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.
Originally recorded on 11 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 22 digital wav files. Duration is 16 hr., 2 min.
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.
276 photographs, ca. 1946-1966, taken by Kalisher of artists teaching at Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, Black Mountain College, North Carolina, and the MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire.
Artists include: Peter Abate, Kongo Abe, Cora-Beth Abel, Samuel M. Adler, Paul Aschenbach, Josef Albers, Ture Bengtz, Wieslaw Borowski, Ms. Coonhan, Jan Cox, Merce Cunningham, Dorothy Dehner, Elaine de Kooning, Garabed der Hovanesian, Blanche Dombek, Jan Doubrova, Franc Epping, Vernon Fimple, Miles Forst, Helen Frankenthaler, Buckminster Fuller, David Gil, Maurice Glickman, Julio Granda, Philip Grausman, Cleve Gray, Stanley William Hayter, Victoria Kilbourn, Oskar Kokoschka, Alexander Lieberman, Michael Mazur, ? McKenzie, Ivan Mestrovic, George L. K. Morris, Robert Motherwell, Alice Neel, Kenneth Noland, Mine Okubo, Gregorio Prestopino, Norman Rockwell, Jakob Rosenberg, David Smith, John Torres, Wen Ying Tsai, Asapia Voulis, Iain Whitecross, Marguerite Wildenhain, and ? Zhermansky.
Biographical / Historical:
Lent for microfilming 1982 by Clemens Kalischer.
The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.
Interview of Jason Berger, conducted 1979 January 12 and 1980 February 1, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Berger speaks of growing up in Massachusetts; serving in the Army during World War II; studying and teaching at the Museum School in Boston; marrying his wife, Marilyn Powers; studying sculpture in France; exhibiting at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston and other galleries; the art collective Direct Vision; being fired from the Museum School; and teaching at SUNY Buffalo and the Art Institute of Boston. Berger also recalls Karl Zerbe, Ture Bengtz, Hyman Bloom, Hyman Swetzoff, Jack Levine, Leslie Fiedler, Clemens Benda, Ossip Zadkine, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Jason Berger (1924-2010) is a painter and printmaker from Brookline, Massachusetts.
Originally recorded on 1 tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 5 min.
These interviews are 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 others.
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- Interviews Search this
0.4 Linear feet ((partially microfilmed on 2 microfilm reels))
Scope and Contents:
Sketchbooks, cassette recording, biographical information, photographs, writings and notes, correspondence, sketches, and printed material.
REELS 2541-2542: 37 sketchbooks, 1935-1973, containing ink and pencil sketches. Some of the sketchbooks are annotated.
UNMICROFILMED: A resume; letters; 2 photographs, one of Bengtz at work in his studio and one of a stained glass he designed; writings and notes, including annual reports of curriculum at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston School; watercolor studies for stained glass windows and drawings for a television program; business records concerning the Museum of Fine Arts School and the airing of the television program "The Art School of the Air in New England, Bengtz on Drawing" on WGBH Channel 2, 1956 and concerning the Jomala (Finland) Church stained glass window project; 2 catalogs; a book, THE LITHOGRAPHS OF TURE BENGTZ; a cassette of a lecture given by Bengtz at a school in Needham, Mass.; and miscellaneous printed material.
Biographical / Historical:
Museum director, stained glass artist, lecturer; Boston, Mass. Born in Finland; studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School where he subsequently taught.
The unmicrofilmed material was donated 1980 by Lillian E. Bengtz, Ture Bengtz's widow. She lent the sketchbooks on reels 2541-2542 for microfilming in 1982 and subsequently donated them to the Boston Public Libary, print department.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Stained glass artists -- Massachusetts -- Boston Search this
Art -- Study and teaching -- Massachusetts -- Boston Search this