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Fax to Michael Zakian, director; Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, (310)456-4556

from Merle Schipper
phone;  (310)399-4339
fax;    (310)392-2379
online (as of 6/12/96-starting new provider)

Telephone Interview: Merle Schipper with Willem de Kooning, 5/3/72

MS Did Helton have an affect on artists here?

de K; No, he came full blown, but he had some effect on other artists, younger ones.  Of all the Europeans he was one of the only ones who was interested in all the artists who were American.  He came to visit them.  All the other European artists came here and we met them slowly and surely, but Helion went out of his way to see what was cooking.

MS When did you become aware of him?

de K. At Pierre Matisse's I saw a painting by Miro, a pair of shoes in bright colors.  I said to Gorky, "I saw a nice painting of Miro's."  He liked it too.  Sometime later I saw a painting something similar to it and I thought it was Miro.  But it wasn't Miro.  So I said, "Who is the artist?"  The lady said "He is Jean Helion from Paris." and I went to Corky and said "I saw an interesting painting by a Frenchman Helion." but he didn't like it then.  He said later on that he liked his painting very much and they became good friends.  After that he began making meticulously beautiful modeled paintings.  The curved shapes I liked very much.
  He was very anxious for artists to come here from Europe when the war came, and he wanted Mondrian to come here.  He wanted to get Mondrian here very much.  And after they all came here he said "Vive La France," and he went right back to France (laughing) to fight in the war and he was a prisoner in the concentration camp.  Just before that his paintings {were} of men reading newspapers, kind of neo-romantic Magritte.  Like a sign painting, light and dark, and that's all.  Fantastic thing.  It was then that he went back to Paris. {strikethrough de K} Yes.

MS Did you ever see his writing?

de K. He wrote nice papers. the one on Poussin.

MS And Seurat?

MS Did he have any influence here?

de K He must have had an influence. His enthusiasm!  He became a very good influence.  He was a very important man even at that time.  Some years ago I met him at a party in Paris.  He asked me to come to his studio but I didn't go.  He was reserved then.

MS He cut himself off, I think, from Americans.

de K. Yes, and some others.  He was a searching person, and a very open person, and he was interested that we should all be together.  You know what I mean, and if it influences no harm done.  He was a marvelous man.  Vive la France!  He was the first one to go back.

MS What was his then?

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