Thursday, April 6, 2017

Alexander "Sasha" Kaun Beach Cottage, Richmond, CA, R. M. Schindler, Architect, 1935

Alexander Kaun, 1932 by Johan Hagemeyer. Courtesy Johan Hagemeyer Collection, Bancroft Library, UC-Berkeley.

One of the more fascinating lifelong friends in the orbit of architect R. M. Schindler and his wife Pauline was nationally renowned Russian art and literary scholar Alexander "Sasha" Kaun. The Schindlers befriended him in Chicago while the Russian born Kaun was studying for his PhB at the University of Chicago, editing and writing for the school's Chicago Literary Review and a frequently contributing to Margaret Anderson's avant-garde The Little Review(For much more on this see my "The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School").

Alexander S. Kaun, Cap and Gown, University of Chicago, 1916, p. 88.

The below obituary by his Berkeley colleague G. R.Noyes sums up his remarkable career in a nutshell.
"In the spring of 1913 he studied at the Lewis Institute in Chicago and in the fall of that year he entered the University of Chicago, from which he graduated in 1916. In the summer of that year he lectured on Russian literature at the University of Chicago. On January 20, 1916, he married Valeria Gretchen Tracewell, of Columbus, Kansas. Early in 1917 for the sake of his health he removed to Berkeley, California. In the summer he lectured in the University of California Summer School. He was appointed Assistant in Russian at the University of California for the year 1917-18 and at the same time enrolled as a graduate student. In 1918 he received the degree of M. A. in Slavic Languages and in 1923 the degree of Ph. D. After 1917 he spent his entire life as a member of the Department of Slavic Languages at the University of California, becoming Instructor in Russian in 1919, Associate in Russian in 1920, Assistant Professor of Russian in 1923, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages in 1927, and Professor of Slavic Languages in 1943. In 1942 he was appointed chairman of the department."
The Little Review, February 1915.

After the Schindlers completed their Kings Road House in West Hollywood in 1922 the Kauns were frequent visitors. Kaun often lectured at the Schindler's salons throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Kaun Beach Cottage, Richmond, 1935, R. M. Schindler, architect. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

Kaun and his artist wife Valeria were highly respected members of the UC Berkeley faculty and Berkeley arts and literary community as well. Valeria was instrumental in helping Schindler publicize his 1933 one-man exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Her work was exhibited concurrently in a companion exhibition (see below for example). This friendship opened many doors for the Schindlers' mutual friend Galka Scheyer, art dealer for the Blue Four while she was establishing a foothold in the Bay Area, especially Berkeley, in the late 1920s. (For much more on this see my "Schindler-Scheyer-Eaton-Ain: A Case Study in Adobe.").

"Unfound Genius at Toil," Oakland Tribune, November 29, 1927, p. 4.

Noyes ended his heartfelt piece fondly reminiscing about collegial time spent at the Kaun's Schindler-designed beach cottage on a sandy cove in a Eucalyptus grove on Point Richmond.
"I like best to picture him entertaining our little Slavic Society, to which all the students of any Slavic language might belong - and most of them did belong - at his "private Riviera," a rather chilly little beach adjoining his cottage at Richmond. The boys and girls toasted wienies, bathed in the turbid water, played ball, were happy. And Sasha Kaun and Valeria knew how to make them happy; they mingled with them without affectation or condescension; they were boy and girl along with them." (Noyes, G. R., "Alexander Kaun," Books Abroad, October 1944, p. 322).
Kaun Beach Cottage, Richmond, 1935, R. M. Schindler, architect. From "House for Dr. Sasha Kaun, San Francisco Bay, R. M. Schindler, Architect," Architectural Forum, November 1936, pp. 422-23. Note Valeria Kaun standing in the doorway. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

Architect and Engineer, December 1935 guest-edited by Pauline Schindler. R. M. Schindler's Oliver House on the cover.

The Kauns next door beach neighbors the Shaws around the same time commissioned a similar cottage by fellow modernist William W. Wurster on their shared intimate cove on Point Richmond. Pauline Schindler featured both cottages in the December 1935 issue of Architect and Engineer for which she was the guest editor (see above and below). (For more details see my "Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism").


"A Beach House for Mr. and Mrs. Robert Shaw, Point Richmond, William Wurster, Architect, Architect and Engineer, December 1935.

It is perhaps with shared knowledge of Russia from Kaun that fellow Schindler clients and salon coterie Philip Lovell and Leo Gallagher felt emboldened to make a trip to Russia in 1931. In any event they would have compared notes with Kaun upon their return. This will all be rolled up into my below overarching work in progress, The Schindlers and the Westons: An Avant-Garde Friendship."

Lovell Beach House, Newport Beach, 1926, R. M. Schindler, architect. Photo by  Edward Weston, August 2, 1927. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Papers.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Weston-Van Vechten-Luhan-Draper-Covarrubias, 1930-34

Marjorie Eaton ca. late 1930s, Dorothea Lange photo. Courtesy Oakland Museum of California, Dorothea Lange Collection.

While researching Marjorie Eaton's (see above) time in Taos in the early 1930s for my upcoming "Schindler-Scheyer-Eaton-Ain: A Case Study in Adobe" I ran across the below photos of  Mabel and Tony Luhan, Muriel Draper and Miguel and Rose Covarrubias taken by Edward Weston in Carmel in 1930 and Carl Van Vechten in New York and Taos in 1932 and 1934. There is definitely a story waiting to be told among these fascinating connections. (Some of the story can be found at my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrenceand Selected Carmel-Taos Connections").

Mabel Dodge Luhan by Edward Weston, Carmel, 1930. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.

Tony Luhan, Carmel, April 8, 1930. Edward Weston portrait. From Lorenzo in Taos by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Alfred A. Knopf, 1932, p. 33. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.

Weston took the above images of Mabel Dodge Luhan and husband Tony during their visit to Carmel in the spring of 1930. Luhan's visit was a face-to-face attempt to lure poet Robinson Jeffers to Taos. Her endeavor was eventually successful as the Jeffers family would spend summers at the Luhan compound in the mid-1930s. She was also successful in luring Weston into her web during the summer of 1933. (Ibid).

Mabel Dodge Luhan by Carl Van Vechten, Taos, 1934. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Tony and Mabel Dodge Luhan by Carl Van Vechten, Taos, 1934. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Muriel Draper, by Edward Weston, Carmel, November, 1933. From Weston's Westons: Portraits and Nudes by Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989, p. 129. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.

Noted author and social activist Muriel Draper was living in Pebble Beach in late 1933 when she sat for the above portrait in Weston's Carmel studio. They likely had a fascinating chat about their mutual connections with Mabel and Tony whom Weston had photographed in 1930 and visited in Taos the previous summer. Draper was also close friends with Gertrude Stein and all in Mabel's New York salon circle.

Muriel Draper by Carl Van Vechten, 1934. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Miguel Covarrubias, 1926 by Edward Weston. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Rose Roland de Covarrubias, 1926 by Edward Weston. Collection Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.

Miguel Covarrubias and Tina Modotti, Mexico City, 1924. Photo by Edward Weston. Copyright 1981, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona.

I also serendipitously ran across the above and below photos of Miguel and Rose Covarrubias by both photographers. Weston first met and befriended Miguel and Rose in 1923 after moving to Mexico with his then lover Tina Modotti. Both Tina and Edward began photographing the couple in 1924 (see above). Weston often exhibited the above photo of Rose, likely for the first time in the U.S. during his two-man show with close friend Johan Hagemeyer at Gump's in San Francisco in February of 1925 (see below).
Edward Weston and Johan Hagemeyer, Gump's, Feb., 9 to Feb. 21, 1925. Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, Edward Weston Collection.

Covarrubias visited the Luhan compound in Taos during the summer of 1929 following Van Vechten who had spent a few weeks there in early 1927. (The Tastemaker Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America by Edward White, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2014, p. 224).  This was also around the time that Marjorie Eaton was getting acclimated to Taos and meeting architect R. M. Schindler's 1915 client Doc Martin and his old Chicago Palette and Chisel Club pals Walter Ufer, E. Martin Hennings and Victor Higgins and Mabel Dodge Luhan's by then secretary "Spud" Johnson with whom she had Berkeley connections. (For much more on this see my "Miguel Covarrubias in Taos, 1929").

Miguel Covarrubias, 1932 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Van Vechten also first met Covarrubias in 1923. It was through his largess that Covarrubias had some of his caricatures published in Vanity Fair that year which turned him into an overnight success. The couple sat for their above and below Van Vechten portraits in New York in October of 1932. (Katherine Anne Porter in Mexico: The Illusion of Eden, by Thomas S. Walsh, University of Texas Press, 1992, p. 65).

Rose Covarrubias, 1932 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Carl Van Vechten by Miguel Covarrubias, n.d. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

There are many more Weston-Van Vechten connections awaiting to be made and perhaps enough for a fascinating exhibition so stay tuned.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Miguel Covarrubias in Taos, 1929

While researching for my upcoming essay "Schindler-Scheyer-Eaton-Ain: A Case Study in Adobe" I ran across the below Miguel Covarrubias items resulting from his 1929 visit to Mabel Dodge Luhan's historic artist colony compound in Taos perhaps through the largess of mutual friend Carl Van Vechten who had preceded him in 1927. This was also around the time that artist Marjorie Eaton was getting acclimated to Taos with her close artist friend Katie Skeele and meeting architect R. M. Schindler's 1915 client Doc Martin and his old Chicago Palette and Chisel Club pals Walter Ufer, E. Martin Hennings and Victor Higgins and Mabel Dodge Luhan's by then secretary "Spud" Johnson with whom she had Berkeley connections. She also would have been visiting her dear friend Galka Scheyer who was convalescing at the Sunmount Sanitorium in Santa Fe.

Mabel Dodge Luhan House, "Los Gallos," Taos, 1929. Ansel Adams photo. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Miguel Covarrubias, 1932 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

By 1929 Taos was very much the Bohemian crossroads of the Southwest largely through the efforts of the town's doyenne Mabel Dodge Luhan. Mexican caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias made his first pilgrimage in 1929, as did a plethora of luminaries from both the East and West Coast including besides Covarrubias, Georgia O'Keeffe, Rebecca Strand, Ansel Adams, Ella Young, Mary Austin, John O'Shea, Marjorie Eaton and her friends Katie Skeele and the Bruton sisters and numerous others. (For much on O'Keeffe and others' first visit to Taos in 1929 see my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and Selected Carmel Taos Connections").

Georgia O'Keeffe by Miguel Covarrubias, 1929. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Georgia O'Keeffe was perhaps the most notable artist-in-residence among a legendary gathering of modernistas at Mabel's during the summer of 1929. Perhaps already friends from the Van Vechten circle in New York Covarrubias and O’Keeffe continued a lasting friendship while he caricatured her during their first Taos sojourns.

Georgia O'Keeffe by Carl Van Vechten, New York, May 3, 1932. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Spud Johnson, Taos, October 26, 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Covarrubias also reconnected with Mabel's secretary Spud Johnson (see above) who had spent the winter of 1926-27 in the Van Vechten circle in New York writing 24 irreverent articles for The New Yorker. Johnson seized the opportunity to solicit from Covarrubias a cover design for his by then legendary avant-garde literary magazine Laughing Horse (see above). (Author's Note: For much more on the relationship between Spud Johnson, Witter Bynner and the 1922 Laughing Horse scandal on the Berkeley campus see my "Edward Weston, Jean Charlot, "Spud" Johnson, Marjorie Eaton and Lloyd LaPage Rollins's 1932 "Horse Show").

Cover for Laughing Horse no. 16, by Miguel Covarrubias, 1929. From Spud Johnson & Laughing Horse by Sharyn R. Udall, University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

Miguel Covarrubias and Tina Modotti, Mexico City, 1924. Photo by Edward Weston. Copyright 1981, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona.

Having quickly befriended Covarrubias and his future wife Rose Roland shortly after he and his then lover Tina Modotti arrived in Mexico in August of 1923, mutual Eaton-Schindler-Scheyer friend Edward Weston wrote of his portrait sittings with Miguel and Rose,
"Later Covarrubias and Rose Roland came to see their proofs. Of Rose, I have one at least for myself. Miguel I should like to do again, but they leave for New York tomorrow. They are both very agreeable, jolly persons - I like them." (The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Vol. I. Mexico, September 23, 1926, p. 192). 
Miguel Covarrubias, 1926 by Edward Weston. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Though O’Keeffe was a generation older than Covarrubias, they shared many professional as well as social experiences. Both O’Keeffe and Covarrubias were part of a coterie of avant-garde artists in New York City during the 1910s, 20s and 30s pollinated by social butterfly author and photographer Carl Van Vechten (see below).

CarlVan Vechten by Miguel Covarrubias, n.d.. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Carl Van Vechten, self portrait, 1934. From Wikipedia.

“Woman with Squash Blossom Necklace,” Taos, 1929 by Miguel Covarrubias. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

During a visit to Mabel's husband Tony's Taos Pueblo Covarrubias couldn't help sketch one of the smitten tourists laden down with Indian booty (see above).

Tony Luhan by Ansel Adams, 1929.

Mabel Dodge Luhan, 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

This brief post is just meant to be a placeholder for a much lengthier essay I have in mind "Taos, 1929: A Bohemian Crossroads." Stay tuned. (For much on O'Keeffe's first visit to Taos in 1929 see my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence and Selected Carmel Taos Connections").