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Oral history interview with John Wilson

Interviewee:
Wilson, John, 1922-2015  Search this
Interviewer:
Brown, Robert F.  Search this
Names:
Boston University. School of Fine and Applied Arts  Search this
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. School  Search this
Aronson, David, 1923-2015  Search this
Bengtz, Ture, 1907-1973  Search this
Gaither, Edmund B.  Search this
Hurwitz, Sidney, 1932-  Search this
Kay, Reed  Search this
Kramer, Jack  Search this
Lewis, Elma  Search this
Léger, Fernand, 1881-1955  Search this
Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957  Search this
Siqueiros, David Alfaro  Search this
Zerbe, Karl, 1903-1972  Search this
Extent:
497 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
1993 March 11-1994 August 16
Scope and Contents:
An interview of John Woodrow Wilson conducted 1993 March-1994 August, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.
Wilson discusses his childhood as a member of a family of middle class blacks from British Guiana (now Guyana); his father's grave disappointments in the face of racial discrimination; his parents' push for their children to succeed; early urge to read and draw; encouragement by School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston students who taught at the Roxbury Boys Club; his secondary education; and friends.
He talks about his education at the MFA School, Boston, and comments on such teachers as Ture Bengtz and Karl Zerbe and compares their exacting methods with those of Fernand Leger, his teacher in Paris.
His work of the 1940s prior to going to Paris; the importance of early awards and sales received while still a student at the MFA School; the excitement of sharing a studio with fellow students, Francesco Carbone and Leo Prince; and encouragement to stay in school during WW II with the promise of a European study fellowship after the war.
The great impact of his years in Paris (1948-49); the lack of racial prejudice; the liberating effect of Leger's teaching; his awe of the work of Masaccio and Piero della Francesca during a trip to Italy; and the deep impression made on him by seeing tribal art in the Musee de l'Homme, Paris.
Continued discussion of Leger; his teaching methods; and influences on his work.
His first teaching position at the MFA School; his involvement in civil rights in Boston; his gregariousness and the use of his studio as a meeting place for artists and political activists; his involvement with socialism in Boston and New York; and working in a socialist children's camp. He remembers meeting Paul Robeson, Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, and Bob Blackburn, who was then setting up his printmaking atelier in New York; marriage to a fellow socialist (June 1950); move to Mexico on a fellowship to study with Jose Orozco on the advice of Leger, only to find that Orozco had died; terrors of travel as an interracial couple through the U.S.; and different racial attitudes in Mexico and the U.S.
Living in Mexico (1950-56) and anecdotes of David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera; his wife's meeting with Frieda Kahlo and seeing her collection of folk art; their free and cosmopolitan, if impoverished, life in Mexico; his work in a printmaking atelier and on the production of frescoes, and a lengthy aside about his brilliant brother, Freddie, who because he was black was not allowed to pursue his first love, geology, for many years.
Continued discussion of his experiences in Mexico; the dreary year (1957) he spent doing commercial art for a meatpackers' union in Chicago, a city he disliked; his move to New York in 1958, taking on commercial work to support his family, and teaching anatomy at the Pratt Institute.
Teaching art at a junior high school in the Bronx, and his gaining respect of students through special projects; teaching drawing at Boston University (1965-86), his approach to teaching including his demanding standards, the seriousness of the students, his opposing rigid attendance and grading rules, and colleagues, such as David Aronson who had created the School, Reed Kay, Jack Kramer, Sidney Hurwitz, and the University president, John Silber.
Working with the black arts entrepreneur, Elma Lewis, in setting up a visual arts program for the Boston black community (late 1960s-1970s), including the selection of a curator, Edmund Barry Gaither, a young art historian, who eventually established a museum of African-American art; his participation in various black art exhibitions, despite his belief that art should be seen regardless of the ethnic origins of artists; his move toward sculpture, beginning in the early 1960s, as a medium most expressive of black persons, culminating in the 1980s in a series of colossal heads and a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the U.S. Capitol (1985-86); and why he makes art and will so long as he is able.
Biographical / Historical:
John Wilson (1922- ) is an African American painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, and educator from Boston, Massachusetts. Full name John Woodrow Wilson.
General:
Originally recorded on 11 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 22 digital wav files. Duration is 16 hr., 2 min.
Uneven transcription reflects Wilson's unusual speech pattern.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art 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 administrators. Funding for the transcription and microfilming of the interview provided by the Newland Foundation.
Occupation:
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Educators -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Printmakers -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Sculptors -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Topic:
African American artists  Search this
African American educators  Search this
African American painters  Search this
African American printmakers  Search this
African American sculptors  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Identifier:
AAA.wilson93
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9f3601751-82e4-488d-b246-deda68bea613
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-wilson93
Online Media:

David Aronson papers, 1935-1983

Creator:
Aronson, David, 1923-2015  Search this
Citation:
David Aronson papers, 1935-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Topic:
Art, American -- Massachusetts  Search this
Theme:
Lives of artists  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)6716
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)208841
AAA_collcode_arondavi
Theme:
Lives of artists
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_coll_208841

Emily Genauer papers

Creator:
Genauer, Emily, 1910-2002  Search this
Names:
Aronson, David, 1923-2015  Search this
Bishop, Isabel, 1902-1988  Search this
Carnegie, Dorothy  Search this
Chagall, Marc, 1887-1985  Search this
Dalí, Salvador, 1904-1989  Search this
Davis, Stuart, 1892-1964  Search this
Graham, Martha  Search this
Guggenheim, Harry Frank, 1890-1971  Search this
Pereira, I. Rice (Irene Rice), 1902-1971  Search this
Still, Clyfford, 1904-  Search this
Tamayo, Rufino, 1899-  Search this
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959  Search this
Extent:
11.4 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Interviews
Essays
Lectures
Transcriptions
Speeches
Photographs
Date:
circa 1920-1990
Summary:
The papers of art critic Emily Genauer measure 11.4 linear feet and date from circa 1920 to 1990. Found within the papers are correspondence with artists, gallery owners, and friends; extensive writings; research and reference files; personal business records; and photographs. Notable correspondents include David Aronson, Mrs. Max Beckman, Isabel Bishop, Dorothy Carnegie, Marc Chagall, Salvatore Dali, Stuart Davis, Martha Graham, Harry F. Guggenheim, Irene Rice Pereira, Clyfford Still, Rufino Tamayo, and Frank Lloyd Wright, among many others.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of art critic Emily Genauer measure 11.4 linear feet and date from circa 1920 to 1990. Found within the papers are correspondence with artists, gallery owners, and friends; extensive writings; research and reference files; personal business records; and photographs.

Notable correspondents include David Aronson, Mrs. Max Beckman, Isabel Bishop, Dorothy Carnegie, Marc Chagall, Salvatore Dali, Stuart Davis, Martha Graham, Harry F. Guggenheim, Irene Rice Pereira, Clyfford Still, Rufino Tamayo, and Frank Lloyd Wright, among numerous others. Extensive writings consist largely of drafts of columns written by Genauer and supporting research notes, as well as essays, speeches, lectures, book manuscripts, and memoirs. Research and reference files include source material for columns and essays. Personal business records document Genauer's work on committees and arts organizations, juries, awards, honors and also include interview transcripts and other personal scattered files. There is material regarding her leaving the New York World-Telegram. Printed material includes two of Genauer's books, magazines, newspaper clippings, and exhibition catalogs. Photographs are portraits of Genauer and of artwork.
Arrangement:
This collection is arranged as 6 series.

Missing Title

Series 1: Correspondence and Letters, 1938-1991 (Box 1, 12, 0.8 linear feet)

Series 2: Writings, circa 1930s-1990s (Box 1-3, 2.5 linear feet)

Series 3: Research and Reference Files, circa 1920s-1990s (Box 4-6, 2.6 linear feet)

Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1933-1992 (Box 6-7, 0.8 linear feet)

Series 5: Printed Materials, circa 1920s-1990s (Box 7-9, 12, 1.6 linear feet)

Series 6: Photographs, circa 1930s-1970s (Box 9-11, 12, 1.8 linear feet)
Biographical / Historical:
Emily Genauer (1911-2002) was a modern art critic and columinst working in New York City from 1932 until well into the 1980s. In 1974, she won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished art criticism.

Genauer was born in 1911 in Staten Island. She attended Hunter College and Columbia University, majoring in Journalism. She began her writing career in 1929 with the New York World, which later became the New York World-Telegram. She became a strong advocate for modern art and sculpture and introduced modern artists like Marc Chagall and Diego Rivera to the newspaper audience. She also followed lesser known artists and often visited their studios, and they, in return, regularly read her articles and reviews of their shows.

Genauer left the New York World-Telegram in 1949 after a dispute with the owner who accused her writing as overly sympathetic to "Communists and left-wingers" and told her she could no longer write about Picasso. She immediately went to work as the art critic for the New York Herald Tribune, where she worked until 1967, when it folded. She then wrote a regular column for the Newsday Syndicate until the mid-1970s. She also worked for Harper's and in television and served on the council for the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1966 to 1970. Genauer was the author of a number of books, including The Best of Art, Chagall at the Met, and Rufino Tamayo.

Genauer passed away in 2002 in New York City at the age of 91.
Separated Materials:
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reel NG1) including 300 letters, photographs, and printed material. Loaned materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Provenance:
Emily Genauer lent letters on reel NG1 for microfilming 1959. Constance Roche, daughter of Emily Genauer, donated additional papers in 2000 and 2003.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Occupation:
Art critics -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Gallery owners -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Topic:
Women art critics  Search this
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Essays
Lectures
Transcriptions
Speeches
Photographs
Citation:
Emily Genauer papers, circa 1920s-1990s. Archives of American art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.genaemil
See more items in:
Emily Genauer papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9fe4ef839-12c1-4272-b2a9-b443c96d360a
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-genaemil
Online Media:

Study for the Magician No. 1 [collage] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1960
Topic:
American Federation  Search this
Figure--Waist length  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0000125
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_129594

Man with Phylacteries [sculpture] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1964-1968
Topic:
Figure--Fragment--Face  Search this
Figure--Fragment--Hand  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0000138
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_129607

No title given: Two Figures [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure group  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003144
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132593

No title given: Woman [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure female  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003145
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132594

No title given: Man [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure male  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003146
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132595

No title given: Man [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure male  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003147
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132596

No title given: Woman with Necklace [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure female--Waist length  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003148
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132597

The Entertainer [sculpture] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1968
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure--Waist length  Search this
Performing Arts--Circus--Clown  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003149
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132598

The Thinker [sculpture] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1964-1968
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure--Fragment--Face  Search this
Figure--Fragment--Hand  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003155
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132604

No title given: Nude Man [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure male--Nude  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003156
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132605

No title given: Man and a Woman [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure group  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003157
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132606

No title given: Three Figures [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure group  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003158
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132607

No title given: Nude Man [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure male--Waist length  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003159
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132608

No title given: Two Nude Men [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure group--Nude  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003160
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132609

No title given: Three Figures [painting] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure group  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003161
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132610

Detail of Three Singers [sculpture] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1963-1969
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure group  Search this
Performing Arts--Music--Choir  Search this
Performing Arts--Music--Voice  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003162
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132611

Three Singers [sculpture] / (photographed by Walter Rosenblum)

Artist:
Aronson, David 1923-2015  Search this
Photographer:
Rosenblum, Walter 1919-2006  Search this
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1963-1969
Topic:
Nordness Gallery  Search this
Figure group  Search this
Performing Arts--Music--Voice  Search this
Performing Arts--Music--Choir  Search this
Image number:
ROS R0003163
See more items in:
Photograph Study Collection
Data Source:
Photograph Study Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_jul_132612

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