Giannini and Raoul Hague
Art International, August/September
Woodstock, New York, 1979. Slightly revised and corrected by Hague
in 1980 and 1981.
began your art schooling at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. Hague.
What do you feel was the value of your training there?
learned more from the students than the teachers in the classes. I
wasnt very good in drawing. Art students in the museum school
worked on the whole catalogue for Chicagos 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 dont 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
dont 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. Calders fathers
studio was right across from my place. Now I remember young Calder
used to go in and out of his fathers studio chubby little
fellow. Now the famous one.
was it that you came into contact with Flanagan?
New York. I joined the Art Students league. I expressed myself much
better in sculpture that I did in drawing. I dont blame that
fellow at the Art Institute in Chicago who said, Give up, boy.
You just dont have any talent drawing. He was right. I
cant 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, Ill 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 didnt
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 dont 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 cant 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, thats
it. Thats your life. You are a sculptor.
He was the worst alcoholic
case Ive 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
Patricks 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.
you think it was a personality difference with Gorky?