FACT AND FICTION
First and foremost, I attempted to render the biographies and personalities of the artists, their art, and the art history to the best of my ability, particularly Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline.
The Stable Gallery existed and was established in 1953 by Eleanor Ward, deriving its name from its first home, a former livery stable on Seventh Avenue at West 58th Street. The gallery focused primarily on modern and avant-garde art, particularly the abstract expressionists. Eleanor Ward held annual exhibitions of painting and sculpture; the 1st annual was held in 1953. Participating artists included Philip Guston, Hans Hoffman, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Roy Newell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jack Tworkov, among sixty-four others. Jackson Pollock did not show in the 1st Annual. The Club and Cedar bar both existed in close proximity to each other on Eighth and University and were important seedbeds of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Jackson Pollock did kick the payphone
On occasion, a reader may wonder what of this story is true. Although loosely inspired by the 1967 New York Times article and Frances Stoner Saunders’ book The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, this story is entirely fictitious. Several historical figures interact with fictional characters in the novel including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Nelson Rockefeller, Porter McCray, John “Jock” Whitney, and Congressman George Dondero; and, while my research formed the basis of their character and actions, their involvement in the story is a complete fabrication. This woven canvass of fact and fiction continues throughout the novel.
However, while the storyline and dialogue between well-known actual people were imagined, like all historical novelists, I tried to depict the world in which the story takes place with as much likeness and accuracy as I could, layering in strands of “historical truth” while still taking certain liberties to create a lively fiction.
While de Kooning’s exhibition of his Woman series launched in 1953, the series first showed at the Sidney Janis gallery in March rather than the late summer as presented in the novel. And, he did not complete the paintings in his rented Hampton house. The MoMA exhibit “Twelve Modern American Painters and Sculptors” occurred, circulated to six countries in Europe (April 1953 to March 1954), and was primarily funded by a 1952 five-year grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. They did use confiscated German war-time train cars. And, obviously, Elizabeth Bower and the Bower Foundation are complete fabrications with no involvement in the MoMA exhibit.
The painter Andrei Roschin and his HUAC trial are entirely fictitious yet modeled after a similar muralist painter and his mural The History of California, located in the Rincon Center Post Office in downtown San Francisco, California, which was the subject of a 1953 congressional hearing by the House Committee on Public Works chaired by Congressman George Dondero. Congressman George Dondero was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan who did mount an attack on modern art. In 1949 and again in 1952, he delivered a now-famous speech in which he denounces the Artists Equity Association and American Artists’ Congress as Communist fronts, museums as Soviet pawns broadcasting the Russian propaganda, and the art of the ‘isms’ as the weapon of the Russian Revolution__Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Expressionism, Abstractionism, and Surrealism. The Scientific And Cultural Conference For World Peace event did occur, was held at the Waldorf-Astoria for three days in March 1949, and was the subject of great political concern and protest.
And lastly, although the organization ALERT did not exist, it was modeled after similar organizations, such as the private interest group AWARE, which created blacklists for employers and ‘special reports’ like Red Channels listing names of purported communists. The libel lawsuit John Henry Faulk v. Aware, Inc., et al, which began in 1957 and concluded in 1962, resulted in a verdict that put an end to institutional blacklisting by private groups and individuals who claimed to be experts on Communism; and put an end to the organization itself.
To render this world, several books and articles were indispensable, as well as the obvious effort spent in libraries and on internet research. For the 1950s and McCarthyism, I am indebted to Ellen Schrecker’s Many Are the Crimes, McCarthyism in America; and to the Fifties by David Halberstam. For the world of art, I leaned on several authors and their books including Irving Sandler’s The Triumph of American Painting; to Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s Jackson Pollock: An American Saga; to Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan’s de Kooning: An American Master; and to An Emotional Memoir of Franz Kline by Fielding Dawson. The following essays were also helpful: Eva Cockroft’s essay “Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War” in Frances Frascina ed., Pollock and After. The Critical Debate, “The Suppression of Art in the McCarthy Decade” by William Hauptman; “American Painting During the Cold War” by Max Kozloff; “Art and Politics in Cold War America” by Jane De Hart Mathews; “The Philosophy and Politics of Abstract Expressionism 1940 – 1960” by Nancy Jachec with Cambridge University, and the “Review of the Scientific And Cultural Conference For World Peace” arranged by the National Council of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions.