Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Oral history interview with George McNeil, 1968 Jan. 9-May 21

Online Media

Catalog Data

McNeil, George, 1908-1995  Search this
Sandler, Irving, 1925-  Search this
Harari, Hananiah  Search this
Bolotowsky, Ilya  Search this
Rosenborg, Ralph M.  Search this
Matter, Mercedes  Search this
Miró, Joan  Search this
Motherwell, Robert  Search this
Léger, Fernand  Search this
Kandinsky, Wassily  Search this
Smith, David  Search this
Gorky, Arshile  Search this
De Kooning, Willem  Search this
Matulka, Jan  Search this
Pereira, I. Rice (Irene Rice)  Search this
Gottlieb, Adolph  Search this
Gallatin, A. E. (Albert Eugene)  Search this
Morris, George L. K.  Search this
Dlugoszewski, Lucia  Search this
Levy, Edgar  Search this
Hélion, Jean  Search this
Graham, John  Search this
Davis, Stuart  Search this
Manso, Leo  Search this
Vytlacil, Vaclav  Search this
Marin, John  Search this
Hofmann, Hans  Search this
Rothko, Mark  Search this
Shaw, Charles Green  Search this
Diller, Burgoyne  Search this
United States. Work Projects Administration  Search this
American Abstract Artists  Search this
Sound recordings
Place of publication, production, or execution:
New York (State)
Physical Description:
82 Pages, Transcript
General Note:
Originally recorded on 3 sound tape reels. Reformatted in 2010 as 6 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hrs., 14 min.
Access Note / Rights:
Transcript is available on the Archives of American Art's website.
An interview of George McNeil conducted 1968 Jan. 9-May 21, by Irving Sandler, for the Archives of American Art. McNeil speaks of why he became interested in art; his early influences; becoming interested in modern art after attending lectures by Vaclav Vytlacil; meeting Arshile Gorky; the leading figures in modern art during the 1930s; his interest in Cézanne; studying with Jan Matulka and Hans Hofmann; his experiences with the WPA; the modern artists within the WPA; the American Abstract Artists (A.A.A.); a group of painters oriented to Paris called The Ten; how there was an anti-surrealism attitude, and a surrealist would not have been permitted in A.A.A; what the A.A.A. constituted as abstract art; a grouping within the A.A.A. called the Concretionists; his memories of Léger; how he assesses the period of the 1930s; the importance of Cubism; what he thinks caused the decline of A.A.A.; how he assesses the period of the 1940s; his stance on form and the plastic values in art; his thoughts on various artists; the importance of The Club; the antipathy to the School of Paris after the war; how Impressionism was considered in the 40s and 50s; slides of his paintings from 1937 to 1962, and shows how he developed as an artist; the problems of abstract expressionism; organic and geometric form; the schisms in different art groups due to politics; his teaching techniques; why he feels modern painting declined after 1912; the quality of A.A.A. works; stretching his canvases, and the sizes he uses; his recent works, and his approaches to painting. He recalls Vaclav Vytlacil, Hans Hofmann; Arshile Gorky, John Graham, Jan Matulka, John Marin, Wassily Kandinsky, Mercedes Carles Matter, Albert Swinden, Fernand Léger, Stuart Davis, Burgoyne Diller, David Smith, Edgar Levy, Leo Manso, Irene Rice Pereira, Willem de Kooning, Ilya Bolotowsky, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Joan Miró, Robert Motherwell, George L.K. Morris, Albert Gallatin, Charles Shaw, John Ferrin, Ralph Rosenborg, Hananiah Harari, Agnes Lyall, Jean Helion, and many others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with George McNeil, 1968 Jan. 9-May 21. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Biography Note:
George McNeil (1908-1995) was a painter and printmaker from New York, N.Y.
Language Note:
English .
These interviews are part of the Archives' Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Location Note:
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Art, American  Search this
Painters -- New York (State) -- Interviews  Search this
Printmakers -- New York (State) -- New York -- Interviews  Search this
Abstract expressionism  Search this
Art -- Philosophy  Search this
Painting  Search this
Cubism  Search this
Impressionism (Art)  Search this
Surrealism  Search this
Record number:
Data Source:
Archives of American Art