Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage and Their Avant-Garde Relationships
This article is in essence a chapter of a book in progress on the familial relationships between the Schindler and Weston families and their bohemian social circles between 1920 through 1938. For now I plan to end the book in 1938 when Weston married Charis Wilson and built his home in Carmel Highlands and the Schindlers divorced and began living separate lives under the same roof in their iconic RMS-designed Kings Road House. My working title for the book is The Schindlers and the Westons: An Avant-Garde Friendship, 1920-1938. Their fascinatingly interwoven lives and relationships remained avant-garde and bohemian to the end. As always, I welcome your feedback on any of my pieces.
This chapter of the Schindler-Weston connections centers around the intertwined relationships of Pauline and Rudolph Michael Schindler, Edward Weston, Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Cole Weston, Nellie Cornish, Maurice Browne, Ellen Van Volkenburg, Ellen Janson, John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, Joseph Campbell, Henry Cowell, Richard Buhlig, and their circles. As the introductory image to this article I have chosen the below 1920 tongue-in-cheek photograph taken at the time of Edward Weston’s first meeting with artist Roi Partridge and his wife Imogen Cunningham, an early Seattle friend of Cornish, whose importance to the story will emerge later. This history-packed image was taken on the occasion of Edward Weston’s visit to San Francisco to see off his Dutch emigre photographer friend Johan Hagemeyer who would soon leave for an extended trip to Europe to avoid being arrested for his outspoken radical views. (Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles, by Beth Gates Warren, Getty Publications, 2011, p. 187).
The image’s centerpiece, Anne Brigman was looked up to at the time as being the only photographer on the West Coast accepted into Alfred Stieglitz‘s Photo-Secession Movement and featured in his influential Camera Work magazine. Roi Partridge was a noted etcher and wife Imogen Cunningham an emerging photographer of note who would later be part of Group f/64 with Ansel Adams, Weston, Willard Van Dyke, Sonya Noskowiak, et al. Their son Rondal Partridge later became a well-regarded art and architectural photographer as did Roger Sturtevant. Dorothea Lange would also gain fame as a chronicler of the Great Depression. Pauline Schindler often featured the work of Sturtevant, Hagemeyer and Weston on the cover of The Carmelite and reviewed exhibitions of their work along with that of Cunningham and Partridge during her 1928-29 reign as publisher and editor-in-chief. Lange’s 1935 portrait of Pauline (see below) was taken around the time John Cage broke off his affair with her to marry erstwhile Edward Weston lover Xenia Kashevaroff.
Browne and Van Volkenberg also collaborated with Pauline’s mentor, employer, and Hull-House and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom founder Jane Addams, to produce a national tour of Euripides’ “peace play” The Trojan Women during her time at Hull-House. One of the performances was at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Coincidentally, R. M. Schindler attended the exposition to view the architecture a few months after the Browne-VanVolkenburg performance. (See my Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence for more details).
Browne and Van Volkenberg were also involved with oil heiress, radical activist and later Schindler client Aline Barnsdall as early as 1912. Eager to start her own theater company in Chicago and produce her own plays, Barnsdall offered to build Browne and Van Volkenburg a larger, more modern theater than their 90-seat venue in the Fine Arts Building. She commissioned Norman Bel Geddes and Frank Lloyd Wright to design preliminary plans in 1915. Aline put the plans on hold as she moved to California the following year and opened a theater in rented space in Los Angeles. (For much more on this see my Edward Weston, R. M. Schindler, Anna Zacsek, Lloyd Wright, Reginald Pole and Their Dramatic Circles). At around the same time Barnsdall commissioned Wright to begin design on her personal residence, Hollyhock House, which would eventually be built on Hollywood’s Olive Hill, the 36-acre site Barnsdall purchased in 1919. Barnsdall’s original vision for her Olive Hill compound was to also include a director’s house and a theater but those plans never materialized. (From Frank Lloyd Wright: Hollyhock House and Olive Hill by Kathryn Smith, Rizzoli, 1992, pp. 21-23).
“New Residence Tract Opening,” Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1921, p. 4. Courtesy Architecture and Design Collection, University Art Museum, UC-Santa Barbara.
Construction finally began on the Barnsdall House in 1920. (See above). By then heavily involved with the supervision of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Wright directed Schindler, recently married to Pauline, to move from Taliesin to Los Angeles to oversee construction. A couple months after the above article on the Oil Queen’s home, Browne and Van Volkenburg were establishing the new theater department at the Cornish School.
Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg, Seattle, 1921. Phot by McBride Studio. (Tingley, Donald F., “Ellen Van Volkenburg, Maurice Browne and the Chicago Little Theatre,” Illinois State Historical Society Journal, Autumn, 1987, p. 133.
The Chicago Little Theatre had fallen on hard times during World War I and Browne and Van Volkenburg filed for bankruptcy in 1917. After vagabond stops in Washington (where they first met Nellie Cornish), Salt Lake City and New York they returned to Seattle in 1921 at Cornish’s request. Cornish had just completed her new school building and offered the duo the directorship of her new drama school and theatre. (See above and below). Browne had the highest regard for Cornish as he wrote in his autobiography,
“Nellie C. Cornish was the wittiest and untidiest woman in North America. Violent yapping preceded her entrance into a room; when she sat down a torrent of Pekinese cascaded over her. She had the soul of a master-pianist and hands unable to do her bidding on the keyboard, so she had gathered round her the best music-teachers whom she could find and opened a music school in Seattle. Students flocked. Often the most gifted had little money; she gave them scholarships. Sometimes they had none; she housed and fed them. Consistently she overpaid her teachers. Some students lacked rhythm, so she added a dance department. More students flocked. Some still lacked rhythm, so she tried to add a drama-department but could find no director who satisfied her needs. When the Chicago Little Theatre closed, she had paid Nellie Van and me the high compliment of offering us the position jointly.” (Too Late to Lament by Maurice Browne, Gollancz, 1955, p. 263).
Martha Graham and her dance students performing Heretic. Cornish School, summer 1930. Soichi Sunami photograph. Courtesy Cornish School Library.
Cornish hired both famous and unknown artists for her faculty including abstract-expressionist painter Mark Tobey and dancers Adolph Bolm, the Schindler’s friend from their Chicago days, and Martha Graham (see above), and who became an internationally renowned dancer and choreographer. She recruited Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg (the latter edited her 1964 autobiography Miss Aunt Nellie) to establish a drama school, and gave avant-garde composer John Cage his start. Weston’s son Cole would enroll at the Cornish School in 1937, soon to be followed by Pauline’s ex-lover John Cage and wife Xenia Kashevaroff (see below), erstwhile lover of Edward (and also possibly Brett) Weston. Cage, who successfully sought out employment by Cornish as a music teacher, would remain at the school with Xenia throughout the 1938-39 academic years.
Xenia Kashevaroff, Carmel, 1931. Edward Weston photograph. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art. Edward Weston Collection, Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
While teaching at Cornish in 1921, a local music teacher brought Browne, also a noted poet whose work had just been published in William Stanley Braithwaite‘s prestigious Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1920, a sheaf of verses written by her niece, Ellen Margaret Janson. After weeks of reluctance to read the unsolicited poems, Browne relented and was pleasantly surprised. He wrote,
“Then to my wonderment I found that, though among them were exercises and immaturities, half-dozen held magic unequaled by the lyric verse of any American woman-writer known to me save Edna Millay. Nor were those half-dozen ‘lucky flukes’; internal evidence showed that their author was a skilled and careful craftswoman, who knew precisely what she was doing. Like a pasteboard figure in an Oscar Wilde fairy tale falling in love with the ghost of a Babylonian princess I dashed in search of the music-teacher’s niece. What could be more innocent than a love-affair with a poem?” (Browne, p. 276).
Janson, Ellen, Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, Vol. XXII, No. III, June 1923. From my collection.
Also with Browne’s introduction, Janson was soon a contributor to his Chicago friend Harriet Monroe‘s Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in which his work first appeared in 1915. (See above). Besides Contemporary Verse and Poetry, Janson also soon began appearing in Contemporary Verse, American Mercury, The Measure, North American Review and numerous other literary journals and was also anthologized by Braithwaite. Pauline likewise regularly featured Janson’s poems in The Carmelite as well as her, Maurice and their love-child Praxy’s ongoing activities even after their separation and divorce. (See below for example).
Ellen Janson on deck of her Schindler-designed house under construction, Hollywood, ca. 1949. Photgrpaher unknown. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Around the time Browne and Van Volkenburg were establishing the Cornish drama school, Pauline met Leah Press Lovell and sister Harriet Press Freeman, while Leah was directing Barnsdall’s progressive kindergarten at Hollyhock House commissioned for her daughter Betty and other selected children including Weston’s two youngest sons Neil and Cole. (Architecture of the Sun by Thomas S. Hines, pp. 142, 156). Pauline and Leah, wife of Weston family doctor and later Schindler and Richard Neutra architectural patron Philip Lovell, later moved their school to the garden of the Lovell house on Argyle Avenue in the Hollywood Hills. (See above and PGS). Through Pauline’s friendship with Leah and Harriet, Schindler would become architect to the Lovells and later the Freemans.
The Drama, Vol. 12, No. 6, March 1922, pp. 200-02
Browne had a falling out with Cornish after only one season. He and ‘Nellie Van’ moved on to San Francisco in 1922 where they became involved with Charles Erskine Scott Wood and Sara Bard Field in the planning of another Little Theatre and drama school to be established under their directorship. When she took over as publisher and editor of The Carmelite in 1928, Pauline would enlist Wood and Field as contributing editors along with their mutual friends Lincoln Steffens and his wife Ella Winter. (See below for example).
“Painter, Poet, Pioneer,” The Carmelite, October 21, 1928, p. 1. Johan Hagemeyer portrait of Charles Erskine Scott Wood.
Despite the unflagging boosterism of the well-connected Wood and Field and their attempts to raise funds for the theater project, promised pledges of support from others failed to materialize. (Browne, p. 270). The Brownes packed their bags again in 1924 and headed for Carmel where one of their San Francisco students, Edward Kuster, had founded an acting school and the Theatre of the Golden Bough. (See below). The Golden Bough opened in June 1924 with the Brownes producing five plays befor the end of the year. (Hilliard, Helen, “Eyes of Carmel Watch Paint and Political Pots,” Oakland Tribune, April 8, 1924, p. 11).
Edward Kuster’s Theatre of the Golden Bough under construction, Carmel, 1923. Photograph courtesy of the Harrison Memorial Library Collection.
Originally a prominent lawyer from Los Angeles, Kuster was formerly married to Una Lindsay Call before she met and fell in love with Robinson Jeffers who would soon thereafter begin his informal reign as Carmel’s poet laureate. The Kuster’s scandalous breakup was reported as a “queer love triangle” in a series of articles appearing in 1912-13 in the Los Angeles Times. (See for example, “Parents Wash Hands of It; “His Own Affair,” says Poet Jeffers’s Mother; Mrs. Kuster Defended as the Scapegoat of Clique,” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1913, p. II-1). (For much more on Jeffers see my Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence).
From Carmel-By-The-Sea by Monica Hudson, Arcadia, 2006, p. 85. Note the multi-talented Kings Road salon attendee, actor and noted city planner Carol Aronovici on the left who, while wearing his City Planner hat, collaborated with Schindler and Richard Neutra on the 1928 Richmond, California Civic Center project and other projects under their Architectural Group for Commerce and Industry (AGIC) partnership.
“[Kuster] proposed to build a playhouse in Carmel; it would have a full sky-dome (see below), the first in the country. The three of us spent months pulling his plans to pieces; the Theatre of the Golden Bough was to be the best equipped and most beautiful in America. It was. Kuster invited us to open it with a play [Mother of Gregory] written by me (see schedule two below), to run a summer-school there, and to direct it afterwards as an art-theatre.” (Browne, p. 271).
A scene from Maurcice Browne’s “Mother of Gregory,” Theatre of the Golden Bough, Carmel, June 6-7, 1924. Theatre Arts Monthly, September, 1924, p. 585. Josselyn photo.
Carmel theater productions in 1924. From Carmel – its poets and peasants by Stephen Allen Reynolds, Bohemian Press, Carmel-by-the-Sea, 1927, p. 14. (Author’s note: Reynolds was the founder of The Carmelite in February and turned publication over to Pauline Schindler after tiring of the enterprise in May 1928).
Theatre of the Golden Bough, Carmel, 1925. From the Full Wiki.
Ruth St. Denis congratulatory note to Edward Kuster upon the opening of the Theatre of the Golden Bough, 1924. Photographer unknown. From Carmel-by-the-Sea by Monica Hudson, Arcadia, 2006, p. 85 via the Harrison Memorial Library Local History Collection. (For much more on Ruth St Denis see my “Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence“).
Edward G. Kuster’s Court of the Golden Bough showing shops and entrance to the theater, 1924. Lewis Josslyn photo. From Carmel at Work and Play by Daisy F. Bostwick and Dorothea Castelhun, Seven Arts Press, Carmel, 1925, p. 86. (From my collection).
Having totally relocated his business activities from Los Angeles by 1924, Kuster’s theater was built as part of his shopping development known as the Court of the Golden Bough on Ocean Avenue in Carmel’s business district completed at the same time. (See above). He had previously commissioned Lee Gottfried to construct his personally-designed Norman-style residence (see below) next door to the five-acre Tor House spread of his former wife Una and Robinson Jeffers on Carmel Point.
Kuster Residence, Carmel Point, 1920. Photographer unknown. Photo scanned from Carmel: A History in Architecture by Kent Seavey, Arcadia, 2007, p. 68. Courtesy of Pat Hathaway, California Views.
During the four months after the earlier Theatre of the Golden Bough group photo was taken, Browne shuttled back and forth to Halcyon between play productions to be at Janson’s side while she prepared to give birth to their love-child, Praxy on November 12th. (See below). (Tingley, p. 145). Janson’s aunt Borghild, who also lived there, found them a tiny house through John Varian, head of the Halcyon Theosophist Temple of the People who becomes important later in this article. Browne wrote, “members of his congregation denounced him for encouraging sin. He threatened them with excommunication; they called us ‘The Holy Family’.” (Browne, p. 278-9).
Ellen Janson Browne and son Praxy ca. 1926. Photographer unknown. (Tingley, Donald F., “Ellen Van Volkenburg, Maurice Browne and the Chicago Little Theatre,” Illinois State Historical Society Journal, Autumn, 1987, p. 144.
Browne and Janson used their Halcyon love-nest as a base while traveling up and down the California coast camping under the stars. Browne soon divorced Van Volkenberg at her insistence and moved into a new “redwood shack” built for Ellen by her parents near her aunt Borghild’s house. (Browne, p. 282 and Tingley p. 145). Browne wrote of their child’s conception,
“He was gotten, willfully, at noon of a still burning August day on one of those beaches; we both knew that he would be a male. His mother and I, living in a dream world, believed that once he was surely conceived she could go happily forth into the world alone, carrying him, and I return to my work with Nellie Van.” (Browne, pp. 278-9).
The restless Browne continued his vagabond ways and moved his center of operations to Los Angeles after his and Kuster’s successful 1924 season in Carmel. Around this time Browne had a stopover in Halcyon to spend some time with the pregnant Janson where he also read Jeffers’ recently published Tamar which prompted a letter of praise to the poet and his reply, “…That you should read “Tamar” through such a divine hazard, in the oasis by Santa Maria [Halcyon], is more luck than any writer deserves…“ (Letter from Jeffers to Browne, February 11, 1925, from The Selected Letters of Robinson Jeffers, 1897-1962 edited by Anne N. Ridgeway, Johns Hopkins Press, 1968, p. 33).
Announcement for performances of two of Browne’s plays. Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1924.
Browne and/or Van Volkenburg occasionally passed through Los Angeles in 1922-3 at which time the Schindlers possibly reconnected with them. Upon settling in Los Angeles Browne produced the occasional play (see above) and for the next two years taught at USC. Hearing that he was in the city, former students came back one by one to work with him. (Browne, p. 286). Appalled by Browne’s squalid surroundings at USC, frequent Edward Weston portrait subject as early as 1916, Ruth St. Denis allowed him free use of her building and office while she was gone on a world tour. (Browne, p. 287). (For much more on Ruth St. Denis see my Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence.)
Maurice Browne Theatre Association season-ticket subscription form, 1926. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
As one of the movers and shakers of the planning effort, Pauline organized an event at Kings Road to help promote the cause. She arranged for Browne to lecture on Hermann Keyserling, likely on the occasion of the recent publication of his The Travel Diary of a Philosopher. (Author’s note: Edward Weston often referenced Keyserling’s diary in his Daybooks). Possibly accompanied by Ellen Janson to the soiree, Browne recollected, “And Pauline Schindler, brilliant, warm-hearted, bitter-tongued, who was trying to create a salon amid Hollywood’s cultural slagheap, invited me to her home to lecture on Keyserling.” (Browne, p. 287). Pauline excitedly wrote her mother of the salon, “[the party]…is going to be huge. We have never had more than a hundred guests before … But this will be overflowing.” (PGS letter to her mother, [n.d.] circa October, 1925. Cited in Sweeney, p. 96).
“A great banquet was planned in my honour; every theatrical celebrity whom I knew in America and Europe was invited to attend as a guest of honour; an astonishingly large number sent messages of goodwill; some even accepted. The realtor danced round Ruth St. Denis’ office: “With these names behind us the theatre is as good as built.” It was all so splendiferous that I telegraphed Nellie Van to come to the banquet; she sat beside me; the speeches made us feel that we had not lived in vain. Finally our evening came to its end. As I was leaving, the chairwoman of the Publicity Committee unostentatiously handed me an envelope. ”A cheque on account,” I thought, “how charming:” and thanked her warmly. When I got home I opened the envelope. It contained the bill for printing, postage, stationery, telephone, telegrams, table decorations and dinner for the guests of honour. Grinning wrily, Nellie Van returned to Seattle. My students and I gave performances anywhere – schoolrooms, tents, barns - where a ten-dollar note could be earned toward paying that bill: dollar by dollar we paid it to the last cent. Then I spat savagely and straight into the streets of Los Angeles and, worn out by the interminable conflicts within myself, the interminable struggle to establish a theatre which mattered, the interminable inability to pay for it, said goodbye to my theatric dreams.” (Browne, p. 288).
A couple years after returning to England, the perseverant Browne was back on his feet and doing well enough to send for Ellen and Praxy, convincing her that an English education would be better for the boy. Pauline published in The Carmelite Janson’s preparations to rejoin Maurice,
“It has been a very bad theatre season in New York this winter with many houses “dark.” Yet, “Wings Over Europe,” a play without a woman in it, written by Maurice Browne, once director of the Theatre of the Golden Bough, continues week after week. Meanwhile, Mrs Browne, known chiefly, and often to the readers of the Carmelite, as a poet, and a very good one, puts the final touches to her novel, and is about to set sail with the small round Maurice Browne aged five, to England where he is to be educated. (“Personal Bits,” The Carmelite, February 27, 1929, p. 3).
Pauline later published excerpts of Ellen’s chronicle of her and Praxy’s voyage to England during the summer of 1929. (Janson, Ellen, “Journey Southward,” The Carmelite, August 14, 1929, p. 10). Browne’s improving finances also enabled commissioning noted sculptor Jacob Epstein to do a bust of Ellen. (See below). His “rags-to-riches” success story was front page news in Carmel in 1931. (“Maurice Browne in London,” The Carmelite, August 18, 1931, p. 1).
“Smiling Head,” Ellen Janson, bronze bust, 1931, by Jacob Epstein. Courtesy Christie’s. (Thanks to MAK Schindler Scolar and artist-in-residence Kostis Velonis for bringing this bust to my attention.)
Besides frequently publishing Ellen Janson’s poetry during her editorship of The Carmelite, Pauline also faithfully kept tabs on her family’s comings and goings. For example she included a brief article reporting on Ellen and four-year old Maurice, Jr. passing through town and the whereabouts of Maurice, Sr. who was currently producing a play of George Bernard Shaw‘s in London. Pauline wrote of Browne,
“In Carmel he remains a memory and an influence, for Morris Ankrum, George Ball, and many others here busy with the stage have had their first dramatic training under the direction of this intense and passionate artist.” (Schindler, Pauline, ”Maurice Browne in a Second Edition,” The Carmelite, July 11, 1928, p. 2)
Not long after Browne returned to England, Pauline had had enough of RMS’s unfaithfulness and left Kings Road in late August of 1927 with son Mark for Carmel by way of Ojai and Halcyon. (PGS). She stopped long enough in Ojai to lick her wounds and explore the possibility of joining in on the formation of the new Krotona Theosophist community being established by the followers of Krishnamurti. While there considering her next moves she was paid a comforting visit by the vacationing Dione Neutra and Galka Scheyer who were privy to the events surrounding her and Mark’s departure. (Richard Neutra: Promise and Fulfillment, 1919-1932 compiled and translated by Dione Neutra, Southern Illinois University Press, 1986, p. 167-8).
Moving on to Halcyon where she was offered the use of Ellen Janson’s house for the winter of 1927-8, Pauline stayed only long enough to possibly meet local Theosophist leader John Varian and his neighbor and fellow Irish mystic poet Ella Young discussed in more detail below before heading north in mid-October. (“Life at Kings Road: As it Was 1920-1940,” Sweeney, in The Architecture of R. M. Schindler, p. 104). As she had done in Los Angeles, Pauline rapidly assimilated into the Carmel arts community. She soon began contributing an unsigned column, “The Black Sheep”, to the Carmel Pine Cone. Appearing 11 times between November 1927 and March 1928, she described it as a “new critical department which does not promise to behave itself too well,” but that it would be, “young, fearless, honest, and vital.” She focused mainly on music reviews, local issues and events.
Through her association with the Pine Cone Pauline became involved with Carmel’s new progressive weekly The Carmelite edited by Stephen A. Reynolds, for whom she penned the columns “Stage and Screen” and “With the Women” and other articles under her byline in early 1928. Pauline’s April 25th “With the Women” column for example, reported on the annual P.T.A. conference in Salinas, the recent activities of Anne Martin, regional director of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom founded by her Hull-House employer and mentor Jane Addams, and a meeting of 35 alumnae of her alma mater, Smith College, at Point Lobos.
Reynolds initially announced the weekly as, “a periodical which will without fear or favor give voice and light on both sides of a mooted question affecting the artistic or practical in village life.” Reynolds, at odds with the entrenched positions of the Carmel Pine Cone, used his new vehicle as a way to publish politically-charged editorial jibes beginning in February 1928. Pauline quickly advanced to editorial assistant and and was anticipating becoming managing editor by mid-April. (Sweeney, p. 105). In a May 7, 1928 letter to her father she wrote of The Carmelite as being, “a liberal-radical weekly, in whose pages the visiting or resident intelligentsia, from Lincoln Steffens to Robinson Jeffers, all had a word.” After only 16 weeks at the helm, Reynold’s turned over The Carmelite to Pauline after the May 30 issue.
Johan Hagemeyer Studio, Carmel. Photo courtesy OAC and U.C. Berkeley Bancroft Library, Johan Hagemeyer Photo Collection.
Tired of city life, Weston moved to Carmel in early January 1929, trading spaces from a temporary stay in fellow photographer Johan Hagemeyer’s studio in San Francisco to renting his Carmel summer studio. (See above). Hagemeyer, a close friend of Margrethe Mather and Weston since early 1918, opened a portrait studio in San Francisco in 1923 and also built the summer studio in Carmel in 1924 which quickly became a meeting place for artists and intellectuals. For example, in his 1925 publication Carmel – its poets and peasants, Pauline’s predecessor as editor of The Carmelite, Stephen Allen Reynolds, devoted half a page of glowing praise to Hagemeyer and dubbed him “Sandburg of the camera.” Pauline’s article “Edward Weston on the Way” published six months after taking over The Carmelite reins from Allen announced the impending arrival of her and RMS’s friend since 1921 from their Kings Road salons and soirees. Weston described the move at length in his Daybooks. (Daybooks, pp. 99-108).
Schindler, Pauline G., “Weston on the Way,” The Carmelite, December 28, 1928, p. 2. (From my collection).
Hagemeyer, Dora, “Christ-Birth,” Bruton, Esther, “Valdez, New Mexico,” woodcut, 1928, The Carmelite, March 20, 1929, front page. (From my collection).
Weston described the move at length in his Daybooks. (Daybooks, pp. 99-108). Pauline also often published Hagemeyer’s photos and his sister-in-law Dora’s poetry in The Carmelite. (See two below). Weston and Hagemeyer had a falling out in late 1929 over the studio lease agreement prompting Weston to move his studio four blocks to the west to the Seven Arts Building adjacent to the Court of the Golden Bough and across the street from the new Bernard Maybeck-designed Harrison Memorial Library on Ocean Avenue in the heart of Carmel upstairs from The Carmelite‘s offices in January 1930. (See below). (PGS).
Seven Arts Building, Carmel, 1926. Herbert Heron, owner, Albert B. Coats, architect. Photographer unknown. Photo scanned from Carmel: A History in Architecture by Kent Seavey, Arcadia, 2007, p. 68. Courtesy of Pat Hathaway, California Views. Weston’s studio was in the upper right dormer from1930-35.
Johan Hagemeyer, 1928. Edward Weston portrait. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Johan Hagemeyer and Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, 1921. From Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration by Beth Gates Warren, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2001, p. 85.
Pauline properly introduced Weston to Carmel’s bohemian community at a reception for the Kedroff Quartet following much heralded their performance. (See Above). Weston’s Daybook entry reads,
“To the Kedroff Quartet: the most exquisite vocal music I have heard. The folk-songs were especially thrilling, and the Strauss Waltz! … After, I went with Pauline to a reception for the Quartet, and there met Carmel “society,” everyone that I should meet I suppose! I have certainly been flatteringly presented to Carmel with many newspaper columns [by Pauline in The Carmelite] of flowery praise. Once could easily become “a big toad in a little puddle” here. Not my intention!” (Daybooks, March 16, 1929, pp. 112-3).
Sonya Noskowiak, ca. 1929. Edward Weston photo. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Weston soon began an affair with Johan’s former assistant Sonya Noskowiak which quickly blossomed into a full-blown relationship. She moved into his studio and in return for household chores, surrogate mother duty for his visiting sons, and darkroom assistance, Edward gave her a camera and began to teach her the fundamentals of photography. Sonya proved to be a natural and was quickly accepted by Edward and his coterie, including son Brett, another disciple Willard Van Dyke, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, and a few others when they formed Group f/64 and had their inaugural exhibition at San Francisco’s M. H. de Young Museum in 1932.
Nellie Cornish returns to the story with a visit to Carmel and Weston’s studio in the summer of 1930. It seems likely that she had been informed of Weston’s work by their mutual longtime friend Imogen Cunningham. Possibly combining business with pleasure, Cornish could have been scouting for music, art and drama teachers in the talent-rich Monterey Peninsula. Weston wrote of the meeting, “Yesterday I sold my old “Circus Tent,” – then later my favorite new pepper, – its first sale, to Miss Cornish, who has a school – I think of music – in Seattle.” (Daybooks, August 17, 1930, p. 182). This meeting laid the groundwork for Cole’s matriculation at the Cornish School in the fall of 1937 where he would cross paths with Xenia Kashevaroff (see below) and John Cage who joined the faculty the following year.
The first mention of Xenia Kashevaroff (see above) in Weston’s Daybooks is in November 1932, just as his first book produced by Merle Armitage was going to press and just before the inaugural Group f/64 opening in San Francisco. He wrote, “My desk is cleared of unanswered letters, orders to date all printed. So a few days ago Henry [Henrietta Shore] drove Xenia, Sonya and myself to Oliver’s cacti garden in Monterey. There was amazing material and I worked hard and well.” (Daybooks, November 8, 1932, p. 264). This entry indicates that Xenia, the youngest of six daughters of the Russian Orthodox Bishop in Juneau, Alaska, Alexander Kashevaroff, was already known to Weston.
Ed Ricketts, ca. 1930. Photo by Bryant Fitch, 1937. From A Fire in the Mind: The Life Story of Joseph Campbell by Stephen and Robin Larsen, Doubleday, 1991, p. 171)
A couple years earlier, while living with her sister Sasha and still a senior at Monterey High School, Xenia had a steamy love affair with the then married with children, 34-year old marine biologist Ed Ricketts (see above) on whom lifelong friend John Steinbeck‘s character Doc in Cannery Row was based. Further provenance of an earlier meeting is evidenced by the six clothed Weston portraits of Xenia in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art being dated 1931. A January 1933 entry relates Weston’s late 1932 liaison with X. before leaving for Los Angeles to sign copies of his new book. He philosophized while Sonya traveled to Los Angeles with his equally philanderous friend and patron Merle Armitage,
“Maybe Sonya is having the adventure. I hope so; then my conscience might be eased. But am I not expressing that thing one is supposed to have, – a conscience? Actually, I have never felt guilt over my philandering; only a desire not to be discovered for her sake; not yet at least. And I could feel quite as guilty toward L., from whose arms I went to H. in L. A. To be sure it was unpremeditated, and we had both reached a delightful intoxication but that does not absolve me from the guilt I should feel, – and don’t! Yes, and before going south I made love to both S. and X.! Am I then so weak that I fall for every petticoat? Am I so oversexed that I cannot restrain myself? Neither question can be dismissed with a “yes.” First, I can go long periods with no desire, no need; then I see the light in a woman’s eyes which calls me, and can find no good reason – if I like her – not to respond. I have never deliberately gone out of my way to make a conquest, to merely satisfy sex needs. It amounts to this; that I was meant to fill a need in many a woman’s life, as in turn each one stimulates me, fertilizes my work. And I love them all in turn, at least it’s more than lust I feel, for the months, weeks, or days we are together. Maybe I flatter myself, but so I feel. So what will you answer to this, Sonya?- (Daybooks, January 18, 1933, p. 267).
A Monterey Peninsula intellectual-social circle developed in the early 1930s which included Xenia, her sister Sasha and husband Jack Calvin, her sister Natalya and husband Ritchie Lovejoy, Ed Ricketts, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck and wife Carol, and noted mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell. Steinbeck (see below) married Carol Henning and moved to Pacific Grove in 1930 where he quickly befriended kindred spirit Ricketts. After leaving his position as a writing instructor at Stanford in 1929, Jack and Sasha, whom he met on a research trip to Juneau, moved to Carmel and began collaborating with Ricketts on his groundbreaking Between Pacific Tides. (See above and below). Joseph Campbell moved next door to Ricketts in Pacific Grove in 1932. This philosophizing, fun-loving group shared jointly-prepared meals, read each other’s work, and raucously partied plied with doctored lab-quality alcohol provided by Ricketts. Campbell quickly became infatuated with Steinbeck’s wife Carol which essentially ended their friendship.
Between Pacific Tides by Edward F. Ricketts and Jack Calvin, Foreword by John Steinbeck, Line Drawings by Ritchie Lovejoy, Stanford University Press, Third Edition, 1960.
Artist-writer Lovejoy met Natalya after he came to Carmel to visit his former Stanford teacher and eventually became Calvin’s brother-in-law. (See above). Unsurprisingly, Calvin and Lovejoy were both in Pauline Schindler’s social circle as they were listed in attendance with her at a party in honor of Weston’s recent move to Carmel hosted by fellow photographer Roger Sturtevant (see opening group photo) and his wife. The article read,
“Mr. and Mrs. Roger Sturtevant entertained a number of friends Saturday evening at their home in Carmel. Mr. Edward Weston, the noted photographer, showed a number of his recent camera studies, following which the guests danced until a late hour. Those present included Mr. and Mrs. Hans Ankersmit, Miss Nancy Clark, Miss Tommi Thomson, Miss Tilly Polak, Mrs. Tilly Polak, Mrs. Pauline Schindler, George Norhland, Eddie O’Brien, Kelley Clark, Jack Calvin, Richard Lovejoy, Clay Otto, and many others.” (“The Village News-Reel: Sturtevants Entertain at Interesting Evening.” The Carmel Pine Cone 15:5 (1 February 1929): 14).
Lovejoy also got a mention in the “Seen on Ocean Avenue” column in The Carmelite, “Lovejoy keenly searching countenances as they walk into the Post Office. (No he hasn’t missed a diamond pin. He is merely looking for caricaturable material.)” (The Carmelite, December 26, 1928, p. 3).
Lovejoy eagerly joined in on the collaboration on Ricketts’ book providing over 100 illustrations to the final publication. Thus, the three Kashevaroff sisters were romantically involved with the principals in the book’s publication. The culmination of years of field research and collaboration with his friends, Rickett’s masterpiece is still widely regarded as a classic work in marine ecology and is now in its fifth edition.
Grampus and Crew, Sitka, Alaska, August 1932. Photographer unknown. From Renaissance Man of Cannery Row: The Life and Letters of Edward F. Ricketts edited by Katherine A. Rodger, University of Alabama Press, 2002, p. 98.
In Alaska to visit relatives, Xenia was staying at her uncle’s cabin in Sitka when the Grampus anchored in mid-August. She first met a nude Joseph Campbell while topless sunbathing on the Sitka shoreline where he swam from the Grampus. Despite their strong mutual attraction and continued nude sun-bathing they decided to keep their relationship Platonic. Xenia decided to accompany the “metaphysical vagabonds” back to Juneau where the rest of the family resided. Campbell was greatly impressed with Father Kashevaroff’s combination Russian-Tlingit Mass and the Indians in his congregation and later his Siberian Shaman and Alaskan history stories. Xenia recalled, “Joe made a hit with my father because he picked up the balalaika and immediately began to play it like an old professional.” After enjoying the freedom of nudity with Xenia the previous weeks, Campbell lamented in his journal about human constrictions such as having to be “conventionally dressed” for the return trip to Seattle aboard a commercial liner. (For more see A Fire in the Mind: The Life Story of Joseph Campbell by Stephen and Robin Larsen, Doubleday, 1991).
After having studied art briefly at Reed College in Portland, Xenia became a disciple of Weston’s close friend Henrietta Shore back in Carmel in the fall of 1932. Shore and Weston met in Los Angeles 1927 through mutual friend Peter Krasnow which by association brought her into the Schindler’s Kings Road circle. Pauline featured her work on the cover of The Carmelite in the summer of 1928 in conjunction with an exhibition of her work at the Hagemeyer Studio. (See above).
Nude, Xenia Kashevaroff, Carmel, 1933. Edward Weston photograph. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
A notorious ladies’ man like Ricketts, Weston seems to have begun his affair with Xenia sometime after her relationship with Ricketts ended. He likley took the above and below and other nudes of Xenia in February 1933 with his new 4 X 5 Graflex camera. (Daybooks, February 2, 1933, p. 270). A few weeks after this sitting Weston described in the Daybooks an anonymous sexual liaison that has Xenia’s DNA all over it.
“How I am going to take proper care of three women remains to be seen. I place my difficulties in the hands of the good Pagan Gods. The coming into my life of – was dramatically sudden. I had always felt that it would happen sometime; I have been drawn to her for three years, – since she was a child – albeit a mature one – of sixteen. And she was attracted to me, that was evident. I sensed her virginal desire for experience, and wanted to initiate her, but at the time there were – or I thought so – too many difficulties. Then she went away, returning after a year or so, – with experience. [Ed Ricketts?]. Seeing the light in her eyes, I soon found a way to be with her alone. There was no resistance to the first kiss. But still there were difficulties, – or again I thought so; Carmel is so small a place! Matters drifted along, with only an occasional surreptitious embrace, – until Saturday night (2:25) when – slightly tight – “bingy” she called her condition – took the initiative and came to me. I had just returned to the studio, tired from a sitting of Robin [Jeffers], had turned back my bedcovers, when a tap-tap came on my door. I turned on the lights and quickly turned them off, seeing who stood there, and sensing at once, why. She was delightfully the child, though a very poised one, in explaining her call. She was delicately apologetic for coming to me, yet direct and frank; – not the least brazen. She knew what she wanted, and what I wanted – but she knew my difficulties and so cleared the way. I assured – that having acquired knowledge through experience it was obviously a duty – and a pleasant one to hand on to her all that I knew! So we wasted no more time in talk. I am not exaggerating when I say, that she had the most beautiful breasts I have ever seen or touched; breasts such as Renoir painted, swelling without the slightest sag, – high, ample, firm. - stayed the night. We slept but little. She moved me profoundly. A dear child, with a desire to learn, no inhibitions and much passion.” (DB, February 26, 1933, p. 272).
Nude, Xenia Kashevaroff, Carmel, 1933. Edward Weston photograph. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
The following spring, the precocious Xenia’s work (see below for example) was exhibited at San Francisco’s de Young Museum alongside drawings and lithographs by Shore, photography by Edward and Brett Weston, Margrethe Mather, and many Group f/64 members including Sonya Noskowiak, Willard Van Dyke, Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams and an architectural exhibition of work by Rudolph Michael Schindler which likely included Weston photos of his Lovell Beach House. (“Art and Artists: Architect Holding Exhibit at Museum… A gallery of modern photographs…” Berkeley Daily Gazette (13 April 1933): 7.)
“Sunday night (April 16) we held a party to be remembered, a rare gathering which brought together congenial persons who like to play, be gay; not one of them was a false note, each contributing to the fun, and spontaneously. Came: Fernando Felix, who plays the guitar and sings – Mexican songs of course – Nacho Bravo, who dances the rumba, – these two here with the newly-established Mexican consulate; Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason (see below), who played and sang in their delightful way; and then the group who have been gathering recently for dancing and vino, – Xenia, Francis, Elaine, Nan and Ed [Ricketts]; finally, there was Michael Schindler here for a few days. We had plenty of good vino, white and red, Fernando’s singing was memorable, Xenia sang in Russian, Sonya in Spanish and Polish, I improvised, danced a Kreutzberg and a “Spring” number, also I danced with Wilna who is almost a foot taller than I am, and must weigh 350! It was a party without one dull moment, ending dramatically when, with a knock at the front door about 1:00, the night watchman complained of too much noise! His nearest “beat” is a block away.” (DB, April 18, 1933, p. 273).
Schindler was likely passing through town on his way back to Los Angeles after attending festivities related to his de Young show. It seems likely that Henry and/or Xenia were also in San Francisco for the opening since it must have been a heady experience for the young protege to be exhibiting among such illustrious company. If they were in San Francisco, they also possibly crossed paths with Schindler. Having a well-earned reputation as a notorious womanizer and partier like Weston, it is interesting to speculate upon the likelihood of Schindler taking advantage of Sonya’s presence at this party and making a play for Xenia or vice versa for that matter. (For an example of Schindler’s reputation see Conrad Buff: Artist, p. 123).
Zomah Day, Carmel, August 1933. Sonya Noskowiak photograph. From Weston & Charlot: Art & Friendship by Lew Andrews, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 2011, plate 32. Courtesy Arthur F. Noskowiak. Jean Charlot Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa Library.
An old friend of Weston’s and Shore’s from Mexico, Jean Charlot, and his girlfriend Zohmah Day (see above) paid Weston a lengthy visit later that summer shortly after he had returned from a trip to Taos, New Mexico with Sonya and Willard Van Dyke at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s invitation. (For much more on this see my Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence). Weston, Charlot (see two above) and Shore all sat for portrait sessions of each other in Mexico and Carmel. Weston wrote of their arrival,
“The most important event of the summer was a visit from Jean Charlot who spent several weeks with us, bringing with him Zomah Day, a strange little sprite of whom we became quite fond. As to Jean, I found that we are as close together, in friendship and in work as before, though seven years had separated us since Mexican days.” (DB, September 14, 1933, p. 275).
“The Tortilla Maker” (Book cover for Jean Charlot, Picture Book; 32 Original Lithographs by Jean Charlot; inscriptions by Paul Claudel; translated into English by Elise Cavanna (New York: J. Becker, 1933).
Art critic and Weston and Schindler intimate Arthur Millier authored a lengthy feature on Charlot’s career and reported that Charlot had unsuccessfully offered to do a mural for free in Los Angeles if a suitable wall and materials would be provided and that the New York Times called his Picture Book “An Art Show Between Covers.” (Millier, Arthur, “Pink Teas Sidestepped by Hardworking Mural Artist; Man Who Painted First Modern Fresco in Mexico Got No Wall Here But Did Make Grand ‘Picture Book’,” Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1934, p. I-7).
Henrietta Shore, 1927. Portrait by Edward Weston. From Henrietta Shore: A Retrospective Exhibition: 1900-1963, edited by Jo Farb Hernandez, Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, 1986, p. 21. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Edward Weston by Merle Armitage, E. Weyhe, New York, 1932. (From Designed Books by Merle Armitage, E. Weyhe, New York, 1938, p. 97)
Fresh off of his success publishing the first ever book, Edward Weston (see above), Armitage also asked Charlot to transpose his 1929 portrait of Shore (see four above) into a lithograph that he wanted to use for the frontispiece for another upcoming book he was producing on Shore. (See two above). Merle also asked a somewhat reluctant Weston to write the introduction and photograph Henry’s art work. (DB, December 8, 1933, p. 265). Jean asked Edward not to say anything about the portrait to Henry for fear she would not like his unflattering rendition. (See above). Charlot later recalled,
“I was asked to do it by Armitage – kind of a last minute job. She really looked like that. She didn’t like it much. I met her first when she went to Mexico. She had asked permission to do my portrait and that of Orozco – so I reciprocated. I did an article on her. She was a very good painter.” (Andrews, p. 112).
Jean Charlot, Carmel, August 1933. Photo by Sonya Noskowiak. From the Jean Charlot Collection, University of Hawaii.
After Jean and Zohmah had been in Carmel for close to two weeks, they accompanied Edward, Sonya Henry on an August 17th outing to Point Lobos. Henry got stuck on the side of a cliff and cried out for help. Jean had a near-fatal mishap going to her rescue while also damaging his glasses in the process. (See above). The incident was later reported in the local newspaper:
“Jean Charlot, visiting Mexican painter, norrowly [sic] escaped death at Point Lobos one day last week when a rock gave way with him on the side of a steep cliff. He fell some distance down the side followed by a shower of rocks but fortunately escaped with minor cuts and bruises. Charlot was going to the help of Henrietta Shore, local artist, who had been lost for some hours and was unable to get back up the cliff to join the rest of the party which included Zoma [sic] Day and Sonya Noskowiak and Edward Weston. Miss Day brought help from the gate who helped Miss Shore and Charlot to safety. The party went to Point Lobos to work; Miss Noskowiak and Mr. Weston with cameras and Miss Shore and Mr. Charlot to sketch.” (“Visiting Artist Has Narrow Escape in Fall,” Carmel Sun, August 31, 1933).
Certain to have met Jean and Zohmah through Henry, Xenia undoubtedly became aware of Charlot’s Picture Book project and plans to teach at Chouinard. She followed Jean and Zomah to Los Angeles in early September and enrolled in Charlot’s class. Zohmah reported to Edward after their arrival in Los Angeles, “I saw Xenia from a bus stop, but didn’t get her attention. Jean is going to teach a class at Chouinards for a couple of months and judging from his first class, he will like it.” (Zohmah Day to Edward Weston letter, September 12, 1933. Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, Weston Collection, box 1, folder 17).
Through Jean’s class Xenia is likely to have met Armitage and visited Kistler’s studio and witnessed firsthand the production of his book. She also likely met Armitage’s bookbinder of choice, Hazel Dreis, presaging her keen interest in fine bookbinding and her 1936-7 apprenticeship with Dreis with future husband John Cage discussed later in more detail. Cage would also meet Dreis while in Halcyon the following February 1934 during his affair with Pauline Schindler also discussed later.
“I had two delightful adventures in Los Angeles; one a renewal with X., a memorable night; another with a most passionate, and pathetically repressed virgin. [Zomah? See Lewis for more about the status of their relationship]. This adventure started just before I left never reached fulfillment. I feel that if the time had been propitious, and with more time, the story would have been different. X. on the other hand is most delightfully unmoral, pagan, – a grand person to love.” (DB, April 20, 1934, p. 282).
Edward Weston by Merle Armitage, E. Weyhe, New York, 1932, Foreword by Charles Sheeler, Appreciation by Lincoln Steffens, Prophecy by Arthur Millier, Estimate by Jean Charlot, A Statement by Edward Weston
Possible corraboration of of his unsuccessful attempt to seduce Zohmah after Jean left for Chicago comes in the way of an inscribed presentation copy he, his lascivious partner in crime Merle, and printer Lynton Kistler gave her about this time. (See above).
“Arts’ Shop Planned to Aid Artists,” Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1933, p. I-7.
While studying at Chouinard, Xenia became aware of the new Arts and Crafts Cooperative Shop which opened at 2610 West 7th Street not far from the school. (See article above). The non-profit shop to benefit starving artists was overseen by a management board headed up by future noted composer John Cage‘s mother, Lucretia, who was also the women’s club editor for the Los Angeles Times. Shortly after the shop opened and while living at the Schindler’s Kings Road House with then lover Don Sample, John was working at the shop. Xenia visited one day and Cage reminisced,
“On occasion I sat in my mother’s arts and crafts shop and sold the goods and wrote music in the back of the shop. One day into the shop came Xenia, and the moment I saw her I was convinced that we were going to be married. It was love at first sight on my part, not on hers. I went up and asked her if I could help her and she said she needed no help whatsoever. And so I retired to my desk and my music, and she looked around and finally went out. But I was convinced that she would return. Of course, in a few weeks she did. This time I had carefully prepared what I was going to say to her. That evening we had dinner and the same evening I asked her to marry me. She was put off a little bit, but a year or so later she agreed.” (Oral History Interview With John Cage, 1974, May 2, Archives of American Art).
Postcard of the S.S. Yukon in Alaskan waters, Alaska Steamship Co., 1934.
The reason Xenia was “put off’ was that this was around the time of her aforementioned tryst with Weston. This is evidenced by her love letter to him written on board the S. S. Yukon while on her way back to Alaska to spend the summer with her family which began, “Dear Edward – Your letter was one of those beautiful things that are my undoing…” (Letter from Xenia Kashevaroff to Edward Weston, May 15, 1934. Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, Weston Collection, box 5, folder 24).
Pijoan, Jose, “Orozco’s Great Fresco,” Touring Topics, October, 1930. Courtesy Santa Monica Public Library. All photos by Brett Weston.
Pijoan, Jose, “Orozco’s Great Fresco,” Touring Topics, October, 1930. Courtesy Santa Monica Public Library. All photos by Brett Weston.
Cage’s interests became more art and music-centered during the rest of his European travels where he had his first exposure to contemporary composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Erik Satie, Arnold Schoenberg, and Paul Hindemith. Besides France, Cage’s travels took him to Germany, Spain, Capri, where he hooked up with an early sexual partner, artist Don Sample, and most importantly, Majorca, where for a period of months he painted and made his first attempts at composing. Ritchie also made his way to Majorca and Cage invited him to share the house he and Sample had rented. Ritchie recalled in his oral history after bumping into Cage again on Majorca,
“He was living with a Harvard boy he had met in Capri named Don Sample. They had a fine house, twenty or thirty minutes by train from Palma, looking out over the whole blueness of the Mediterranean. As I recall they paid $25.00 a month for the two-story house, and a kindly gentle cool and housekeeper by the name of Montserrat cost an additional $7.50 per month, which shows how inexpensive living in paradise was in 1931.” (Printing and Publishing in Southern California, Ward Ritchie oral history transcript, Oral History Program, UCLA, 1969, p. 163).
Cage and Sample returned to California in December 1931 with a collection of books, catalogs and magazines about the Bauhaus and Bauhaus aesthetics. Cage first moved back in with his parents in Pacific Palisades and shortly thereafter roomed in Santa Monica with Sample, who by then had firmly indoctrinated him in all things modern in music, literature and the visual arts. (The Cambridge Companion to John Cage, edited by David Nicholls, p. 23).
Cage made a living in 1932 partly by researching patents for his inventor father and others and also by giving private lectures to Santa Monica housewives on contemporary art and music. In November 1932 Cage and his former Los Angeles High School friend Harry Hay performed some of his first original compositions for the Santa Monica Women’s Club. Most impressed by Paul Klee‘s abstract work, Cage’s roommate Sample had an exhibition of his Klee-inspired wood cuts at the Santa Monica Public Library favorably reviewed by L. A. Times art critic Arthur Millier near year’s-end. (Millier, Arthur, “Art Exhibits Reviewed,” Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1932, p. II-4). Later a pioneering LGBT activist, Hay recollected of the circa 1932-4 period that he, Sample and Cage hung out together,
“Don probably was the one in love with the Bauhaus School of design. He was the one who found the new Aalto and Saarinen furniture catalogs John and I fell in love with. It was Don who located the Schindler houses in the area for us to go and see, and who first made friends with Pauline Schindler. I imagine it was Pauline that introduced John to Richard Buhlig. (Radically Gay by Harry Hay and Will Roscoe, Beacon Press, 1997, pp.321-2).
Richard Buhlig arrived to great fanfare on the Los Angeles scene in the fall of 1920, just a couple months before the Schindlers. (Schallert, Edwin, “Probes Depth of Music Art: Richard Buhlig is Intense Student and Thinker; Lecturer-Pianist Sketches Artistic Trend; Tells What’s Wrong With Keyboard Solo Playing,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1920, p. III-15). If the Chicago-born, Vienna-trained Buhlig was not already well known to the Schindlers, Pauline is very likely to have read his 1921 New Year’s review and immediately began attending his local lectures and concerts. (Redman, Jeanne, “Disparages Use of Indian Theme: Richard Buhlig Thinks We Are Too Greatly Influenced in Music,” Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1921, p. III-28). The Schindlers were most likely in attendance for Buhlig’s featured performance in the 1922 Hollywood Bowl inaugural summer concert series. (“Buhlig Star of Concert at Bowl,” Los Angeles Times, August 20, 1922, p. I7, and Hollywood Bowl, by Isabel Morse Jones with foreword by Merle Armitage, G. Schirmer, 1936, p. 63).
Richard Buhlig, 1922. Margrethe Mather portrait. From Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration by Beth Gates Warren, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2001, p. 97.
Buhlig assimilated quickly into the local bohemian community as Margrethe Mather’s new gay friend Billy Justema recruited both Buhlig and his then pupil and lover Henry Cowell to sit before her camera around the time of his Hollywood Bowl appearance. (See above and below).
Henry Cowell, ca. 1922. Margrethe Mather portrait. From Warren, p. 260.
Cage’s first real piano teacher other than his Aunt Phoebe was Richard Buhlig, a noted avant-garde composer who was almost a weekly feature in The Carmelite (see above), and he also studied with Henry Cowell, another particular favorite of Pauline’s who as a child prodigy first performed at Carmel’s Forest Theater in 1913. (See below). Cowell’s early connections with Carmel were also documented by a review of a 1928 concert he gave several years later in Santa Fe, New Mexico at which he was introduced by fellow early Carmel resident Mary Austin. By then a resident of Santa Fe, Austin recalled Cowell as a boy while she was living in Carmel 15 years ago. She said, “as a boy, a little distrait, a little unusual, one of those descendants of the great Irish kings, who was destined for fame or for the insane asylum. His destiny surely has not been the latter.” (Mead, Rita H., “The Amazing Mr. Cowell,” American Music, Winter 1983).
Schindler, Pauline, “The Continuity of an Idea in Three Centuries of Music,” The Carmelite, April 24, 1929, p. 1.
Pauline and Weston shared a fondness for Buhlig evidenced by her announcements and reviews of a series of his April (above) and August (later below) 1929 Carmel recitals in The Carmelite and numerous concurrent Weston Daybooks entries. For example Weston recorded gossip on Buhlig’s April 1929 performances from the mouths of pianists David Alberto and Winifred Hooke in early May,
“I spent some time discussing music and musicians, local events, with [pianist] David Alberto. (See below). He said Buhlig played like a crazy person, which agrees with Winifred’s [Hooke] remark that Buhlig was in an hysterical condition. We spoke of imre weisshaus – I write his name as he does – but I cannot see any advantage in doing away with caps – periods - in fact all division – spacing – as in the mode with some ” moderns.” I feel an affectation – or a straining to be different – legitimate enough for advertising – but resulting in a page more difficult to read.” (Daybooks, May 11, 1929, p. 121). (Author’s note: Pauline also used Weisshaus’s and e. e. cummings‘ small caps typographic style. See examples later below).
Earlier the same month Weisshaus wrote to R. M. Schindler, whom he had met at his early 1929 recital at the Walmsley’s Salon of Ultra Modern Art in Hollywood, hoping to arrange a January 5, 1930 concert at Kings Road and a possible place to stay. (Imre Weisshaus to RMS, December 9, 1929). Weisshaus had previously stayed at Kings Road in August while accompanying Henry Cowell to Los Angeles for his recital at Winifred Hooke’s studio. Weston most likely accompanied Weisshaus to Los Angeles where he attended his Kings Road concert and met another important patron, Walter Arensberg. While staying at Kings Road Weston, likely with the help of Galka Scheyer, was able to book a one-man show at Schindler’s recently completed Braxton Gallery in Hollywood. (DaybooksII, January 31, 1930, p. 140. Also see my “PGS” and “Richard Neutra and the California Art Club“).
Weisshaus made his last Los Angeles appearance on January 14, 1930, possibly with Pauline Schindler, who was then staying in Ellen Janson’s house in Halcyon and co-editing The Handicrafter, also in attendance. (Jones, Isabel Morse, “Weisshaus Heard in Odd Program; Young Extremist Presents Ultra Moderns to Noted Group of Artists,” Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1930, p. I-15).
Pauline and Edward were most likely in attendance at the three August 1929 Carmel Buhlig recitals, the last of which at the Denny-Watrous Gallery he performed work by future John Cage teachers Arnold Schoenberg and Henry Cowell. (See above). Weston reported on same and the festivities that followed,
“Last night it was Buhlig’s last of three concerts here. I slept through most of his very interesting talk, – I know it was, for I heard snatches. I slept through a program I wanted to hear, only coming to for the last number, a Bach, which was superb! I do not pretend to know music, my response can only be emotional, – or better, intuitive. Ramiel danced, but not with the abandon and fire he expressed at the O’Sheas’. Oh that was a party! If I had been or were now in a writing mood, several pages would be devoted to that memorable night. Richard [Buhlig] comes in an hour for a sitting. I must prepare.” (Daybooks, August 27, 1929, p. 132).
Pauline and Edward’s mutual admiration of Buhlig and his renditions of Bach is further evidenced in a letter from Los Angeles a year later to her erstwhile editorial board supporter Weston (see above and excerpt below). Still licking her wounds following her ouster as editor and publisher of The Carmelite by the Steffens Gang the previous September, she emotes upon the healing powers of Buhlig and Bach upon her fragile psyche and entreats Weston to come down from Carmel to catch the tail end of his lengthy concert series which received much coverage by Los Angeles Times music critic Isabel Morse Jones. (See for example: Jones, Isabel Morse, “Buhlig Interprets Subjective Music,” Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1930, p. I-11).
i have just now been reading your foreword prefacing your announcement. how good to hear you say those things. i have lately been sick in soul, – i think my heart almost turned to stone. now i think of you and am nourished to life again. also, i owe much, much to buhlig, who these last weeks is giving me great drafts of bach, – the “art of the fugue”, written the last year of his life, the final sum of all he had to say – and said as though one danced upon a pin-point, within the limitations of his form, nineteen fugues upon one single theme. … edward, come down south to hear the bach, march 19 and 21, the lupin by then blue along the way. mark and i will follow you back as far as halcyon. he’s in fine form, thin as a rail but utterly satisfactory in his own soul and mind. my love to you always.
Getting back to Cage, by 1933 he had decided to concentrate on music rather than painting after “The people who heard my music had better things to say about it than the people who looked at my paintings had to say about my paintings.” (Conversing with Cage by Richard Kostelanetz, Routledge, London, 2003, p. 4). It was through Cage’s Santa Monica lecture series activity discussed earlier that he met his first piano teacher, Richard Buhlig. (See above Buhlig class announcement). Finding the music for his planned Arnold Schoenberg lecture too difficult to perform, Cage contacted the by then renowned Buhlig to see if he would be willing to play some of his pieces. Buhlig declined Cage’s request but the two became friendly in the process and Cage began studying under his tutelage. Having no piano of his own, Cage practiced and composed on the grand piano of his Paris and Majorca friend Ward Ritchie. (See below).
Ward Ritchie (right) in the print shop of Ritchie’s Roadhouse on Griffith Park Blvd. Photo courtesy Ward Ritchie Collection, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. From Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics by Daniel Hurewitz, University of California Press, 2007, p. 90.
According to Ritchie, Cage “would appear almost daily to create and practice amidst all of our noise and bustle. With the presses clanging, the compositors pounding forms, the clock ticking, and the fire crackling, he would be creating a melody.” Ritchie added, jokingly, “Some of this experience may have influenced his later compositions.” (Silverman, p. 9 and Hurewitz, p. 91).
“Henry Cowell told me was that even though I hadn’t found myself, my music was closer to [Arnold] Shoenberg‘s music than to other composers, so I should study with Schoenberg. (But) I thought I needed to be prepared because Schoenberg was such an important figure. So Henry Cowell said, “Well, why don’t you study with his pupil Adolph Weiss? He was his first American pupil.” And I wrote to Weiss and actually sent him the pieces that I’d written when I was working with Buhlig.” (Isenberg, Barbara, “Becoming John Cage,” Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1993).
The above letter from Cage’s mother Crete to RMS on the earlier-mentioned Arts and Crafts Cooperative Shop letterhead indicates that while Cage and Don Sample were living at Kings Road, Schindler learned of Cage’s mothers’ influence with the Los Angeles women’s clubs and had tried through her connections to book himself as a lecturer in the hopes of securing potential clients. Crete’s gratitude for Schindler’s kindness to her son also lends some credence to my theory that, feeling guilty for booting Cage and Sample out after less than two weeks to make way for her “bosom buddy” and Weston’s former lover Betty Katz (see below). Pauline laid out what proved to be an extraordinarily inspirational and formative itinerary for the boys which would also provide them with housing over the next few months. She likely advised them of opportunities for important connections in Ojai where she was then staying, and her regular haunts of Halcyon and Carmel which they quickly followed up on. Cage and Sample first stopped in Ojai where John composed ”Composition for Three Voices” and dedicated it to Pauline on January 15, 1934, a day after the above letter from Cage’s mother to RMS.
They continued to the Theosophist community of Halcyon where Pauline’s numerous influential connections included Gavin Arthur, Ellen Janson, Ella Young, and Hazel Dreis who all owned cottages there (see map below) and were all also collaborating with Arthur (see above) on his fledgling publication Dune Forum. (See also PGS).
Map of Moy Mell, Oceano, Halcyon and Pismo Beach, ca. 1934. From Dune Child by Ella Thorp Ellis, El Leon Literary Arts, Berkeley, 2011, frontispiece.
“My hope, in sharing editorially the enterprise of the DUNE FORUM, is a simple one.
I believe that a new world-spirit, that new ways of life, are registering themselves vitally here on this California coast, and that these make necessary fresh channels of utterance. Such regions as these silent dunes, with their solitudes, their sense of motionless pause, of waiting for new significance to happen, are suitable for the welling up of fresh springs of knowing. There is more to know than the scientist in his laboratory, or the philosopher in his seminar under a shaded light, can reach. There are new functions of consciousness, a richer, profounder awareness of what is, to develop in us.
For this we need to be individually alone, to listen, to be silent—and yet, to communicate.
I hope then that the DUNE FORUM will provide us that needed channel—not for mere self-expression, but for mutual communication and interchange of the newly-sprouting riche: of consciousness. At the tail-end of a dying civilization, a decadent world-culture, we already perceive the to-come which is stirring to be born. It stirs in the womb of consciousness; it vague; we cannot quite say what it is to be.
I understand it to be one of the functions of the DUNE FORUM that we shall help one an other to clarify, to see more clearly the outline of a positive and emergent culture.”
It was here in Halcyon that through Pauline’s largesse, Cage encountered Weston and Van Dyke on there first ever visit to the dunes and penned his piece “Counterpoint” for the now iconic February 1934 issue published out of Arthur’s headquarters in his nearby Oceano Dunes community dubbed Moy Mell by Young (see below). (See also PGS).
Dune Forum, February 15, 1934. Willard Van Dyke cover photo.
Coincidentally, Gavin and Pauline included RMS’s “Space Architecture” in this issue, as well as a poem by recently passed-away Halcyon Theosophist legend John Varian and cover photo by Weston disciple and Group f/64 colleague Willard Van Dyke. (See above). Van Dyke’s photo and Weston’s April issue cover photo (see below) were both taken on this, their first visit to the Dunes. Gavin and Pauline also featured covers by Weston’s sons Chandler and Brett, and close Gavin and Ella Young intimates John O’Shea and Ansel Adams. (For much more on Gavin Arthur and Dune Forum see my Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism and The Oceano Dunes and the Westons and for more on the relationships between Young, Adams and O’Shea see my Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence).
Dune Forum, April 15, 1934. Edward Weston cover photo.
The contributor’s notes at the back of the February issue describe the insurmountable difficulty Van Dyke and Weston had in reaching Moy Mell.
“Willard Van Dyke, who made the photograph reproduced on the cover, (see above) is a young Californian regarded by Edward Weston as one of the coming geniuses in that art. It is only recently that photography has been accorded a place among the legitimate arts. On this coast probably Edward Weston is the supreme master, and his commendation is enough to ensure a hearing among those who know. Van Dyke has been exhibited extensively in California. He lives and works in Oakland, but travels constantly. He [and Edward] came to the dunes, but tried to come down the beach at high tide, almost lost his car, and never reached Moy Mell at all. They had to content themselves with photographing the northern end of the dune crest, which is accessible from Oceano direct. We hope they will be luckier next time.” (“Notes and Names: Willard Van Dyke,” Dune Forum, February 15, 1934, p. 62).
Schindler, Pauline, “Oceano Dunes and Their Mystics,” Westways, February 1934. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.
Pauline wrote the above article, “Oceano Dunes and Their Mystics” in the fall of 1933 and submitted it to editor Phil Townsend Hanna’s Touring Topics to help market Dune Forum. By the time it was published in February 1934, the magazine had changed it’s name to Westways and Dune Forum was into it’s third issue. The article describes the Dunes and surrounding environs and local inhabitants including Ella Young and Gavin Arthur and the impending publication of Dune Forum. I speculate that the two people saluting the sun on top of the Dunes are nudists Elwood Decker and Pauline’s then boyfriend Pat O’Hara who had to don bathing suits for the photo shoot. One of them, most likely O’Hara, wrote a “Rejoinder” to Loring Andrews’ article “Nudism – What Is It?” for the January 1934 issue under the nom de plume “A Goofy Nudist.”
Cage wrote to Pauline of his visit to Moy Mell,
Gavin gave me Roderick White’s article and asked me to answer it and it somehow gave an impetus with the attached result. Hazel [Dreis] and Edward [Weston (on his first visit to the Dunes)] have not yet returned and Mary [McMeen, acting secretary to Dune Forum], Don [Sample, Cage's companion], and I are having dinner tonite at the Dunes with Gavin [Arthur]. Probably by tomorrow we will leave [for Carmel] as Don is very anxious to get settled. Dr. Gerber was over last nite and proved very stimulating. Henry Okuda made sukiyaki. The pump stopped working according to Don, W.C.’s up the Western Coast cease functioning as we approach. Love to you and Mark.
How’s Mozart? Don sends his love too and thinks of you often” (Cage to Pauline Schindler, n.d., Getty Research Institute Special Collections).
The above letter indicates that the Halcyon-Moy Mell visit also resulted in Cage’s introduction to bookbinder for Ansel Adams’ Taos Pueblo, Hazel Dreis. Xenia and Cage would apprentice and live with Dreis as book binders a couple years later. (Discussed later below). Dreis’s future husband, business partner and former Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn Denishawn Dancer Edward McLean‘s article “The Dance and Shan-Kar” also appeared in this historically important February 1934 issue.
John Varian, Halcyon, ca. 1929. Portrait by Ansel Adams. Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
It seems more providential than coincidental that Cage’s new mentor Henry Cowell also had very deep, mystical ties to Halcyon. (See for example “Henry Cowell, John Varian, and Halcyon,” Steven Johnson, American Music, Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring 1993, pp. 1-27). He maintained a house and strong presence there until his mentor, from as early as 1912 in Palo Alto, and lifelong collaborator, John Varian passed away in 1931. Gavin Arthur remembered Halcyon’s driving force in the contributor’s notes in the February 1934 issue of Dune Forum thusly,
“John Varian’s death three years ago was a blow from which the Halcyon Temple has scarcely yet recovered. Born in Dublin, contemporary of Yeats, A. E. and Ella Young, with them he was a member of the Hermetic Society, the Irish branch of Theosophy. He and his wife settled in this country many years ago, first in Palo Alto, and later at Halcyon near the Dunes. Although Henry Cowell was largely inspired by Varian’s sagas (in such compositions as “The Waves of Mananaan”, and “The Harp of Life”) very little of the inspirer’s work was published during his life-time. Perhaps now that he is dead California will wake up to the fact that he was one of its greatest poets.” (“Notes and Names: John Varian,” Dune Forum, February 15, 1934, p. 62).
Varian was an amateur musician, a kindred Irish mystic poet with neighbor Ella Young, and an ardent Theosophist, prominent among Halcyon’s The Temple of the People. Cowell would put his iconaclastic, modernist music to Varian’s Irish and Celtic mythology-laden poems and dramas which would then be performed by the local Temple’s amateur theater company. For example, in 1917, Varian asked the 20-year old Cowell to write the prelude for a stage production of his Irish mythical poetry cycle, The Building of Bamba. (See below). This piece, titled The Tides of Manaunaun, went on to become Cowell’s most famous and widely performed work.
“Mystery Play With Musical Setting,” Henry Cowell, John Varian, Halcyon, 1917.
Coincidentally, Cowell was also the boyhood piano teacher to Weston’s Group f/64 colleague Ansel Adams who maintained close long-time ties to the Varian family, Ella Young and Gavin Arthur. (Ansel Adams: Divine Performance by Anne Hammond, Yale University Press, 2002, p. 15. See also my Edward Weston and Mable Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and PGS for more on the Adams, Varian and Young Halcyon connections). Further provenance of the close Cowell-Adams-Varian relationships can also be found in a piece penned by Adams for The Carmelite announcing a Cowell concert in San Francisco featuring songs with lyrics by John Varian and Charles Erskine Scott Wood sung by his wife Virginia. (See page below which also announces an upcoming lecture at the Denny-Watrous Gallery by Schindler and Weston friend Richard Neutra).
The penniless Cage and Sample soon continued their fortune-seeking odyssey north to Carmel. Harry Hay recalled of their Carmel visitation,
“It would have been Pauline who influenced them to go visit Flora Weston [in Carmel] in March of 1934. … What I do know is that John and Don – exhilarated with their stay at Carmel with Flora Weston and her entourage, with poetry readings at Robinson Jeffers’ when Lincoln Steffens was a guest for the evening – eagerly set off in mid-April 1934 for new adventures in New York.” (Hay, p. 321). (Author’s note: Flora Weston might have been temporarily staying in Edward’s studio while he was in Los Angeles working for Armitage on the Public Works of Art Project. Ironically, while Cage and Sample were in Carmel, Weston was renewing his affair with Xenia in Los Angeles as discussed earlier above).
“I made some money washing the dishes, but after a week’s washing dishes, you don’t have any desire to do it any longer. My friends knew that I wanted to get to New York to study with Weiss. So in order to give me a little money I’d have when I got to New York, (friends) who owned an art gallery in Carmel [Dene Denny and Hazel Watrous (see below)] gave me a package of postcards. They said, “send a postcard every chance you get, and we will charge 10 cents for anybody who wants to read the postcards, and then we’ll collect money and send it to you.” (Isenberg, Barbara, “Becoming John Cage,” Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1993).
Henry Cowell, 1926. Photograph by Imogen Cunningham. From Imogen Cunningham Trust.
Likely using Cowell’s New Music Society as a model, in 1926 Denny and Watrous founded the Carmel Music Society. In November of the same year (see above announcement) Dene appeared in Los Angeles with Cowell (see above) and Dane Rudhyar in a concert sponsored by Cowell’s New Music Society and with Pauline most likely in attendance. Rudhyar was named to the editorial board of The Carmelite by Pauline immediately upon her takeover of the publication in June 1928. Also in 1928 the official partnership, Denny-Watrous Management, was launched. That same year the partnership leased the earlier-mentioned financially-strapped Theatre of the Golden Bough from Edward Kuster and in twelve months produced a dozen concerts and eighteen plays routinely reviewed by Pauline in The Carmelite.
The dynamic duo then opened the Denny-Watrous Gallery, Carmel’s first art gallery, using the space to present plays, piano recitals by the likes of Cowell, Buhlig, and Rudhyar, lectures on modern architecture by Richard Neutra and R. M. Schindler booked by Pauline, as well as artists such as family friend Weston and the Blue Four represented by Pauline’s close friend and periodic Kings Road tenant Galka Scheyer. Pauline would prominently feature her and others reviews of the Denny-Watrous enterprises in the pages of The Carmelite. (See below for example and PGS).
Weston delighted in getting together with the fun-loving Cowell whenever he returned to Carmel to perform even though he was at times bewildered by his work. For example after attending a performance of the aforementioned Cowell-Varian collaboration, he noted,
“Last night to Henry Cowell’s new Operetta, The Building of Bamba given at Forest Theatre: So poorly produced that one could hardly say whether it had possibilities or not. Many of the cast were from Halcyon, colony of mystics. I have my doubts about the esoteric when it does not include the aesthetic! I certainly would not have gone to an opera, disliking staged bellowing, – worse combined with acting, even when the bellowers are good: these were awful, most of them, but I had hopes this might be a new note, or new music from Henry. But no, much of it sounded like old church hymns poorly sung.” (Daybooks, August 24, 1930, p. 184).
Weston likely met Cowell as early as 1922 through his earlier-mentioned portrait sittings with Margrethe Mather arranged by Billy Justema. Weston’s Daybooks are sprinkled with references to his friendship with Cowell, the most poignant of which refer to their participation in the 1930 and 1931 annual spring “frolics” of the Carmel Music Society.
“No stage fright – but I could feel that I was not doing my best – despite laughter and applause -and after congratulations. It was not spontaneous enough. I went cold waiting near an hour for my delayed cue. I danced Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor, – great to satirize: for an encore Mendelssohn’s Spring Song, also an opportunity. Sonya made me a classic Greek tunic with variations – which I am sure shared with my dancing – the honors. I wore – as several times in Mexican parties – little pointed breasts. After my overwhelming success, [Edward] Kuster asked me to take part in his coming production The Three Penny Opera, – and Bert Heron put in his bid for me to be a Roman citizen in Julius Caesar. Maybe I will finish my career on the stage! I refused both: what time? – my own work – and tourist season starting. The last number of the evening was Henry Cowell in Grand Opera: very well done, - subtle, screamingly funny. Henry has keen humour.” (Daybooks, May 27, 1930, p. 164).
Weston reminisced of the following year’s event,
“The last few days I have been before the public, and much discussed, even acclaimed! – But not through my work. The annual frolic of the Carmel Music Society took place Monday, – a burlesque on opera. I danced Carmen, and made a hit. Later in the evening, I danced impromtu, an improvisation barefoot, interpreting a “spring song.” This especially brought down the house. Never had I appeared on a stage before, and I found it quite exciting to feel the audience responding, to make them laugh. Henry Cowell was a scream as Madame Butterfly. The evening is the talk of Carmel.” (Daybooks, May 28, 1931, p. 217).
Cage supported himself by washing walls at a Brooklyn YWCA. His routine during that period usually included just four hours of sleep after nightly bridge sessions with the Weisses and sometimes Cowell, and four hours of composition every morning starting at 4 a.m. Cowell and Cage returned to Los Angeles together in late December after which he quickly reunited with Pauline and began their short-lived affair. Sharing his excitement at soon seeing Pauline and Buhlig and his plans to meet Schoenberg, Cage wrote from New York of his impending return,
I am terribly excited as the prospect of seeing you soon again and I want you to know I am extremely worried that you won’t or will get the flavor of N.Y. via me. I am in a rush of vortex!!! and you must pardon if this arrives to be only a note. I will meet Schoenberg (whom you have already) by taking him presents from Mrs. Weiss who is not coming. How is Mark? Give him my best and Pat [O'Hara, Pauline's then boyfriend]. And Buhlig! I can’t wait. And everybody. There are two more important people in L.A. whom I think you don’t know. Joseph Jackson, first. Wm. Grant Still, negro (composer). These distinctions are important now. Everything is important. Equalities distinctions writing them out and emphasizing them.
John (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, handwritten in pencil, postmarked New York, December 11, 1934, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute)
Cage quickly interjected himself into the local music scene by getting deeply involved in the planning and ticket selling for three recitals his teacher Richard Buhlig was hosting in his studio at 102 South Carondelet which was also announced in the Times. (Jones, Isabel Morse, “Words and Music,” Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1935, p. I-6). He relates to Pauline that Buhlig, “wanted me to tell you so that if people in Ojai coming down were interested they would know about it through you if you knew and told them.” Cage and Pauline seemingly “consumated” their relationship in mid-January as indicated by their subsequent letters. (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, typed letter, postmarked Los Angeles, January 24, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute)
“Everyone is very excited because of Buhlig’s concerts. Last Sunday we presented him with $178.50 with a few unpaid tickets which brought the total to roughly $200.00. After the concert a few of us stayed and drank sherry, including Rosa and [Ramiel] McGehee. (See above). The single reservations for next Sunday amount to over fifty dollars. The house was jammed full of people so that all the windows were kept open with curtains drawn. One movie star came who asked Ramiel where the best seat in the house was and he said would you like to be on the keyboard side or would you like to look into the eyes of the pianist? She answered, – into the eyes of the pianist! So that whenever Buhlig looked up to see a picture of Beethoven that he had placed opposite his eyes, he found instead a movie star, and reacted, he said, by blushing and looking rapidly back again at the keyboard. There were shouts of Bravo! and Greater than [Walter] Gieseking! (See below). Buhlig had to return ten times to stop the applause.” (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, typed, postmarked Los Angeles, January 24, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute).
“I’ve got a charming story to tell you. A young, very talented composer, who’s going to study with Schonberg, yesterday brought back to me the Head by you ‘Poetry of the evening.’ I had lent it out for a modern concert at the home of the pianist Buhlig. I showed him your new small Heads. (See below). He was deeply impressed. And asked what they cost. He himself is very poor, and because he’s so talented he’ll get free music tuition. Since I know you and know that real[ly] genuine enthusiasm, especially in young people today, is so lovely to see, I quoted him a very low price of $25.00. He made a down payment of $1. That’s so sweet. But he wants to pay all the rest soon. Anyway, it was a great joy to me and he said he’d be writing to you himself soon. The visit of this young man John Cage really was an all-too rare pleasure for me.’” (Scheyer to Jawlensky quoted from Alexej von Jawlensky, Kunstmuseum Wiesbaden, 1991, pp. 295 f, cited in “It is a Long, Long Road.” John Cage and Galka Scheyer by Maria Muller in The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Klee in the New World, edited by Vivian Endicott Barnett and Josef Helfenstein, Yale University Press, 1997, p. 273).
Alexej von Jawlensky, Meditation, 1934. N. 160. Bequest Xenia K. Cage, New York. (See above citation).
In a February 23rd reply Jawlensky replied,
“Your letter arrived this morning. It brought me great joy. I also received 5 dollars. Mr. [Cage] appears to be a charming young man. I just now received a very dear letter from him. I will answer him immediately. I am happy to know that my art is beneficial to some people. Otherwise I am having very little success with my art and I really don’t know why.” (Jawlensky, Wiesbaden, to Galka Scheyer, Hollywood, 23 February, 1935, from Galka E. Scheyer & The Blue Four Correspondence, 1924-1945 edited by Isabel Wunsche, Benteli, 2006, p. 247).
Over the next few years Cage and Xenia acquired from Scheyer at least two more Jawlensky’s from the same series likely as payment or commissions in return for their help in arranging a series of Seattle Blue Four exhibitions for Scheyer during their Cornish sojourn. (Discussed in more detail below). (See Muller, p. 278 for images).
Hard on the heels of the Buhlig series, Pauline’s friend and Weston and Shore patron and impresario Merle Armitage brought Igor Stravinsky to Los Angeles to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert of his work followed by a recital a week later. An excerpt from Arthur Millier’s quite favorable review reads,
“Los Angeles, said to be this and that in its attitude toward ultra-modernists received Igor Stravinsky, the greatest modernist of them all, with a sold-out house last night at the Philharmonic Auditorium. Eagerly the Philharmonic subscribers listened to his orchestral music: “Apollon Musagete,” “Petrouchka,” ”The Fire Bird” and ”Eight Little Pieces for Small Orchestra.” They were unusually interested. The music Stravinsky presented with the completely devoted Philharmonic Orchestra was compelling, stimulating and at times thrilling. The consensus of opinion was: ”If this is modern music, we like it.” It is as clear cut and definite in its ideas as a modern house, as impersonal in its universal appeal as a modern picture of angels and parallelograms.” (Millier, Arthur, “Capacity Audience at Philharmonic Acclaims Great Modernist, Igor Stravinsky,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 1935, p. 14).
Arthur Millier, 1929. Edward Weston photograph. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.
Cage’s enthusiastically reviewed the same concert for Pauline the next day.
STRAVINSKI! … The evening was pure joy – and I think that this music is natural. There are no mideas” in it. It is, you know it, pagan, physical. It is seeing life close and loving it so. There are no whirring magical mystifications. It is all clear and precisely a dance. It is not “frozen architecture.”I heard one person say afterwards: Henceforth I shall not take music seriously but shall enjoy it twice as much.” I was furious and turned to him and said, Take it twice as seriously and enjoy it four times as much! Throughout the “Eight Pieces” the audience had an ostinato of ecstatic laughter. And irrepressible applause, which was not in the least unacceptable. I spoke with Kurt Reher afterwards, a fine cellist in the orchestra. He brought me back to the “Germans.” He said, it ‘s nothing but the Firebird. That is real.The Firebird, yes, and I had forgotten that it existed. It is the beautiful born from the evil. It is as though one decided to have wings and fly, and nothing else had power but that. Infernal demands are nothing to deter. This is now music which we have and which is accepted, which does not provoke anger, hysteria or any vulgar objection. And it is a static music which is itself and which [does] not prophecy or go forward in an adventure. It is not a speculation. It is the worship of the Golden Calf. Moses and God are far away. And we say Yes to cutting them off!
I love you. Oh that I were with you.
John.” (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, typed, postmarked Los Angeles, February 22, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute).
Igor Stravinsky, 1935. Brett Weston photograph. From Spencer Museum of Art.
Not one to waste an opportunity to take maximum advantage of Stravinsky’s presence in Los Angeles, impresario and book designer Merle Armitage brought him to Brett Weston’s studio for a portrait sitting with the idea of soon producing a book on the maestro. (See above and below). Ironically, John and Xenia Cage likely helped on the bookbinding on this and numerous other Armitage books mentioned in this article while living with noted bookbinder Hazel Dreis after their marriage in 1936-7.
Igor Stravinsky edited by Merle Armitage, G. Schirmer, New York. From Designed Books: Twenty-Three Books Designed by Merle Armitage edited by Ramiel McGehee, E. Weyhe, New York, 1936.
Armitage conveniently commissioned Edward to photograph Stravinsky while he was in town for the opening of his concurrent one-man exhibition at UCLA, the product of which was used to illustrate the above book. Charis related the circumstances behind the below Stravinsky photo,
“Merle [Armitage] arranged for Edward to photograph some of the artists (Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Erika Morini) who were appearing under his auspices at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. … Stravinsky, for example, was staying in a Hollywood bungalow and was on his way to an orchestra rehearsal. Edward spotted the open garage door as we drove up, and that solved his background problem. He had Stravinsky stand in the sunlit driveway in front of the door, and although the garage was full of the usual clutter, there was not enough time to register anything but black in the brief exposures. The whole sitting took less than fifteen minutes, and thereafter, whenever Edward had to photograph someone in a bad setting, he immediately looked for an open garage door.” (Through Another Lens: My Years With Edward Weston by Charis Wilson and Wendy Madar, North Point Press, 1998, pp. 76, 78).
Igor Stravinsky, Hollywood, 1935. Edward Weston photograph. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.
Armitage explained his promotional strategy for Stravinsky’s Los Angeles itinerary to Times gossip columnist Lee Shippey,
“When Merle Armitage booked Stravinsky the Philharmonic Orchestra wished him to conduct. Although that made it necessary for Stravinsky to appear with the orchestra before he appeared in concert, Armitage felt that the orchestra had the right to pay that tribute to the famous visitor, and gracefully agreed. It was a handsome gesture and deserves some sort of accolade. I imagine, though, that those who hear Stravinsky alone will hear him at his best.” (Shippey, Lee, “The Lee Side O’L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1935, p. I-4).
Announcement for Stravinsky, Dushkin recital at the Philharmonic Auditorium presented by Merle Armitage, Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1935, p. 13.
In the undated letter below, most likely written March 1st directly after Stravinsky’s follow-up Philharmonic Auditorium recital (see above announcement), Cage related to Pauline his post-recital conversation with Brett Weston which seems to indicate Brett’s incredulity and/or bemusement over Cage’s planning to marry Xenia knowing of his father’s, and possibly his own, previous liaisons with her. Brett’s comments and the manner in which they were made obviously upset Cage’s sensitivities.
You didn’t come. As far as the music is concerned, you didn’t miss anything. Today after last night I feel ill, as though the world were diseased. Incapable and trembling because there is nothing. A flat zero. The sooner the world forgets Stravinsky the better. If he gave the primordial, as you say, I swear it was a cheap imitation. My questions is this: Is this a completely lost generation?
Forgive me. But what a vacancy he has made. I will say this for Stravinsky: possibly but unfortunately, some of his works, the ballets, will act as easy transitions for Lawrences’s big baby. Oh, you see how black I am. But how can you love a world that is filling itself with hollowness? Someone in the Shape of God must come and Save. This is a weak answer. I spoke with [Louis] Danz in the intermission. I said, But this is nothing. And he excitedly replied, In my book [Zarathustra, Jr., Speaks of Art (see below)] I said so as though that made it right and proper. And Ramiel [McGehee] said, You shouldn’t have expected anything. Why shouldn’t I have? Those two belong back a ways. We need strong life which is superhuman and through conscious necessity growing.
I have a letter from Xenia. She is alone and has been ill. She says she wishes I were there. I told Ramiel about Xenia some time ago. So that last night Brett [Weston] said to me, How is Alaska coming? I was very confused and said, What do you mean, Xenia? He said, Yes, I’m interested. I couldn’t reply, and stuttered like an idiot and my head whirling, why should he be interested and why should he look so sadly and kindly and patiently and add, Are you serious? That whole little world with its complexities of never always sleeping together knows.
Brett was with Dolores Istarbi. She is a quiet Spanish girl, very beautiful. She told me she was going to get a wall-washing job or something equivalent. Like me. I looked at her and thought that would be very unsuitable and told her so. She said, find someone to keep me. That ought to be easy. And she replied that the field is over-crowded. She is living with Brett now and apparently looking for work during the day. I am not patient enough.
Oh, Pauline, I know what good is, and I’m not good. To be with you would be too easy now. It would be an escape from something I must meet — this muddle. I want to conquer and then come to you. You see how evil and proud I am. The only conquest is through humility and I am not humble now. I think of you all the time. I had a ticket for you last night and didn’t offer it to anyone until the last minute.
[Postscript] I have another new feeling of you. You flutter. I saw two butterflies over my head against the sky.I was sure you were coming last night. I love you all the time.” (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, typed, undated, circa March 1, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute). (Author’s note: There is evidence that Brett made a mysterious trip to Alaska in the summer of 1931, thus possibly having had his own rendezvous with Xenia.)
“i came home and sat down and thought, and tried to feel my way back in desolation, and nothingness, to imagine that whole evening, the Stravinsky, brett, dolores. the letter from xenia, and my not having come. i thought, john is drowning in the sense of nullity, just as i have drowned so many times in horror.” (Pauline Schindler letter to John Cage, typed draft with pencil corrections, circa March 2, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute).
During the height of the two-week Stravinsky visitation hype, the composer was further honored at a gala hosted by Edward G. Robinson whose guests included Richard Neutra clients Anna Sten and Eugen Frenke and Josef von Sternberg, as well as Charlie Chaplin, Dolores Del Rio, Cedric Gibbons, Max Reinhardt and others. (Poff, Tip, “Feast of Intellect,” Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1935, p. II-3. See also my Richard Neutra and the California Art Club for more details).
The timing of Edward and Brett’s concurrent one-man shows was undoubtedly orchestrated by Armitage to take maximum advantage of Stravinsky’s Los Angeles presence. Edward’s UCLA show was likely curated and/or facilitated by faculty member and old friend Annita Delano who along with Barbara Morgan, curated a major solo exhibition of Edward’s work at the school in 1927. (See my Foundations of Los Angeles Modernism for much more on this). Brett’s photographs and his Weston family friend Peter Krasnow-inspired wood sculptures (see below) were concurrently on display at the Art Center School. Times art critic Arthur Millier’s review stated, “Admirers of Stravinsky (see above) and Kreutzberg will be interested in Brett’s portraits of them.” (“Art Reviews and Previews,” Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1935, p. I-10).
Brett Weston bas relief, 1936, left, inspired by his 1932 Oceano Dunes photo on right. From A Restless Eye: A Biography of Photographer Brett Weston by John Charles Woods, Erica Weston Editions, 2011, p. 314. See also In Pursuit of Form: Sculpture and Photographs by Brett Weston, Monterey Museum of Art, 2002).
In a March 19th letter to Pauline (see below), Cage made arrangements for her and Mark to join him at visiting eastern conductor Ernest Schelling’s “Children’s Concert” at the Philharmonic Auditorium and mentioned that his initial meeting with Schoenberg finally came to pass on March 18th. (Jones, Isabel Morse, “Children’s Concerts Build Ideal Audiences”–Schelling,” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1935, p. I-10).
“You are coming down Friday, where will you stay? I will have tickets for you for the Philharmonic and when you get in town you must phone me at MU223, if it is considerable time before the concert. If not I will be waiting for you and Mark in front of the Philharmonic. I took my first lesson in Schoenberg’s class yesterday (Monday) evening. He is marvelous, indescribable, as a musician. I am going to the last 3 rehearsals. In the class we are analyzing Brahms Symphony No. 4, Kunst der Fuge. Well tempered Clavichord and Schoenberg. Quartet III (String).” (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, handwritten in pencil, postmarked Los Angeles, March 19, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute)
Cage could not afford Schoenberg’s usual lesson fees, however, and when he mentioned it, the older composer asked whether Cage would devote his life to music. After Cage replied that he would, Schoenberg offered to tutor him free of charge. Cage studied with Schoenberg in California: first at USC and then at UCLA, as well as privately. The older composer became one of the biggest influences on Cage, who “literally worshiped him”
Hollywood Bowl by Isabel Morse Jones, G. Schirmer, New York, 1936.
Cage collaborated with his teacher and world music promoter Henry Cowell to produce a concert of Shakuhachi music at Kings Road on Saturday, April 13th. Los Angeles Times music critic Isabel Morse Jones, soon-to-be collaborator with Merle Armitage on a book on the Hollywood Bowl (see above), reported that Cowell would be at the event to present Kitaro Tamada’s performance of Buddhist Temple music ranging from about 700 to 1785 A.D. including ceremonial mediation spoken into the instrument. (Jones, Isabel Morse, “Shakuhachi Music,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1935, p. I-10). Cage reported to Pauline of the occasion and RMS accompanying them in a dream,
“Pauline, Sweetheart, I suppose I am unfaithful but not wholly so. Many things have happened to me. And now that the concert is over I am exhausted, – of course only for a little while and not completely because I am full of ideas and am writing more music for those flutes. This time it’s still the same subject but it’s definitely 2 flutes; but most flautists play piccolos too so that this will be a second piece.Schindler was marvelous about the concert. And Kings Rd. was literally magnificent. I’m afraid that it quite “ran away with the evening.” The entire effect was one of horizontality and sort of dynamic color which was not exciting but rather full and complete. The Japanese and H.C. [Henry Cowell] were thoroughly happy in spite of the fact that the audience amounted to only about 40 people. Isabel M. Jones came however in spite of there being two other concerts. There was plenty of warmth and fresh eucalyptus. We expected between 100 -150 people from the response beforehand. We paid expenses and had $13.00 over which satisfied H.C. They had an appointment in Santa Barbara at noon Sunday but were leaving from Burbank so that I didn’t come. Besides, I am far behind on my research work and music.I am planning on coming up next weekend. I am afraid you are “sunning” yourself again. But that’s excellent. Please don’t be angry with me or disappointed in me. I have not forgotten and never will. This afternoon on falling asleep, I dreamed of you – strangely enough Schindler was with us. But that isn’t strange because I’d just seen him. Apparently, we were living on a new world, because when we turned on the radio there resulted a sort of fugal jazz which was very interesting and you said it had “size.” About a week ago I had another unusual dream. I heard the entire III String Quartet in my sleep.I have a great deal to tell you.
Let me know about next weekend please.
And to Mark, Love and the dogs to Mark”
John Cage circa 1935. Photographer unknown. From “It is a Long, Long Road.” John Cage and Galka Scheyer by Maria Muller in The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Kleen in the New World, p. 272.
You are good and true and I feel like a child who has been a little terrible. You will forgive. You said will I teach you and this is not possible. I am nothing. You are excellent and great and you have only to accept that. You will know me as a bad boy and insensitive. You know I can defend myself; but for that words. Words that are elastic and suit all ends. So that I shout in your temples and am silent before festivities. This is not sad. Why does one love one’s reflection? Why? But I give over. You know what I know – and as I intimated this has not changed. I shall grow perhaps again. And I shall come to you. For it has been good with us.
But now I am minor and you must hold yourself aloof from me for I am non-essential. It must still be Pat. There is something more there. Either there is calm or even more intense ago.
John” (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, handwritten in pencil, postmarked Los Angeles, April 22, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute)
The above and below letters poignantly wrap up the Cage-Schindler affair. Above Cage recommends that Pauline continue her relationship with Los Angeles Daily News reporter Pat O’Hara. (See below). (For more on O’Hara see PGS).
“yes we draw apart then for a time.
no double or multiple focus for you in this prenuptial moment, but only an unimpeded one-pointedness. and for me now wholeness again and balance in aloneness.
not essential to me, John you, but very dear. you led me a little out of anguish and brought me a little toward clear seeing. but you now how darkly I still see. nor were you insensitive. for you were aware of the pain for me these last days; you understood very much. me trying not to cry out, and not being so very successful. I have not asked for words; only for communication. I know the danger of the word; but there are many ways. If in a year, you and I or all or any of us can look eye into eye and acknowledge one another wholly, and speak in that glance, it will be enough.
till later then, john.
and for now, blessing and blessing” (Pauline Schindler letter to John Cage, typed draft dated in pencil, April 23, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute.
The above letter is followed by a one month gap in contact after which the below letter was sent by a somewhat troubled Cage after Pauline skipped an invitation to dine with him and Buhlig. His impending marriage to Xenia was apparent as he wrote,
“Pauline, dearest, I love you always; it was in many ways puzzling to me that although you were in Los Angeles we didn’t see each other. I have not before now had the time, litterally (sic), to write; so that you may infer that you were right, if you stayed away because of some feeling that I was “too occupied”. Buhlig said you said something of the sort. I had dinner with him the evening following your dinner; and it seemed strangely unnatural that we shouldn’t have been together. Possibly I have not told you that Schoenberg teaches me counterpoint now. … He is a teacher of great kindness and understanding and it is a rich comfort that he gives. …
And now, – Xenia. All I know is that she will be here early in June; that there was a formal announcement (her sister’s idea) in order that “showers” might follow; and that I am, according to mother, as unprepared as though I were living on the streets (Xenia knows this and says she will accept even starvation with me “gracefully”). …
A great amount of love, John” (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, handwritten in pencil, postmarked Los Angeles, May 24, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute)
Cage-Kashevaroff wedding announcement, Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1935, p. II-3.
A little more than a week later Cage, in his last period correspondence with Pauline updated her on his and Xenia’s wedding plans (see above) and inquired as to the availability of Kings Road for their possible residence after the wedding. (Author’s note: During this period leading up to the wedding Cage was continuing his studies with Schoenberg and composed his first ever percussion piece, ”Quartet,” the first documented performance of which was in fall 1938 at the Cornish Theatre in Seattle and was performed by John Cage, Xenia Cage, Doris Dennison and Margaret Jansen. From John Cage List of Works).
Xenia will be here Thursday. Do you know anything about Kings Rd? I have at present $50.00, 2 new suits, etc., and have had my job again although there will be a few weeks now while I don’t have it. Work with Schoenberg is proceeding excellently. If your tenants are still in K.R., let them stay but if they’re not, let me take it. Because I would be the least certain sort of tenant to have. Schoenberg may go east in September. I know that Xenia is very happy now in an excited way and this is good; so am I. I am on edge and can’t sleep. Everything is fitting properly and I am very lucky. … I will see you soon; but you will write to me about Kings Rd. Buhlig said about the boy [Harry Hay?] that yes if he were sufficiently advanced and could obtain some place to live and practice. Did he write. He is not well at all. And he is not agreeable with regard to my getting married. He also needs money badly. He is playing the Art of Fugue tomorrow evening and I’m afraid is depending on what people may come owing to what telephoning I may have done. Which I have been to (sic) busy to do as I might have done. I have just been at the limit and shall continue investigating further limits. The doctor whom I (but I told you that). Please love me like you used to. Peter is sending you cartoons tomorrow. Forever, really. John” (John Cage letter to Pauline Schindler, handwritten in pencil, postmarked Los Angeles, June 3, 1935, from John Cage letters sent to Pauline Schindler, 1934-1964, Getty Research Institute)
1508 Georgina Ave., Santa Monica auction announcement, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1929, p. 12.
Kings Road was unavailable so the Cages moved in with his parents at 1207 Miramar near downtown Los Angeles. Xenia was by this time becoming an accomplished artist who worked across several media, including mobile sculpture, painting, water color, collage, and fine press bookbinding, a media she may have grew interested in during her 1934 exposure to the previously-mentioned Jean Charlot collaboration with Merle Armitage. John and Xenia moved in with bookbinder Hazel Dreis and a group of her apprentices in her large Santa Monica house at 1508 Georgina Ave. in 1936. (See above). Dreis, also a resident of Halcyon and close friends there with neighbors John Varian, Ella Young and Gavin Arthur, would, along with another Halcyonite Ellen Janson and Pauline Schindler, briefly participated in the publishing of the short-lived Dune Forum in 1933-4. (Ansel Adams: Divine Performance, p. 16).
“HAZEL DREIS, who is in charge of the format, is a vivid and colorful personality, strong in the courage of her convictions. She began life as printer. Later she became a newspaper reporter working on several newspapers on the Coast. On one of her many hikes she discovered the Dunes in 1917. Later in San Francisco she took up book-binding as a profession, and went to England to study under Laurence DeCoverly. She is one of the most competent craftsmen in America, and the DUNE FORUM is exceedingly fortunate in having its format and technical details in such expert hands.” (Young, Ella, “A Word About the Editors,” Dune Forum, Subscriber’s Number, ca. December 1933, p. 17).
Hazel Dreis Gallery announcement of exhibition of bindings for 12 books designed by Merle Armitage. March 16 to April 1, 1936. Courtesy Getty Research Institute, Peg Weiss Papers.
During their time apprenticing with Dreis in 1936-7, the Cages likely participated in the above exhibition of hand-bound books designed by Merle Armitage which coincidentally most likely included many of the previously illustrated and discussed Armitage productions on Edward Weston, Xenia’s erstwhile art teachers Henrietta Shore and Jean Charlot, and John’s teacher Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky and paintings from Jawlensky’s “Inner Vision” series. (See below).
Abstract Head: Inner Vision, Alexej von Jawlensky. Oil on board, 1923. Gift of Earle W. Grant in memory of Dalzell Hatfield. © San Diego Museum of Art
By then a part of Galka Scheyer’s circle as was Dreis, Cage, as mentioned earlier, had purchased a Jawlensky via Scheyer the year before and was paying for it on the installment plan. Cage had likely met Scheyer through the Pauline and Kings Road connection and had consulted with her on his art work as early as 1933-4. Thus it is plausible that he and Xenia could have been involved in curating or at least helping to install the Jawlwnsky exhibition in Dreis’s gallery. Dreis had also exhibited watercolors by Blue Four artist Lyonel Feininger during January. (Millier, Arthur, “Brush Strookes,” Los Angeles Times, January 26, 1936, p. III-5). At the very least, this interaction between Scheyer, Dreis and the Cages presaged and inspired a series of Blue Four exhibitions the Cages organized at the Cornish School a few years later. (Discussed later below).
“I was married to Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff who was studying bookbinding with Hazel Dreis. Since we all lived in a big house my percussion music was played in the evening by the bookbinders. I invited Schoenberg to one of our performances. “I am not free.” “Can you come a week later?” “No, I am not free at any time.” (Oral History Interview With John Cage, Archives of American Art).
Scheyer was impressed enough by the young Cage and his work to introduce him to avant-garde film maker Oskar Fischinger who immediately commissioned him to compose a piece for one of his films and hired him as an assistant to work on the tedious animation for “An Optical Poem.” Cage reminisced of his being profoundly inspired by Fischinger’s comment, “Everything in the world has its own spirit, and this spirit becomes audible by setting it into vibration.” “That set me on fire,” Cage recalled. “He started me on a path of exploration of the world around me which has never stopped – of hitting and stretching and scraping and rubbing everything.” (Revill, p.p. 50-51). This inspiration prompted his 1936 composition for three percussionists, “Trio” which he also likely perfected with his captive Dreis House troupe.
Hazel Dreis Residence, 1508 Georgina Ave., Santa Monica. From Google Earth.
Cage was proud enough of his new compositions that he invited Fischinger, and most likely Galka Scheyer and Pauline Schindler, to his performance at Dreis’s spacious Santa Monica home (see below invitation). Pauline’s introduction of Cage to Dreis and McLean in Halcyon in 1934 led to his and Xenia’s productive time at their Georgina Ave. mansion during 1936-37.
John Cage, postcard invitation to Oskar Fischinger, 1937. Fischinger Collection, Center for Visual Music. From Brown, Richard H., “The Spirit inside Each Object: John Cage, Oskar Fischinger, and “The Future of Music,” Journal of the Society for American Music(2012) Volume 6, Number 1, pp. 83–113.
“Mr. Fischinger and Friends” [Herr Fischinger und Freunde]; “As a guest” [als Gast]; “brand new instruments, various compositions by other composers!” [ganz neue [I]nstrumenten, verschiedene Kompositionen, von anderen Komponisten!]
Los Angeles Times art critic Arthur Millier and music critic Isabel Morse Jones regularly reported on the goings-on at the Dreis household. For example Millier reported that seven of the fifteen prizes for hand-bound books at the Los Angeles County Fair went to students of Hazel Dreis who had just moved into her spacious new studio in Santa Monica (see above) and announced her upcoming exhibitions in Oregon, Washington and Paris. (Millier, Arthur, “Brush Strokes: Students Excel,” Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1936, p. III-4). Jones similarly announced a percussion concert featuring Cage’s work at the same venue. (Jones, Isabel Morse, “Words and Music: Percussion Concert,” Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1937, p. III-5). Times women’s clubs editor, Cage’s mother Crete, even got into the act with a blurb on Xenia’s “hunting a rattlesnake to kill and use his hide for bookbinding.” (“Gavel, Gavel,” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1937, p. IV-6). The Cages also lived for a time in 1937-38 at 1916 Walcott Way in Silver Lake, just down the street from a site where R. M. Schindler would later design an un-built house for his and Weston’s former lover Miriam Lerner and Arthur Fisher.
During 1936-38, besides composing and rehearsing percussionist pieces, Cage worked at a series of what would prove to be prescient jobs such as dance accompanist at UCLA which inaugurating his lifelong association with modern dance. He also composed music for choreographies and taught a UCLA extension course on ‘Musical Accompaniments for Rhythmic Expression’ along with his aunt Phoebe and expanded his experimentation with unorthodox instruments such as brake drums, hubcaps, spring coils, kitchen utensils, and woodblocks.
Bouncing back to the Weston family in 1937, Edward was then living in Santa Monica Canyon with future wife Charis Wilson and sons Brett, Neil and Cole, and had just received his first Guggenheim Fellowship and had recently asked Flora for a divorce. Recently graduated from high school, Cole was asked by Edward what he wanted to do next with his life. Cole replied, “I want to act, I love being part of the theater at school.” (Laughing Eyes, p. 48). Cole couldn’t have helped being influenced by his father’s by then legendary flamboyant performances at parties and on the various stages of Carmel during the early 1930s. Cole had a part in the school play his senior year and had gotten the acting bug. Cole’s childhood friend in Carmel, David Hagemeyer, described Cole as “a naturally extroverted actor” who was the flamboyant ringleader of his high school pals and loved theatrical high jinks. David was the son of poet Dora, Pauline Schindler’s contributing editor on The Carmelite and nephew of Johan, both of whose work Pauline regularly featured.
Edward contacted his and Imogen Cunningham’s old friend Nellie Cornish (see above) to arrange a work-study program and an exchange of prints for tuition agreement to enable Cole’s matriculation in her by then prestigious Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle. (See earlier Maurice Browne discussion). Cunningham had a couple years earlier done some photography for Cornish to use in her catalogues and promotional material which Edward might have also been privy to. (See below). After painting houses and working in a Monterey sardine cannery all summer to save money for school, Cole remembered his first interview with Nellie Cornish going something like this:
Miss Cornish: “And what do you do?”
Cole: “I paint.”
Miss Cornish: “Oh, do you use oils or watercolors?”
Cole: “No, I paint houses.” (Laughing Eyes, p. 48).
Cornish School Catalog, 1935. Imogen Cunningham Photograph. From Imogencunningham.com.
Cornish School Catalog, 1935. Imogen Cunningham Photograph. From Imogencunningham.com.
“Well, I didn’t set out to be a photographer. I graduated from high school and my father gave me a 45 pistol and somebody else gave me a bottle of whiskey. That’s what I graduated with in Los Angeles [University High School] in 193. Anyway, he said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I don’t know, maybe the theater.” So he introduced me to Nellie Cornish from the Cornish Schools in Seattle. I ended up there. I had a working scholarship and I was there for three years, ’37 to ’40. I graduated in theater. I was in [classes with Merce] Cunningham (see above and later below), [who ended up] dancing with the famous dancer Martha Graham – the best. He was my roommate. Although he was gay and I didn’t know it then. I don’t think he knew it then.” (From John Paul Caponigro interview).
Inventories of Casey Jones, Cornish School, 1938. Merce Cunningham, Bonnie Bird, Syvilla Fort and Dororthy Herrmann. From Frontiers The Life and Times of Bonnie Bird by Karen Bell-Kanner, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998, p. 112. Courtesy Bonnie Bird Collection.
After Cole settled in at Cornish that fall he wrote Edward,
“I am getting along well at school, I certainly am crazy about it. I am taking up radio broadcasting. Miss Cornish said when I wrote you, to tell you to come up here on a trip. I am going to move into an apartment with another boy [Merce Cunningham (see above and later below)]. It will be much better, and just as cheap. I am moving the ninth, so I hope you can have the check here on time.” (CW to EW, October 10, 1937, Laughing Eyes, p. 53). (Author’s note: Edward and Flora sent Cole $25 and $20 per month respectively for school.)
“I have never been so busy in all my life, I am at school about 14 hours a day working my fool head off on Modern Dance concert, Eurzthmis Demonstration [Dalcroze Eurythmics], Radio Show, Fencing Exhibition (see above), Play rehearsal and everything else, but I love it. I practically live at school. I have to go back to school now and practice about three hours on the Modern Dance Concert (see example program below) which is to be given Friday and Saturday.” (CW to EW, March 15, 1938, Laughing Eyes, p. 57).
“July 18, 1938
Mr. Edward Weston
Route 1, Box 162A
Dear Mr. Weston
I am awfully glad to hear that Cole loved the school, and can only say that the school loved Cole. He is certainly a nice youngster and we shall be very glad, indeed, to extend to him the same scholarship conditions as last season. I shall look forward to your arrival. My best wishes to both of you.
Very cordially yours,
Nellie C. Cornish” (Laughing Eyes, p. 62).
At about this same time, having just completed composing and helping to perform an accompaniment for an aquatic ballet for the National Aquatic Show at the Olympic Swim Stadium in Exposition Park, the Cages traveled north to Carmel to visit Xenia’s sisters. At the recommendation of Henry Cowell, Cage traveled north to Mills College to meet fellow Cowell student and faculty member Lou Harrison, through whom he landed a summer teaching position. It was here that Cage met the school’s dance instructor, Bonnie Bird, and presumably, her teen-aged assistant Merce Cunningham. It was through Bird’s encouragement that Cage wrote Nellie Cornish seeking employment for the fall semester. Cage’s letter informed that:
“A few days ago I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Bird; we discussed the possibility of my being engaged as a dance accompanist and composer in your school. She suggested that I write to you stating the extent of my studies and experience. … For many reasons I wish to leave Los Angeles and the opportunity of working with Miss Bird is very attractive to me. I am exceedingly interested in the dance and composition for it and I should devote myself to the work with enthusiasm.” (Letter from John Cage to Nellie Cornish, 08-22-1938).
“I am very much interested in your letter … Miss Bird has written to me about you. The Dance Dept. is small … [f]or this reason, the salary has to be very small … . If you would be interested in the salary of $80.00 a month with a percentage of the fees received from concerts (and take a chance on us with the concerts) I will be very glad to give you such a contract … . If you come, we could offer courses in dance accompanying, I presume, and, perhaps, that would add to your budget.”
Cole and Dorothy set up housekeeping together at the start of the 1938 fall semester literally around the corner from the Cages about a block away from the school, thus both couples were likely privy to what each other was up to. Cole and Dorothy likely collaborated with Xenia and others in performing John’s percussion pieces at Cornish and other Seattle venues. They also performed together with Merce and Syvilla in dances choreographed by Bird with accompaniment composed by Cage. (See below). Edward wrote to Cole in late January that he had received a card from Xenia and John and nostalgically asked to be remembered to his and Pauline’s erstwhile lovers. (Laughing Eyes, p. 70).
“We are starring on a new play “There’s Always Juliet” by John Van Druten, it a swell play but quite a difficult one. So far I am playing the lead, but who knows what might happen. We are also doing “The Amazing Doctor Chitterhouse,” it hasn’t been cast yet. Besides this I am working in “The Marriage at the Eiffel Tower” by Jean Cocteau. Also we are recording radio plays which we direct and produce. And besides all this I go on the air over 13 stations over Washington on a medical program, take all my other subjects besides, fencing every night, build sets and do janitor work. It’s fun though.” (CW to EW, February 11, 1939, Laughing Eyes, p. 71).
Merce Cunningham and Dorothy Hermann, Mills College, summer 1939. Eleanor Lance photograph. Courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation. From Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists by Kay Larson, Penguin Press, 2012, p. 208).
An important decision point confronted Dorothy, Cole, Merce Cunningham and their dance instructor Bonnie Bird in the summer of 1939. While teaching dance at the Mills College summer session with her mentor Martha Graham, Bird learned of Graham’s offer to Merce Cunningham and Dorothy (see above) to go New York to join her dance company. Fearing she would lack sufficient support and/or students for her ambitious agenda in the fall she sent an urgent telegram to Cornish (see below) requesting an immediate advertising campaign promoting her program. Merce decided to accept Graham’s offer and the rest, for him, was history. Dorothy decided to return to Cornish with Cole for their last year. (For more on Graham and Cunningham see my “Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence“).
Telegram from Bonnie Bird at Mills College, Oakland, to Mrs. Bornstein, Cornish School, Seattle, August 9, 1939.
Sunset School, Carmel, ca. 1931. Photograph courtesy of the Harrison Memorial Library Collection).
Dorothy and Cole graduated from Cornish in the spring of 1940. With World War II imminent, they decided to marry and move to Los Angeles to find work in the burgeoning aviation industry all the while trying to maintain connections to their beloved theater and dance. After a five-week government-sponsored aviation course Cole was hired by Lockheed to help build P-38s for the grand sum of 51 cents an hour. The couple rented a small house in North Hollywood and Cole joined the Lockheed Theater Workshop.
“I graduated in theater in ’40 and I had a chance to go under the Dashold Youth Theater. I was going to set the world on fire. My friends in LA said, “What’s the sense of doing that? You may as well go to work for Lockheed. There’s a war on. We’ll be in the war before ’40.” … So I went to work for Lockheed and became a rivetter, and went to work for Lockheed for 51 cents an hour. (See below). I thought to myself, “I’ve got to get to 75 cents an hour.” The rent was $20 a month. I was married then to Dorothy. She was a dancer. She married me instead of going and studying with Martha Graham. I went in the Navy and did theater all along. There’s a sort of avocation in the theater.” (From John Paul Caponigro interview).
Cole Weston, with wife Dorothy Herrmann outside their North Hollywood home before heading off to work at Lockheed. Ansel Adams photograph. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Cole excitedly wrote to Edward in early 1941 about a recent get together with old family friend Ansel Adams who was in Los Angeles to document the aviation industry for Fortune Magazine.
“I suppose you have heard about this by now, I mean about Ansel photographing Dorothy and me. Anyway, he was sent to L.A. to photograph the aircraft industry for the March issue of “Fortune”. Well, anyway, he decided to photograph the typical Lockheed worker at home (see above) and at play, so we were chosen to be the model family after Brett suggested it to him. He took pictures of us cooking dinner, then eating and then a cozy after dinner circle in which Dorothy, Bosum and I were the circle. (See below). After that he wanted to see some Lockheed night life, so we drove up to a joint “Don Smiths” by name and had a few beers while we waited for the manager to appear so we could get his permission to take pictures, which when he arrived he readily consented to although he was a little dubious about his patrons in case “man wasn’t with wife” sort of thing. Well we preceded to ask people if they were from Lockheed and finally a couple of people were bold enough to admit it and also to be photographed. Then he took shots of us dancing and so forth. After that we went to the bowling alleys where he photographed the top Lockheed bowlers and also us watching them (see below), by that time it was around twelve, so we went home. Brett was with us acting as flash bulb carrier and general handy man or should I say photographer’s helper. Well anyway, we had a swell time and a big kick in the lime light, of course this might not get any further to getting into “Fortune” than the waste basket but it was good experience.” (Laughing Eyes, p. 91).
Cole Weston, son of photographer Edward Weston with his wife Dorothy Herrmann and their cat. At this time, Weston worked as a metalsmith helping to build P-38s at the Lockheed Aircraft Company plant in Burbank for 51 cents an hour. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Cole and Dorothy Weston at Burbank Bowl, 430 San Fernando Road, Burbank. January 1941.
In an interesting follow-up to Cole’s letter, in January 1941 Ansel Adams was commissioned by Fortune magazine to photograph a series of images for an article covering the aviation history of the Los Angeles area. For the project, Adams took 217 photographs showing everyday life, businesses, street scenes, aerospace employees, and a variety of other subjects, but when the article, “City of Angels,” appeared in the March 1941 issue, only a few of the images were included. In the early 1960s, approximately 20 years later, Adams rediscovered all of the photographs among papers at his home in Carmel, and sent a letter of inquiry to the Los Angeles Public Library, asking if the institution would be interested in receiving the collection as a donation. In his letter, Adams expressed that, “the weather was bad over a rather long period and none of the pictures were very good” and “if they have no value whatsoever, please dispose of them in the incenerator [sic].” He went on to write that “I would imagine that they represent about $100.00 minimum value.” In response, the Los Angeles Public Library gladly accepted the gift of 135 contact prints and 217 negatives, and the staff concluded that a fair value for the collection would be $150.00.
Dorothy Herrmann, 1946. Cole Weston photograph. From Laughing Eyes: A Book of Letters Between Edward and Cole Weston, 1923-1946 edited by Paulette Weston, Carmel Publishing Company, 1999, p. 71.
I am choosing to wind this lengthy rambling piece up with an epilogue of Cole’s theater-related activities in Carmel. Throughout the war Dorothy and Cole dabbled in amateur theater wherever they found themselves and Cole began to learn the photography trade. After Edward divorced Charis in 1946 and at his request, Cole and Dorothy pulled up stakes in Southern California and moved to Carmel. Cole suspended many of his pursuits to become his father’s assistant over the next twelve years until his death. Cole would maintain a lifelong association with the Forest Theater where Henry Cowell first performed in 1913. He directed over 30 plays there over the years and took steps to ensure the theater’s survival after becoming Carmel’s first Cultural Director in 1968.
Helen Cooke Wilson (see above and below), wife of noted Pulitzer Prize-winning author Henry Leon Wilson and mother of Edward Weston’s wife Charis, began performing at Herbert Heron’s Forest Theater in 1911 (see below) not long before Henry Cowell debuted in 1913. Charis recounted in later years that at one of the regular Point Lobos weekend picnics of the Carmel Highlands luminaries, the extremely jealous Harry took exception to the ardent manner in which Helen and artist Theodore Criley played a love scene in a recent Forest Theater production and challenged him to a fistfight. Fortunately, as was usually the case, both men were too drunk to do much damage. (Through Another Lens: My Years With Edward Weston by Charis Wilson and Wendy Madar, North Point Press, 1998, p. 30).
Forest Theater, Carmel, 1939. Photographer unknown.
During the Great Depression, the theater was deeded to the city in order to take advantage of Works Progress Administration funds for sorely needed renovations. While acquiring a concrete foundation, a grape-stake fence and new seating, the theater closed for nearly three years. Heron resumed productions in 1940 as the Carmel Shakespeare Festival, presenting Shakespearean plays and work from local authors; the latter included the world premiere of Robinson Jeffers’ “The Tower Beyond Tragedy.” While World War II halted theater production, Heron, then retired from active involvement, organized the first Forest Theater Guild in 1949.
Under the direction of Cole Weston, the theater resumed a schedule of Shakespeare, classic drama and plays by local writers. Weston oversaw construction of dressing rooms and a small theater beneath the outdoor stage. Guided by Cole Weston and Philip Oberg, the Forest Theater Guild began to produce plays by local authors, Shakespeare, and classic drama. Cole himself directed over thirty plays over the years.
Plaque honoring Cole Weston, Forest Theater.
For his lifetime efforts Cole was honored with a bronze plaque and impressionistic bust by Louis O. Roberts by the Forest Theater Guild in 1997.