Oral history interview with Polly Thayer
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.thayer95
Creators:
Thayer, Polly, 1904-2006
Brown, Robert F.
Dates:
1995 May 12-1996 February 1
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
89 Pages
Transcript
Repository:

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
An interview of Polly Thayer (Starr) conducted 1995 May 12-1996 February 1, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.
Scope and Contents
Thayer talks about her childhood in an upper class Boston family, thriving on drawing in charcoal from casts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, under tutelage of Beatrice Van Ness; her social debut, 1921-1922; a trip in the summer of 1922 to the Orient with her mother and brother where she was caught in the Tokyo earthquake; Philip Hale's method of teaching drawing at the Museum School in Boston, 1923-1924, and, later, privately; Eugene Speicher's urging her to free herself from Hale's teaching; the difficulty of making the transition to painting; and winning of the Hallgarten Prize of National Academy of Design, 1929.
Scope and Contents
Studying with Charles W. Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts in the summer of 1923-1924, which countered the rigidity of her training at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston School; travels in Spain and Morocco in early 1929, at the time her large painting of a nude, "Circles," won the Hallgarten Prize; the importance to her of a letter in 1929 from the critic, Royal Cortissoz, urging her to not fall into the trap of the Boston School and become formulaic in her work; her first one-person show at Doll and Richards, Boston, which resulted in 18 portrait commissions; her ease with which she did self-portraits early in her career, but not so later; and her difficulty in holding the attention of portrait sitters.
Scope and Contents
Studying with Harry Wickey at the Art Students League, who taught her by boldly re-working her drawings for "plastic" values, which Starr quickly achieved; sketching medical operations and back-stage at theatres, which gave her the dramatic subject matter she sought in the early 1930s; her portraits; getting married in 1933 and the affect on her work; and her work at the Painter's Workshop in Boston with Gardner Cox and William Littlefield. She recalls May Sarton whose portrait she painted in 1936, Charles Hopkinson, and Hans Hofmann.
Scope and Contents
The distractions from painting brought about by marriage, children, acting, an active social life and much travel; her increased involvement in social concerns through her conversion to Quakerism; the simplification of her paintings beginning in the late 1930s and her steady execution of portrait commissions, which took less time; her exhibitions in Boston and New York through the 1940s and the rarity of them after that; being a board member of the Institute of Modern Art, Boston, and its co-founder, Nathaniel Saltonstall; her approach to painting which amounts to seeking the invisible in the visual world; and the onset of glaucoma which has ended her painting career.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Polly E. Thayer (1904-2006) was a painter from Boston, Massachusetts.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies
Transcript available online.
Author
Sponsor
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
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.

General
General
Originally recorded on 3 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 6 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 44 min.

Digital Content

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Boston Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Genre_form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Genre_form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women artists Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women painters Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cox, Gardner, 1906-1988 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hale, Philip Leslie, 1865-1931 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hawthorne, Charles Webster, 1872-1930 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hofmann, Hans, 1880-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hopkinson, Charles, 1869-1962 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Littlefield, William Horace, 1902-1969 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saltonstall, Nathaniel, 1903-1968 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sarton, May, 1912- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Van Ness, Beatrice Whitney, 1888-1981 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wickey, Harry Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/