26.Journey Home, Stockholm To D.C.

26. Journey Home, Stockholm to D.C.

I was in no hurry to get home (i.e. back to the Freer, where I would finish my dissertation and, it was more or less understood, become a curator) so Dorothy and I knocked around Europe, meeting people and seeing collections. I can't remember all the places we went, or the order in which we went there, but what follows is an approximation, from a memory still vivid at some points, hazy at others.

It was the winter of 1956, and a record-breaking cold spell in northern Europe. Sometimes trains were delayed because the frozen tracks couldn't be switched. We spent a lot of time in bleak places waiting for a train, or to eat, We hadn't come prepared for this—not enough really warm clothing etc.

I remember vaguely stopping in Copenhagen and seeing the Chinese collection at the museum there. Also Hamburg, where the curator in the museum was Rose Hempel (who had been in Japan the same year as myself, Jan Fontein, and Bill Watson, but was so self-effacing that she didn't get nearly so much done. Saw their great set of late Ming Xixiang Ji illustrations, unique in the world; other things. Was it before these that we spent some days in Amsterdam, where Jan Fontein and his wife Suzan took care of us—he was still a Rijksmuseum curator then. A comfortable lodging, with good meals—great breakfasts, dinners (on one Thursday we learned that they also have the practice of serving the very heavy soup and dessert combination), going to a local restaurant for Riztafel (sp.?), the Indonesian dinner brought back from their occupation there. Jan read the text of my Skira book, overnight one night, along with the French? German? translation; I wanted to know whether they were accurate, and he caught several mistakes, as I remember. He praised my text highly—"reads like a novel"—while criticizing a few places. At the Rijksmuseum I saw their Chinese things—not a lot, as I remember—and especially got them to show me original color prints by the amazing Hercules Seghers,, which I knew only from reproductions—they reminded me in some ways of Wang Meng, although no real connection is likely. Jan also arranged a trip to Leiden for us; there I met Fritz and Hsiao-lan Mote, who had me to lunch with Erik Zürcher.

In Cologne we met Werner Speiser at the museum and talked with him—he had written an early article about Yuan painting. He complained that the Americans had access to great cigars and didn't appreciate them enough. We were staying at a bed –and-breakfast where the pipes had frozen so that the plumbing didn't all work; the comforter that was one's main cover and protection against the extreme cold at night came only to my ankles; and so forth, much discomfort. I remember trying to use my highschool and college German in a store explaining what I wanted, only to learn that the German word is "Kleenex." We visited of course the great cathedral, which was especially gloomy but powerful.

Living not far from Cologne in a place called Hofheim was Victoria Contag, and of course I wanted to meet and talk with her. Following her directions we took a train there one morning, arriving at the station very cold, looking forward to a warm house. She met us wearing a fur jacket and hat from China (skin side out, warmth in) and boots, and insisted on taking us for a walk through a pine forest before we went to her house. Dorothy and I were wearing very unsuitable shoes and clothing, and our feet were wet and freezing; she tramped lustily through the snow, talking all the time about the virtues of fresh air and getting away from the town, which for her was hopelessly bourgeoise (signs on houses saying things like "Mein Haus, Mein Heim.") At last we went back to her house and sat in a warm room with a stove, as I remember, and talked about Chinese painting. I can't reproduce any of the conversation, but it was about her years in China, her seal book, her ideas on the state of the field etc. She was in retirement after a career that included failed attempts at academic appointments in Germany (her writing and lecturing was apparently as impenetrable for the Germans as it is for us) and more productive years in Shanghai. I admired her essay published in Archives in English, translated by Larry Sickman from a lecture she gave, but I never could read her German. She once sent me a book (on Confucianism and Chinese painting) and I began reading it with a pleasant sense of "this isn't so bad at all!" until I turned a page and found it was a preface by Herbert Franke; when I began reading Contag's text, I bogged down after a page or two.

I remember that we traveled to some place where the Berlin Museum's collection of Chinese paintings had been stored for safekeeping during the war, and hadn't yet been returned, to see some of the paintings. Schloss Celle? sticks in my mind. We also saw there an exciting production of the Brecht/Weill Threepenny Opera. Then (sequence unclear) on to Munich, where we spent four or five days, being shown the collection by Roger Goepper was it? who held for a time the position there that Max Loehr would have occupied if he had stayed in Germany. I loved the city, its architecture, its museums, (especially the Old Pinakothek) its food, its beer—it was served in large glasses or mugs, and Dorothy could never drink more than a third of hers, so I went about in a semi-intoxicated daze the whole time. We went to concerts, visited the house of Emil Preetorius to see some of his collection, were sorry to leave.

I was from there, I think, that we traveled to Switzerland and Lake Lugano. The collector Charles Drenowatz lived there, a "chocolate baron" as he was described, and also Jean-Pierre Dubosc with his red-haired Italian wife Franca and their young (5? 6?) son Fabrice. Dubosc had earlier been married to C. T. Loo's daughter, who still had a Chinese art shop in Paris; he was later to marry a Japanese woman, Hisako. But for this moment he and Franca and Fabrice seemed to us an ideal family, of the kind we hoped to become. Jean-Pierre had once been in the French foreign service, had spent years in China, had collected Ming-Qing paintings and sold a group to the Musée Guimet, becoming a dealer, and was now a major source for European collectors such as Drenowatz. (His principal competitor was Hochstadter, who hated him and derided his practice of selling fan paintings and persuading buyers that they were worthy objects to collect.) Jean-Pierre took us to see Drenowatz and his collection, and talked about other European collections worth seeing. I found him completely congenial, both personally and in his scholarship: he had published the Oriental Art article aimed at Alan Priest (see above under Met) and promoting the study and collecting of Ming-Qing painting; he had collaborated with Larry Sickman on the ground-breaking exhibition of Ming-Qing paintings at the Wildenstein Gallery in New York (1951?).

Franca and Jean-Pierre persuaded Dorothy and me to go to Venice for a few days, and we took their advice. In Stockholm we had seen the film "Summertime," in which Katherine Hepburn is a lonely American teacher romanced by Rossano Brazzi (?); by good luck, we found ourselves booked into the very pensione that had been used for the one where she stayed, the Pensione Fiorini. We arrived there in late afternoon on a foggy day, very tired from the train trip and boat; I ordered a martini—and was brought a half-filled glass of room-temperature liquid (which was, of course, the vermouth of that brand.) A long confrontation of cross-cultural misunderstanding followed: "This isn't a martini!" "Sir, this is what we call Martini in Italy" and so forth. I drank it, disgruntled, and we decided not to waste the remaining hours of light and set out walking through the foggy streets. By sheer good luck, we emerged unexpectedly onto the Piazza San Marco , with the great cathedral looming dimly at the end. This made up for everything, the kind of experience one dreams of, the kind that transports you out of the world of your real experience, and fatigue and hunger and fuzzy-headedness (from drinking too much vermouth) give way to transcendental rapture.

These were great days: I loved the city, the way its walls could be read as rick records of their vicissitudes, its skulking cats, the impossibility of finding one's way easily from one place to another—we would make our progress through narrow, twisting streets and tunnels, over bridges, carrying our nearly useless map, hoping for a landfall and usually getting it in the end. It is a city that frustrates all get-there-quick impulses and imposes uncertainty and happenstance. Considering this, we saw a lot of what we most wanted to.

Back in Lugano, we were ready to take the train to Zurich and thence to Paris, as in our original plan, when Jean-Pierre and Franca began to persuade us that instead we should rent a car and drive down to the Mediterranean coast (Milano?) then over into the Riviera region of France, and up through Provence to Paris. They advised us on where to stop and stay, what to see, what to eat, what to drink—and eventually became so enthusiastic about the trip that they decided to make it with us, although this was all familiar country for them. So off we went in their car. I won't attempt any detailed account of the trip, but it was full of delights, very different from the kind of travel we had been doing as unsophisticated foreigners. I remember seeking out the church of St. Gilles du Gard, since I had written a paper on it for a medieval art class at Michigan (Frank Ludden), arguing that the stones that made up the portal had been moved around and added to in response to the new West Portal at Chartres. And now here I was seeing these massive stones and feeling qujite different about them than when I could move them easily with scissors and paste. We ate wonderfully well—I remember Jean-Pierre introducing us to the French light lunch of pears and good choose—and drank good wines, without spending a lot.

In Paris they left us to return to Lugano. I don't remember much about our days in Paris, except meeting Mlle. Madeleine David at the Guimet and Vadim Ellisseef at the Cernuschi. (He chided me for not reproducing his new "Han Gan" scroll—really a Chang Ta-ch'ien forgery, as I knew by then—in my Skira book, after he had persuaded the French government to pay such a high price for it—a reported $80,000, a huge price for that time. The impressive list of experts who approved the purchase included Max Loehr—the list at the end of Elisseeff's article on the painting in Arts Asiatiques.) We did go to the Paris Opera—or Opera Comique?—to see a wonderful performance of Rameau, Les Indes Galantes, in which there is a storm in which a full-size ship collapses on stage; also Ravel, L'Heure Espagnol. I hoped to locate and meet Charles Panzera, the great singer, all of whose records I have, but that didn't work out. A friend of my mother and George's, don't remember name, had us to dinner and took us on a trip to Verssailles.

Then on to England, where we must have spent two weeks or so. I was doing more work with Bruno Schindler, who was handling the Siren book for Lund Humphries, on the Annotated Lists etc.; he wanted me to work them up more fully and publish them separately. (I did eventually, my Index of Early Chinese Ptrs & Ptgs.) Saw Bill Watson and spent time in the British Museum with him; met Basil Grey and Soame Jenyns, went around the bookstores, etc. My memory is mixed up here: it was after I returned to the Freer that I wrote, at Schindler's invitation, a piece on the Yuan Mei portrait for a Waley Festschrift volume of Asia Major, which he edited. Yes, that was 1959; so it was on my stay in London in that year, coming back from working with Skira in Geneva, that I used that article, which had just appeared, as an introduction to meet Waley—this was arranged by Schindler? Bill Watson?

But on the first stay n London, 1956, I left out our trip to Cambridge, where we stayed with Soame Jenyns. He had an estate there, big house, and was much more impressive as one o the landed gentry than he had been as scholar-curator at the BM. At Cambridge also was Cheng Te-k'un, whom I'd got to know in Japan? Hong Kong? somewhere; saw his collection of Chinese paintings.

I went alone to the meeting with Waley, who was living quietly in an upstairs apartment on Russell Square, with his longtime companion Beryl de Zoete. She was a specialist in Asian dance, and quite old by this time; she scarcely spoke, but sat by the stove wearing a cap with a green celluloid shade, reading. The flat was disheveled and comfortable-looking, with a smell of wood smoke. Waley had read my Yuan Mei article and liked it, and also the Skira book, and began by being quite apologetic about his own old Chinese Painting book. Of course I spoke of how innovative and important it had been in its time, and what insights it had contained that went beyond what others had written—his ending paragraphs in Kung Hsien, for instance—and how useful his Index of Chinese Artists (1922) and its follow-ups by Werner Speiser and others had been for us. And so forth—a memorable afternoon, although I could have prepared better questions and conversation topics in advance if I had planned it.

There is a lot more that can go into this section as my memory dredges up other happenings and meetings on the trip. This is enough for now.

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