BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Anthony F. Janson, March 15/19, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Anthony F. Janson, March 15/19, 2007
Date:
March 15/19, 2007
Description:
Anthony F. Janson is a retired professor and former Department Chair for the UNCW Department of Art and Theatre [retired December 2002]. This interview covers his complete life and career. He discusses his relationship with his art historian father, H.W. Janson, including his relationship as son and co-author and editor of the Janson texts on art history. The interview covers Tony's career as a scholar, book editor, author, art museum curator [at Indianapolis Art Museum and North Carolina Art Museum], and as a professor. Throughout, he comments on important artists in history and his philosophy of art history. He also includes stories of his time in the Vietnam War.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Janson, Anthony Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  3/15/2007, 3/19/2007 Series:  Voices of UNCW Length  240 minutes

 

Hayes: [crew talk] Good morning. This is Sherman Hayes, university librarian at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, UNCW, Randall Library, doing an oral history interview with Dr. Tony Janson, esteemed retired professor and former chairman of the Art and Art History department. Is that the correct term?

Tony Janson: I think it was called Art Theater.

Hayes: Art and Theater, okay. And I know you as Tony. Is that okay if I refer the rest of the--

Tony Janson: Oh, absolutely. There are Anthonys and Tonys in this world, and I'm a Tony.

Hayes: Today is March 15th.

Tony Janson: I think it's the Ides of March.

Hayes: There we go, Ides of March. And we're interviewing Tony here in his residence. If you'll tell me your name and when you were born so that we get that record down, your full name. If you don't want to tell me your full name--

Tony Janson: I can do that. It's Anthony Frederick Janson and I was born on March 30th of 1943.

Hayes: A birthday coming up soon. And for our listeners, I want them to know that Tony is an interesting challenge because of the variety of experiences in his life. And where do we start and go? From what little I know about you, I'll say some things that show you how you can categorize someone. You have experiences as a child of a famous academic couple, would that be a fair assessment that we'll get to?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: You have a career in the university. You have a doctorate from--

Tony Janson: Harvard.

Hayes: Undergraduate was--

Tony Janson: Columbia.

Hayes: Did you go right to Harvard, or was there an intermediate--

Tony Janson: It was rather long intermediate--

Hayes: But is there another school in there too?

Tony Janson: Yes, there's NYU.

Hayes: So that's an interesting academic. You're a veteran of the Vietnam War, or conflict, so that's an interesting point. You were a husband for many, many years, and continue to be a father and a curator, an art curator, right? Is that the correct term?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: And an administrator. And you've been a faculty member and instructor, a well-known textbook writer and other writer besides textbooks. Is that the right term, "writer?"

Tony Janson: Close enough for working purposes.

Hayes: And then, consultant to many people in the art world, a friend of many famous and interesting people, a collector of art yourself, and now retired, which is another story. I want to get some perspective that we're going to try to cover all of those. Maybe we can't do all of those, we'll have you pick out what's more important. We're coming to you as part of our faculty interview series, but I really want to cover the whole scope, because I find that a fascinating life so far, with more to come. So why don't we start with, no one ends up at a university without some preparation. What about early years and how you ended up in an art world?

Tony Janson: I sound a little bit like that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he's being interviewed and he always ends up being one of the boys in the chorus, so it's a little repetitious. I am really an art historian by accident. I never intended to become one. And one reason is, of course, my father was very famous.

Hayes: And your father was?

Tony Janson: H.W. Janson, who wrote the history of art of his generation. And also because I got dragged to museums as a child. And at first I hated the experience, because children have to pay the museums. And I was a very rambunctious child, to say the least, and I would have much preferred to be outdoors playing baseball or something else, anything but--

Hayes: Where was this childhood at that you were accessing museums?

Tony Janson: I was born in St. Louis. And I actually had my first museum experiences, believe it or not, in St. Louis, and then later in Boston and particularly in New York.

Hayes: Your father was a professor?

Tony Janson: He was a professor.

Hayes: A professor of art history.

Tony Janson: Right. And he spent most of his career at NYU from 1949 on.

Hayes: So you, very early on, by that point, by age six you were in New York.

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: New York, New York, or outside?

Tony Janson: I grew up outside until I was 15, and then the rest of the time I grew up mostly in New York.

Hayes: You said your father's name is H.W.?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: Did he use that just as a name?

Tony Janson: Most people called him Peter. It's because H.W. stands for Horace Waldemar. And he came to this country on a scholarship to Harvard in 1936. And as soon as he hit these shores, he said, "I'm an American from now on," although he had to go back for one summer for two months just to prove that he was still a good German boy.

Hayes: He came from Germany?

Tony Janson: Yes. He was actually born in St. Petersburg, however. My background is extremely diverse. But he didn't like to be referred to by his German names, because he never thought of himself again as a German.

Hayes: So in World War II he was here as an American citizen?

Tony Janson: Yes. He had his green papers and then was granted citizenship. And during the war, his effort was to teach G.I.s basic physics. Which, believe it or not, was quite important because, among other things, that was crucial to proper artillery calibration.

Hayes: So he was a German who had immigrated here teaching American G.I.s physics. Was he an art person at that point already?

Tony Janson: Yes. He had received his Ph.D. while teaching at the University of Iowa. And he had nearly lost his job because he took a group of students to see the Picasso exhibition in Chicago, and Grant Wood took great offense at this and demanded that he be fired.

Hayes: Who is Grant Wood?

Tony Janson: Grant Wood was a famous conservative artist, the one who painted the archetypal American farm couple with a pitchfork--

Hayes: With a pitchfork. Oh yes, I love that.

Tony Janson: And most people don't realize that it was painted as a spoof. But he detested modernism, and was--

Hayes: And he was in Iowa and your father was in Iowa.

Tony Janson: Yep. And there were a number of other people at Iowa, all very conservative. And they wanted his head on a platter. And my father said to the chairman, "Look, if you give in to him, he will be able to have his way with you forever. It's up to you, but if you say yes, you're no longer Chairman. He is." And the guy said, "You're right," and so he didn't fire my father. My father left the next year and went to St. Louis and was chairman of the department there.

Hayes: What university was it?

Tony Janson: That was Washington University.

Hayes: Washington, very well known university.

Tony Janson: And he was also the curator of the museum. And he desessioned [ph?] a bunch of old masters in order to buy modern art by Picasso, Brach, people like that.

Hayes: Which are probably still there now, right?

Tony Janson: Oh, they are.

Hayes: As the core of their famous collection.

Tony Janson: In fact, there was a publication a few years ago about how that collection got formed, and in fact, what he bought is still the core of that collection.

Hayes: That's great. So I'm not doing your father, I'm trying to put it in context. You were born to a professor who, fairly early in your life, settled at New York University. Was he the head of that department too?

Tony Janson: Yes. He was hired as chair of the department. In between, he had a year off to do research at Harvard, he had a fellowship. My mother was also an art historian, she has an M.A. from Harvard.

Hayes: Is she from Germany as well?

Tony Janson: No, she's from this country, Philadelphia. And they met while she was an undergraduate at Radcliffe, when he was a graduate at the Fogg, that's a museum which is the graduate department at Harvard. And they pretty quickly became an item, shall we say.

Hayes: So two art historians. I don't know if you were destined to go into this, but there was a certain amount of pressure here?

Tony Janson: No, there wasn't any pressure. And in fact, I'm the only who developed any really strong interest in art. My sister developed an interest in art, in art conservation.

Hayes: Tell us your sister's name.

Tony Janson: Josephine Janson.

Hayes: Is she still Josephine Janson?

Tony Janson: Yes. Although she's married, but she retained her maiden name.

Hayes: Okay, good. In case the genealogists are seeking her out, I wanted to make sure she's identified. And she ended up in...

Tony Janson: She ended up actually being a corporate sales representative for AT&T, and is the only one anyone can remember who actually survived a full 25 years doing it. Because most people never were able to meet the rather stiff requirements, which kept changing like the sands of the Sahara. And she managed to survive it, much to her credit.

Hayes: Now, your dad was an art historian, and so that involved visiting all the time. To people who don't know the field, does that mean you're also a practicing artist? Were you also a painter?

Tony Janson: That an interesting question. About 30 to 35% of the art historians I've ever met at one point or another were practicing artists, and at some point discovered that they were more interested in talking about art than making art. Sometimes they realized that they weren't that good at making art, and in other cases it was simply that they had a better brain and their brain was turned on by looking at it and talking about it more than they were by making it. Although some have continued to do both.

Hayes: If 35% are that way, then 65% never were artists or intended to be artists. In other words, I think people get confused to think if you're an art historian and you're in an art department you must be a practicing artist. Those don't have to connect.

Tony Janson: They don't, and it's unfortunate in a way, because I actually did, at one point or another, try every medium. Because I felt that if I didn't, I really wouldn't understand the process of making art and what goes into making art from a mental and creative point of view. And it made me much more sympathetic to artists themselves.

Hayes: Was there one particular area that you wish you could have even kept going in more depth? Did you find an affinity for a particular one of the mediums, or not?

Tony Janson: Well, I will tell you that from the first time I held a camera, that was it. And it was one of those cheaply made Argus cameras with a lens made from Pepsi Cola glass. But I knew as soon as I held it at the age of nine or ten, that that was my medium.

Hayes: Wow. And that interesting, because at that early point in your life, photography wasn't really accepted as widely as it is now are an art medium. So you were in a sense ahead of your time. In the 1950s, I think people were really struggling to even say art photography was a major art medium.

Tony Janson: Well, you know, it's that experience that led me to put history of photography for the first time in any survey of the history of art.

Hayes: You mean-- we'll get to that later-- as you were working on the textbook, you were the first person in a general textbook?

Tony Janson: Yes. In any language.

Hayes: And before we had Beaumont Newhall, of course, did the history of photography, but those were all separate advocates for that?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: And in the general textbook, if I was in 1957 doing a textbook--

Tony Janson: You would have never seen it. Nor would you have seen a single woman artist.

Hayes: Wow. We'll come back to that. That's fascinating. I think the problem is, as people like you break the ground, then it becomes the norm. We forgot that somebody had to. So in a sense, your father's world of art history, how would you classify it, as a European white male, Italian?

Tony Janson: I would call it classically centered. And it was the art history of his generation and it represented the normative view of art history, although my father's mind was extremely original. And he had so many insights that he didn't simply update the history of art, he contributed to a very new understanding of it, which is, I think, an important point, and in a way that no subsequent art history textbook has done.

Hayes: What is the art history text-- tell us what that is. Is there a term? I mean, is it a title that people use? Is it Janson's...

Tony Janson: Yeah, it's called Janson's History of Art. It's now been taken over by a team of writers instead of one person doing it.

Hayes: But you did it for years and years, which we're going to talk about later. But he started that?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: And the practice would be just like any textbook. You want to do a textbook, the publisher says, we want you to do a textbook, and he has to write that from scratch. Right?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: If we've come to know his book and your book as the definitive art texts, who was he competing against when he came out? Was there somebody else also?

Tony Janson: Yes. The preceding generation's normative art history book was Helen Gardner, which has since been rewritten by at least two teams of art historians. And the trouble with a team approach is that there's always going to be at least one person who isn't very good, to be honest about it.

Hayes: And we aren't saying who it is, we're just saying there's one.

Tony Janson: There's always a weak link. On the other hand, they tend to sell okay, and Janson's History of Art lost ground simply because my father didn't bother revising it very much. And shortly after his death, I ended up having to revise it much sooner than I wanted to. I didn't even have time to let his ashes get cold, and I had a year in which to turn in a new edition.

Hayes: Because things had just changed so much?

Tony Janson: No, it wasn't that. It's just they needed to be able to say, "Here's the new edition." And it wasn't possible to completely revise that large of a textbook.

Hayes: It's a big book, right?

Tony Janson: So what I did is I added women, which was long overdue, and I added the history of photography.

Hayes: What year was that?

Tony Janson: He died in '82, and it came out in '84.

Hayes: So '84 you brought women and photography into one of the leading art textbooks.

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: The competitor hadn't made the move either?

Tony Janson: One book had put women in, though not very many, and certainly not photography. And I also insisted that the book be redesigned, because if it was going to have a new author, it should have a new look.

Hayes: Let's come back to that, because I want to cover that as a distinctive part of your long career. But we're back to-- we were jumping ahead-- you're going to art museums. So in high school, you're heading towards art, or not heading towards art?

Tony Janson: No, I used to go to visit art museums by then on my own, without having to be dragged to them. But how I learned to like art was by projecting my imagination into the works themselves. And I think probably children do this a lot more than grownups realize. For example, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a painting by Rubens of Venus and Adonis, and I would project myself into it as an extra character and get caught. And Adonis would say, "What the heck are you doing in here?" And Venus would say, "Oh, horrors," things like that. Or in a portrait of what turns out to be Marguerite of Austria. And I would have an imaginary conversation with her about what's it like to live in a drafty old castle and she would say, "Oh, my goodness. You can't believe how cold it is in winter. Talk about trying to take a bath in December."

Hayes: Were the public schools encouraging art at that point? I doubt it. In other words, were you getting any--

Tony Janson: No.

Hayes: So other than your own family ambience, the schools weren't suggesting that people should be interested in art. I'm slightly younger than you, but I sure don't remember, other than you could take an art class, but art history was just nonexistent, would you say?

Tony Janson: I don't remember any art history from that period.

Hayes: Were you finding an interest in history in general? Were you drawn to that as a topic, or anything else in high school? What in high school fired you up, if anything?

Tony Janson: Well, what in high school fired me up was discovering that I actually had a brain. Which was one of those great mysteries to me because my parents, when I was growing up, thought I was hopelessly stupid. And so I walked around for years thinking that I had a sub-moronic IQ, and they even sent me to a psychologist to have me tested. And what turns out is that I must have had what is now identified as ADD. So I would get very easily bored if the subject wasn't interesting or the teacher wasn't interesting. But if it was something that turned me on, I was tenacious. And what happened was that we spent a year in Europe while my father was writing a book that won him a prize as the best book by an American or a Canadian art historian on Donatello.

Hayes: What year was that?

Tony Janson: It would be about 1954. And I came back, and, first of all, Elvis Presley had hit. And I took one look at this and said, as they say in Mad magazine, Meshuggenah. And secondly, I had absorbed a very different outlook from Europe.

Hayes: Even though at the time you were nine or ten?

Tony Janson: No, I was 11 or 12. And I felt very out of place.

Hayes: Coming back, you mean.

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: Tell me about that time there. Was than an exciting time, a wonderful time?

Tony Janson: Yes, it was great. Because that was the first time-- first of all, I realized I did have a brain. And I also was exposed to a lot of varied culture. Not just Switzerland, but Germany, France, England.

Hayes: Did you have to go to school and everything?

Tony Janson: Yes. I learned German, which I still speak very well. So I came back with a much broader view of life and its possibilities. And America, at this time, was in a period of great conformism. And I was totally unwilling to have any part of it. And after two years it was clear that I was in total rebellion, and that at the earliest possible date I was going to drop out of school and go seek my fortune. So my parents said, "This will never do, we've got to get him to some place where he'll become interested in education again." And they realized my brother was in the same boat; I have a twin brother.

Hayes: A twin brother? What's his name?

Tony Janson: His name is Peter.

Hayes: Identical twin?

Tony Janson: Identical.

Hayes: Is he still alive?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: I shouldn't say, I don't know if it's "still alive", but he's--

Tony Janson: Well, he's floating around out there.

Hayes: So that if somebody wants to track him down, he's there.

Tony Janson: He's a retired computer programmer in Texas. So we went shopping for private schools, and we spent one very long day looking at private schools in New York City, and the last one was the one I liked the most by far, called Riverdale Country School. And they made us take a test at 6:00 at night. It was after having had no food since 8:30 in the morning, and we were both exhausted. My brother had a meltdown. He said, "I'm sorry, I can't do it." And I was determined that I was going to do the best I could, because I wanted to get into this school. Well, I maxed it. It turned out to be an IQ test.

Hayes: They didn't tell you it was an IQ test, they just said, "Here's the test?"

Tony Janson: No, but I figured it out. About halfway in I said, "Oh, this is an IQ test." And I knew how I had tested out before. This is the highest I'd ever tested out, and under really bad conditions too. It was 205. And they offered me a complete scholarship, including boarding. So it didn't cost my parents a dime.

Hayes: What about your brother?

Tony Janson: My brother, because he just said, "I can't do it, I'm too tired," they said, "Well, I'm sorry, we can't let you in, then," he went to a different school, which is just as well.

Hayes: He did go to a different school. What school did he end up going to?

Tony Janson: He went to one in New Rochelle, a private academy there.

Hayes: It's interesting. Many times we think that the person is going to the private school because the parents don't want them to be in the public school. In your case you felt that it saved you. You were not going to succeed, you were going to drop out of school.

Tony Janson: Oh, absolutely. I really had no intention of going on.

Hayes: So this is to go to what we would call ninth grade to high school, or was this even earlier?

Tony Janson: No, it was ninth grade. And I had a wonderful time.

Tony Janson: It was right in New York City?

Tony Janson: It was in the Bronx.

Hayes: Still there?

Tony Janson: Yes, still there. And my best friend is still my best friend from high school. And it was my salvation, there's no way around it. I was offered a full scholarship to Yale and I turned it down because they didn't have any girls, and I had a lot of hormones, to be honest. And I would have gone to NYU, which I could have gone to for free--

Hayes: What year are we talking about? Help us here on a chronological--

Tony Janson: That would be '65. No, excuse me, '61. But my brother and I had an agreement that we would not go to the same college. And he and my sister both wanted to go to NYU, so I said no, that will never do.

Hayes: And your father was still at NYU, so you were very familiar with that school. You must have visited there regularly.

Tony Janson: Uh-huh. And I liked the school.

Hayes: When you talked about a boarding school, that means you actually lived right on the site.

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: And then, what? Summers you go back home?

Tony Janson: I'd go home for the weekends usually, and the summers I would either go home, or frequently, we went to Europe.

Hayes: So you still had the Europe connection, which was great.

Tony Janson: Yeah. And Europe was very important to me, because I would get to visit new places, revisit old places. I made a lot of friendships in England.

Hayes: And you kept the German going even from that earlier time?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: Do languages come easy to you?

Tony Janson: Well, it's interesting. I taught myself how to read quite a few languages. But because German is spoken from the back of the mouth, not the front, I can't speak French. The sound isn't right.

Hayes: Even that early exposure ruined you in French.

Tony Janson: Absolutely. I can speak decent Italian, which I taught myself. I taught myself Dutch, which I can speak, although it's very rusty. I would love to learn Spanish, but I became seriously ill at the point that I started to try to learn it, and it's been very difficult. And I've had to attend to my health more than frivolities like learning one more foreign language, although I've picked up enough so that I can understand about half of what I'm hearing.

Hayes: Did you find, then, as an art historian, that ability to read original sources became valuable to you?

Tony Janson: It's crucial because, first of all, you're required to pass a language test in two foreign languages. And one of the reasons why a lot of people end up specializing in American art or English art is that they can't hack foreign languages, especially German, which is for most Americans like from Mars.

Hayes: Well, the mouth is formed very different-- like you said, it's the back and then the umlaut, which doesn't even exist in the English context. So today if I said to you, "Guten Abend--"

Tony Janson: I could carry on a conversation pretty well. I, in fact, recently carried on a correspondence with a German programmer because I was having trouble paying him through this outfit called PayPal. And it was so frustrating. And I finally realized that he lived in Switzerland, so the business part I would take care of in English. And then the personal part I would start saying, "Well, where in Switzerland do you live?" All of this in German, and we had a good time. He said I write surprisingly good German, especially since it's been 50 years since you learned it.

Hayes: But you didn't have German at home. Your dad was not using German.

Tony Janson: No, we never spoke German at home. But his mother lived with us for 15 years, and we couldn't converse with her very much, because she never really was able to learn English.

Hayes: What was her name?

Tony Janson: Her name was Helen Janson. Same as my wife.

Hayes: But you didn't name your wife, right? That was a coincidence?

Tony Janson: That was a coincidence.

Hayes: You didn't ask your wife when you married her, could you change your name to... None of us would have been able to do that.

Tony Janson: No, no. That would have been really funny. But once we did learn German, she lived with us from 1947 for, oh gosh, 15 years.

Hayes: So she went through World War II in Germany.

Tony Janson: Yes. And in fact, she was located somewhat by accident, in a displaced persons camp run by Americans in 1947.

Hayes: But was his father not alive at that point?

Tony Janson: My grandfather died when my father was about 13.

Hayes: Before the war.

Tony Janson: ...and they asked her, "Do you have any relatives in the United States?" and she said, "Well, actually, I have a son but I have no idea where he is." And her other son had been killed at the siege of Stalingrad, which is one of the great ironies because, of course, he'd been born in St. Petersburg.

Hayes: So this was your uncle.

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: He was a German soldier killed at Stalingrad. That's fascinating. It's a small world.

Tony Janson: What's even smaller about it is that when I was his age, the age at which he was killed, I bore a striking physical resemblance to him.

Hayes: Were you at Vietnam at that point? It wasn't that strange--

Tony Janson: No. That happened later. But I had independently developed very strong moral objections to not only war but killing in general, and I still feel that way. And if I had been a year younger, my application as a non-traditional conscientious objector would have been covered by the Supreme Court ruling that came out three months after I entered the Army. And the only reason I entered the Army, frankly, is because my wife agreed to marry me. Otherwise, I would not have stayed in this country. I would have gone to Canada and then probably to Sweden. Because after all, my name is Swedish.

Hayes: It is Swedish?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: Well, I guess it is son of Jan, right?

Tony Janson: Yes. It's like Johnson.

Hayes: From a genealogical standpoint, did you track your father back further than Germany? Is there a Swedish connection?

Tony Janson: There is, at some point. My grandmother really never bothered saying much about it. My father refused to talk about anything before he came to this country. The only thing he ever said was that the death of his father was probably the best thing that ever happened to him, because he knew he wanted to be an artist starting from a very early age. And his father insisted that he become a doctor or a lawyer, and would hear nothing of it. And they used to fight-- (dogs barking)

Hayes: That's not the doorbell, that's the alarm system. What are your nice, cute dogs' names?

Tony Janson: Boomerang and Moura, they're Australian terriers.

Hayes: Boomerang and Moura.

Tony Janson: Yeah. She's named after a little town in the boondocks of Australia.

Hayes: See if we can get a shot. I'm not getting her full face in. There you go. That's Moura? Thanks for joining us, Moura. And let's see if we can get-- my camera work is not too good.

Tony Janson: Boomerang, come on up here. Come here, sweetie pie.

Hayes: Since they are participants, we want to see if we can get them.

Tony Janson: Well, they're family.

Hayes: You've had them for a long time?

Tony Janson: Around eight years.

Hayes: Anyway, I know we're rambling here, but I think we've gotten you-- high school. But it's an interesting experience that you had a grandmother living with you, so that changed some, and you were going back and forth to Europe. So in some sense, were you even, would you say, more cosmopolitan than even your classmates at this school, or was that a norm for them as well?

Tony Janson: No, it was not a norm for them. Only my best friend was as cosmopolitan, because his family was Belgium. So he was used to--

Hayes: And you say he's still your best friend, so we can say who he is.

Tony Janson: His name is Michael Benatalli [ph?], and he is a lawyer for the EPA.

Hayes: Your best friend's a lawyer for the EPA, your brother was a computer specialist, and your sister worked for AT&T. Are there other brothers and sisters?

Tony Janson: Yeah. I have one younger brother who's nine years younger who is now the soon to be chair and assistant dean out at the University of Wyoming. He'll be chair of the Department of Ecology.

Hayes: Ecology. Scientist. Within that, any particular specialty?

Tony Janson: He has mostly studied monkeys in the jungles of Argentina, and is very well known in those fields.

Hayes: So with two parents that were art historians, you really did eventually become the only one that carried forward the banner of art.

Tony Janson: And that actually was an accident. The reason it happened is when I got out of college, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. But I had spent one summer in Amsterdam at the European office, and I actually proofread my father's book in galley form, looking for typos.

Hayes: You spent at Amsterdam at which office?

Tony Janson: At the European office of Harry and Abrams, which published the book.

Hayes: So you were at the publisher as a summer job.

Tony Janson: Yeah. Basically, they took me off my parents' hands as a favor to them, because I was in full scale rebellion. So I actually had a good time not only in the job, but in Holland. I really have often felt more comfortable in Europe than in America, to be honest. And when I got out of college I thought, well, I might like to learn the book business. Not as an art historian, but as a business, and quickly discovered that I had no head for business whatsoever. But thank God the secretary of the sales department did. She was smart as hell. Not only that, she was to die for beautiful and charming, and the only inconvenient part was that she was engaged. I fell in love with her at first sight, and after about three days, when it was clear that this was not going to work, I was miscast, I went to her and I said, "Look. I need your help. The only way I'm going to keep this job, which I need until the fall-- I'm going to find another job because this is not for me-- is you're very smart, but you're a terrible typist." She says, "Yeah, I can't type worth a damn." And I said, "I'm stupid, but I can type. I'll be happy to be your secretary and do whatever you want. And between us, we can probably make this thing work." And oddly enough, one of the things we were supposed to do was put out sales packages for the salesmen on the road.

Hayes: About the book?

Tony Janson: About different books. And half the stuff was swill. And we got one in from a book that Abrams bought at the Frankfurt Book Fair on, of all things, the art of Vietnam, and it was incomprehensible. And I went to the vice president of sales and said, "Listen. This is illiterate. Nobody can possibly sell this book using this material." And he said, "Shut the door." And he said, "This is a very sensitive topic, because we're obliged to take whatever Editorial gives us because the head of Editorial is the owner's best friend. And believe me, he would sell your father down the river before he would do anything that would in any way offend the head of Editorial."

Hayes: So let me see. In other words, the editorial department is more the academics writing and so forth, who then have to send it to the poor sales department that has to try to convince somebody to buy it, who may or may not be an academic. So probably in every publishing firm that's an interesting challenge.

Tony Janson: Right. But they hadn't even bothered reading this stuff. And I said, "Listen. I know that if we send this forward as is, your salesmen are going to look at it and say, "What the hell is this?" I said, "Would you give me the chance to rewrite it? I'll go to the public library for two days and find out everything I can about the art of this region. And I'll rewrite it just enough to turn it into something that can be used. So that Milton Fox, who was the editor in chief, will hardly know the difference. And I feel bad about this, but this is so disgraceful, that I'd rather resign than have to go along with this kind of shameless--"

Hayes: And you're a summer worker?

Tony Janson: I had just started the job six weeks earlier. No, not even that long. Four weeks earlier. And he said, "Well, I'll admit that this stuff is gibberish. All right, I'll let you do it. But I may have to not let it go through."

Hayes: Right. He had to see what you were going to...

Tony Janson: --and I said since Helen was an English major and actually has better language skills than I do, I'll have her edit it before I turn it in. But I'll have it in to you in three days." He says, "That's good, because I'm going to have two of our best salesmen in three days from now, and I'd like to be able to show it to them."

Hayes: The book was on the art of Vietnam. It was a historical type of art book?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: Which probably there weren't very many of them out there at that point. I mean, my goodness.

Tony Janson: Yeah. This was bought from a French publisher, and we didn't even have the original French text because it had not yet been published. So I went to the library, and of course, most of what you could find was in French, and most of it was quite old. But I managed to find enough in English and piece together enough from what little French I knew at the time, and I spent a full day there. I then spent a full day rewriting this piece of swill, and I had gone to Helen and said, "Listen, you've got to bail me out." And in her sweet southern way, she said, "Oh, of course I will, sugar." And I then handed the--

Hayes: She wasn't a European?

Tony Janson: No. She was from Darlington, South Carolina.

Hayes: See, I had already projected her as a European.

Tony Janson: No, she was a southern girl. And she cleaned it up in 45 minutes, and I retyped it and handed it in to the vice president for sales just before lunchtime. He called me in after lunch and said, "I read this during lunch, it's good. It's very good. My guys can use it, but I want to see what they say about it." And at 5:00 he called both of us in. He said, "Shut the door." And I said, "Oh, God. Why do I have this sense of dread?" And he said, "My guys like it. They want it, we're going to go with it. I'm not even going to show it to Milt." And they managed to sell every copy of the book, and Harry was thrilled. He didn't think it would sell.

Hayes: Who's Harry?

Tony Janson: Harry was the owner.

Hayes: Harry Abrams?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: So you knew Harry Abrams?

Tony Janson: Yeah. The funny thing is, the day I started working at the bottom of the totem pole, his son, Bob Abrams, started working at the top of the totem pole. And I must say that Bob is one of the nicest people I've ever met, a real gentleman. Handsome, married one of the most gorgeous women in the world.

Hayes: Is there still an Abrams publishing?

Tony Janson: There is. It's been sold several times.

Hayes: So he's not still in the...

Tony Janson: He is head of what's called Abbeville Press. What happened is that Harry sold the firm to the Los Angeles Times Mirror Company, and then a couple of years later established Abbeville and eventually turned it over to Bob. And it's been very successful.

Hayes: Yeah, it is a well known press.

Tony Janson: And they do good work.

Hayes: So he started at the top and you were at the bottom.

Tony Janson: At the bottom. And then what happened was something very funny. In the fall, the head of the European branch, Fritz Lanzhoff [ph?], who was a very experienced publisher, came over for his annual winter stay. And he wandered in, took one look at me in the sales department, and said, "What the hell is he doing in there? Get him over into Editorial before he sinks the financial ship." And in a few days I was assigned to the editor of my father's books. And I basically was-- if there was an odd fact that needed to be researched, I got sent up to the public library or whatever. If I needed to track down a photo source that was proving difficult, I did that.

Hayes: I don't think people realize how much work goes in to make sure everything is accurate as best they can, and all that detail. There's a whole army of people that are trying to make sure that the product that comes out is right. I mean, they don't necessarily rewrite it, but they validate it, right?

Tony Janson: Right. And the editor has to make sure that it's written in at least the President's English. It's a big deal to put out a book, let me tell you. And actually, the experience in the sales department later proved invaluable to me, because it let me know what I needed to do to help put out a saleable version of a book which most authors have no idea of. And it was while I was an editorial assistant that an odd thing happened. The editor in chief below Milton Fox said, "We just got in a manuscript we commissioned probably ten years ago on Renaissance art. Would you mind reading it and giving me your opinion about it, since you're a lot smarter than your rank tells us?" I said, "Yeah, sure. I'll start reading it after lunch."

Hayes: This is a summer job, or are you now permanent?

Tony Janson: No, I'm a permanent employee.

Hayes: You've now moved to Europe.

Tony Janson: No, I'm in New York.

Hayes: I'm sorry, I'm confused, because you went to Holland for the summer--

Tony Janson: Yeah, that was when I was 18. I'm now 22 years old.

Hayes: And you've graduated from college.

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: And you have a degree in?

Tony Janson: History.

Hayes: Did you have to specialize or not specialize?

Tony Janson: Nominally, European history.

Hayes: So you're trying to work somewhere, and you've now fallen into publishing as kind of a logical...

Tony Janson: Yeah. I didn't intend to stay in it, and oddly, if Fritz had not come along and had me put into Editorial, I would have been gone within two more weeks.

Hayes: Sales you mean. (Laughs)

Tony Janson: There are no coincidences in life, I have to tell you. So I start reading this thing, it's written by two guys; I won't tell you their names. But I read the first 40 pages of the manuscript during my lunch hour, and at one point I said, "This is so awful even I could do better than that." And that's the first time it occurred to me I could be an art historian. It had never occurred to me before.

Hayes: Even though your dad was the preeminent art historian of his generation. Is that a fair statement, would you say?

Tony Janson: He was the most famous art historian in the world at the time. But I had no interest in becoming an art historian, and that was the first time it dawned on me. And as this book that I was an assistant on-- which I still have, it's on ancient art began to take shape, I got more and more interested in the subject matter. And I then took a couple of night courses at the Metropolitan Museum with a friend of mine who was in graduate school at NYU.

Hayes: They actually offered courses?

Tony Janson: Yeah. One was a course on mannerist prints--

Hayes: These are graduate type level courses?

Tony Janson: They were open to anyone, but they were mostly taken by graduate students. I forget what the other one was at the moment, but I really started to get interested in it. So one day I said, "Look. I've been fighting this and it's pointless. It's obvious that I'm meant to be an art historian." And I had sort of known it for a long time, because when I was ten years old and my mother dragged us to the Met one afternoon, there was a gaggle of people gathered in front of a docent who was lecturing on a Rembrandt. And my mother said, "Shh. You must be very quiet. This is a great Rembrandt." And I looked at it and said, "If this is a great Rembrandt, Rembrandt's a lousy artist. This is a terrible painting."

Hayes: And how old were you?

Tony Janson: Ten. I later did a summer internship at the Met under the curator of Dutch art, John Walsh, who later became the director of the Getty Museum. And by that time everyone recognized that it was an 18th century painting, either German or possibly Dutch.

Hayes: And it wasn't even a...

Tony Janson: It wasn't a Rembrandt.

Hayes: On that note, I'm going to take a break. It's a very good note to take a break on.

(tape change)

Hayes: Okay we're back. We didn't leave for very long. Whoever is reading the transcription doesn't even know it. But we're back with Tape #2, still the same day, Dr. Tony Janson and Sherman Hayes from the University Library at UNCW. And help us here as we try to get back on track. We do wonder which is fine. You took the undergraduate degree in history and then you're working at the publishing firm and you finally decided you were made to actually be an art historian. No pressure from your father to be an art historian?

Tony Janson: No, never.

Hayes: Interesting 'cause, you know, many people would be- parent or somebody pushing you in a direction. So now what's next after this point and where did you have to become that kind of- I don't know, is it an accredited art historian? I mean what is the field? A degreed art historian, you'd have to have a degree or something.

Tony Janson: Yeah, you have to go to graduate school.

Hayes: And a PhD. would be the only standard that you could get to, right?

Tony Janson: Well, you could get an M.A. and, you know, still parlay that to a living. But what I did is sat down with my father and said, "Well, Dad, I hate to tell you this but I want to an art historian. And I realized that this is the equivalent of committing Hari Kari, but I can't help it. It's clear and it's been obvious in retrospect for me for years. It's in my blood and it's not just from being dragged around museums. It is by temperament. There is something about art and art history that brings together so many different aspects of my personality and my intellect and my imagination that it has to be." And he said, "Well, you know, of course, that there will always be a problem because of my fame." And I said, "I understand that, but I want you to know that I'm doing this for myself and not for you and not for anyone else. I have no intention of trying to emulate your fame. I'm going to have a rather different approach about art history than you do not because I don't like your approach, it's just I have a different temperament. Would you be willing to support me through graduate school? I'm willing to work."

Hayes: Now what year are we at about now?

Tony Janson: We are now in the spring of 1966 and...

Hayes: The height of the Vietnam War.

Tony Janson: Right. And he had supported my application as a non-traditional, conscientious objector even though he didn't agree with it because, as he put it, "Listen, this is not Germany." And I said, "That's true but this war is a disaster for this country and from a moral point of view, I find it totally unacceptable. And there's nothing that is going to change my mind." But he did support it and it's because of this lunch that I had with him at the age of 19 at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central where I forged a different relationship with him that completely changed everything between us.

Hayes: Well, you had said earlier that your father really wasn't close to anybody. I mean was his work kind of the most absorbing thing that took his energy? I mean that can happen to many academics.

Tony Janson: Well, it's true that tended to absorb his free time so to speak, but he was much loved by his colleagues and to them a very outgoing person. Inside though, he was extremely private. I don't think that more than a handful of people understood him. My mother certainly did not. My grandmother did not.

Hayes: That's his own mother you're saying?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: And you had said he had fought with his father.

Tony Janson: That didn't work as well. And I think I'm the only person probably who in the end came even remotely close to understanding him and the other person who did was my wife.

Hayes: I've got confused who your wife is. Maybe we ought to get it on the record. Your wife was this secretary. So when you were telling us about this extremely beautiful secretary, it turned out that that's who you married?

Tony Janson: It is and it happened for the strangest of reasons. I thought she would never, you know, have any interest in me because she was engaged at the time to a guy who was studying law at Yale and was destined to go into the CIA. He was the son of a local doctor and worth millions of dollars. And she had had a string of extremely wealthy boyfriends. Her mother had raised her, because she had grown up in poverty, to marry someone filthy rich, which unfortunately it was not me.

Hayes: It was not an art historian.

Tony Janson: Well, I wasn't even an art historian. I was a beginning- at the bottom...

Hayes: Of a publishing firm.

Tony Janson: publisher. And what happened was that five weeks after I started the job, she came back from a weekend of seeing her fiancé and had clearly been beaten up. And I asked her what the heck had happened. She said, "Oh, nothing much. I just fell down a flight of stairs." And so I said, well, I'll leave it alone. The next weekend she came back in such bad shape that I wanted to take her to Mt. Sinai where I knew some of the doctors and she wouldn't let me because I'm sure she was afraid that the truth would come out. At lunchtime, we literally bumped into each other and I spilled a bowl of soup all over her. It was tomato soup. And I put on a Woody Allen Schlemiel act and ran around grabbing paper towels and trying not to take indecent liberties on while cleaning her up and everything else. And after about 10 minutes, things were sort of tidy. And then I noticed that no one was around. And I'm not a touchy feely person. That's not the kind of family I grew up in. But I did something I'd never done before and I put my hands on her shoulders and I looked her straight in the eye and I said, "Listen, I know you didn't fall down any stairs. I know you didn't have a car accident. I know that you were beaten up by your fiancé because I know both of his roommates, one of whom is my former neighbor and the other one is an art historian whom I've known for six months and later became the director of the Nelson Atkins Gallery in Kansas City and neither one of them would do it. It has to have been your fiancé." And then I said something very uncharacteristic of me. I said, "You know, I don't understand what kind of man would beat up the woman he claims to love. But whoever has the honor of your hand should cherish it and do everything to earn your love instead of abusing it. I hope that you will find someone who is worthy of your love soon and get rid of this guy. I only wish that I would have that honor but I know it will never be. And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to home because I'm so upset by this that I feel sick, ill. Tell our boss that I had something for lunch that made me ill and I'm going to go to a doctor." And I went home and got totally drunk and passed out for the rest of the day. And the next day she asked me if I wanted to go out on a date.

Hayes: She asked you?

Tony Janson: Yeah. So it was a couple of days later when we had dinner at her apartment. Her four roommates who sort of played musical beds depending on who was last person to come in had fled to go see their boyfriends. And so, I had a very lovely brief dinner with her and when she served dessert, she kissed me. And I thought I had died and gone to heaven. And later, she said, "Well, you're going to have to go soon. I have to pack up so I can go to New Haven tomorrow. But I hope we'll see each other again real soon." And I said, "Well, whatever happens, I just hope that you will not come back in anything like the condition I've seen you in the last two times. And the last time terrified me." She said, "I promise you it'll never happen again." And I said, "Thank God." And it did not. And she came back and she said, "I slept on the sofa downstairs so that he couldn't do this again. And I told him I would never allow him to lay a hand on me again." And I said, "Good for you." And she said, "I'm not going to go off there this weekend. I'm going to give him some time to think about this. Would you like to go on a date again?" And I said, "Yes, I'd love too, anytime, anywhere you want." So I took her to a little restaurant where, in fact, he had taken her. And it's a French restaurant that is no longer in business, but I'd been going there since I was 15. And the Madame who was the Maitre d', she said, "What are you doing here with that angel? You know, she's been her before." And I said, "I didn't know that." And she said, "Yes, she's been here with her fiancé and, you know, the staff here hate him. We think he's a bad man. You have brought every girl that you thought that was worth anything here since you were a young boy. This is an exceptional woman. We hope and pray that you win your hand."

Hayes: My goodness, this is coming from the lady at the restaurant?

Tony Janson: Yes. And she said, "Tonight, the dinner is on the house, including this bottle of Chateau Neuf de Paupe and I'm going to put our best waitress on the table. And all I ask is that you pay a tip." So that's how the date went. And then on the way home, the night was still very young. And the subway stop was around the corner from my parent's apartment, so I said, "Would you like to come up for a quick nightcap and I'll take you home?" So she said, "Yeah, I'd love to see your parent's apartment." So I served her and made a very weak Scotch and soda. And I said, "I've spoken out of turn once when I bumped into you and spilled the soup and I'm going to speak out of turn one more time and I hope you'll forgive me." And then I told her that I'd been in love with her since the first time I laid eyes on her. And though I expected her to laugh me out of the house, it was the only time I'd ever be able to have a chance to tell her this, and that I had tried dating other girls and it hadn't worked. You know, she put everyone else into darkness. And she said, "Kiss me." So I said, "What?" She said, "Kiss me." So I did and we ended up making love all weekend. And she went back to see her boyfriend once. And unfortunately she had to go to Darlington to take care of a very severe case of endrometriosis and it was also the time she was supposed to marry the guy. And I said, "Oh, God, my ship has already sunk." So I said, "I'm not going to take this lying down." So I started a barrage of letters and every goofy thing in the world I could think of to remind her that up north there was somebody who was nuts about her. And her family thought that this Yankee was totally nuts, which they were right. And shortly before Thanksgiving, I got a phone call saying "I'm coming up in a week and I'll be staying in an apartment with three guys from my hometown and the next town over." And I had already moved to a new apartment. I had lived for a while with my best friend and we decided it was too small for two of us. And so I found one that turned out to be three blocks away from where she was going to be living for a while. And, you know, it was just like we'd never missed a beat.

Hayes: She stayed then in New York after that?

Tony Janson: Yeah. I found her a job through a friend of mine and...

Hayes: What was her maiden name? Her name is...

Tony Janson: Helen Brown.

Hayes: Helen Brown. And she was from Darlington?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: South Carolina? I don't know if I know where that is. Is that...

Tony Janson: It's in the center of the state.

Hayes: Center of the state. In fact, there's a famous race car. Yeah, okay, Darlington. Yeah, I guess I have heard of that.

Tony Janson: And...

Hayes: And mom probably, in Darlington, didn't have you as the catch for the million dollar whatever.

Tony Janson: The whole family was appalled that she turned down this prize catch for a no good Yankee who had no money, was in school...

Hayes: You had started graduate school at this point?

Tony Janson: Yes, by this time I was in graduate school.

Hayes: And which graduate school was this?

Tony Janson: That was NYU.

Hayes: NYU and you...

Tony Janson: At the time, it was the leading graduate department in this country. And we started living together. She found a nice studio apartment. And she arrived with a tiny suitcase and the clothes on her back. That's all she had and about $75. And the clothes on her back included one coat which was a Burberry raincoat and I said, "You're going to freeze to death." And the photograph that's on the wall behind you of her in that winter outfit is the result of my emptying my bank account and taking her to Saks Fifth Avenue and buying her a winter outfit so that she wouldn't freeze to death. Otherwise, you know, it was one of the coldest winters on record.

Hayes: So did you get married after this at some point?

Tony Janson: We got married when I got drafted because I had told her after a year that at some point, you know, since I had lost my case for the Draft Appeals Board because there had not been a ruling yet about nontraditional conscientious objectors.

Hayes: Before it had been almost all religious based, you mean, as opposed to ethical or moral values or volunteering. Some tried to do medical or things like that to help out.

Tony Janson: Yeah. And I said I would be willing to do other forms of service but I was not willing to carry a gun. And in any case, I said, "You know, at some point I am going to get drafted. And at that point, we are going to have to decide whether you love me enough to marry me because if you don't, I have contingency plans in place to depart this country very quickly and go to Canada where I have contacts established to take me in and..."

Hayes: Continue and honor her?

Tony Janson: Yeah. Well, I probably would not have continued to honor her. And when I got my draft notice just at the last possible moment before I turned 26 when I would have been too old, I said, "Well, here we are." And she said, "Well, of course, I'll marry you. Did you ever doubt it?" That was always her answer for major issues like this. And I said, "Okay, I'll stay and I'll take my chances even though it's awfully hard to violate such a fundamental principal of conscience, but I'll do it." And, you know, forty years of a very intense and passionate relationship that remained as passionate and as high a boil at the end as it was at the beginning, is pretty strong testimonial for a validation of the decision. It got crazy at times but...

Hayes: Your wife passed away about a year ago?

Tony Janson: Two years ago. Almost exactly two years ago. And I have to say that it's just as painful as if it happened yesterday. I don't think that I will ever recover from it.

Hayes: And you have a daughter though from this wonderful event.

Tony Janson: Yeah. She went through the same kind of adolescent rebellion I did. And the problem was that my wife was always very fragile in health and I had mountains of medical bills to pay. And I could not afford to send our daughter to private school. So I asked my mother, because my father was deceased by this time, to lend me the money. And she wouldn't and she later lied to our daughter and said that I had turned it down. That's my mother. And I told our daughter what happened and I said, "I don't know what to do. I know that you hate the school you're in and the kids you're associating with. I know that you're at an age when you need to get out of this house even though we're not nearly as bad parents as either of ours were. But I'm not going to claim that we walk on water either. I just don't know what to do because I looked into borrowing the money and the interest rates are so high at the moment that I could never pay it off and then get you to college. I'm at a loss." And so at the age of 18 she decided to do life on her own. And she married a much older man who I knew and who I knew was bad. And she realized quite early on that it was mistake but she said, "Well, I've made my bed. I might as well do my best to make it last." And after 15 years, she finally left him and found haven with a man who runs a used bookstore in Athens, Georgia, who was a man and they did business with. And he said, "Well, I can't pay you very much but if you're willing to accept, in lieu of about two-thirds of salary, the use of our spare bedroom, that would be all right." And she said, "I just need a safe haven for a while." Well, his marriage was falling apart at that time, which she didn't know. And so after two months, they found each other living in the same house and so they just started talking together in the evenings after the job and decided they liked each other and then decided they liked each other a whole lot.

Hayes: The rest is history, right?

Tony Janson: The rest is history and they're extremely happily married. And she just discovered how much like her mother she is in a very positive way. She is a worthy successor of her mother. And she's liking what she is finding out about herself. And she said, "I never knew how much depth, how much joy of life, how much intelligence, how much common sense, how much bravery my mother had. I'm just beginning to appreciate it."

Hayes: Well, let's go back. And that was a diversion to 25, 30 years there. So the point is you're in graduate school. Are you finished at this point and you're in a PhD. program or a Master's?

Tony Janson: No, I'm in a Master's program. And I'm about one semester away from getting my Master's. I get drafted and I'm by far the oldest person in my basic training group. I'm also I guess the third best person in condition in the entire group.

Hayes: You were in great condition just 'cause...

Tony Janson: Compared to the rest of them and they're all much younger than I was.

Hayes: And where was your basic training? Where did you have to go for...

Tony Janson: Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the armpit of the nation but I survived it. There was just one little Puerto Rican from New York who, you know, kept on my case. And finally, the last day, as the unit was breaking up to go home and I was held over for two weeks because of screw up and getting my orders cut. He started really giving me grief. And I said, "Look, you've been asking for this for a long time. Let's just finally get it over with." So he said, "I'd love nothing better." Well, like all macho types, he telegraphed his punch and I saw it coming. And I waited for the moment and I hit him with everything I had and I broke his jaw in three places. And he was stunned. And immediately the company commander was called in and he said, "What happened?" And the standard answer in the Army for things like this is "Oh, he fell down the stairs," which is hard to do in the one of the barracks.

Hayes: That was the standard answer?

Tony Janson: Yeah. You know, if you lose a fight, you know, that's what happened. So everyone said, "Oh, he fell down the stairs." And the guy couldn't talk because his jaw was broken. He had lost several teeth and he was bleeding out of the mouth. So the company commander said, "Oh, I get the picture." And he knew the guy had been giving me trouble and he said, "How'd you do it?" And I said, "I telegraphed his punch." And he said, "Typical." So he said, "All right, well, we'll send him over to the base hospital and get him wired up and get him on his way." And the drill sergeants who had given me so much trouble during basic training because they thought I was wussy- is the polite term- suddenly had a new respect for me and left me alone. And the only thing I really had to do was drive a truck because I was one of the few people in that company who could actually drive a gear shift.

Hayes: So you ended up in Vietnam though?

Tony Janson: I did.

Hayes: You got shipped there as just as normal practice for your unit? What kind of unit was your...

Tony Janson: Well, I signed up for an extra year because I figured that, first of all, I better sign up for something safe; and secondly, I expected after the Army not to return to graduate school and I better have some kind of job skill. So I signed up for a very sophisticated electronics training. And if they had let me practice it, I would probably have not gone back to graduate school, but they didn't because they didn't have any place for me. The unit I was originally supposed to go to was in the northern part of South Vietnam, around Pleiku. And I arrived in Vietnam with a raging case of pneumonia because they kept us on the tarmac of Seattle in a drizzling rain at temperature of about 42 degrees for days on end because they didn't know what else to do with us. And I passed out on the tarmac in Cameron Bay. So they took me over to the base hospital and it was discovered that I had a high temperature so they put in a medic unit. And they figured, well, he'll be all right in a day or two and they stuck me to repair barb wire fences that snipers had broken through. And they did this at noon which is the height of the heat of the day. And in 20 minutes, I passed out again. So they took me back to the medic unit. And the doctor who examined me said, "You have a raging case of pneumonia." So he gave me a horse needle shot with penicillin. And I was held in that unit for over two weeks. I ended up a in a place in the Mekong Delta instead, which is a lot safer than going to the northern part.

Hayes: Now what year is this now?

Tony Janson: That would be '69. And I was there eight months. I was in the 9th Division which was the first division that they pulled out of Vietnam, thank goodness. And this was after...

Hayes: Now were you driving a truck at that point?

Tony Janson: No. What they did is they discovered after- I was in the holding unit for three months because they didn't have any unit that could use my electronics training. And for a while I actually did jungle patrols for which I was totally ill-equipped. It's called Sucker Patrols where they put people who were green like me with one sergeant who knows what he's doing and you just have to hope you get the sergeant who does know what he's doing. And a few times it got fairly hot and heavy. And fortunately, I don't think I ever had to kill anyone. I just sort of fired in a general direction up in the air and tried to scare them away. And one time I actually did run face-to-face into a Viet Cong and he was even more frightened than I was. And I said, "Di Di Mau," which means "Go away." And he dropped his gun and his rifle and took off. So I grabbed his AK-47 'cause they were considered prizes. Anyway, I finally ended up in an ordinance unit which means explosives, artillery, things like that. And they made me a clerk because they figured out I could type.

Hayes: We're back to typing. I mean how come you were so good in typing? That seemed to have saved you at the publishing company. Did you just pick it up in high school?

Tony Janson: Actually, I took a summer course in typing in junior high.

Hayes: Did you? Who would know that typing would surface again?

Tony Janson: And it saved my butt. And I was first a shop clerk, then a company clerk and finally a supply clerk. And later, I did the same things when I came back to the States and also in Germany.

Hayes: You did serve in Germany too? So was that more pleasant in the sense that you felt coming back to territory that you were comfortable in?

Tony Janson: That was fine with me. I was in a very small base in a small town.

Hayes: Because your wife joined you at that point?

Tony Janson: Yes, and our daughter was born there. And the nice thing is that I could my grandmother and she could see her only grandchild that she...

Hayes: Now which grandmother was this?

Tony Janson: My father's mother. She was living in Hamburg by this time.

Hayes: She had moved back from New York to- that was nice.

Tony Janson: And her only comment was, "She's awfully small. She's not like your German baby." And I had to tell her in German, "Listen, she may be tiny by German standards but she's lucky to be alive at all considering the circumstances under which she was born. And in any case, she's a beautiful baby and she's the only one you're ever going to live to see. So I hope you like her because this is what you're gettin'." And after that she let up some but, you know, it was nice to see her and have a chance to talk with her.

Hayes: So now you're finished and you get done and your electronics isn't going to work. So you went back to...

Tony Janson: I decided I better go back to art history 'cause I don't have any way of making a living at this point.

Hayes: But you've now switched to Harvard?

Tony Janson: I switched to Harvard because I didn't want to raise a child in New York. I just felt that it's not a good environment for...

Hayes: Where did you live when you lived- in Cambridge or did you live nearby...

Tony Janson: No, I couldn't afford Cambridge. We lived first in Summerville for a while, which my wife hated. And then we moved to Charlestown right next to the bridge that goes across the river.

Hayes: Have you been back to see that area at all in recent time because that's- they have that huge, new span over there now?

Tony Janson: I haven't been up there recently. I've had no reason to. I don't tend to think of the past very much. It's gone, you know. But I had a wonderful time there.

Hayes: And how many years were- how long does it take to do a PhD.

Tony Janson: Well, it normally takes five years. I arrived in February of '73 and left after a year and a half because my V.A. money was not adequate to allow me to see me through a full PhD stint. I had completed my coursework and passed my generals. And so I got a job teaching at the State University of Buffalo. And I wrote my PhD. in two years while teaching full-time. At that time, my wife was deathly ill and underwent four surgeries in six months, the last one which finally saved her life. And she spent another six months recuperating. So I also was largely responsible for raising our daughter. That's a heavy load for two years. I probably couldn't have done it if it hadn't been for Vietnam which gave me a lot of tough inner fiber. And I immediately, after my contract expired, got a job at the College of Charleston.

Hayes: And then by finishing the PhD. then the degree comes at that point? Is that the normal practice? In other words, did you have to go up and physically defend it in Boston?

Tony Janson: No, I didn't...

Hayes: I just didn't know what the practice is.

Tony Janson: Yeah, normally you do. I wasn't required to because- although the first draft frankly was pretty awful and I was told. So I spent two weeks reviewing English grammar. And I said, "Oh, I see what they mean." So I cleaned it up completely.

Hayes: I mean in other words you're really in essence writing a book, an art history book? Is that what a dissertation in your field is?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: So what was the name of the dissertation?

Tony Janson: It was on a Hudson River School painter named Worthington Whittredge. I realized they didn't have the money to go to Europe to write on Dutch 17th Century art which was my specialty and so I asked permission to switch fields. And my mentor who had been my father's roommate at Harvard said, "We normally do not allow students to switch from European art to American art, which is reserved for those who are not educated and intelligent enough to..."

Hayes: Now, this is not you saying this. This is your mentor saying...

Tony Janson: No this is him. Yeah. And he said, "I'm going to have to bring this thing up at a faculty meeting and get the permission of the faculty as a whole to allow this to happen because they may say no." I said, "Oh, I'd appreciate it if you would." And he came back two weeks later and he said, "I have good news for you, my boy. The faculty said that in recognition of your difficult circumstances they would allow it, but that it was a one time concession and they would otherwise not have permitted it."

Hayes: But do you consider yourself still through the rest of your career really Dutch and- I mean European art was your...

Tony Janson: No. Actually, at this point I considered myself a generalist because the range of my publications spans everything from late medieval through modern times.

Hayes: And later as you took on the textbook, you had to do all eras, right? I mean as you did more and more...

Tony Janson: Well, yeah, but what has happened even without the textbooks is that I keep finding things that are interesting.

Hayes: We're back to...

Tony Janson: And, you know, I'll look at something and say, "Gee, I never realized this was so nice." Or I'll look at something that I've seen a thousand times before and I'll say to myself, "I wonder what's so unusual about this painting or sculpture." And once I start asking a question, I will pursue it to the ends of the Earth. And half of my publications have come about by saying, "I wonder why this looks different." And one of the best papers that I ever wrote was on Giovanni Bellini's St. Francis in Ecstasy, which is in the French [ph?] collection and which I've been looking at ever since I was 8 years old. And in my late 20's I asked myself, "I wonder why there is this unpopulated Italian hill town in the background. Why is there nobody here? Why is there only St. Francis and his ass, his mule? And why can you not see anything in the sky?" And I read all the literature and I said, "None of this accounts for it." And so I read- assembled all our documents about St. Francis and realized that all the different arguments had holes in them. And I finally realized that what the hill town represents is the heavenly Jerusalem. And it's unpopulated waiting for Judgment Day when the souls of the just shall rise and populate it. And what he is looking up at is not the angel on the cross when he perceives the stigmata because if you look closely at the painting, the stigmata have already healed. What he's looking up at is the sun and he is composing the hymn to a song.

Hayes: And did you get a response from that? Did people feel like you had an insight that...

Tony Janson: Yeah, I got quite a lot of very interesting responses to it.

Hayes: But it wasn't necessarily the Hudson River artist of your thesis, right?

Tony Janson: No. But I did eventually write a book about him.

Hayes: I wondered if you'd use your thesis then to- for a bigger publication.

Tony Janson: I didn't intend to actually. But I was invited by a friend of mine who is head of publications at Cambridge University Press and who wanted to start a new series on American artists especially of the 19th century. And I was the second person she invited. I was the first person to hand in a manuscript. I actually handed it in on time. It didn't need but a light editing. All were rejected the first time around with orders to completely rewrite them in English. And I think only two of us got published after heavy rewriting and editing. And she said mine was the only one that was a piece of cake. And the book is so completely different from the dissertation. It has all the stuff that I didn't bother putting into the dissertation because I didn't have time.

Hayes: But you felt like you had done the preliminary research back at that point?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: In other words, you didn't have to start over.

Tony Janson: No. What I didn't do in the dissertation is put in all the intellectual framework that I could have. And my dissertation advisor said, "Don't worry about it. A dissertation is a union card. It's simply a demonstration that you can do research and writing. You save the real stuff for after you get your degree."

Hayes: That was pretty good advice really in the 70's.

Tony Janson: It is. And I've always given the same advice to other graduate students. There are all kinds of things that one learns along the way. You know, a lot of intellectuals think that they're next to godly and they develop these enormous egos and that we're famous for our arrogance. There's this line from "My Little Chickadee," I think it where- what is the name of the hot blonde in it? Turns to W.C. Fields and says, "First, you got to get educated and then you got to get smart." You know, a lot of people are educated but they're not smart because of the extremely varied lives that I've led, I had to play it smart. And I've also had to develop a certain amount of humility before life and to realize that just because I'm the one who's standing up in front of a classroom or being chief curator or whatever else I've been, doesn't make me next to God. But what it really does is make me responsible to the people whom I'm administering to or whom I'm lecturing to. And all I'm doing is offering them something. And if it's not good enough, they're free to reject it. If I'm doing a bad job of it, they're free to come and tell me, "This isn't going well. Would you consider doing- making a change?" And I'll always listened to them because I've worked for plenty of bad bosses, let me tell you, crooked ones beyond belief, one who is certifiably paranoid and should have been put into a mental hospital. There's no reason for me to think that I'm anything other than an ordinary human being who is just struggling to make a living and doing his best to get along in this life.

Hayes: Well, actually we have a lot more to cover. But I think that's a very good point to stop this particular tape because the next one, let's do something and go through as best we can the career. How does that sound? Are we in good shape?

Tony Janson: That's fine.

Hayes: All right, thank you very much, Tony.

Tony Janson: Okay.

(tape change)

Hayes: Today is the second day of taping with Dr. Anthony F. Janson, known as Tony Janson, and Sherman Hayes, University Librarian at UNCW, and today is March nineteenth, and we're at Tony's abode. So. If I could pick us up where we left off, Tony, you were starting kind of your more permanent academic career and heading to Charleston, so we don't have to go into great detail, but I see from your vitae that you were assistant professor there for three years, and that's the College of Charleston.

Tony Janson: Right. Well, it was proceeded by a number of events. First, I had done a couple of museum internships, one at the Met and one at Toledo, Ohio, not Spain, both of which have excellent collections, and done a lot of research. Toledo in particular had no research files, and I filled in a lot of material. I think they were less than thankful because although most of their paintings were very high quality and authentic, I did participate in debunking a painting attributed to David that was actually a copy as Robert Rosenbloom pointed out by (inaudible) date and the director didn't like that very much. But it's the natural eye in me again. And my first job was horrendous and I had no intention of staying. We made the mistake, this friend of mine and I, we're still very good friends, of hiring three people who we should never have hired, and I told him that we were making a mistake and I told the chair that we were making the mistake.

Hayes: Now this is at the College of Charleston?

Tony Janson: No, this was at Buffalo, and even worse, all slides had to be made and labeled and cataloged by the slide curator before you could see them and teach with them, and so I never had anything to teach with, and I ran out of slides midway every semester except for the survey course, which was acutely embarrassing, and I said if this is what teaching's going to be like, get me out of here and get me into a museum fast. The College of Charleston on the other hand was a wonderful experience. First of all, it didn't have a slide curator, had a wonderful chairman named Diane Johnson, with whom I'm still close friends, and they were willing to let me make as many slides as I want. They still have them, they've digitized them, but they form still the core of the collection believe it or not.

Hayes: Well, maybe we should speak to this sub-element of the art historian teacher's role. I don't think people realize how your raw material becomes the slide collection to weave the message that you want, right? So that - that's - that's for everybody who's an art historian and teacher, that is pivotal. Is that - ?

Tony Janson: It's essential, you know, in the larger schools of course, you have graduate stooges, or students, excuse me, our monkeys who are paid to do this, or they buy slides or whatever, and the smaller schools, they don't have that kind of budget. And Diane was, along with a young pre-PhD architectural historian, the only art historian on the staff, and she was also an administrator and she didn't have time for that. So it was, you know, I was the only one who could do it, and if I was going to be a successful teacher, and I was determined to be one this time, I was going to have to make my own slides to suit my lectures, and it was a darn good thing I did, because it transformed me as a teacher and furthermore, she let me teach whatever I wanted. So I taught a remarkable range of courses, probably stuff I had no business teaching, but I sure learned a lot because I had to do a great deal of reading before I even hit the first lecture, and I prepared each course as meticulously as possible, and, you know, I felt really good about myself as a teacher. My classroom ratings were very high, and at the same time I managed to publish a lot. In fact, in three years, I published more than all but one person on the faculty had published in his entire career, and that one exception was a guy named Herb Levine, who was a mathematician and very famous, yeah, but I mean really, no one else in the entire school had as many publications as I did in three years.

Hayes: Yeah, I see, I 'm looking at your vitae now and see Western Landscapes of Worthington Whitridge [ph?] of the American Art Review, that's a very well known journal, Two Early Landscapes by Worthington Whitridge, Detroit Institute of Arts Bulletin. Now was that the person that you had done some of your basic dissertation work on?

Tony Janson: Yeah, this was the material I told you about last time that I did not put in the dissertation. It was material that grew out of the dissertation, which was simply the sort of research fund, and these were the ideas that make the research make sense.

Hayes: Now I see also in one here a review of Peter Bermingham, American Art in the Barbizon Mood from the College Art Journal, and what is a review? Is that a part of publishing in the art history where you're reviewing a show, I mean (inaudible), or you're reviewing, I'm just trying to help the listener understand what a review is, because in literature it's the book review that has a certain weight. In the art world are there - you might explain what are the kind of pecking order of publications? You've done them all, I mean the textbook is traditional, is not as academic, but that's there, then the referee journal, you would have those in the art field, or - ?

Tony Janson: No, this is the only book review I ever wrote.

Hayes: Oh, it was a book review.

Tony Janson: And it's actually a catalogue to an exhibition. I saw the exhibition in Washington, bought the catalogue and saw it was - represented one of the turning points in the development of American art history, because American art history typically did not deal with European art because most American art historians or specialists can't read foreign languages, and this guy Peter Bermingham was a protégé of the man who was the director of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Joshua Taylor, and - very bright guy, and did a wonderful job. And it was one of a cluster of catalogues that appeared around the same three- or four-year period that showed a new level of intellectual sophistication, and so I wrote the director of book reviews at the College Art Journal asking for the privilege of reviewing this publication, because I thought it was so important, and this man's name was Donald Kuspit, who's a very famous critic. He hangs out at the State University of New York, oh what's the tip of Long Island, my brother worked there until recently -

Hayes: Binghamton?

Tony Janson: No, Binghamton is way north. Stony Brook. Anyway, he said sure and I wrote my carefully considered review and I had one mild criticism of the book and Kuspit writes back "You've got 'em on the ropes now, go for the jugular." And I wrote him back and said, "Look, I came to praise Caesar, not to bury him. If you want me to write the typical bitchy book review that shows what a tough guy the reviewer is, etc. then I will be happy to withdraw this review, because the fact is this is a very important book and to make one mild criticism is not to create the problem of the beautiful princess with the pimple on her nose where all you can see is the pimple and forget the rest of the face. And I don't also have a mean enough personality, I'm afraid to write this sort of thing." There are people whose resumes consist largely of book reviews. I know one of my professors at Harvard wrote something like forty book reviews or close to it in a matter of five years. I don't know how he had time to read that much let alone write that many book reviews, but from my point of view, they're not a substitute for serious research and scholarship on your own. And furthermore, there are certain people who are notorious for always writing bitchy book reviews.

Hayes: But a book review done well can be quite substantial length. It isn't like, you know, a summary in two pages. I mean, it can be a -

Tony Janson: Yeah, it can be, but you know, I think for example a book review that was done for the New York Review of Books by, oh, what is the pianist's name who wrote a book on romantic music and a guy at Harvard, and they pilloried a book by a friend of mine named Gabe Weisberg and it was a hatchet job and the New York Review of Books loves to publish things like that to stir the pot, but any journal with any self-respect and integrity would not have published it. For one thing, the guy from Harvard, I have fortunately repressed his name, he's still there, has been found guilty of plagiarism several times and is a most unpleasant person. He's devious and he involves students in internecine warfare, which never used to happen at Harvard. And, you know, people just should not write that kind of stuff, and journals should not publish it either. They should know better. They should have book review editors who know who has what ax to grind and therefore reject such reviews or tell the reviewer to go back to the drawing board.

Hayes: I see some other ones, Art Quarterly, Art Voices South, you were really prolific there for a while, but I also notice this Teacher's Manual to H. W. Janson's History of Art. Was that your first jump into collaboration around your father and mother's original work?

Tony Janson: Well, actually it came about because I was on an elevator at a CAA meetings, College Art Association, I forget where exactly, Chicago I think, and there were eight artists and they were all talking about how difficult it is for artists to teach the history of art, especially because there are no supplementary materials, and I mentioned this problem to my father and I said, you know, I don't blame them, and in fact students coming out of graduate school who have taught less than three years are up against it when it comes to teaching the survey, because they don't know all of this stuff.

Hayes: And they aren't necessarily art historians, like you say, at a smaller school it could be the painter or the whatever, whatever, not everybody has a, you know, an art historian on the staff, right, but somebody has to teach.

Tony Janson: Yeah and you know, so you get a sculptor or a watercolorist or whatever and they say, you know, "I know something about the history of art but I'm supposed to teach the whole smear with this bench book?" And -

Hayes: And the book is thick, right? I mean, we're talking hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages?

Tony Janson: Well, you know, somewhere eight hundred to a thousand or more these days. It's longer and longer because modern art keeps adding things, unfortunately. And, you know, they need help, and I said, you know, "We need to throw them a lifeline." And so my father went to the head of the art book division, was a friend of his, and suggested this and I wrote this thing very quickly, and they promised that they would edit it and do a decent production job. In the meantime, there was a change in the head of the division and he was there for almost thirty years and he broke frankly every promise that he ever made to me, including those two. And I won't say that it is properly edited, properly produced but at least -

Hayes: It served a good purpose.

Tony Janson: ...it did and it was the first instructor's manual for a survey book. You know, Janson's History of Art is always thought of as a bastion of conservativism, but in fact it has been a pioneer in many ways. The first teacher's manual, the first to incorporate the history of photography. It's not the first to incorporate women, unfortunately, but I certainly made up for that. It certainly was the first to incorporate a lucid discussion of what postmodernism is that most people with some degree of literacy and a little bit of effort can understand. Most of my colleagues, for example, after it came out, said, "You know, this is the first time I've ever understood what postmodernism was, or is." So, you know.

Hayes: While we're on the textbook, why don't we diverge and talk about that kind of as a, you know, as a topic unto itself. So this is your first kind of participation. At what point did you start to become in essence taking over the editorship of the Janson title? When did that happen?

Tony Janson: Well, I should explain that I never intended to get involved. It was an accident, and what happened was that when we moved to Charleston in 1975, my wife had gone through a series of six surgeries, and I had a huge mountain of medical bills to pay, no visible way of paying them, and it was clear she was always going to be in poor health, and the salary at the College of Charleston was decent for the area but ranked fairly toward the bottom nationally, and so I had to start thinking of other ways of making money. I was thinking of going door to door and selling encyclopedias, Christmas cards, stained glass windows, things like that, and it was my father who suggested that in exchange for 10% of the royalties, I would sign a contract that would make me the designated successor to him as the author. I didn't expect him to die that soon, he died only a few years later in 1982, which was seven years later.

Hayes: And how old was he at that point?

Tony Janson: Almost sixty-nine, and the only reason really why I signed on was to pay my wife's medical bills, which were continuously very high, and for that the book served the purpose admirably. It did not prevent me from doing my own scholarship for quite a while, because the original publication schedule was every five years, and there's a half-pint version called The Basic History of Art.

Hayes: I saw that, yeah, so that's kind of a smaller version that's used more in the what popular trades or just - ?

Tony Janson: Well, it's used for younger people, junior colleges, high schools, things like that, and that was the first book actually that I - no, it's the second book I completely rewrote. I first rewrote the story of painting for young people that my parents had written when I was nine or ten, which was near and dear to my heart. That book had a profound influence on me personally, though not art historically. The painting by Goya of The Third of May instantly made me a conscientious objector along with the picture by Picasso of Guernica. They became etched in my mind in a way that made me incapable ever of thinking of war as a solution to anything. In any case, the summer that we moved to Charleston, the senior editor at Abrams [ph?] approached me about doing a new edition of that book, which was easy, it's a small book and needed a little freshening up, a few different plates, etc. so I did that in a matter of two months.

Hayes: Now when you did a freshening up like that, how does that, where does the credit come? Do you get as a joint editor, or editor of, or do you - co-author? I mean, how does that work when you do?

Tony Janson: Oh, I get mentioned sort of on the title page as revised by, but otherwise, you know, it's my parents who get the credit, which is fine, that doesn't bother me. There's no ego on the line.

Hayes: So when was, so when was the first big text revision where you started to be the principal reviser then, what year was it?

Tony Janson: Well, there is an interim step and that is that while my father was alive, I took on revising The Basic History of Art, which was originally written supposedly by a man named Sam Cauman who needed money, and my father, who was a friend of his, created this book for him to write so he could have an income. It never really was a very good book, and my father was sort of offended that I criticized it because he had to rewrite a good deal of Sam's work. Nonetheless, it just didn't hang together very well, even though there was no competition, it wasn't very good. So I took the existing big book and did something of a cut and paste but reworked the transitions and added and changed a good bit of the material to suit a more modern basic history. And the sales took off like mad.

Hayes: But it still, it was still listed under that earlier title and author?

Tony Janson: Yes. Yeah, and that was fine, it didn't bother me. I didn't mind if Sam got money from it. It was, you know, I liked him, he was a nice man. And -

Hayes: But do you, does this - it sounds to me, though, like it's really important for the historian in an ever-changing field to do this anyway, in other words, no book is ever gonna last for a long, long time in art because it changes so much. Right? I mean -

Tony Janson: Well yes, and it changes more rapidly these days than ever. The field used to be relatively more unified than it is now. There are now so many factions that it is not possible to keep up, not only with the latest intellectual developments but the latest personal axes to grind, the sexual politics, etc. that exist on all campuses, the split between traditional academics as against postmodernism, on and on it goes, you cannot possibly satisfy anyone.

Hayes: And then the introduction of new technologies, I mean, the whole computer art and all of those things are very recent, and yet, are they becoming part of art history?

Tony Janson: Well, very slowly. Computer art tends to look like computer art. It doesn't look very artistic. I've only seen a few examples that I would say were successful. That's pretty pathetic.

Hayes: If not computer art, I was thinking of the fact that what was really viewed as a commercial product has been increasingly accepted as, you know, quality, even some of the, you know, the celebration of the Disney animators, I mean, I'm not saying they would necessarily make it into an art book, but they're not outside the realm any longer, they're at least discussed as art.

Tony Janson: Well, they're discussed but that doesn't make them particularly creative artists, and that is one of the big issues. Where do you draw the line? Well, in the 20th century and 21st century it's almost impossible to, and yet almost anyone with a little education can tell when a work of art is creative and when it is commercial and imitative.

Hayes: Well, I'm thinking of a recent article I read about Andy Warhol that he seemed to have, you know, was one of the first artists that, you weren't sure, what he, was he poking fun at one or was he using that, in other words he introduced almost a commercial, right, I mean, I guess the critics, some of them felt that way.

Tony Janson: Well, you have to keep in mind that in fact he started out as a commercial artist, as did James Rosenquist for example, and they used commercial art techniques for all they were worth. In the case of Warhol, you also had someone who played hide and seek with his audience so to speak, and this shows up most particularly in a late series of what are called camouflage self-portraits, and they're really death masks, and they are hair-raising. And they finally let you know what the game was all about, and that is to prevent the viewer from seeing the real Andy Warhol until the camouflage series, and then it's like looking at a skull that has been broken open and you are seeing the inside of Andy Warhol in a way that makes your skin crawl. They are the most remarkable paintings he ever did. You know, every great artist, and he was a great artist when he wasn't just high on dope and, you know, being a publicity seeker, which he was a master at because, again, he was a commercial artist, there really was something there. And sometimes it takes a lot of legwork to find out what it was and also to debunk the mythology that the artist invents about himself. Joseph Beuys is a great example of that, who created a body of myth that turns out not to be true at all, and yet his ability to inspire his collaborators such as the videographer, Nam Paik, was so remarkable that his contribution regardless of himself will forever be his impact on other artists. That is considerable. It's like Gertrude Stein. I'm not sure how great a writer she really was, but her ability to inspire Picasso, Braque, everyone around her, was astonishing.

Hayes: One other one that comes to mind as kind of a commercial hustler was Salvador Dali, and yet I think he's still in fine art circles revered for some of his work, but it seems like later in life he, he was almost, you know, a con artist, I don't know if that's the right.

Tony Janson: No, he was.

Hayes: Oh, he was, okay.

Tony Janson: Oh, he really was. He used to sign blank sheets of paper and let imitators run off their own designs and sell them as original Dalis, and it is a serious problem. He did create probably, oh, somewhere around a dozen memorable paintings and he also created a number of films and photographs that are amongst the great achievements of surrealism. The problem was that in later life he became a caricature of himself and therefore a fraud.

Hayes: You're speaking to me in some ways as a curator, which was the next phase of your career, you were doing well in Charleston. What prompted a move back to curatorial, because your next shift was to - ?

Tony Janson: Indianapolis.

Hayes: Indianapolis for quite some time. I'm trying to just looking at your -

Tony Janson: About six years. Well, what happened was really unfortunate, although I had very good teaching reviews and a lot of publications in only three years, the dean at the time not only gave me a rotten pay raise, so that I had to work not only at two evening courses but also two summer courses for each half and still could barely make ends meet. But then the son of a gun decided to pull one of my courses and make one of my evening courses part of my regular teaching load, which was illegal. And the lawyer for the College of Charleston happened to be a childhood friend of my wife's, and I, he came to me actually and said, "What the dean is doing is illegal. Here's the name of the academic lawyer in Columbia you need to call and file a lawsuit and I can guarantee you that I won't put up a fight because it's a clearcut case." And I thought about this and I said, "Well, you know, I'll certainly win but it'll cost me quite a lot of money, which I don't have, and secondly what will happen is I can kiss tenure and promotion goodbye" - because the president of the college, whose name was Ted Stern and who was a cousin of Robert Moses, who built all the highways in New York and a real wheeler-dealer, had a long memory, and he didn't take kindly to this kind of stuff. And although I could have sued if I'd been denied tenure, it wasn't worth it. So when it came up, I quietly put the word out through my mentor at Harvard that I needed another job fast, preferably in a museum, and lo and behold Indianapolis, which had several times tried to hire a chief curator because the chief curator had been kicked upstairs to director, and, you know, it's always hard to hire your successor. Finally had so much pressure on him from the staff to get a chief curator that when I was interviewed on Labor Day after the semester started, I looked around and I said, "Okay, I see a number of problems here, you have a wonderful collection that nobody knows anything about. There's a partial catalogue that was out of date the day it was published. It was written by a very respectable scholar but it doesn't hold water anymore. And you have an exhibition schedule that is, spends a lot of money on minor shows, everyone is stretched to the max and we have nothing to show for it. You have a curatorial department that does not cooperate with any other department inside the museum."

Hayes: And you're telling them this?

Tony Janson: Yeah, to their faces.

Hayes: And the guy who you're telling it to was the one who had been in the position before?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: And you still got the job?

Tony Janson: Well, what I said is, "If you hire me, here's what's gonna happen. First of all, I will produce within two years a catalogue of the hundred best paintings in the collection, and it will be properly researched, so you can send it out to every museum and finally people will know what's here. Secondly, I can assure you that the curatorial department will cooperate with the education department, because they have a terrific chief educator. Thirdly, they will cooperate with PR and fundraising, which is important, and they will learn to cooperate with the conservation lab." Conservation labs and curators are natural enemies in museums because they look at works of art through completely opposite eyes in the same way that artists and art historians are natural enemies because they look at art from completely different perspectives. But I said that it was essential that there be this kind of cooperation. And I was also assigned the preparation crew that installs the shows and installations and I said, "You have a real problem. The morale is bad, it's badly managed and if it's the last thing I do, I am going to straighten it out. So you're going to get a completely different approach to management and art history. I'm going to reinstall the galleries and it's going to be a different place. And I'm going to save you money in the process, even though I'm going to get you more expensive exhibitions, you'll be doing fewer of them and more people will come and in the end I will save you at least $75 to 100,000 a year," and I did.

Hayes: Wow. Let's talk a little bit in more general terms then about the term curator. I don't think anybody, you know, it's a technical term within the museum field, but I don't think most people would know what that person does. They're responsible for the shows or for selection or?

Tony Janson: They're responsible for all kinds of mischief. In French, the term is "Conservateur." In German the term is "Custos." "Custos" means custodian. "Conservateur" means somebody who conserves the collection. Same thing. A curator, his first responsibility is to the permanent collection but that can take any number of different forms. Is it to help make sure that it is properly conserved in terms of preserving and restoring works of art, and they hate the word "restoration," but that's in fact what happens, you know, cleaning them up, getting them relined, etc. Is it changing the displays, is it researching the collections, is it a combination thereof? It varies greatly from one museum to the next.

Hayes: So the term isn't totally consistent, you don't - ?

Tony Janson: No.

Hayes: But the functions that have to happen are, but who does them varies? Is that - ?

Tony Janson: No, in some museums some of these things just don't get done because the staff is too small.

Hayes: Like the history part, you know, where there's really researching. Would you research like at Indianapolis both the piece and the whole period that it came from, in other words, are you trying to do more than just that one piece?

Tony Janson: Yes, because I always try to place it in context because if you look at an individual work and you get a readout as to what's going on in it, if you don't get any further background about the period, you have no idea what its significance is, and my catalogue I wrote of the hundred greatest pieces in the museum is one of the first catalogues of its sort that actually places individual works of art in context, not in every respect, because otherwise these small essays would've ended up as the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Hayes: But, for, particularly for a midsize or smaller museum that's really important because they might have a wonderful piece but somebody needs to help say why this one piece, I mean, or the Metropolitan could have the whole set, right?

Tony Janson: Mm-hmm. Right, and there are only a few cases where I changed my mind later, and they involved actually three paintings by El Greco and I had doubts about them, but they were owned by the Clowes Collection, which is housed separately.

Hayes: In Indianapolis?

Tony Janson: Within the museum, it has a separate wing and they were originally bought by the man who invented insulin, artificial insulin for Eli Lilly, and although he was still alive, he was not living, thank goodness, in Indianapolis, because he was frankly an SOB but his younger brother was living a half-mile from the museum and a very nice man, I liked him a lot, and I decided somewhat against my better judgment to accept them. They're actually by not El Greco's son, Jorge Manuel, but by his chief studio assistant, and I can prove it because there's another example by the same hand in St. Louis.

Hayes: We're going to take a diversion right now, because you're bringing up one of the real challenges for curatorial staff in museums in general, which is authenticity, right? Isn't that - ? I mean, and I wonder with the new technologies, it's only going to get worse with the, I'm trying to think what the French term is, the gi - giclée, that now almost automatically reproduces things in unlimited quantities that look exactly the same. They don't claim to be necessarily original. So authenticity became, is always a challenge for provenance and authenticity?

Tony Janson: Oh, goodness.

Hayes: We don't have enough time to cover all of them. But I -

Tony Janson: Well, I can give you some idea of it. The Indianapolis Museum of Art I would say had of its entire collection of old master paintings probably 40% of them were not authentic.

Hayes: Now were they unusual or every museum has this problem? I understand every museum -

Tony Janson: Yeah, but most museums had not until recently even begun to address the issue, and certainly the Indianapolis Museum of Art at the time had only this one catalogue covering Italian art and nothing else, and it turned out that even a fair amount of the Italian art wasn't the real deal either. And I used conservation techniques to help investigate what was really going on in some of these paintings, because one of the things you do is you can take cross-sections and determine how many layers there are and if there is an intervening layer of varnish, you know something's funny. If you take an x-ray and you show two completely different images, you need to explain that. If you take an infrared photograph and they have a television camera that is infrared, it can show you all kinds of things that you would never imagine, and they're very subtle but they're important, and they help me resolve the authenticity of a painting, which turns out to have been an authentic work that had been completely repainted.

Hayes: Oh, so underneath was an authentic work?

Tony Janson: Mm-hmm, but the surface.

Hayes: What do you do with that then? I mean -

Tony Janson: Well, it would've been impossible to take off that much paint because when we did a cross-section we realized that the original paint layer was so abraded, that is straight down, that there wasn't enough left to see, so we left well enough alone. But, you know, it's things like that that make the curator want to collaborate with a conservator if he's got one who is halfway willing, because a lot of conservators hate the sight of curators, and sometimes with good reason, I have to admit.

Hayes: Now this is you as a curator saying that.

Tony Janson: Well, you know, I wrote a series of articles early in my curatorial career about the problems of the relationships, working relationships between curators and other members of museum staff, and put the burden quite squarely as much as possible on the curators themselves, and it's because curators have usually at least an MA and most commonly these days a PhD, and it's like academics, you know, you have a doctorate and suddenly you think you're next to God, and because curators are the most powerful members of the staff next to the director and chief administrators, they acquire a kind of arrogance that usually exceeds their abilities, because frankly most curators aren't nearly as good as they think they are. And -

Hayes: But you were the exception, or - ?

Tony Janson: I'm not going to claim to walk on water. I did learn my limitations, also learned my limitations as an administrator and I also learned a certain degree of humility, especially because my wife had this way of gently puncturing my balloon and watching it explode all over the place, and also I'd led a very varied life and I knew that there was life outside the four walls of the museum. And so I learned that administration means to minister to, to meet the needs of other people and not to make it an ego trip. The trouble with that approach is it means leading by example, and that's fine for those who can benefit from it. It's not fine for those who are egomaniacs and determined to ride roughshod over the system, and boy, you can get shot in the back an awful lot. You better wear your lead BVDs (laughs).

Hayes: (laughs) That dates us, doesn't it, BVD?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: You and I know what that is, but in future years -

Tony Janson: Yeah, and lead BVDs are a term from Tom Lehrer. So - (laughs)

Hayes: That's really helpful. Let's talk a little bit then about from Indianapolis as senior curator, in '84 you chose to go to Ringling Museum of Art and I don't know that many people would even know about that, and even narrowly as the curator of European paintings, so that's a major institution for art, the Ringling?

Tony Janson: Well, it, it, surprising - surprisingly enough it was. It had a huge collection of baroque art.

Hayes: And where it is located?

Tony Janson: In Sarasota.

Hayes: Sarasota, Florida?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: And that was their home, kind of the homebase, for Ringling Brothers? Is this the same circus folks?

Tony Janson: Yes, the museum is housed in the private palace shall we say of John Ringling and the circus actually is headquartered a bit south in Venice, but he spent a great deal of money on art. He tended to buy by the truckload and, you know, hope that one out of ten worked.

Hayes: Not a bad strategy.

Tony Janson: Well, a lot of Americans did that because they were interested in creating the ambiance of established wealth, and he did not bother with having an artistic advisor the way Henry Clay Frick did, for example.

Hayes: Or the one in Boston.

Tony Janson: Gardner?

Hayes: Gardner. She had somebody else who did much of the -

Tony Janson: Yeah, she had Berenson. Not a bad choice. But he nonetheless despite the fact that probably half the stuff is junk, the other half is terrific and the last few years we were in Indianapolis, the winters were so cold, -27, just is unbearable.

Hayes: Really? That is cold for them, too, I mean, they're cold but usually not that.

Tony Janson: I mean, two out of three winters, and even the third winter it got down to a balmy -20, and my wife, who was southern, said, "I can't stand this anymore," and one day when I went out to start the car to go to work and couldn't start it, and called my garage and said, "I think my battery's dead." He said, "No, it isn't dead, it's -27 degrees, nothing's starting." And I said, "I can't stand this anymore," and so I decided to look for a warmer job is not a better one, and the only unfortunate thing is, is that in the meantime what had been previously a minor disagreement between the director and the chairman of the board suddenly blew up and nobody told me about it, and by the time I showed up at Sarasota the director's days were numbered and he got fired. And the ensuing year and a half were total chaos and they ended up hiring a director who I won't name but I will tell you that in the opinion of a high school chum of mine, who's a clinical psychologist down there, the guy is clinically paranoid, and I would've left actually except that I'd promised our daughter I would not leave until she graduated from high school. And I feel a little bit like Horton hatches the egg, I stuck it out through rainstorms, snow, sleet, hail, everything else.

Hayes: Well, but not in Florida, it was more hurricanes and rain.

Tony Janson: Yeah, I went through a few of them. And when the time came, I put my resume out and in a few months had another job.

Hayes: And the next one is chief curator, North Carolina Museum of Art?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: Now, you're - actually, before we start that, I think I'm just about ready to change tapes and let's take a break, how's that?

Tony Janson: That sounds good to me.

Hayes: We're going to head to Raleigh, is that next?

Tony Janson: All right, that sounds good to me.

(tape change)

Tony Janson: - that wouldn't help (laughs).

Hayes: Okay, we're back, starting on the, the fourth hour, this interview. And let's get to North Carolina, where you're, you're at now, after many years. So you shifted to Chief Curator, North Carolina Museum of Art. And you were there from 1989 to 1993. And, you know, you don't have to go into detail, but a little sense of art in the state and what it was like when you got there, and what do you feel strongly was one of your, you know, great accomplishments, and so forth?

Tony Janson: Well, I was, I think, the fourth or fifth person they looked at. And oddly enough, I found out who the others were, and they were all friends of mine. And I thought, "Now, I don't understand why none of them got the job," but it turned out that one or the other of the curatorial staff had an animus against them. So, oh, that's the way it goes.

Hayes: Yeah. Well, it sounds like the curatorial world is a small world, anyway. How many are there in the, in the museum world that qualified at this level? I mean, it's not -

Tony Janson: No, there weren't that many.

Hayes: Yeah.

Tony Janson: But you know, I came in with a very positive attitude, and with a very different approach. Most chief curators come in and say, "I'm gonna run this show." And I said, "If I'm hired, the program is going to be a joint decision. The curators will sit down, once a week, and we will put the program together, not by committee, but by joint decision." So. In other words, we're not going to create a camel out of a horse, but we're going to-- everyone gets a chance to put the best ideas they have on the table.

Hayes: Now this is, is this a large museum, by national standards? Or medium?

Tony Janson: It's medium-sized.

Hayes: So how many would be on your team? I mean, how many people are you talking about? A curatorial staff of - ?

Tony Janson: We had, I think, four full-time curators.

Hayes: Oh, so that's pretty substantial.

Tony Janson: And they had been there a long time.

Hayes: And they would divide up based on-- like you had before, more on a time period or a style or a medium or something.

Tony Janson: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Hayes: Okay.

Tony Janson: And, you know, I booked some shows, I bought some works of art, but I said, "I'm not going to be chief buyer, chief exhibition booker. I will, however, insist that everything we do meet at least a high standard of quality, and if it doesn't, I'm not gonna let that happen. That you need to know." Because I looked at the quality of exhibitions and acquisitions, and said, "No," that it was wanting. And I also knew that the finances were shaky and that they needed to be very carefully managed.

Hayes: Now this is not a state-run museum. This is -

Tony Janson: No, it was.

Hayes: This is a private, right?

Tony Janson: No, it's a state-run museum.

Hayes: Oh, it's a state-run museum, okay.

Tony Janson: Yes. And - but it also requires private donations. And there's always a problem in this kind of situation, of mixing and matching and yet keeping separate. And it was a real problem there. And in fact I never really got a clear handle on what the budget was. And there was a reason for it because, frankly, the director was cooking the books. And he's dead, it's all right.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: And in fact it eventually led to a rather bitter split. And I left. But by that time, morale had slipped so badly, and the fundraising situation was so grim that staff actually started coming to me and begging me to go to him and say, "Please, change what's going on before, you know, the place collapses." And I was the only one in, on the staff who had the guts to do it. And I knew that my fellow curators wouldn't stand behind me, even though one of them claimed to be a born-again Christian, but who was frankly a compulsive liar. Doesn't make any difference. I've always been a person of strong principle, and I have stood by 'em and acted on 'em, and paid the price for it.

Hayes: Now, these many years ago, you left in '89, would you characterize it as a radically different institution now? You must still have ties -

Tony Janson: No, no, I left in '93.

Hayes: Oh, '93, I'm sorry, '93, you came in '89.

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: I mean, that's quite some time ago. You must stay - having come into the academic world, you must still stay in contact with that institution.

Tony Janson: Very little.

Hayes: Oh.

Tony Janson: It's a very different place.

Hayes: Yeah, that's what I'm saying.

Tony Janson: I do know some of the people there still. But I basically avoid most people, by choice. And the, you know, they've got a director who is a good fundraiser, good administrator, thinks he knows what an art museum is, but knows nothing about art.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: And certainly doesn't know anything about what makes a good curator, what makes a good educator. Otherwise, he would have cleaned house, frankly, which is what needed to be done. I don't care if anyone likes that idea or not, it's what needed to be done.

Hayes: So, '93, you decide to change. Or did -

Tony Janson: What I did is, after we had a very bitter exchange, I left and the staff immediately started to call the trustees, and said, "Look, the one person with any guts and any real sense of quality has left under bad circumstances. This place is a mess, you've got to do something. And to the board's credit, they formed immediately, a committee of, from the executive committee, to investigate the entire situation. And within six months, he was gone. And I was completely vindicated. And by that time, I was pretty well burned out. You know, the museums are extremely difficult places to work in.

Hayes: Yeah, and I - that's kind of a sense, as you talk to all your colleagues and so forth, are you the unusual one? I mean, you had some really good ones, but the weather wasn't good, then you had troubles, and -

Tony Janson: No, no -

Hayes: Is it, I mean, it's a tough field. Is that - ?

Tony Janson: It's a tough field. What typically happens is people will rise fairly quickly, and either then hit a plateau and stay at it, or suddenly disappear. And there are very few people who manage to continue to rise, and even then what will happen is that at some point they are going to fall like Daedalus from the sky. And usually what happens is something that I noticed very early in, when I was in Indianapolis, and discussed with my wife. And that is that as they climb the curatorial ladder, and start to become stars in their field, they undergo a personality change. They become more arrogant, difficult to deal with. They start to lose friendships, they start to get divorced, the children don't know them. And while that allows them, in a sense, to present a public persona that is in keeping with the pretensions of the board, in the end they wear out their welcome, at every institution. And I can think of dozens of examples. There are only a handful of good museum directors in this country, I can tell you.

Hayes: Directors and curators?

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: I mean, those are different, right? Directors and -

Tony Janson: Yeah but, I mean, you know, directors come out of the curatorial ranks.

Hayes: Oh, do they, okay.

Tony Janson: They are not dropped from heaven.

Hayes: But you mentioned the one model where sometimes, is there a new trend where they're bringing in a director recognizing more of the fundraising administration? And then the partner is the curator, that, I mean, that - ?

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: Is that the team that - ?

Tony Janson: It tends to be, but what happens is that they don't quite know what to make of each other.

Hayes: Yeah.

Tony Janson: And this is the creation of several factors. One is that museums need more and more money, they're more glamorous, they want to build bigger mus - buildings.

Hayes: Right. Well, when they run on endowments, which is, so many of them do, which is, you know, so contrary to, except for the one you worked out that was, you know, state-supported. But many, many museums have to run totally, right, on endowments and sales. I mean, that's -

Tony Janson: Well, and even the North Carolina Museum of Art depended something like forty to fifty percent at the time on outside income.

Hayes: Yeah, that's tough.

Tony Janson: So it's always a challenge. So what they do is they hire, hopefully someone who's got a combination of an art history Ph.D. and an M.A. in business. There are a fair number of those types wandering around. There're only a few of 'em who are any good. The one they hired at the Ringling was, as I say, certifiably paranoid, and a total idiot, to boot. The best ones are Rusty Powell at the National Gallery and Jack Lane, who's now at Dallas, they're both classmates of mine, both Americanists. And they're good people.

Hayes: But it seems to me like the field is asking for a very unusual combination, somebody who's both art sensitive historian and a master administrator. I mean, that's kind of -

Tony Janson: Well, not just administrator, but glad-hander and someone who can filch the wallet of -

Hayes: Right, has the fundraising element, yeah.

Tony Janson: It's very difficult. And to develop that kind of almost schizophrenic personality takes a toll on you, and it takes a toll on your family and your friendships. And when I realized what was happening to my friends, I went to my wife and I said, "You know, I'm really afraid of this. I don't like it, and I want to know how you feel about it, because we need to make a decision about this very soon." And her response was, bless her heart - oh, that's a southern expression, excuse me -

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: -very much to the point, and that was, "Look, I married you when you were nobody. You had no money, you had no degree, you had no career, you had nothing, and you were about to go off to Vietnam, and I wasn't sure I'd ever see you again. I married you for love, and, you know, we stayed together because we love each other. And it's a passionate relationship, and I don't want anything that changes it. And if, you know, becoming a success in the field requires changing you and interfering with our relationship, I don't want any part of it." And I said, "I'm glad to hear you say that, because I don't want this to happen. My priority in life is to keep the romance going at all costs. And I don't care if I have to go dig ditches to do it." So, we agreed that that would automatically put a cap on my career, how much money I could make. We agreed that we would try to live south of Mason-Dixon Line, because she was a southerner, and she really did not feel comfortable in the north, even though we met in New York. Although I did finally get her to do a pretty good imitation of a Brooklyn Jewish accent, which believe me, wasn't easy for her.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: And, you know, it wasn't a perfect marriage, because we weren't perfect people, but we were, I would say, the ideal match of two imperfect people. And we were together for four years. And I can't imagine having been married to someone else. And I wouldn't want to have been. And I don't think she would have either.

Hayes: So how did Wilmington come into the radar scope?

Tony Janson: Well, what happened is that after the falling out with the director at Raleigh, I decided to take a year off. I really was just burned out. And I also had an upcoming revision that had to be taken care of, and I said, "That's enough for the time being." And I thought for a while, you know, I could just live off my royalties, which I could've actually. And finally, I started getting bored with my own company.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: And I found out that my wife was right, I am a two-dimensional person, like a painting, flat. And -

Hayes: Well, let me divert for a second, because I want to get back to the textbook, and we can speak about that. What's - you know, now you say it used to be five years, and now they want it every three years, a new version?

Tony Janson: Yeah, what happened is that, oh, I forget exactly when it was, probably late '80s. Prentice Hall decreed that because of the used textbook market, the revision cycle had to be upped to three years from five. And I said, "Well, if we do that, that means the end largely of my independent scholarly career," which had already taken a pretty fair beating. There are, I would say, at least eight to ten articles that have never been written as a result of this book, which is why I never intended to get involved in the first place. I had -

Hayes: You knew what was gonna happen (laughs).

Tony Janson: Yeah, but, you know, the health and welfare of my lady love was far more important than anything else.

Hayes: So what, you are no longer doing this, because of health, but what was the last edition that you worked on?

Tony Janson: I worked on the eighth, I think. Now, no, the sixth revised.

Hayes: Sixth revised.

Tony Janson: Yes.

Hayes: And what would you, how much of that book is yours now? What would you say is -- ?

Tony Janson: Well, the seventh edition has nothing to do with me, it's been completely rewritten, and so I would say it has nothing to do with me. But the last edition that I did, I actually sat down and did both a word count, more importantly, an idea count. And even though the changes in words are sometimes fairly minimal and subtle, the changes in content, the intellectual content, are very substantial. And I would say that probably at least half the book, in the last edition I did, is mine, without veering too strongly from the direction that was set by my father. And that's a deliberate choice. I have a very different approach, by the way, in my own writing, to art history than my father did.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: We both write very tersely, I should day. We both believe that compactness is a virtue. So is clarity, good grammar, things like that. But whereas he was a extreme rationalist, I tend to be much more intuitive. And many of the articles that I've written have come from looking directly at a work of art, in person, and wondering, "Now, why does this work seem strange? What's unusual about it? There's something about it that bothers me." And once I ask the question, I feel compelled, even if it takes years, to find the answer. And sometimes it takes two articles to fully come to terms with it.

Hayes: Well, I think that people who don't write textbooks don't realize the amount of times -so you're, we were talking about solitude, you basically do reading, reading, reading, looking - I know for a fact that you had a huge library collection, because you've donated much of it to us. So you're, like any scholar, it's a solitary existence, right, to do the writing. It's not a collaborative existence, is it, really, to do the revision and new articles?

Tony Janson: Well, that's essentially true, although I will certainly consult colleagues in the field about, you know, what's the latest thinking about so-and-so.

Hayes: Yeah, I know.

Tony Janson: But in the end, you know, you have to exercise your best judgment. And make what you're saying fit within the text, and the approach. I always, for the most part, did my writing after nine o'clock at night.

Hayes: Wow.

Tony Janson: And there's a reason. I wanted to make sure that our daughter had quality time with me, that I was the one who usually gave her her bath, after doing the dishes. I read her her bedtime story. We would talk sometimes together. And I also, shall we say, fulfilled my marital responsibilities. And when the ladies were either asleep or my wife was reading in bed happily, I would then go into my lair and work until I ran out of ideas or gas.

Hayes: (laughs) Which might be midnight or later, huh?

Tony Janson: Well, it sometimes meant four or five in the morning. You know, you have to strike while the iron is hot, and when, you know, the muse is there, you have to do it. And you know, there's a wonderful cartoon of, in The New Yorker, of a writer sitting at his typewriter stumped, and behind him is his muse, going like this, and she's stumped, too.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: And I've often felt that way, myself. And when it doesn't come, you could squeeze me inside out and nothing would come out. That's just the way it is.

Hayes: We need - so I was trying to get, and I'm glad we got that, because I wanted to show how you were deciding to maybe do something other than just write on your own, because it is a solitary existence. So, Wilmington came along, what was that - ?

Tony Janson: Well, that happened because of Bill Anly. And Bill had been the chief fundraiser at North Carolina Museum of Art for about a year and a half. And then that rascal Jim Leutze inveigled him down here. And he very soon started telling Dr. Leutze and -

Hayes: Dr. Leutze at the time was the chancellor at UNCW, so -

Tony Janson: Oh, right. And the provost, Marvin Moss.

Hayes: Marvin Moss, right.

Tony Janson: That you've got to get this guy down here. And I actually did come down at one, couple of points, to deal with the issue of what to do with the Bubero.

Hayes: Oh good, you were involved in that.

Tony Janson: Because there were any number of ways of going with it. And I laid out the options. And I had it appraised by a French firm that had a New York representative, as well as by the option houses. The option houses, of course, came in with a shamefully low bid because they are wholesalers.

Hayes: And who was the French firm? Do you remember that name?

Tony Janson: Yes, Didiet Arend.

Hayes: Didiet Arend.

Tony Janson: Which is one of the old-line French firms in Paris. Actually, Messr. Didiet, who at the time was in his late 70s.

Hayes: So the, and the North Carolina Museum helped us with that on getting it, you know, it went on that tour from Atlanta, but - and then it stayed up in Raleigh, right?

Tony Janson: Well, I arranged that, with Bill. Because the problem was that the house, the Kenan House, had serious HVAC problems.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: And especially because of the front door, and where the painting was located. And I said, "You cannot expose this painting to this constant change of climate, especially in winter. And you've got an antiquated HVA system, which also, by the way, has a ton of mold in it. I can tell because when I come in here, and it turns on, I begin to get sick. So, this is not healthy for this painting." So we arranged sort of indefinite loan, for its safekeeping out at the North Carolina Museum of Art, which wanted to buy it at a low-ball figure, which we said, "It is to laugh." And I'm glad to see it back here, but only after the house was thoroughly modernized.

Hayes: It really, that did, and that was a, I'm glad to have that part of the story, because that does make a difference for that painting. And also, I think, security. They had to upgrade security.

Tony Janson: They had to do everything.

Hayes: Yeah.

Tony Janson: We also, thanks to the outreach conservators, had all of the works of art looked at very carefully. We had them reappraised because the first appraisal was all right in terms of most of the deck arts, but total nonsense for the paintings. And at the suggestion of a friend of mine, who had worked at Sotheby's, we brought in a man from Western Carolina who, I went through every object in the House with him, and that inventory and appraisal. And we completely changed the book value of everything.

Hayes: Good.

Tony Janson: Because the total book value, other than the Bubero, which is worth the price of the House itself - even though people don't believe it, but it is - was insanely high. Because the woman accepted the authenticity of works that none of which were authentic.

Hayes: Same problem we talked about before, even for the individual, then.

Tony Janson: Well, right. And you know, by going through with conservators, testing the paints, looking at backs of canvases, things like that, we were - and also looking at furniture inside, we could tell that something was not what it was, or purported to be. And we cut the insurance value at least in half.

Hayes: Now, so you were recruited then. Who was the head of the art department at the time you came? Or were you recruited as the head of the art department?

Tony Janson: No, I came here as visiting associate professor. And John Myers was chair of the department. And we hit it off like a house afire. John is very affable, humorous guy, and -

Hayes: An art historian.

Tony Janson: Yeah. And I'm not a real pretentious person. I can put it on when I have to, but I really don't enjoy it. And we just started joking around the first day and we've never stopped. And same thing with Kemille.

Hayes: Kemille Moore, Dr. Kemille Moore.

Tony Janson: Right. And you know, we've just -

Hayes: It was a fairly stable department, though. I mean, the - even though that was in 19 - let me get the right year -

Tony Janson: Oh.

Hayes: - that you came from.

Tony Janson: '94.

Hayes: '94. The leadership and the senior faculty are predominately the same, 'cause it was a small department.

Tony Janson: Yeah.

Hayes: Don Furst, over on the printmaking side, and Ann Connner, were the two, I guess, ongoing fine art folks.

Tony Janson: Right.

Hayes: You, Kemille and John were the three art historians. I'm trying to think. Oh, there was a sculptor at the time, probably there when you were -

Tony Janson: Steve McGuire.

Hayes: Steve McGuire, and he retired some time ago.

Tony Janson: Yeah, a few years later.

Hayes: And John Meyers is taking phase, so he's -

Tony Janson: Right.

Hayes: And you've taken disability retirement, so the department is changing, but there was a period there when you were there, that it was pretty stable department, wasn't it?

Tony Janson: Right. What happened is that after two years, John decided to step down as department chair. And he had been chair of a very unlikely menagerie, which included theater and music.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: And to say that they were warring factions would be the understatement of the year. And music made it clear that it would not accept anyone but a mu - someone from music as the chair. And so Dr. Leutze and Dr. Moss got together and said, "Okay, we'll give 'em what they want. Let 'em sink or swim. And we will take the rest of the department and find a new chair." And they decided to make me chair and give me tenure. And -

Hayes: At the time, did you have a déjà vu? I mean, you started in academics many years ago, and then here you are back. I mean, were you feeling (laughs) relieved or is this memories of your old career? Or you felt comfortable?

Tony Janson: Well, it was completely different, because I was allowed to teach whatever I wanted.

Hayes: Right. And you weren't the rookie, and -

Tony Janson: And also, I had initiated a movement to get rid of all the old moldy and purple slides, and insisted that we start a move toward digitalized photography.

Hayes: Good.

Tony Janson: Because slides kept getting misplaced, and I got tired of having to re-shoot them. And I said that even if I had to go out and buy my own equipment, I was going to digitize. And furthermore, this university is extremely unusual. I don't know if it still holds true, but during my time here, you could make friends and colleagues in almost any department.

Hayes: That's still true.

Tony Janson: And so one of my closest friends and colleagues is Walt Conser in philosophy and religion. Another one is Andy Hayes in education, although he just retired.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: I had colleagues and friends in almost every department in this university. And you cannot imagine how rare that is. And I learned a lot from them. And the exchange of ideas was exhilarating to me. And I loved teaching here, I really did.

Hayes: Yeah. And what did you teach? What would you say was your - ?

Tony Janson: I taught everything.

Hayes: Everything.

Tony Janson: I mean, you name it, I taught it.

Hayes: Well, you had to-- everybody would have to teach the survey classes, to help carry the load, but then what would you consider were your favorite specialty classes that you - ?

Tony Janson: Oh goodness, I taught American art, I taught modern art, I team-taught with Barry Solwin in music.

Hayes: Oh, that's nice.

Tony Janson: I taught a history of art from the renaissance on with the costume designer at the time, Alex Sergeant.

Hayes: Oh yeah, Alex, I remember Alex. I think she went to St. Louis, didn't she?

Tony Janson: No, she went to Vanderbilt.

Hayes: Vanderbilt, that's right.

Tony Janson: Yeah. And she's in fact getting married in June.

Hayes: Oh, good!

Tony Janson: Finally. Amen, brother.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: No, she's a wonderful person. And it's a natural because what we know about the history of costuming comes largely from the history of art. And team teaching was a wonderful thing for me. I learned more from my colleagues than they learned from me, I assure you. And we often had to punt, so to speak, because we often found that what we, that we were talking above our students' heads, without intending to. But, for example, in teaching modern art, the first question is, "What does modern mean?" And you know what? We lost our kids the first day. So we had to backtrack.

Hayes: Yeah. But why would you know? I mean, there's hardly any coming out of high schools, right? I mean, you weren't inheriting very many students that had a, you know, kind of a life experience like you had in art. I mean, most of your students are -

Tony Janson: Well, but - but in even, an interesting thing is the derivation of the word, and the changing meaning of it, which I do cover in fact in Janson's History of Art, and made them read, and they didn't understand it. And I said, "Houston, we have a problem here." And I taught an art historical methodology course, which the first part was based on the history of art history. And it originally, well, once you get past Thesari, it's essentially based on nineteenth-century German scholarship, and that comes very much out of two things: one is anthropology, and the other is the philosophy of Hegel, which is an odd combination. And how many of art history students have ever read Hegel?

Hayes: Yeah.

Tony Janson: None.

Hayes: None (laughs).

Tony Janson: Now, in the old days, that is when I went to college, you had to read Hegel and Kant and people like that. And so, it, you know, you just had to know it.

Hayes: Different generation.

Tony Janson: Yeah. And you know, the '68 -

Hayes: And even though we're talking about students, let me tell you that so many students I talked to loved your classes. It seems like you, you really related to, to our students. Is, is that your sense, that the - you liked the kids? I mean, that was -

Tony Janson: I did. I also, having been a curator, when a slide would come up, it's - would usually be something that I had seen in person. And so, I would start talking about it as if I were a curator standing in front of a work of art. And I would try to explain it partly in historical terms, but mainly in terms of, "What are you looking at? How do you read this thing so you understand it?" Because although art history's become theory dominated, like most fields, the reason why people take history of art survey courses, is so that the next time they go to a museum, they can go in and not feel hopelessly stupid and ignorant.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: But can go up to a picture and say, "I've seen something like that, and I have a couple of ideas that have stuck to the wall. And between these various factors, I can look at this thing, and derive something from it." If you make a course so hard and so unpleasant, so intellectualized and rarified -

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: The course becomes painful. And the student never wants to go to a museum. You want to make looking at art, thinking about art, not only as an object, but in its larger cultural sense, something that's pleasurable.

Hayes: Oh.

Tony Janson: And that's what I tried to communicate. And some students would complain that I was talking over their heads. And I would say, "You know, I hated being talked down to ever since I was a little kid. And so I've never talked down to anyone. I would consider it an insult to you, to talk down to you. I would never do it." Some people thought I was too tough a grader, but in fact I graded on the B curve, unless it was a really rotten class, and then I'd let 'em have it.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: But that, that mostly was very rare.

Hayes: Yeah.

Tony Janson: Because, you know, as they say, you know, give it the good college try and that's fine. Because, again, I don't want a course to be so painful that you look back on it with distaste.

Hayes: Did you have students, though, that chose to be art history majors, and who you worked with more closely, and hopefully went on to graduate school? I mean, you had a few of those over the years.

Tony Janson: I wasn't interested in producing intellectual clones, or more art historians. The world is crawling with the damn things, anyway.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: My greatest satisfaction, actually, was working with students who were in other fields, but for whom art history was a particular passion that related to their interests.

Hayes: That's great.

Tony Janson: So for example, I had two students who were best friends, and who both ended up as studying to become Franciscan friars. And they both did honor papers under me. And in the last edition that I did, because this happened to get excised by an editor by mistake from the previous edition, I thanked them, for having helped make teaching such a rewarding experience.

Hayes: Excellent.

Tony Janson: And usually, you know, professors steal their students' ideas and never cite them at all. This happened to my brother as a graduate student. And boy, was he mad about it. It's happened to me, too, when I was a graduate student. I wrote a paper for a seminar on Thomas Akins, for Michael Freed, and he later wrote a book on Thomas Akins, and I can't tell you how much of the basic ideas come from my seminar paper.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: (laughs) But, that's okay, flattery is, you know, a sincere form of homage, so to speak. But I've, you know, learned from my students, especially the better ones, and they've kept me on my toes. And they've made teaching much more interesting.

Hayes: Let's finish up by talking about the community, because I would characterize you as a art historian, art writer and a supporter of the arts. And you haven't had your nose above the crowd, you've really been involved in the region's art. And so I was going to ask you to comment, you know, just in a few minutes, comment on how you see southeast North Carolina, where it's at, and who some of the folks are. I know you can't remember all of them, but you know, how does it fit? How's art here in southeast - ?

Tony Janson: You know, this is a fascinating region, because, per capita, it has the highest concentration of good artists, as well as just, you know, amateur and commercial artists, of any portion of North Carolina, including Raleigh. And I can say that because I know, essentially, what artists are working in every part of the state, and in every part of South Carolina.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: And the sense -

Hayes: And are those kind of a - I mean, people look at the Carolinas as a grouping, I mean, they influence each other, those two states. I mean, is that a logical way to -

Tony Janson: No, they don't, really.

Hayes: Oh, okay.

Tony Janson: South Carolina is quite different from North Carolina.

Hayes: Okay.

Tony Janson: But the real surprise is how many really good artists there are in this area, and particularly in Wilmington itself - and not just Acme, but around town.

Hayes: Acme being Acme, a cooperative of sorts, that has some professional artists.

Tony Janson: You know, you rent out spaces, and it's owned by, what, three people, I guess.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: But one of them's a neighbor of mine, in fact.

Hayes: Okay (laughs).

Tony Janson: But the fact that there are so many good artists means that it's a stimulating environment. I buy quite a few works by local artists. I've run out of space, unfortunately, because I'm living in such a small lily pad as I call it.

Hayes: (laughs)

Tony Janson: But I have, oh, I think acquired something like eight or nine works. And I've paid for most of them, and given a couple of them to the museum.

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: Because I think it's important that the museum own works by local artists. Rand Brown, the previous director, used to claim that, "No, they're not really ready for primetime," and I strongly disagreed. And otherwise, his and my taste tended to be quite similar, in fact.

Hayes: Oh. Good.

Tony Janson: So, for example, when I proposed doing an exhibition of drawings by Barbara Chase Riboud, he knew her work.

Hayes: Now she's not a local artist.

Tony Janson: No, she's a black artist who lives in Paris, and was born in Philadelphia. But she was the star of a show called "Forever Free," which originated in Montgomery where he was curator, and we both knew she was dynamite.

Hayes: Yeah.

Tony Janson: And it's the only show to originate in this state that went to the Met, and the Malter, and quite a few other places.

Hayes: And you did that, you did a show with Andy Hayes of the Georgia Artists, what was, Stefan -

Tony Janson: Thomas.

Hayes: Thomas. And did a, did a book on him, as well.

Tony Janson: Mm-hmm. Mm, I did that. He approached me, Jim, rather John Myers, really didn't have time, or the inclination, and you know, I'm curious, and I said, "Oh, you know, I'll look at it, I'm not going to make any promises -

Hayes: Right.

Tony Janson: - up front, but I'll at least look." And I liked the family, I like Andy, and I said, "All right, I'll do it." And it was a very pleasant association.

Hayes: Good.

Tony Janson: And I said, "The only stipulation is I get to choose the works that go into the book because the work is very uneven, and I want only the best works to go in. And also, nobody censors what I write. I write what I think is as rounded picture as is possible."

Hayes: Did, are there other artists that we, that you want to keep in the forefront, over the years that you worked on, that you, you know, you just want to state that these are important people that, longer after you and I are gone, that you hope somebody will keep looking at their work, that you've worked with over time? Are there - I know you did the, a major work on, is it Laba -

Tony Janson: Lebeda.

Hayes: Lebeda.

Tony Janson: Well, this is a very interesting situation. It originated as a commercial project, and he came over from France. He came to Paris at the age of sixteen, and got caught in World War II and ended up as a prisoner of war. And after the war, decided, "Well, I gotta learn something," so he decided to try learning how to do silk screening for commercial purposes, and discovered he had quite a lot of artistic ability. And quickly became very well known. And has a large following in this country. And I was asked by a commercial outfit, near Detroit, to write an essay for a book. So, he came over and, since I'd been in Vietnam, unfortunately, I could look at his work from a different point of view, because everything that had been written about him in French and English, was rubbish. So, I talked to him about the fact that his work looked like Vietnam as seen from the air, including the way villages are arranged. He said, "Oh, how do you know that?" And I said, "Well, unfortunately I was in Vietnam, and I know it from having been in helicopters." And he said, "Well, but that's exactly true." And we started talking about the role of Buddhism and Taoism in his work, and he said, "Well, of course, because Vietnam was ruled by China for 2,000 years, how could it not be?" And he said, "You know, you're the first person in the West who has understood what my work is about." And his wife was with him, and he, when he said that, they both started crying.

Hayes: Oh, my goodness.

Tony Janson: This was over dinner. And they said, "It's been so long since anyone has understood our work, that you can't imagine what a relief it is." The book project didn't work out, but I did write a shortened version for a printmaking magazine.

Hayes: Yeah, I see that here.

Tony Janson: And we corresponded for a long time, and then he seemed to drop off the face of the earth, and I found out that in fact what's happened is he returned to Vietnam, which was his dream. And he established an art school in his hometown.

Hayes: Wow! Interesting.

Tony Janson: You never know.

Hayes: Yeah. (laughs)

Tony Janson: It's like the book I wrote, an essay for - on the art of Vietnam veterans.

Hayes: That's right, you had, you might mention that, that's an excellent -

Tony Janson: And you know, there's only one other person who could've done it, and he is in England and would certainly not touch the subject. I'm the only one who could've done it. Life is full of strange coincidences, except there are no coincidences in life.

Hayes: Well, I want to thank you very much for the interview.

Tony Janson: My pleasure. It's been fun.

Hayes: There's more and more and more of it. I, you know, I think four hours is a good start. It's not enough to cover all that you've done, but I want to thank you for sharing it with us.

Tony Janson: I'm pretty well wrung out myself, at this point (laughs).

Hayes: (laughs)

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign