The English Language
When Ary came to this country as a boy of 16 he
had to go to work at once and work meant morning, afternoon
and evening, so there was no time for formal learning of the
new language. It all had to be picked up through his business
or social contacts (the latter mostly immigrants like himself).
Soon of course there were newspapers to read and eventually
books. Because he had very little interest in trivia or small
talk, he never mastered many of our "everyday" expressions.
However, when it came to more profound subjects dealing with
philosophy, history and above all art, he was truly eloquent.
And he wasted no words and no irrelevant or superficial thoughts;
he got right down to the core of things, to the basic truth.
Many a time at the 8th Street Club in New York, where avant-garde
painters, composers and poets met in the early 50s, Ary would
get up to speak after an evening of involved and pretentious
argument. At the first few words there would sometimes be laughter,
for Ary's accent was a queer one and his intensity so evident.
But after a moment or two there would be silence, and close
attention to his every word. And when he was through the discussion
was through, for he had brushed aside all the irrelevancies
and had gotten down to basic values, and there was no refuting
what he had to say.
One thing that made it difficult to follow Ary's
conversation was that he rarely finished a sentence. He really
didn't construct sentences he painted them like brush
strokes and once the brush stroke of his idea was made, he was
on to other ideas without bothering to fill in the words that
would complete the sentence. Yet when I pinned him down to expressing
his views on art or narrating some special story, he could speak
beautifully. The quotations that have been used in the booklet
gotten out by the Foundation are either from his words quoted
from catalogues or books in which he was represented, or from
comments he dictated to me, and they are reproduced faithfully,
not edited by me. The same is true of the chapters of his life,
which he dictated to me.
In our later years we used to read aloud a great deal, mostly
because Ary didn't want to strain his eyes and I happen to enjoy
reading aloud. But when it came to poetry, I bowed out in favor
of Ary, for he read it with much more effectiveness, and in
fact, he understood it much better. It fitted in with his brush
stroke way of speaking, and it dealt with the essence, the core
of things, and he intuitively sensed it and understood it. In
the late 40s when we started reading T.S. Eliot and his generation,
and I was at a loss as to meaning, Ary would tell me not to
try to understand, just to get the impact. "Impact"
was one of his favorite words; others come to mind crystallization;
mysticism; orientate; articulate; texture; juicy (speaking of
color or painting quality). And of course "inner reality."
Just a few weeks before Ary's death, when he was in a weakened
and only half-aware condition, I read to him one afternoon some
of the poems of the young contemporary Russian poet, Voznensky;
he listened avidly, and with tears in his eyes said again and
again, "Oh, it's beautiful, it's beautiful."
When Ary was really in form, he had great powers of communication.
Fortunately he and I had almost uninhibited communication, and
we would never tired of talking together. Somehow there was
always something fresh, something new, even after our many years
of living together. It seemed that 24 hours a day were never
enough to explore all the thoughts and feelings of one another.
Of course there was another world Ary's dream world,
his world of creativity into which I could not enter,
but I had the great joy of seeing the results of his dreams.
And I had constant assurance, by look and by words, of Ary's
great love for me.
Ary spoke French, German, Russian, Spanish, Yiddish and some
Hebrew. His French was especially fluent, and in all these tongues,
as in English, Ary's vocabulary and ease of expression were
immeasurably better when he dealt with more serious abstract
matters. Once at an outdoor cafe in Vence, on the Riviera, a
French professor at the next table mistook Ary for a Frenchman,
and after a lengthy conversation on aesthetic and philosophic
subjects, asked him at what university he was teaching. But
then the professor's friends at his table began to question
Ary about business, politics, sports in the United States, and
as Ary tried to answer the professor said, "Ah, now I see
that you are not as at home in the French language as I had