the campus? Is it various works…
JB: No, just collage. Evan wanted to do just collage. Evan has been writing about Fritz, once in a while, in the Archives of American Art, an article a couple of years ago. He
would eventually like to do a book on him, so if he can get some publisher’s commitment, somewhere to start. And he’s working on it, and I hope he can.
ES: Yes, that would be great.
JB: You know, there’s not a lot of them [historians], to get someone who’s genuine, and [Evan Firestone has] been in the Archives in Washington a lot, so he knows a lot of background on Fritz, and he probably will eventually.
ES: You’ve shared so much. I think you’ve kind of covered…
JB: I covered everything pretty much.
ES: Let me ask you, was there anything that you had any expectations about talking about that you’d like to add?
JB: No, I just talk, you know. I can’t think of anything else.
JP: We got away from the Morris Graves connection in here…
JB: That was really the beginning. Morris came into their house, and Morris had brought magazines and books with reproductions in them. I mean, growing up as a child in New
Orleans, you didn’t see Rembrandt, not even reproductions of the Old Masters. He was never in New York to go to the Met. They have a very good museum there, but at that time there was very, very little in it, a few little Old Masters from some collector, but he didn’t have much to go on. And Morris came with all these magazines.
JP: Why did he come to New Orleans?
JB: He was just vacationing, as I recall. He might have come to see someone special, I don’t know. I think they asked him to stay there. They had a big old house that they put everybody in.
JP: They knew him in some way, or…
JB: I don’t remember how he came originally, Jensene, I just can’t imagine. Probably through a friend, I would imagine through a friend. And then I think at the end of the summer, Fritz and Morris and Fritz’s father drove a car from New Orleans to California, which was a long, long trip in those days, 1931,32, something like that. Because his sister was going to get married out there. But anyway, they had a long acquaintance in that way. But he didn’t see much of Morris in the later years. Morris is still alive.
ES: Well, he was young when he was there, I suppose.
JB: Of course, he was young, and he wanted to be a painter, and he was a painter, he left a painting in the [Bultman] house.
ES: That’s what I read.
JB: He left a big painting, and Fritz later gave it to the museum in New Orleans.
ES: But I understand they did interesting projects that were so avant garde at that time, like painting a monochrome painting. What’s interesting that I find about your husband’s work is that he and a lot of these artists came out of a representational tradition, and then they moved into [abstraction]…
JB: Then they moved.
ES: But he arrived…
JB: Fritz? I don’t know, it was just inside of his head I guess. But Morris took him… they have wonderful cemeteries in New Orleans, just beautiful…. They explored the old cemeteries.
They did things that he hadn’t done before.
JP: How old was Fritz?
JB: He was twelve.
ES: So this was a very big influence.
JB: Yes, it was a very early.
JP: He already felt that he would like to be an artist?
JB: Sort of, yes. I have a watercolor of his from school I think he did when he was eight. It’s pretty, pretty good for an eight year-old, but still I think he did it in school. He went to private school with Morris and had an art teacher who encouraged him, which is unusual. Then as he got a little older, he went after school to somewhere in the French Quarter to an art class, where they had a model, and an instructor, and he learned to draw from a model, very, very young. And he always sort of wondered why his children didn’t get into that.
ES: How many children did you have?
JB: Just two boys. But the oldest boy is an architect, and he did study architecture
ES: Oh isn’t that funny, we finally get the architect.
JB: Too bad his grandfather didn’t live long enough to see that he did. But he’s a first-rate, very important architect now in New Orleans, he’s built the convention center there. He’s fifty-two years old. He’s old enough to do what he said he’s going to do. He’s been an architect for twenty-five years, and he really loves it. And of course, the art background didn’t hurt. Growing up here, he had too many parties, and artists in and out, and talking. Rothko used to come down the street all the time. He was always disturbed and unhappy and drinking, and he’d sit in the back and talk to Cavallon and Fritz, and they really pressed down hard. “You have to buy better canvas and better paints.” He said “Oh, nothing’s going to happen, nothing.”…you know.. but anyway, he didn’t. You know, he really didn’t buy the very good stuff, and they were really after him. But they didn’t get through. But everyone was friendly, ’cause Rothko had a child very late in his life and he came down the street and said, “Fritz, you really ought to have another child.” He didn’t want to have another child.
ES: That was Rothko’s first child?
JB: No, the latest. The second. I think Rothko was maybe 61 when he was born, and he was older than the rest of us. But more children? My gosh! Can you think of any more questions?
ES: I might have one more. One thing that Professor Hofmann and I were talking about regarding this time was this relationship between the traditional environment of a college, and then you have all of these artists coming in and they’re kind of stirring things up.
JB: I would imagine it made a difference in Hunter.
ES: Yes, and I just was wondering how your husband may have felt about that.
JB: Let me remember. I mean, I remember when he started teaching at Hunter, Bob Motherwell came over and sat him down and said “There are two things you have to understand so.. in order to keep up your job.” and [Fritz] said “Well, sure, what are they? He said, “One, you have to pick up your mail every day, constantly look in the box, and the second is, you mustn’t sleep with any of the students.”
ES: That was it?
JB: “By those two rules, you can get by with your teaching job.” As I recall, I don’t think he prepared very much… he didn’t do that. He just went in and talked and taught.
ES: Well, people have their different styles.
JB: Sure. And he already had been at that…long enough to know that you have to get there on time and that sort of thing.
ES: It seems like such a unique period, with the artists being so close and interacting, and I know that Mr. Bultman lived through the point when that had kind of disintegrated.
JB: That’s right, and it did, and it sort of went down. I think when he had to quit teaching he didn’t quit because of his illness but he sort of had reached the end of that time.
ES: The politics had changed a lot. It was the seventies, and the artists had a different relationship with…
JB: And the school was bigger, and then they built on…, because he taught in the old section. I don’t think that new section was up. Maybe. Do you have a date when they got this?
JP: In the early eighties.
JB: In the early eighties. He died in 1985.
JP: It was 1983 when we moved into the new East and West Buildings.
JB: I see, because I think we did see Tony’s sculpture in front of the [West] building. I think. Because they laughed about it. He said, “Did you imagine it would ever come to this? They were very funny together. There was a lot of good humor, a lot of giggling and laughing, and a lot of stories. But also they were both so very bright about everything. Tony lived with us in Provincetown the summer they built the studio, and I really hadn’t had much of an art background. I came from Nebraska. I came to New York to study dress design and patterning, but I didn’t know the basics really, and I really learned so much that summer, just the two of them talking about everything under the sun, mostly art, and artists, and of course they brought books
and things I could read. But they really gave me an education. It was really amazing. I just didn’t know anything. But they’d get to talking about…they talked about the Bible a lot, both of
them were Catholics, and they had a big background…., and about the saints and about the Middle East, and all sorts of things. Then they’d latch onto the Egyptian arts and things, because they both read so much there, but both of them had read a lot, and they would compare their Greek mythology. I didn’t have a clue about it. I mean, I really got an education from the two of them. This was before television. We all worked together on this building, and then in the evening we’d talk, they would talk about something and I would listen, it was a great time in my life.
ES: Was Jane [Smith] up there at that time?
JB: No, she never got there. She was always working.
ES: Are you itouch with her?
JB: Yes, we’re in close touch all the time. She was coming for Thanksgiving, but she had to go to her children’s instead. No, we’re always very close. But there were a lot of times in the early years that Tony and Jane were separated, and she went to Salzburg, to sing in the opera there. She was well trained, and he did get over there finally and joined her, but nobody had the money in those days to follow your wife. You had to sort of do what you could. That’s why she wasn’t in Provincetown.
ES: I understand you were a dancer?
JB: No, I was a show girl. I’m too tall for dance. Yes, I was a night club show girl, like Vegas, only Vegas wasn’t there then. It was earlier. I thought I could get a job at Radio City, but I was too tall.
JB: Yes, everybody had to be 5’6″ or 5’5”, it was very specific. I don’t think it was…I wasn’t that trained anyway. I’m just too tall, you know. It doesn’t work.
ES: I think that really covers a lot, unless you have some other questions, Jensene?
JB: Are you working regularly on this project?
JP: Well, mainly on this connection. I appreciated getting to see you.
JB: I’ll walk you upstairs and show you some more of the work.
ES: That sounds great.
JB: And the glass. I have some glass upstairs, too, some real glass.
ES: Shall I turn it off, then?
END OF INTERVIEW