Scope and Contents
An interview with Barbara Novak conducted 2013 October 8-17, by James McElhinney, for the Archvies of American Art, at Novak's home in Manhattan, New York.
Scope and Contents
Novak speaks of her early art training; learning to draw at the age of eight with help from her uncle William Kaufman and later taking art classes with Belle Icahn; Edward Melkoff; Joseph Presser; and classes at the Art Students League; becoming Expressionist in her painting; her year in Europe as a Fulbright student from Harvard University; the powerful lectures of Julius Held at Barnard College that launched her career; feeling that she devised a system by which works of art can be understood through looking closely at their physical properties and how she tries to develop the individual in her students; her time as a docent at the Brooklyn Museum in the American art collection; which led her to becoming an Americanist; her book, "Alice's Neck" and the inspiring Utah landscape; the importance of Fitz Henry Lane's work; the embodiment in American art of Pragmatism and Transcendentalism; and being led to Luminism; her books showing how to understand American culture through art, covering formal, contextual, and spiritual elements; hosting the first television show on art, "Vision of Art"; her husband Brian O'Doherty's background in art; the importance of nature for Cole and Durand; that common sense should be used in describing works of art, rather than assuming current events influenced the artist; her education at Harvard; Margaret Fuller and writing "The Margaret-Ghost"; Marcel Duchamp; Andrew Wyeth; Edward Hopper; Robert Rauschenberg; Mark Rothko; and Lee Krasner; and that the most exhilarating time intellectually for her was the 1960s with a group that included Robert Smithson, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse, Peter Hutchinson, Morton Feldman, Mel Bochner, and others. Barbara also recalls Mrs. Nevins, William Scharf, Paul Cormans [ph], Marion Lawrence, Marge Shapiro, Maxim Karolick, William Goetzmann, Ann McCoy, Ben Rowland, Bart Hayes, Ted Reff, Dan Aaron, Louis Bosa, Linda Ferber, Meredith Davis, Marissa Watts, and others.