Bughouse Square Podcast with Eve Ewing has launched, check out the first episode and subscribe now! Read the Story

00 / 00

Richard McLanathan discusses his book "The American Tradition in the Arts"

BROADCAST: 1969 | DURATION: 00:57:37

Synopsis

Richard McLanathan discusses his book "The American Tradition in the Arts" and takes Studs on a sprawling journey through artistic breakthroughs in architecture, painting, literature, and more while touching on dozens of artists and their works.

Transcript

Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.

OK

Studs Terkel Richard McLanathan is our guest. He's formerly the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He was the curator of the American Exhibition in Moscow that was quite a sensational one. And he's written a number of books. His most recent, though is "The American Tradition in the Arts". It's a very exciting one. Aside from the illustrations in it, too, the whole--you have a definite point of view and approach here to this--that the American tradition in the arts is almost by a process of osmosis. A gathering of so many cultures and yet uniquely our own.

Richard McLanathan I think it is. I think it's a real rich mixture, you know, because, after all, ours is a very varied culture. And why shouldn't it be? I think, myself, the variety is a kind of a source of strength. It's a symptom of vitality, too, in the arts, the fact that we have this tremendous variety in everything we do today.

Studs Terkel You're talking--we'll keep this very free, Mr. McLanathan--talking about, you begin, the very beginning, you know, with the Spanish conquistador influence, you know, upon us. But basically the influence, the basic influence is British to begin with.

Richard McLanathan Yes. Basically it is. But I think we're inclined to forget the other elements in the mixture and I think they're really there. But it is basically British and, of course, you know, the British came to stay. The others came to get rich and go home or something like that, for the most part. But the British came to stay and they brought British institutions and they seem to have won out in the end.

Studs Terkel And, yet, the book ends, by the way, as it builds. It builds. You connect the fine and the pop arts. Popular arts. Not pop--you show both, ending with Stuart Davis at the very end, near the end.

Richard McLanathan Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel And the influence of jazz and, thus, a new kind of ethnic group enters into it [unintelligible].

Richard McLanathan Well, of course, I think, too, that, you know, you can't--so much of the history of art has been a kind of a polite history of easel painting or something and, honestly, this doesn't have anything to do with anything today, you know. Because, for instance, it leaves out totally, things like cinema and I think the motion picture may be almost the paramount art form of today. I'm not sure, because we bring elements of motion, the kinetic idea, which is so much a part of today's life and today's world. This is coming into all of the arts. A new concept of time and as well as a new idea of space. But it seems to me that this all fits into a sort of theme that man's relation to nature and the New World is different from that in the Old World. I think it's true of all of us. I think even people who come here find it, you know, after they arrive and get acclimated.

Studs Terkel You're talking about man's relation to nature. Now we come to something: and you connect in this book, you mentioned some early American artists who come, I'm thinking of, is it Copley? Copley is one of the artists you mentioned in this.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Man and his connection with nature and you, throughout you intersperse thoughts about other art forms, whether it be Melville and "Moby Dick", [unintelligible]. The man--and Copley was someone concerned with this whole theme, wasn't he?

Richard McLanathan He was, too. And, of course, you know it's interesting: here was a kid who in his teens was a professional artist helping to support the family because his father was dead. His mother married--his father died just when he was a very little kid and his mother married after several years a man named Peter Pelham who was an interesting man. He was trained as an engraver, he had an art training, and he must have been a marvelous influence on young Copley. But he died only after three years. And so, I mean, how much could Copley have learned? And, yet, Copley started out as a primitive, a self-taught kind of a painter.

Studs Terkel What era? What time did he live in?

Richard McLanathan Oh, Copley? 18th century and he started out before the Revolution and he reached his peak in his 30s about just on the eve of the Revolution. He was just about 30 then. And it was then that he painted those superb portraits of people like Paul Revere and John Hancock, you know, the guy with the biggest signature.

Studs Terkel But this is interesting, isn't it? It's Copl--it's pronounced Copley, isn't it?

Richard McLanathan Copley. Yeah.

Studs Terkel So he painted before the Revolution but with the Revolution something happened. You have here, for example, a reproduction of a picture of Revere.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel But, never been quite done this way, very informally, a guy--a silversmith--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Revere, a great craftsman himself at his work.

Richard McLanathan And, of course, we don't realize because, you know, that picture is almost as familiar as the George Washington on a postage stamp. We don't realize, you know, that it was a rather revolutionary concept. Because Revere, as a goldsmith or silversmith, whichever you want to call him, was the equivalent of an important banker today. Because that silver--the right word for it is plate, which doesn't mean plated, it means the real solid stuff--this was the real wealth of the day. And, for instance, a man would invest in silver. He would invest in tankards and mugs and plates and things of solid silver. And this was his wealth. So that Revere occupied a position in that town like a leading banker and yet he chose to be portrayed by his friend Copley in his shirtsleeves, informally, with his own hair--not even powdered, you know? No wig.

Studs Terkel No wig. Yeah.

Richard McLanathan Nothing else. Now, if he had been in a British, Continental, or, you know, British, other side of the Atlantic town as big as Boston, why, he would have been all dressed up in his best clothes because he was a leading citizen.

Studs Terkel So we come to something here. Revolution is the word. The American Revolution. Also a revolutionary approach to art, painting, [unintelligible].

Richard McLanathan Yes. And it also, of course, it had to happen before it became a fact. In other words there had to be a change in attitude that was so profound that the actual political revolution took place. Because it's the development of individualism in the New World that, I think, is such an important aspect of this. You see, Copley and Revere agreed on this. They were more interested in painting that picture, in Revere as a man, not as Revere as an important member of the community, a vestryman, holder of public office, or a guy who was entitled to wear a uniform. They were interested in him as Paul Revere, one unique individual. And Revere holds a teapot that he's making, just holds it out almost or showing it to you as if to say, "Look, judge me by what I can do", you know.

Studs Terkel Ah, now we come to something. It was also Revere the craftsman.

Richard McLanathan Exactly.

Studs Terkel We come to the word craftsman.

Richard McLanathan Right.

Studs Terkel Which is also a key in your book, "The American Tradition in the Arts". That it was Revere, proud of his skill in craf--not what he has, but what he is.

Richard McLanathan Exactly. Also, of course, you know, you get another thing with Copley which, to me, is so interesting: with the so-called primitive tradition, you know, the native vernacular tradition, the limner tradition--call it what you will but it's not academic--that's essentially, it's not academic. And those painters who painted those early portraits, they didn't try and do something that was photographic. They did something that was more real than that. They tried to choose the elements in a man's or a woman's face that gave it character, that lent it individuality. And sometimes they'd emphasize those things and eliminate others. They were trying to paint the inner person, you know, the real person. The result was that they had a special kind of a freshness of vision and an intensity of vision. Well, now, Copley started as a primitive and his great achievement was that though he had never seen, you know, a really well-painted picture in his life, he started to paint pictures, himself, better than any that he could have known just because he knew that somewhere this was possible. He had it in him. He worked like a dog to do it. And he--it's a magnificent human achievement.

Studs Terkel Wasn't there something else in Copley? There's a work of his you have reproduced in your book. Richard McLanathan is our guest. "The American Tradition in the Arts" is the book. "Watson and the Sharks" [sic].

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Now, this brings up many things. Whether it's Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat".

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Whether it's "Moby Dick" again. The bigness of America, and man and elements.

Richard McLanathan Yes. Right. Exactly.

Studs Terkel And presaging, obviously, Winslow Homer.

Richard McLanathan Yes. And there's a epic quality and American art, I think, is essentially romantic in that it is essentially very conscious of the emotional nature of man. There's an emotional charge in so much of American art, whether it's music or look at jazz, for goodness sake. I mean, it's a wildly emotionally expressive thing. It's true of so much. And in Copley you find it in this picture of a man who's fallen overboard, or he was swimming, I guess, and some friends in a boat, and he's attacked by a shark. It was an actual event. It happened in Havana Harbor. Copley did it all from the description. He used real models. But somehow he did so much more than just an illustration because, perhaps, he was thinking back as a small boy, where he grew up on Long Wharf, and he'd hear the tales told by seamen and, you know, of the horrors of storms at sea. Because, somehow, that shark coming up out of the water with his mouth open becomes a sort of a symbol of the terrible power of the ocean, of the elements, of the deep, the precariousness of man's life, the solitariness of the individual. I think these themes go running through American thought, American literature, American music. It's just a part of us, really.

Studs Terkel Yeah. As you're talking so, continuity then, is one of the themes. There are leaps but--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Continuity is the theme. There probably would be no Winslow Homer or Ryder--Albert Pinkham Ryder--without a Copley.

Richard McLanathan I think that's probably true. And you find, also, running through all of this you find that natural sort of schizophrenia which is a part of man in general. Only being Americans we're more extravagant about the way we split it and the way it works. There's the logical approach. On the one hand, the intellectual approach. On the other is the introspective approach. There's the artist, for example, who paints the outward things: the landscape, the sea. Perhaps with lots of feeling, but they're outward things. And then there's the man who spins his subject matter out of the inside of himself the way the spider spins his web, and this is Ryder. And Ryder, you know, he sat in that little room in New York, in the back of an old building with his back to a window and he could hear the sound in the wind in the tree. And he started to paint without knowing what his subject was going to be. And gradually the thing evolves somehow out of his head. And he described the process, you know, to a friend. He said, "You know, have you ever seen a caterpillar go out and reach the end of a twig and then reach out and reach out?" He said, "This is what I do in my painting."

Studs Terkel You know, as you're talking, we come to a man of another time, now, early part of the 20th century, or latter 19th: Albert Pinkham Ryder.

Richard McLanathan Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel "Death on a Pale Horse". But here, again, the vision. The introspective. And, again, he had a predecessor aside from Copley: Allston, too.

Richard McLanathan Right.

Studs Terkel [And whether?] the Hawthorne in writing--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel The mystic, the seeking, the vision. There's a wonderful quote you have here when he made a discovery. This is later on, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and painters, of the vision beyond, when he made this fantastic discovery, about his throwing his brushes away when he saw the tree, you know?

Richard McLanathan It's very touching because, you know, you can get the feel of the man seeking in a childlike, simply way. I don't mean childish. But I mean with a lovely, childlike simplicity.

Studs Terkel Sense of wonder.

Richard McLanathan Absolutely. You can feel him seeking for some expression that he just had not been able to achieve and his wild enthusiasm when he finally got it. And the beauty of paint, you know. The lovely globs of color and so on. You know, there's a joy in this. That's also a very important aspect of it.

Studs Terkel Let me just read this one piece of what Mr. McLanathan writes. He says about Ryder and this discovery, "It's a turning point," as he writes, "when I grew weary with a futile struggle to imitate the canvas as the path went out in the fields". And here he saw the forms, the sky, the foliage, the earth. And he says, "I threw my brushes aside; they were too small for the work at hand. I squeezed out big chunks of pure, moist color, and taking my palette knife, I"--isn't this what Van Gogh did, too?

Richard McLanathan Yes. He did, too. He had the same glory in the material.

Studs Terkel "I laid on blue, green, white, brown in big sweeping strokes. As I worked, I saw that it was good and clean and strong. And I saw nature springing into life upon my dead canvas. It was better than nature for it was vibrating with a thrill of a new creation. Exultantly, I painted until the sun sank below the horizon. Then I raced around the fields like a colt let loose and literally bellowed for joy." This is--

Richard McLanathan It's great.

Studs Terkel But this is Ryder talking. You're talking about, also, the artist and his creativity and discovery--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Or a certain moment.

Richard McLanathan And how affirmative it is, you know. There's no negativity in the attitude at all.

Studs Terkel But you're talking again, this is--again, there's this stream that you try to capture. This theme throughout in America. One, sometimes there were gaps and leaps but always there was this thread running through.

Richard McLanathan I think so. I think there was. And, of course, there were influences back and forth across the ocean. Influences of France, and Germany, and of Britain, of course, above all else. But at the same time there were things developing over here, so that, sometimes, the influence worked both ways. And, you know, it went back across the Atlantic, too, because, for instance, when Copley and Benjamin West went over and became two of the leading painters in Britain in the 18th century, later 18th century, why, Benjamin West started as a frontier kid in Pennsylvania and he ended up as the second president of the Royal Academy in London. I mean, this is a leap in a way comparable only to our first spaceflight, you know.

Studs Terkel Yeah. As you talk, you know--the book, by the way, all we're doing is touching now, we're improvising almost, you know, even as we're talking, Mr. McLanathan and I, upon his book that's so rich, dealing with architecture, with furniture, with design, with Duncan Phyfe, with Thomas Jefferson. Here again, Jefferson, I suppose, in a sense, in the early days revolutionized American architecture?

Richard McLanathan Yes, he did. He did. He was the man who created, really, the Greek Revival first, the Classic Revival. The first monument of the Classic Revival in architecture, which became an international style, was his design for the Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia in Richmond, that temple front. And it's designed after the temple in Nimes, in France. And he wrote to a friend, you know, that he used to sit and look at that temple the way a lover gazes at his mistress. And, of course, it's typical, too, that the symbolism is in it because what Jefferson wanted to do was what his whole generation wanted to do. He wanted to recreate all of the wonderful aspects of the life of Greece in the New World of America, you know. This is what his purpose was.

Studs Terkel And yet, the same thing it was--even though he was recreating that, at the same--something new was popping.

Richard McLanathan Yes, there was.

Studs Terkel Something that--because you think of someone who followed him: Andrew Jackson Downing.

Richard McLanathan Yes. Who was a fascinating fellow.

Studs Terkel He spoke of something new that was happening, you know. Here's Jefferson, the aristocrat. At the same time, the Democrat.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel What was, there's a quote here that you have of Andrew Jackson. Suppose a word about Jackson Downing, himself?

Richard McLanathan Well, Downing was--you know, Russell Lynes wrote a delightful book called "The Tastemakers" and Russell was a delightful writer, anyway. And it's a charming book and he deals with Downing. Downing was a tastemaker: he changed America's taste. He changed it from, really, from the Greek Revival style into a Romantic style of architecture. And A.J. Davis was our first great Romantic architect and he did fascinating things. Some of it was Gothic revival, highly imaginative. Not textbook like at all. But it was very romantic stuff. And, of course, that led right on to H.H. Richardson, you know, who did the Marshall Field wholesale store down here that unfortunately got torn down a few years ago, about 1930. But this is what set Sullivan on the way and created the skyscraper. It comes out of the Romantic American tradition in architecture.

Studs Terkel It's interesting: you mentioned Davis, A.J. Davis, and A.J. Downing and Andrew Jackson--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Are some of the names. But this comment of Downing--this connects with Jefferson. That is, something, the recapturing of something very remarkable and beautiful that is old. At the same time, awareness of something new. And there's a quote of yours you have of Andrew Jackson Downing: "In a country like ours"--he speaks of labor-saving devices.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel "In a country like ours where the population is comparatively sparse." This was when, roughly? Downing?

Richard McLanathan Oh, this was mid 19th century.

Studs Terkel Mid 19th. "Relatively"--

Richard McLanathan The first half, late first half of the 19th century.

Studs Terkel "Relatively sparse, civil rights equal at this time," in the area he writes about. "And wages high. Good." Again, relatively. "Domestics comparatively rare." Again, that is, unlike the caste system of the Old World.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel "And not likely to retain their places for a long time." Again, the lack of a caste system, the mobility--

Richard McLanathan The mobility of American society.

Studs Terkel He insists, "The smallest cottage be properly designed, share architectural distinction with the most pretentious houses", and admonished the nouveau riche against "building immense houses in the form of castles." He wanted this to be something in which humans live.

Richard McLanathan Exactly. Also, there's something else in all of this. You know, with Americans anything that--you know, art for art's sake is a pretty rare idea. We've got as a part of our Puritan heritage the idea that things ought, somehow, essentially to be useful, you know. And art ought to serve a purpose of some sort. And I think you find that kind of idea in Downing there. In that, obviously, the implications there are that in a democratic society, with the people being pretty much equal, it's absolutely, it's just not fitting for somebody to have a palace and another fellow to have a hovel. And, of course, we're still fighting the battle. We're still trying to share the wealth of America today.

Studs Terkel And you're still talking about, there's still the Puritan influence. This plays, there's the undercurrent of this throughout, isn't there?

Richard McLanathan There is. And it's profound. And, you know, it doesn't matter whether you are black, white, yellow, green, or whatever you are or whatever your national origins were; if you were brought up in America, somehow you've absorbed some of the Puritan tradition. The idea of education for everybody, and the idea of an essential sort of purpose in life. All of those things are a part of that Puritan tradition.

Studs Terkel So there was this danger throughout: there was both the thrill, a challenge, and also the danger of repression. That is, repression of whatever might be pagan in man.

Richard McLanathan Yes. And a suspicion of our emotional nature.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Richard McLanathan And this is one reason, I think, why more in America than any other place you get this tremendous split between the two parts of man: the intellectual, the rational part of man, you know, the mind part. And then the heart, the gut, the emotional part.

Studs Terkel So you have Hawthorne--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel In a way.

Richard McLanathan Yeah.

Studs Terkel And Allston. Who was Allston? [unintelligible]

Richard McLanathan And Allston, Washington Allston, was at the very beginning of the 19th century. He was almost an exact contemporary of Washington Irving and he was a friend. They were friends. And they were international Americans: they were known equally in Europe as they were in America. And Washington Allston was a painter but he also was a poet. Nobody really--he wrote a novel--nobody'd read it today, but it's kind of entertaining. But he studied and he worked in England. He was a friend of Wordsworth and Southey, the poets. And he had a theory about color which absolutely anticipates a lot of modern art. He said that he felt that the secret of the power of Titian and Tintoretto, and such people as that, was that they used color so evocatively that the subject didn't matter. That it was just the beauty of the color and the relation of the colors in the picture that essentially carried the message of the picture. Now that's, you know, this was way back in, what? 1810 or something like that. That's an extraordinary idea.

Studs Terkel So, he called the shot on what happened a good hundred fifty years later.

Richard McLanathan I think he'd have been shocked to death if he could have seen but, on the other hand, he had the instinct, you know? He had the feel about it.

Studs Terkel Throughout, this theme--we always come back-- I do, I don't know why--Pinkham Ryder and 'the vision beyond'. This phrase, 'the vision beyond'. The sea--again, the elements, man--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Earlier we spoke of Copley, and the sharks, and man, and nature. As the bigness of the country played a role. And somewhere he speaks of the vision beyond. [unintelligible]

Richard McLanathan Well, you know, I think there's something here that also is a part of it. Behind every American, unless we are an American Indian in our origin, behind every one of us lies an experience of the sea because everybody came here. We're all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants. There was the passage. We came across the sea. The sea was, at first, a frightening barrier. Then after that it became our high road to the rest of the world. And, consequently, somehow, it took on a significance. The sea becomes meaningful in different ways. In Copley's painting of "Watson and the Shark" the sea becomes frightening as symbolized by the shark. You get it with Melville. But then with Ryder you get that lonely boat on the ocean and it becomes a kind of a symbol of the voyage of life. And, of course, the most famous paintings that America had for years were Thomas Cole's four pictures, the four ages of man, called "The Voyage of Life".

Studs Terkel "The Voyage of Life". So here again, this pull, that haunts and drew Melville, Whitman--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Coles, and Ryder. This quote you have of Ryder on this very point. Almost any spot you turn to in Mr. McLanathan's book has this richness. "For Ryder, as for Melville and Whitman, the sea becomes a symbol of eternity: infinitely vast and timeless. Yet, subject to moods of terror and peace, equally. He often shares with Cole and Emerson the idea of life as a voyage across the wild ocean. Now bright on the wave, now darkling in the trough of the sea. But from what port did we sail?" Here again. We being an alien--aliens in alien land, aside from the American Indian.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel "Who knows?" wrote Ryder here. "Or to what port are we bound? There is no one to tell us but such poor, weather-tossed mariners as ourselves. Whom we speak as we pass. But what know they more than we? They also found themselves in this wondrous sea." On it. "O'er all their speaking trumpets, the gray sea and the loud winds answer, 'Not on us, not in time.'" And this led in to a discussion of his painting, "Jonah".

Richard McLanathan Yeah. Where, of course, you get, again, the terror of the sea and the wonder of the sea.

Studs Terkel But throughout, you know, if I can just, even as we turn right now, talking, I just saw the name Eakins. And so, we come to these remarkable figures who had rough times, too, by the way.

Richard McLanathan They did.

Studs Terkel Eakins was the great anatomist, wasn't he?

Richard McLanathan Yes. And a magnificent teacher and a, one of the--he and Copley are our two greatest portrait painters. But, of course, both of them were much more than just portrait painters. Eakins was one of the great trio of the later nineteenth century, just very beginning of the twentieth century: Homer, Eakins, and Ryder. These are the great three figures and somehow they sum up so much of this. Homer with his epic treatment of the sea. After all, the central subject of Homer, whether it's an Adirondack guide alone in the woods or whether it's the fisherman off the Grand Banks alone or whether it's one of his seascapes or whatever it is, it's essentially man and nature is his subject and he treats it epically. And then with Eakins, of course, you get this marvelous feeling for the individual and for the inner life of man and the essential kind of tragedy that lies within man. His awareness of his weaknesses, of his frailties, and, yet, the human qualities are so strongly there in Eakins' pictures. And he did the most unsparing self-portrait, I suppose, that any artist has ever done. It's a terribly touching picture because he looked at himself just as objectively as he looked at any of his other sitters and yet with the same kind of human sympathy.

Studs Terkel You talk about Eakins, we think of also something was happening: the artist not removed from life but part of it. The medicine, medical advances. Eakins did two great pictures of the clinic, "The Gross Clinic" and--

Richard McLanathan "The Agnew Clinic".

Studs Terkel And "The Agnew Clinic".

Richard McLanathan And, you know, it's a kind of a history of medicine in that period and how fast it went. There's some 20 years or so difference between the two pictures. In the first one, Dr. Gross is dressed in a business suit and so on, and in the second one, Dr. Agnew is already in his white, he is sterile. I mean, think of the change in medicine that took place. But, you see, Eakins' greatest friends were amongst the professional medical people there in Philadelphia. He was a superb anatomist. He dissected corpses like Leonardo and like Michelangelo in order to understand and his knowledge of anatomy was fantastic. So, of course, when it came to teaching he was a marvelous teacher and he did not dictate style but what he did dictate was fundamentals in approach and grasp. And he was very sparing of his praise. But he never blamed anybody because he knew the kids were doing their best and so when he would come around and say, "That's a good job," this was like getting a medal. And he was a fantastic teacher and that's what made at that time Philadelphia, you know, and the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Academy, a very, very fertile ground for American art.

Studs Terkel At the same time he was fighting the laws that would restrain and--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel The press was, you know [unintelligible]--

Richard McLanathan Yes. And when he was teaching he insisted on the use of nude models and he had mixed pupils, boys and girls, men and women together. And they thought it was ghastly, you know. Philadelphians are like Bostonians that way, too. New Englanders. They thought this was appalling.

Studs Terkel I think we should dwell on this a bit because this is contemporary, it is now. Repressive forces then, now, with an artist, you know, with what is decent and what is indecent. He was--Eakins, the teacher--he was a great teacher, obviously, and he insisted on truth--

Richard McLanathan Yeah.

Studs Terkel And truth in this case involved the body.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel And what happened?

Richard McLanathan And, of course, his attitude toward the body was one of complete respect. It was--I mean, I can't imagine a more moral man than Thomas Eakins. And he just didn't see why that you shouldn't study the nude model just the same way he did. He just didn't understand why this wasn't the right attitude. And, of course, it is the right attitude. For sure.

Studs Terkel Was the school closed?

Richard McLanathan No, he got fired.

Studs Terkel He got fired.

Richard McLanathan He got fired and then all his pupils joined him and, you know, had private classes.

Studs Terkel But then we come back again, always, to the artist, and the community, and changes. And you talk about Winslow Homer. As you mentioned the seas, you spoke of Ryder, and earlier of Copley, and of the writers. And there's a comment: "Since James went to the Old World--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel [unintelligible] Yet, begrudgingly, he had to admire this guy who captured the wild elements of [the New, didn't he?]

Richard McLanathan Yeah. Yeah, you know, he said--James, he had--he said, he has a wonderful phrase--of course, he expressed himself beautifully. He reviewed a show of Winslow Homer and he talked about these flat-chested New England maidens, you know, with the suggestion of doughnuts and pie. And he said, "Homer has looked at these people, these subjects, and looked at this bleak landscape as if it were painterly and worth painting and has made itself."

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Richard McLanathan It was grudging but he admired it.

Studs Terkel He was a begrudger.

Richard McLanathan Yeah.

Studs Terkel As Brendan Behan would say, but he had to. This quote of yours, Mr. McLanathan, quotes James here at the time they, it was during the exhibition of 1876, was it? Yeah. "He was almost barbarously simple," wrote the young Henry James, of the three paintings of Winslow Homer, "and to our eye he's horribly ugly. But there is, nevertheless, something one likes about him. What is it? For ourselves is not his subject. We frankly confess that we detest his subjects: his barren, plank fences, blue skies, his big dreary vacant lots of meadows, his freckled, straight-haired Yankee urchins, his flat-breasted matrons suggest of a dish of rural doughnuts and pie." And he goes on in this vein and, yet, it's as if they were every inch as good as Capri or Tanguy--here, again, a man seeking another land.

Richard McLanathan Yes. And I don't believe you could get two men more unlike than Winslow Homer and Henry James. After all, Henry James loved the kind of courtly life of England, you know, with its dignity and its sort of ritual and all that. And Winslow Homer is best friends with the fishermen down there on the coast of Maine on Prouts Neck.

Studs Terkel You know, since you're talking about that, the switches and the differences and the conflicts in American--in seeking to express itself. You spoke of the Puritan tradition. And in contrast to James' approach there was the abolition--Egalitarianism was--you speak of a guy named John Rogers.

Richard McLanathan Yes. Yes, of course. Who did the "Rogers Groups", these little plaster groups of figures that were utterly realistic and actually charmingly nostalgic and the sort of thing that is almost getting popular today because people can call it camp or something else, you know.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Richard McLanathan But it was always the attempt, you know, to have art that said something to people in general. Not to have art just for the happy few, just for the connoisseur. And it was Rogers who did so much with his, these little figures. It was a marvelous achievement: his invention of a special casting technique and everything else and he sold them by mail all over the place and fellows hawked them off of pushcarts and country peddlers would have them on their wagons. Why, there was hardly a parlor in America that didn't have these things.

Studs Terkel This raises an interesting point. Again, the danger, the appeal to the low common denominator. This isn't it. At the same time there was this movement you talk about: every man his own artist. The self-trained artisans. Almost, what you called an almost a do-it-yourself movement of the time.

Richard McLanathan Yes, there was.

Studs Terkel That, because of the very nature of a new country following a revolution.

Richard McLanathan Yes. And, of course, there's another thing, too. I think we were building up toward something perfectly fascinating toward the middle of the 19th century, toward 1850, because by that time art had become, with the idea that Americans were now more settled in our new country, we could afford things--life wasn't so desperate--and people had come here with an ideal to make life better. And so, therefore, the arts, knowledge of literature, and music--America's whole history is just full of music of all kinds--all of these things were considered a part of life. And so, things like the gift books and annuals that look so kind of amusing today, why, these were sort of doors that opened on to the great world of the culture of the past and they were considered important. The "Rogers Group", the Currier and Ives print, the steel engraving after a Thomas Cole painting or something like this. The tiny little statuette after Hiram Powers' "Greek Slave". These were things that took on a great meaning to these people. They were going to share the arts. They determined to have them. They were going to be a part of their lives. And all of that got changed by the Civil War, of course, because the nation was then just torn in two and we became a heavy industrial nation just through the force of the necessity of the war. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel We return to our guest, Richard McLanathan, and his book, discussing his book, "The Tradition of American Art" [sic]. Before the break he was discussing the change in American society and how it affected the art and now he discusses the impact of the Industrial Revolution. Mr. McLanathan continues the conversation:

Richard McLanathan Out of it came a social revolution, an economic revolution, and from being agricultural and trading we became a great big industrial power. And the whole emphasis changed and the whole ideas of art changed and we're only just getting back to it.

Studs Terkel Yeah. This is interesting. So, perhaps you can talk about that for a moment, too. But, prior to the Civil War there was this, not [pastoral?], but this attempt of man to find each one his own artist. At the same time maybe out of appreciation of that which is more advanced. You speak of, there was a period, was this the time of the Great Awakening, too? The "Peaceable Kingdom"--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Works appeared. Edward Hicks.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Was he a preacher?

Richard McLanathan Yes. He was a Quaker preacher and, you know, he was very eloquent. And it's so typical of the kind of, of the sense of the Puritan tradition which wasn't a sectarian tradition. It was a tradition that went through, you know, whatever church you might belong to. But he was very eloquent as a preacher. And, you know, every once in a while he'd feel, "I am enjoying my own eloquence". And so then he'd stop preaching and he'd start painting. And he was trained as a wagon and a sign painter and he had only one subject. And it's, how typical it is of so much of our whole history and the hopes of man, anyway. It was the Peaceable Kingdom. It was the idea of everybody being friends, you know? The lion and the lamb shall lie down together and a little child shall lead them. He painted it again and again and again. He painted this with, sometimes with William Penn's treaty with the Indians in the background because it's reputed to be the only treaty with the Indians that we ever kept. And he was a great admirer of William Penn. They have a very fascinating quality and oftentimes he was using his best lettering such as he'd letter on somebody's wagon, you know? He'd write these sort of doggerel verses around the edge so that the pictures themselves were self-framed, they didn't need another frame, and he'd write around this sentiment about his hopes for peace among men.

Studs Terkel So you have, there are a number of illustrations--there are quite a few. It's full of it, you know. And one is the "Peaceable Kingdom" of Edward Hicks and other variations, versions of it. The writings of Penn, the lion and lamb together, almost--they look like a calendar and yet it isn't. It's, again, we come back to a certain--one man's vision. We come to this, don't we? In his own way he had the same kind of vision that a Ryder and a Winslow Homer and a [unintelligible]--

Richard McLanathan Yes. He did. He did. He had a vision and, after all, you know, utopianism was something which was rampant in this country. Look at all the social experiments that went on all over the place. Communities that, you know, that set themselves up to try and live together according to some special rules or laws or their own ideals. And, of course, being human beings they all failed but almost every one of them made some interesting contribution.

Studs Terkel Was this going on at the same time--"The Peaceable Kingdom"--the same time same, say, as Brook Farm and the others, roughly?

Richard McLanathan I should think so. Yes.

Studs Terkel The same time. Yeah.

Richard McLanathan Yeah. Yeah.

Studs Terkel So there were, utopianism, the idea of something better.

Richard McLanathan Yes. Also, the looking to the future. Always the hope. And, you know, this is something that went with the frontier. And I think it's so important. And today, you know, today a man can't afford to fail. In those days a man could fail and fail and fail but he could always try again. Look what happened to Abraham Lincoln: what did he--he tried three different professions, three different kinds of jobs and he failed. And then look what he became. Today, you fail once and you lose your credit rating and where are you?

Studs Terkel Yeah. Credit rating. So, we come to that.

Richard McLanathan You know?

Studs Terkel There was no credit rating then.

Richard McLanathan No. A man was a man and he always had another chance.

Studs Terkel [unintelligible] Go ahead, I'm sorry.

Richard McLanathan And, you know, this, but this, I think, went with the frontier. But, again, you see, a lot of these painters that I deal with in here, the ones that are the more academic ones and then the others that represent the native kind of limner tradition, these were professional people. They earn their living this way.

Studs Terkel And as you're talking, you know, again I just, my eye falls upon the name Audubon. Here we come again: only in America. The fact that the very, the richness of the land and the animal life that was about led to an Audubon, didn't it?

Studs Terkel It did. And it led to those wonderful two Quakers, the Bartrams, father and son, who wrote about their travels through the wilderness of America collecting plant specimens. You know, self-trained. They corresponded with Linnaeus and all this sort of thing. And there was a man named Wilson, a curious solitary Scotsman who did the first job of ornithology. But, of course, Audubon surpassed them all as an artist. And if you're a real purist, you know, you'd say that, well, he exaggerated a little bit here and there. But even the most purist among ornithologists, I think, will admit that nobody captured more completely a kind of a sense of the wonder of this wild life than he did. Which, after all, was his contribution.

Studs Terkel You know, everything in the book of Richard McLanathan, it's called "The American Tradition in the Arts," and it's published by, this is?

Richard McLanathan Harcourt, Brace & World.

Studs Terkel It's Harcourt, Brace & World. Harcourt, Brace & World. That's full of illustrations as well. I can't believe--everything leads up to something. And I was thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright. Before him Sullivan, before him Richardson. But long before we went, we spoke of Andrew Jackson Downing way earlier--

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel And somewhere here your point about the fact of harmony with nature.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel And this was Wright, wasn't it?

Richard McLanathan This was Wright.

Studs Terkel Frank Lloyd Wright.

Richard McLanathan And I don't suppose there has been a house ever built that was more totally related to its site than Frank Lloyd Wright's beautiful house of Fallingwater. You know, it was built bridging a stream, you know.

Studs Terkel Outside of Pittsburgh.

Richard McLanathan Yeah. In Pennsylvania in the hills there. And with a sense of the quality, the character of the place. And, of course, again, I don't suppose there's a more romantic house either. Because look at it. It's a wonderful expression of mood, of a kind of whole philosophy of man in nature, in the wildness of nature. There's no formal garden there. There's just the rocks, the rough boulders, the ledges, and the water, you know. There it is and that's the house.

Studs Terkel You know, Barry Byrne, an architect who lived in Chicago, who was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, always spoke of Wright loved to use the word 'organic'.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel He spoke of a tree as the perfect symbol of something organic. So way back there was this guy Andrew Jackson Downing [unintelligible].

Richard McLanathan And he was so particular about the relation of a building to its setting and he felt that this was absolutely essential. And, of course, this was the essence of American romantic architecture. Because Davis, who came was, outlived him a good deal. And did some of our--

Studs Terkel You're talking about Downing?

Richard McLanathan Yes. Did some of our handsome romantic buildings. And then Renwick who did St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Studs Terkel Of what time are we talking now?

Richard McLanathan Well, now we're talking about the second half of the 19th century. And then Renwick, who did St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, but he also did the old Smithsonian Building. You know, the old red building all covered with towers and everything in Washington D.C.? And every time they put up another building in Washington, you know, the architectural standard there is pretty low, that old Renwick building gets looking better and better. It's a lovely piece of Romantic architecture to break up all that white, sterile stuff they're building, you know.

Studs Terkel As you say this don't we come to something--your book--even though it's about the past is now, is very contemporary. We're talking now about harmony with nature. And we're talking now about, also, nature not being destroyed, what with what we see going on now, you see.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel With the ecological balance being maybe knocked off. Then Wright would have been battling today [alongside Downing?].

Richard McLanathan Wright, today, would have been battling right along with A.J. Downing and all of these other people against pollution, against the destruction of the landscape, against the kind of ghastly housing project sort of thing which dehumanizes people, against the ghetto. I mean, this is--these fights have been here, I think, right along.

Studs Terkel You know, as you're saying, there's a predecessor of Sullivan and Wright with Richardson.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel And one of the great battlers we have today, of course, for what we hope is a good [left?] is Lewis Mumford.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel And Mumford speaks of Richardson, doesn't he?

Richard McLanathan With great respect. Yes.

Studs Terkel He speaks of the sumac, and the red oak, and the sweet fern, and the rock, and the pine tree, and the butternut. But, always--who is--he speaks of Rich--I suppose we should ask you, Richardson--was his role?

Richard McLanathan Well, H.H. Richardson was the, he came out of the Romantic tradition of American architecture. He was a follower of people like Davis and he turned more to the ruggedness of the Romanesque style of the early and middle ages. And, yet, he just used this as a point of departure. He became an architect who designed personally but using wonderful native materials, you know. He just liked the native rock. And he liked it with a rock-like surface, not all honed down and smoothed out. And he could build a bridge that--over a small stream is on the Fenway in Boston--a bridge that was so massive and so beautiful it became an expressive thing in itself. And, of course, he did the big church there in Copley Square, Trinity. And then one of his most influential buildings was the Marshall Field Wholesale Store or wholesale warehouse here in Chicago which virtually was the starting point, the point of departure for the development of the architecture of today, of Sullivan and all of the rest of it. The skyscraper development and all that.

Studs Terkel That leads to Sullivan, then.

Richard McLanathan Yeah.

Studs Terkel About--since Richardson also spoke of function in a way. Function and setting.

Richard McLanathan Yeah. He would strip windows and things and Sullivan took that over. It's amazing how much of that was there.

Studs Terkel And so we come to--speaking of vision then--throughout this of vision.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel We speak of vision now, of Sullivan and his city of man. But what did he, how did he describe a skyscraper? As a soaring or, something, a soaring thing.

Richard McLanathan Yes. He thought of this as a--I think he thought of the skyscraper something the way, say, a great architect of the Middle Ages thought of the spire of a cathedral.

Studs Terkel A cathedral. Yeah. But what made the skyscraper then--again, we come to American and materials. Here was steel--

Richard McLanathan Steel.

Studs Terkel And the [skyscraper?] was an elevator.

Richard McLanathan And the elevator. And then you got the skyscraper. And, boy, there's no limit. Look what's happening all over this country.

Studs Terkel They anticipated glass, too, didn't they?

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Say, within the Carson Pirie Scott building.

Richard McLanathan Yes. And that's still one of the best looking buildings in any major city in America.

Studs Terkel But we come to his dream and the shattering of a dream of Louis Sullivan.

Richard McLanathan Yes. Because it got, and it got shattered by another form of idealism, in a way, because the great Columbian Exposition, which turned into, which produced the White City, the magic city out here in the lake front of Chicago. Everything white, everything columns, everything sort of classic, everything harking back. Nothing looking forward. And the only, there were only two buildings, really, in that whole thing that had anything in them of the germs of a future. And one of them was, of course, the Sullivan Transportation Building and the other one was a building by a forgotten Chicago architect, who shouldn't have been forgotten, whose name was Cobb. Henry Ives Cobb? Was that his name? I've forgot. Something Cobb, his name. But--Fisheries Building, I think he did. But outside of that everything was white, everything was columns, everything was a tremendous ordered vista. And it was impressive and it, you know, it just got architecture off that course of which it had followed for so long. Only Wright, you know, outlived them all. And he lived long enough to see it come back. And, of course, he was a very colorful, picturesque character who had no hesitation, whatsoever, saying, "I told you so".

Studs Terkel Yeah. So we come--his "liebe Meister" was Sullivan.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel And the thing that was happening at the Colombian Exposition, as you say, was looking back. It's exactly the opposite of what Sullivan--in democracies man searches, are looking forward--

Richard McLanathan Yes. Looking forward.

Studs Terkel Using the phrase, "A democracy is ever a revolution. An aspiration seeking form for a superb and calm spirit". And so, it was a direct contradiction.

Richard McLanathan And that's so like Jefferson. So like Jefferson who felt that there should be constant change and room for change. And, you know, the swiftness with which we move today certainly should, perhaps, make it easier for us to understand, you know, how some of these people felt about the necessity of change. Of a constant evolution that was almost revolutionary in its swiftness.

Studs Terkel And this was Wright. And so after that, Wright, who went on to outlive a great many of his contemporaries, is saying 'this must be' throughout [unintelligible].

Richard McLanathan Yeah. Of course, it was a great experience, always, to hear Frank Lloyd Wright speak or to talk with him. You didn't really talk with him, he talked at you. And he was full of ideas. He could insult you in a way that, you know, say, your city looked terrible and all the rest of it. And he'd do it so amusingly that everybody enjoyed it.

Studs Terkel And, yet, he was part of the continuity, too. You know, you speak of the dramatic quality of space. Space [unintelligible]

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Way, way back, whether it be Andrew Jackson Davis. Whether it be an earlier guy: Bulfinch, Richardson, Sullivan; there was Wright. Always this aspect--

Richard McLanathan Yes. That's true.

Studs Terkel Of the land and man's kind.

Richard McLanathan And, of course, the Prairie style: his idea of the house that hugged the contours of the land. This, again, this feeling for the place. And the idea of the Midwest of America, the middle of America, being the Heartland of America. He was suspicious of all those, you know, those Yankees and those East and West Coast people and he had that kind of, same sort of thing Jefferson had, you know. Jefferson was an agrarian. He was an agriculturalist. He believed that you lived close to the land and that was health. And Frank Lloyd Wright had the same idea.

Studs Terkel It's funny, as some of the young today--it's a minority--[unintelligible] speak of 'back to the land'.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel The 'Green Revolution', it's called.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Coming back--meantime, as we're switching back and forth from architecture to painting, events are happening in the Old World and New at the turn of the century, 1913. Now we come to a big event in America: the Armory Show, Stieglitz's presentations, the Ashcan School--

Richard McLanathan This, of course, was a tremendously dramatic event. It really started in 1908 with a show called "Eight Americans" in the MacBeth Gallery in New York. And, of course, I think Arthur B. Davies, who painted these dreamlike maidens and unicorns in an idyllic landscape and this kind of thing, you can't imagine anybody painting like that being a revolutionary but he was because it was he that helped Robert Henri get together the show called the "Eight Americans". The Ashcan School it came to be called because people thought it was perfectly dreadful to paint pictures of street scenes the way they really were. You know, a backyard with laundry hanging out, and a black cat in the snow the way John Sloan did. Or, for instance, the way Sloan also painted the interior, as did Everett Shinn, of McSorley's Bar. Well, you know, there's not a drunk in any of the pictures. Everybody's behaving themselves perfectly well. Perfectly nice looking fellows in there but somehow this was considered seedy and unpleasant.

Studs Terkel So here we come now to, now, the industrialization of the country is in full force and here are men seeking to capture reality just as Theodore Dreiser did, you point out.

Richard McLanathan Exactly.

Studs Terkel And Frank Norris.

Richard McLanathan It's the sa--it's a parallel thing. They're trying to get reality back into art. They knew perfectly well, as everybody knows who thinks about it, that art isn't an escape from life. It's an escape out of the trivialities of everyday existence into reality, In a sense. And, of course, they were doing it in terms of subject. But that was in 1908. But in 1913, when the Armory Show came, boy, then for the first time Americans became aware of the fact that modern art had been born. And they were horrified and shocked, and there were screams of rage and anger, and shouts of fraud and, oh, it just, you know, it was, it's amusing when you read it and you look back at it.

Studs Terkel "Nude Descending the Staircase" [sic] became [a part of?] The conversation.

Richard McLanathan Yes. This was the most notorious thing of the show.

Studs Terkel But something was popping. Now we know that it was over and beyond the pleasant little pastoral scenes.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel Something was happening.

Richard McLanathan And it was something fundamental. The revolution of "The Eight", the Ashcan School, in 1908, was a revolution of an approach in terms of subject. But the revolution that followed the Armory Show was a revolution that had to do with the very concept of what art itself was. And it was on that concept that the art of our day has really been based.

Studs Terkel And so, as we think of a period--this is 1913, you know--now things were popping, changes were occurring, everything happened, technology was coming into being. So we think of the Depression, you know, don't we?

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel We become to a certain period, now, in which the government played a role.

Richard McLanathan And the government played a role sort of in spite of itself. And it was interesting because it was--it made possible artistic careers for many of the people who became the leading artists of the next decade, in the next few decades, in the next, almost the next generation. It produced, you know, our--gave a chance to--our Ben Shahns and our Edward Hoppers and our very, you know, our great, great [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel You mention Hopper--of course, this is close to me--I mean, for personal reasons, a certain painting, "Nighthawks", of course, I'm thinking of.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel I had a childhood in a hotel--

Richard McLanathan That's here in the Chicago Art Institute.

Studs Terkel But Hopp--was Hopper on the WPA project?

Richard McLanathan I think he was. I think he had a part in it. I'm not sure. Almost everybody was.

Studs Terkel Yeah. [pause in recording] We're talking with Richard McLanathan and the subject is his very excellent book, a very rewarding one. It's called "The American Tradition and the Arts" and it's profusely illustrated with some of the works we're talking about. Harcourt, Brace & World are the publishers. And we were just, as we're returning, we were talking about--the theme is continuity. We were talking about this whole federal arts project period of the '30s where the government is patron. And as a result an explosion occurred. Was this a period of social consciousness? And, of course, the muralists, the Mexican muralists were also [unintelligible].

Richard McLanathan Yes. The Mexicans were very--the people like Diego Rivera, Rothko, and people--Siqueiros--people like that, were tremendously important in their influence because these were very socially conscious people. They were painting revolutionary pictures. And, of course, at this time artists felt very keenly that the social structure of America with people, really, on bread lines and other people rich, that this was all wrong and there had to be a better chance for everybody. And, actually, the government as patron, under the various, these various programs, gave these artists a chance to continue painting and continue with their art. And a lot of their murals, because almost none of them had had any training as muralists, a lot of them are pretty darn bad. But, on the other hand, it gave them continuity to their lives. But also in the subjects, in their approach, there was a great deal of this social consciousness and of protest. And you find this is a very important part of the art of Ben Shahn, for example. People like that.

Studs Terkel We haven't talked, you know, this is also part of your book: the influence of photography. I was thinking [unintelligible]--

Richard McLanathan Which is tremendous.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Richard McLanathan Tremendous, because, first of all, when the daguerreotype was introduced in the 1830s in America, it killed off within a generation the whole profession--an honorable profession--of the itinerant portrait painter, the village limner and artist. And it was from the ranks of these people that many of our greatest artists came. And as soon as there was no longer a chance--because this machine had taken the place of the man--as soon as there was no longer a chance for a livelihood like this, why, it changed the whole course of American Art. And then, curiously, the camera gave something back again in our own century. The camera, again, with its vision and so on was very much influential on the development of a lot of near contemporary, very recent artists. Look at Charles Sheeler, who was a superb photographer, for example. And Ben Shahn was a wonderful photographer, too. It gave them a sharpness of vision and so is a special part of their qualities.

Studs Terkel You know, very often as we think of the camera, some would say, Andrew Wyeth--not the camera--there's a certain haunting quality. At the same time the camera probably did play a role in the fact that he does what he does, doesn't it?

Richard McLanathan I think it may have although, you know, Wyeth is a very, he's a very hard man to size up and classify because you often forget how abstract his pictures are. You just look at one of his pictures, for example, and see what he's left out of it. It's amazing how he reduces it to the essential. And, of course, he leaves out color, his palette is so limited: it's deliberately the autumn winter, the snowless winter landscape colors. And he uses these to give a sense of mood, a haunting kind of sense. And even if there's no person there, there's always the sense of the association with man.

Studs Terkel Yeah. As you're talking about that I can't help but think of someone who's--I say, you know, I've never met him close--Edward Hopper: restaurant, "Nighthawks" it is, that the artist did. And it's a question of light and loneliness: the light accentuated the loneliness and we come to the city, don't we?

Richard McLanathan Yes. We do. The theme of the great American city. And, of course, again you come back to the old American theme of the solitariness of the individual in the midst of the vastness which America is. And as now where we're reaching out into space, why, we know even more. We're getting a sense of the frightening, unbelievable vastness with which we're surrounded. Why, we're smaller now than, you know, we used to think atoms were. And think of it: it was only a few centuries ago that we thought that man was the center of everything and all the rest of it.

Studs Terkel As you're talking, Mr. McLanathan, here, the theme is, throughout the book, there is a steady theme, rich with variations. At the very beginning you spoke of man, and a seeking, and a search. The American art and the very simple influences upon it: the frontier, the sea, the haunting quality of it. Man battling the elements. Finally, we come to Hopper, who died, what, in the 1920s, -37? More recently than that, I think?

Richard McLanathan Oh, he died just a couple of years ago.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Richard McLanathan Just couple of years ago.

Studs Terkel 1947? Yeah. Well, think of him and loneliness again.

Richard McLanathan Yes.

Studs Terkel In a wholly different environment. And, yet, that same search goes on. I think, perhaps, if we could even end--we haven't talked about jazz, and Stuart Davis, and action painting, of course, and what's happened since.

Richard McLanathan Yes. Yes. And, of course, there's another aspect of America, the American tradition, that is the extravagance of it. We are an extravagant people. We've had the richness of a continent and we've exploited it. And in the old days, you know, they'd farm and if the land got poor they'd move on. There was always more, always room for a future. We've reached the end of that but we haven't lost our extravagance. And, also, we haven't lost the tendencies toward violence. There's violence in our art, there's violence in our history, and our backgrounds. And there's violence in our lives today whether we know it or not. All of these things are coming out in our art today.

Studs Terkel It's a movement.

Richard McLanathan Movement. Change. Constant change.

Studs Terkel The phrase you use here, toward the end of the book: "Errand into wilderness". Wilderness. The idea of the wilderness. Now, it's a new kind of wilderness.

Richard McLanathan Well, you know, the very last sentence in the book, it's interesting. I combined two things. You know, when the Puritans came to the New World they came not just to escape but they came to prove that man could live according to ways that they believed and be successful. And through this they were going to lead the world and influence the rest of the world. They--that was their errand in the wilderness. And so, again, this has continued throughout all this American history. But then I combined that with another quotation and it comes from a letter which was written to the "New York Times" in, I think, in the 1950s, in which Rothko and Gottlieb, two of the important American artists of the day, were saying what they were doing in their work. And I don't know which one wrote it because they both signed it but they use this marvelous phrase that their art was 'a voyage of discovery into an unknown world'.

Studs Terkel So we have the phrase of, 'a voyage of life', 'voyage of discovery'. Beginnings, endings--really, no endings. Always beginnings.

Richard McLanathan No endings. Always beginnings.

Studs Terkel Richard McLanathan's book [excellent one?] is "The American Tradition of the Arts". Harcourt, Brace & World, the publishers. Thank you very much.

Richard McLanathan I enjoyed it.