B. Walter Pach

William Merritt Chase, Walter Pach, 1905 oil, courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art.

. . . The friendship between Miss Klauber and Walter Pach, begun with the Chase study trip in 1907, endured with correspondence exchanged between them for at least two years. Of the letters to Miss Klauber in the Museum of San Diego archives, perhaps the most interesting is one from Paris dated November 16, 1907. Pach wrote about his two-hour visit with the Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, 1840-1926, whose art gave rise to the style we call Impressionism. As an artist, “He looks the part, his ruddy face and bright brown eyes set off by a big white beard, his sturdy frame clothed in very simple plain clothes despite his earnings and his famous automobiles. He showed numberless pictures of his entire career nearly, the Salon de Refuses canvas among them. He was painting solidly then and it seemed so simple and unmistakable that you simply had to marvel why it should have been rejected. He told me interesting things about the old days and the great artists…Finally I came to the great question, giving him all the freedom to decline answering if he liked. I said what the opinion of some people on Mastisse was, and then ask: ‘ Do you see these qualities?’ There was not an instant’s hesitation in his reply ‘Nullement.’ French has no stronger (polite) negation. He went on to say, quite fully, that he had been told that Matisse had a remarkable intelligence and so he has studied the pictures attentively with a friend and distinguished critic. With all desire not to see another’s mistakes added to the list of which his own judgment forms so prominent part, he said he had made up his mind that there is nothing there. I felt easier - even about the big still life in Rue Madame.” The young Pach was attempting to educate himself with Matisse’s work. That effort proved a very personal struggle for the future critic. Pach’s encounter with Matisse opened his eyes to Modern Art. At first, he found the French artist puzzling. He would bring up the artist’s name frequently in writing. In the same letter to Miss Klauber, Pach comments upon Cezanne, Chase and Henri, mentioning that he had visited a mutual friend, Leo Stein, and that “the Matisse’s haven’t gained any,” expressing his frustration with the master’s works. “I’ve about given up.”

. . . On February 8, 1908, when Pach next addressed Miss Klauber, he had submitted an article on Monet to Schribner’s for publication and was contemplating future writing assignments. Again, the names of Cezanne, Matisse and the Steins are mentioned in some detail. An article on Matisse was to appear and he was eagerly anticipating its appearance. “The Stein’s eagerness for it is only second to my own. I shall never have to reproach myself with having given Matisse’s pictures an insufficient trial. I’ve gone to see them, thought over them and the arguments intended to uphold them, studied the master they’re suppose to descend from (even copying a Fra Angelico - not too awfully I think) the drawing remains fine. I see certain color and a certain possibility in some of the still life that I didn’t at first, but otherwise, I’ve not changed much. Meanwhile I like Cezanne better in seeing much more of him and two exhibitions of Van Gogh impressed me very much. Picasso’s latest are still incomprehensible, but I expect to make a connection between them and his earlier wonderful things.” Pach casually concludes his letter noting plans to find a job as portrait painter in Holland, recommending books to read, and that he was exhibiting with the Independents in Paris. Subsequent letters of May 9 and June 20 are congenial and newsy. Matisse’s name appears in both. In May, Pach wrote, “that since Matisse is now teaching the bunch their work is worse than ever, they now all claim that they didn’t know anything…” In June, however, Pach seems to have made peace with himself about Matisse when he wrote from Paris that he enjoyed the Louvre, “always challenging,” and finally, “I do feel more at rest about Matisse.” In November, conveying the love of the Steins, he wrote to Miss Klauber that Leo Stein had written to him about Matisse’s salon exhibition that “captured everything and every one in sight.” Pach relates a recent trip to England where he met Frank Brangwyn, 1867-1956, noted watercolor painter, and where he saw a John Singer Sargent watercolor exhibition, “interesting though not the man he use to be - and never was.” He mentions a brief interview with the best known of the Impressionists, Auguste Renoir, 1841-1919, insufficient for an article. He hoped for another chance in the future. Toward the end of the year Pach informed Miss Klauber of his intention to return home and enter his father’s business in photography. Pach’s father had founded Pach Brothers Commercial Photographers and was the official photographer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 26 This represented a period of uncertainty. His discouragement was of short duration. Chase had offered encouragement and, possibly, this is what he was seeking from Miss Klauber to shore up his own sagging self-confidence. While the bulk of letters between them dates through 1909, Pach’s letter of May 6, 1925, to Miss Klauber is of special interest locally, for it refers to the new art museum being built in San Diego and scheduled to open the following year, 1926. He mentions a caller, the museum’s supervising architect, William Templeton Johnson, 1877-1957, who approached him about a new director. “I am too much bound up with things here too consider it myself.” Undoubtedly a recommendation had been suggested by Miss Klauber to a local search committee. He complimented her indirectly when he wrote “I had not quite foreseen the sympathetic intelligence with which you follow the course and development of American art.” The serious overview study of American art history had just gotten under way by 1910.

. . . Pach was destined to become one of the mentors of modern art. He was one of the best informed Americans about the current trends in European art at the time and spoke to audiences throughout the western world. The question of ‘any romantic thoughts between them’ has been raised by several inquiries, a supposition of several readers of the letters. From the first letters addressed to “Dear Miss Alice Klauber” to the later addressing “Dear Alice,” some thoughts of a deepening attachment might be warranted. Since the exchange of letters received by Pach from Alice Klauber is not available, such emotional feelings must remain just that. Miss Klauber was one of those exceptionally bright and charismatic women who may easily frightened potential suitors away. One family member concurred with similar thoughts.


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