Asia Society presents; 58
This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author and award winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. It may seem strange on a radio program to talk about visual matters to talk about beautiful Chinese objects which you can see in three dimensional color. But I think we must talk about it because you never know when at some point in your library your local library your university where you will your children go or your local museum. This full volume work will come your way and then you'll have the privilege of knowing more or seeing more about what we will be discussing. It is a remarkable work called Chinese art in three dimensional color and two people very closely associated with this project are our guests. So Harry I am gonna who is a noted authority on Chinese art. Although by profession he is a trained
mathematician and physicist and Norma Gruber whose late husband William Gruber did much of the photography for this book whose life project I would say this book was and who invented the View-Master which is equipment one uses to see the slides in the three dimensional color which I just referred to. Good to begin with you Harry. People often think in this world to be in authority you begin at the age of 10 in one field and you stay there till you're 90 and then it was a he is an authority. But you began as a physicist mathematician a work during the war served your government were associated with Winston Churchill. How do all of these things become involved in the history of Chinese art. But it's difficult to answer that question. As far as I am concerned I think that I have always been interested. You must
always been in my makeup and interest in artistic things. I was been very keenly interested in music and the visual art and I started collecting Chinese porcelain in more than 40 years ago. And although the collection of one of the most fragile type of objects hardly seems to fit in with the dropping of bombs on your enemy. Nevertheless this interest these come from this conflict of interest was always there. The amount of time I could devote to Chinese art was of course limited It was only when I retired that I was able to put the whole of my interest into it into Chinese trying to consider Chinese art. No clue about how good your late husband William Gruber who lived in
Portland Oregon. Become so closely connected with the hairy goanna who lives in England and how do they work together and develop this project. I mean they were what 6000 miles away from each other. Obvious there Harry can tell you more about this and more interesting Lee but we had a mutual friend Dr. William carbon of Portland Oregon who told my husband about Sir Harry and said that he was the world's greatest authority on Chinese porcelains. William very much wanted to meet him and in a trip to England cause they're hairy and they're here he said to come to his home and I can say this that they immediately felt responsive to one another although neither one of them told too much of their background. William told Sir Harry of some of his other photographic missions in the educational field. Perhaps their Harry can tell you more about just how the conversation took place and what
arrangements were made I think you can tell it better than I. It started as far as I was concerned with a request from William Gruber to look at the collection of Chinese porcelain and other types of art and he came along and we had a very interesting evening and I found him the most enthusiastic and sympathetic person. But I had no idea at that time that he was a world authority on three dimensional doctrine or that he was inventor of the you the dear master. And in fact he didn't even mention it. I knew him just as an interested collector at that time. But a year later he wrote to me and asked if I could arrange for him to take photographs. Of spaces three dimensions in some of the most important collections of both music and private in England.
Well this is what started the collaboration between us View-Master which must be seen to be appreciated to use it to have a hackneyed expression really must be seen. However could you imagine attempt to describe it to our audience. Why should looking at a slide through the View-Master make such a difference I have looked through it and seen it and I was struck by the extraordinary feeling I got from this object. Oh what does that mean. What gives it vitality. It's because we see it through each dimension of the object. It isn't like looking at a flat picture which only shows something in two dimension. You really have the feeling that you can pick the object up. You are closer to it than you are usually in a museum because you have it almost within your grasp you feel why you are looking at it. It's magnified seven times in the View-Master. Often you see it in more detail than you would through a cabinet or in a museum.
The last I've heard of collections museums and private collections opened their doors to your husband for his photography in order that he might photograph these objects properly. These doors were opened through Sahara as you might see only through his reputation he has people I believe we're most delighted when they did see samples of pictures that William had taken of his own collection he always showed what he could do. I think they were delighted and that also helped naturally. Yes but you do have to have the right person open the door or you know whether it's a job we never could have anything without fear Harry. Yes. Now who decided which collection should be looked at and what objects should be photographed. That mean that does take a selectivity. They're only 12 about 12 hundred of his objects in the book that we're always there Harry rode out into the later stages yes but in the early stages we did discuss these things Gruber had very strong likes.
I would say dislike but certainly it was passionately interested in the in the simple challenge where US and but we did discuss what's to be taken I had to restrain him a little because otherwise we have to be overbalanced in that direction. But on the whole the arrangements for the first half of the objects which were taken will improve a little I was done very lightly as a matter of discussion between us. Who are some of the great collectors of Chinese optics of art in the world. Names that would be familiar to our two most of us. Well I suppose one ought to put first and foremost the king of Sri who was a very famous archaeologist on ark a lot of practical archaeology has been a keen collector of Chinese art since long before he was King of Sweden. The time he was crowned prince I think he must have been collecting certainly as a whole in the last forty or forty
five years and we did in fact take quite a number of pieces in his collection we spent two days in the palace of Stockholm photographing pieces in his collection. And there are quite a number of them included in the book. Among the American collectors I suppose one of the most outstanding is Mr. Avery Brundage moves interest at first was mainly in Chinese bronzes but after spread to other fields. And it's certainly the collection which is now housed in the de Young Museum in San Francisco is one of the finest individual collections have been put together in the last 20 or 30 years. A deadly serious hairy catalogue that collection the Bradley-Gore legislation population yes part of that collection was shown at the Asia Society I think it year or two ago. Yes there's another example if I might interrupt you of a man who was known for his
connection with the Olympics as well happens to have or Incidentally the other is incidentally has this remarkable collection here and a few other people than in New York you have Mr. John D Rockefeller three who has built up comparatively recently an extremely fine collection of Chinese out of all kinds of porcelain Brander's which is will be shown actually in. In a few days time in in the beta gallery they say yes as I do the time I guess any of these objects have been on public view. Yes what makes a man not simply to collect Chinese art. What makes a man want to collect. Is there a special personality type that does that. When you For example why did you become a collector. Well I suppose partly it is that one has that the
acquisition but I think one has trained to be a true collector one has to be genuinely interested in the things you're collecting and collect according to certain principles. If you decide on. All I can say as far as I know myself is that I was or were extremely interested in the Chinese person in the first place notice in Chinese art with a collected it largely because I was interested in it. How about your husband William Gruber. He collected I think he had quite a good collection which remains and you still have in your home what you think impelled him to do this. Well really to the challenge of restrained ship with Doctor carbon. Dr. Carmon tried to interest me and it but it takes a great deal of time and also a great deal of money to put a good collection together. When he became interested in it at first he didn't make a lot of mistakes when he with rely completely on his own judgment what you mean by mistake. All he bought very flamboyant pieces thinking that
that to make them more valuable. But he soon became more discriminating and later through Sir Harry's help and through his own taste developed a love for the very simple forms and that as Sir Harry said in compiling the book he had to use his persuasion to have a more varied. Showing of pictures because William would have liked to have had the whole book devoted to Celadon day. You yourself are not a collector by we all spirit organs Well yes yes I do love the collection I'm not the collector that my husband was I have purchased a few things on my own but strangely enough they've all been Japanese pieces. Oh I think you've been a traitor. However you'll excuse her. I mean I can also really rose passionately attest to this. You are to see the way would you handle this. Really I've worked with many
photographers. I know I've never met anyone who handled a piece portal so gently as he did and took every possible precaution against being damaged. It would it would put a piece of person on the table he would support it in a letter which he would say would be to be absolutely impossible for that piece to fall over. Then having done that he would put something on the front in case it did fall over so that it will come over the edge. It was really was passionately attached to everything he said. He gave each piece of hardware which it wasn't timed that was what I mean this was part of his artistic heritage if you like me was an extremely fine pianist he had lessons under Giesecke ink and he was a very good pianist and it was part of his makeup canvas and say you must have had a great deal in common must have been money because I don't think they are very good music too. Yes we had lots of things in that way.
Cole What happens to great collections are they passing more and more to museums these days. Yes I think the time is coming when its going to be very difficult to build up a private collection and most of the large collection in the past have found their way into museums like the Metropolitan Museum Cleveland or Boston. And I suppose the time will arise eventually when. Most of these places are in museums and not a lot in the hands of private collectors. I was personally very sorry to see this because I think the private collector has a good deal to contribute to to our knowledge really helps it handles the peace every day and he can build up a knowledge in the field which can't be attempted by museums it would be a great pity. The private collector did disappear but when these pieces are in museums apparently they're more accessible to the public.
And isn't that an advantage which overcomes whatever advantage a private residence noted. Yes but I find personally. That and I don't go to your writing on various aspects of China you know. I find that I cannot write in a satisfactory way such affect myself less I can see and handle the size of the pieces frequently. I couldn't write as good a book on say Chinese porcelain from pieces that I seen in museums from pieces I've handled myself my own collection. There's a great advantage to a writer to have a personal acquaintance with individual from that point of view. But don't you think museum staff have qualified people. I suppose we'll be in South all somebody are you either very qualified yes point is that in the the scope of the museum is so vast that there are many aspects which would never be covered by museums. They've got so many duties to the public as well as to the collections themselves that they
would be unable to do it and therefore I think there's a there is a place for the collector. What do you think your husband then had in mind when he envisioned this project which consists of four volumes covering what at least 34 35 centuries of Chinese art and shows that more than 12 hundred objects so that people can be as close to them as they possibly could. Aside from seeing them in person why did your husband have in mind if he feels that the world in general did not know enough about Chinese art in a comprehensive way is that why he did it. Well he one does show it in a new medium three through three dimension which had never been done before. He was a romanticist and he was going to present it in a way something like the Arabian Nights he was going to have a thousand and one piece and he was going to have a thousand and one set and he was going to charge a thousand and one dollars for the set had to be made if you want.
But he he really did love Chinese art and I think that he was intensely interested in himself. He always thought first of showing them through the View-Master through a new medium. Now this is a digression I know and yet it's all part of your life's achievement so Foster Hari the question I'd like to direct you many is I have noticed that people who are good mathematicians have that kind of mine are often very good musicians and composers. What is the connection between music and mathematics. Well I think I think one of the collections is that. Music is that certain types of music are very much involved with structure but a most complicated patterns interweaving of themes and so on I think it's that aspect of music that appeals most
to a British style. Like about Phil Craig Zobel in the beauty about the arrangement for Angel's thing which appeals to the mathematical and orderly mind. Well that would I could see the connection between composing music and mathematics. But for the performer well even for the performer you've got this complex reading of patterns so that something he has to more or less keep in his mind's eye will place it's rather like a rug rather like a complicated piece of medics in a way that you say that your husband had this same kind of mind. Apparently he was a good pianist. He would have frightened yes yes William with didn't have the formal schooling that Sir Harry had he only went to school until he was 13. That's always necessary in his case perhaps as a dad at that time you decided to become a piano organ builder. He was very talented though and he was a brilliant person with formal schooling I feel that he could
have gone any distance that he chose. He didn't have the same he's had a technical mind it wasn't anything that he became interested in that he really he was north already on which to get this clear. I think on the music question I mean there are many aspects many approaches you correct music. There are a lot of music has depends almost entirely on the homeless not on structure though it's on just one aspect of music I'm referring to that person mathematicians are not so attached to it which depends. Well normally the less allergic I don't know one has the feeling that most of the contemporary music which is being composed must be composed by mathematicians with all respect to your profession. It does sound rather Mallalieu was rather good and I don't know you don't know what the not enough soul into the music when you think of.
That. You made a prediction some time ago which was prophetic in that it became true. Would you tell that story about yourself or should normal I think perhaps I better tell it all right. In other words if you want to get it straight it's something idk. I mean danger of forgetting I was reminded of it by my wife. I was asked to open one of the schoolboys exhibitions so-called in London in 1950 I think it was at night of the 1951. I gave us a talk talk talk to the boys and afterwards they asked me questions one question they asked me if I was talking about rockets which were then beginning to be developed quite rapidly and I was asked the question as to whether I thought that we'd be able to land a man on the moon and if so when. I expected to
happen to happen. And I said that I thought it might well be possible by 1970 it was perhaps a lucky guess. It frightens us. You may be one of those is male which is we feared. Now I think it makes prophecies but knowing all that you do about rocketry on our knowing all that you did at the time. Perhaps your wish. I mean I'm sorry your prediction was based on a great deal of information must have been. Yes it was based on a certain amount of information but I think it inevitably must have been the last to be a good little guesswork illiterate. Well I just think that it's always a joy to talk to people who are men of parts as you are who are at home in music and mathematics physics Chinese art. It enriches any conversation obviously and it's quite rare. So I greatly appreciate your being on this program and on the group you have learned I am sure a great deal from your husband
and brought much to it so that you are also a great great and pleasant conversationalist. And in closing I would like to explain to our audience. About this project because it may very well become part of their community at some time in the near future. We have been discussing. Something extraordinary. It is a four volume set of books called Chinese art in three dimensional color. And with a new master and instrument attached to these volumes one is able to insert slides and see more than twelve hundred objects Chinese objects in three dimensional way unlike any way one has been able to see them before except in a museum where they have a glass case and the guards are staring at you. And that's not always too good. So Harry I am gone I wrote a good deal of the text supervise the project and added enormously do it. And
our other guest the widow of William Gruber whose life dream came so it came to pass with this project. And in closing I'd like to say that as you know the hope of this Asia Society series is to bring the east and west closer and perhaps the finest medium through which it can be done is through art. The collections the coarse reading of ideas and then the feeling which comes your way. Thank you very much and goodbye. But concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. Listener ease comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at W NYC New York City 100 0 7. I make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia
Society presents. This is the national educational radio network.
- Asia Society presents
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-58 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- MLA: “Asia Society presents; 58.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 9, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-sn01422t>.
- APA: Asia Society presents; 58. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-sn01422t