Interview The Raoul Hgaue Foundation
Home Events Sculptures Scrapbooks Interview Biography
Paula Giannini and Raoul Hague
Art International, August/September 1981
Woodstock, New York, 1979. Slightly revised and corrected by Hague in 1980 and 1981.

    You began your art schooling at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. Hague. What do you feel was the value of your training there?

    I learned more from the students than the teachers in the classes. I wasn’t very good in drawing. Art students in the museum school worked on the whole catalogue for Chicago’s Natural History Museum, drawing the animals for them in 1922. I had nothing to do with it. I had no talent in drawing. But the place was wonderful...going through the basement of the museum to the classes. Artists were very serious. An old teacher — I don’t remember his name — put a plaster cast in front of us, made us copy it. That was a crazy thing! In the basement of the museum on Saturdays the students used to place their work against a wall in a big hall. The teacher would come in — an old academician — with a cocked Fedora hat on his head, a cape and a cane. The students would place a chair in the middle of the hall and pull back respectfully. He would throw the cloak over his shoulder and with his cane he pointed to each painting, and the show was on.
        The Art Institute had arranged with the management of the auditorium of the Opera House to hire students as ushers. Mary Garden was the manager of the Opera House then in the early twenties. I was the usher in her box. She used to send me backstage with notes to hand to singers like Claudia Muzio, Galli-Curci, Chaliapin. They were all fiercely made up. You can imagine the effect it made on me, a nineteen year old boy. There I saw Pavlova, the Moscow Art Theatre. Mary Garden was a tremendous personality. At 50 or 60 years old, she dressed and walked like a flapper, which was in fashion at the time.
        Before my job at the Opera House, I met an Italian girl. She tried to teach me tango dancing. I remember the music was La Paloma. I don’t know how, but we got bookings on vaudeville. We were 2, 3 months on tour around Chicago and Gary, Indiana. It was her idea to change my name from Heukelekian to Raoul — Raoul and Maria, tango dancers. But I was very, very poor and I broke away from her, and at that time I met artists, all from the west, and through them I got into the Art Institute. After a few years all of us moved to New York City. Those western students were very wholesome boys, now dead, all of them.
        In the city, my first studio was on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. By then I was separated from the rest of the boys from the west, from Chicago. Calder’s father’s studio was right across from my place. Now I remember young Calder used to go in and out of his father’s studio — chubby little fellow. Now the famous one.

    When was it that you came into contact with Flanagan?

    In New York. I joined the Art Students league. I expressed myself much better in sculpture that I did in drawing. I don’t blame that fellow at the Art Institute in Chicago who said, “Give up, boy. You just don’t have any talent drawing”. He was right. I can’t draw, even now.
        Zorach was teaching at the League. I was the monitor in his class. He attracted society girls who would come in the afternoon, taking their engagement rings off, modeling in wet clay from the nude model. They were very nice girls. There was a young girl student who was out of line with the rest of them. One afternoon she remained behind. I said, “I’ll walk you home.” We started on 57th Street. I thought I would put her on the 7th Avenue subway. Instead, she directed me east, crossing Fifth Avenue, and I thought it would be to the Lexington Avenue subway. At Park Avenue she stopped and pointed at a skyscraper. She said, “My uncle owns that tower.” She was a Gould. But it didn’t take long for her to lose those rosy cheeks and peasant look. She started looking like the rest of them — narrow waist, high heels, make-up, hair-do and all.
        Still, coming to your question. I don’t know how I met Flanagan. Someone must have brought him over to my studio. Flanagan and Zorach hated each other. Flanagan took me over the Queensborough Bridge to a big stone yard. We bought some stones there, brought a few to my studio, carried them up three flights of stairs. I found a hammer and a chisel and Flanagan sat on a Morris chair and started reading the newspaper. You know, when you are young you can do it. Now I can’t work if anybody is looking over my shoulder. By the time he finished reading the paper, I had carved a figure out of limestone. Flanagan said, “Well, that’s it. That’s your life. You are a sculptor.”
        He was the worst alcoholic case I’ve met in my life. He would begin with a glass of wine, and then whiskey, then a glass of wine again, and then whiskey and then a beer. He knocked himself out. The taxi drivers in the middle of the night used to drop him at my door, stealing everything he had. Talk about taxi drivers! I had a studio above a taxi garage. Even in Woodstock, when he needed money for liquor he would sell his sculpture for ten or twenty-five dollars to the artists around. Many years later, Curt Valentin sent one of his men to buy the sculpture from the artists, paying two, three thousand dollars for a piece. One of them said he made a European trip with the profits from his ten dollar investment.
        Flanagan committed suicide. Oh yes. He had an accident in the city and a bone was taken out of his temple. He was a suffering man. He had a young apprentice living with him. One day this boy dropped in on me in the late afternoon. He said, “Flanagan wants to see you.” Flanagan was living then in a rear house in the Chelsea district. This was 1939. Hitler had started raising hell across the ocean. Flanagan had placed two tobacco cans on the table, and a bundle of clothing. He asked us to take the cans to the Catholic Charities, in a building behind Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and the bundle to the settlement house on Allen Street, under the Williamsburg Bridge. Next morning, the apprentice was at my door, saying, “I found him dead.” Flanagan had committed suicide. How thick can youth be? Flanagan was very much liked by the younger sculptors. Gorky never thought much of him and his work. But Curt Valentin, who had a good eye too, chose Flanagan.

    Do you think it was a personality difference with Gorky?