Josep Lluis Sert

1902 (Barcelona) – 1983 (Barcelona)

Architecturally, Sert is probably best known for some celebrated buildings to display collections of modernist art, and for the homes and studios he designed for close friends like Chagall, Braque, and particularly Miró. He started the first graduate programme in urban design, and executed plans for cities including Havana, Bogotá and Medellin. Giedion, Gropius, Breuer and Le Corbusier were close colleagues. His wide range of artist friends included Bonnard, Matisse, Kandinsky, Léger, Ernst and Giacometti. He lived at Calder’s when he first arrived in the U.S., and corresponded with a circle ranging from Buñuel and Dalí to Nervi and Neutra.

Charles Olson

Charles Olsen

1910 (Worcester, Mass.) – 1970 (New York)

Olson, who was invited to Black Mountain College by Josef Albers before succeeding him there, was a major influence on a generation of American poets. He met Yeats on a European visit won as a student, and visited Pound (a deeply significant ‘elder’) for two years in mental hospital, though was repelled by his extreme-right views. Cage, Cunningham, Twombly, Wolpe, Harrison and Kline were among Black Mountain acquaintances. Among the leading poets he both knew and influenced were Creeley, Levertov and Duncan (who felt they had been on a great adventure together, and visited him in his last days).

Amédée Ozenfant

1886 (Saint-Quentin, France) – 1966 (Cannes)

No longer thought of as an artist of major significance, Ozenfant should still be credited for the influence of his writing, theorising and teaching. He started a magazine l’Élan with Jacob and Apollinaire (Picasso, Matisse, Gris were also associates), and founded an art-school with Léger (Exter and Laurencin among those teaching). Corbusier and he collaborated energetically, Corbusier also designing a house-cum-studio for him. His years living in Russia led to connections with Ehrenburg, Larionov and Goncharova, all contributors to l’Élan. He taught with Motherwell at Black Mountain College. Despite the myth, Roy Lichtenstein appears not to have studied with him.

Vladimir Ussachevsky

Vladimir Alexeevich Ussachevsky

1911 (Hailar, Manchuria) – 1990 (New York)

Ussachevsky was a pioneer of electronic music, an influential enthusiast and educator. Luening supervised his PhD then became his great collaborator; they founded the Columbia/Princeton electronic music studios, Babbitt (a great friend) and Sessions joining them. Ussachevsky and Luening spent an intensive fortnight at Cowell’s (another close friend), and met Schaeffer, Henry, Eimert and Stockhausen (who forbade them to look over his shoulder) on a trip to Europe. Ussachevsky collaborated with Brakhage and Zukofsky, helped out Varèse, provided sound-effects for Welles, and was Moog’s third customer. Harrison ecstatically wrote to him about frogs. Oliveros called him a wonderful man.

Vladimir Ussachevsky knew…

György Kepes

1906 (Selyp, Hungary) – 2001 (Cambridge, Mass.)

Kepes did much to found the academic study of visual communication. Both Kassák and Moholy-Nagy were influential mentors — Moholy, initially a correspondent, became a lifelong friend and colleague on both sides of the Atlantic. Kepes’ wide circle of intellectually-engaged friends and associates included Albers, Archipenko, Arnheim, Calder, Eames, Fuller, Gabo, Gropius, Mead, Salk, Sert and Wiener. He went for a long walk with Dovzhenko, asked Kodály to write music for a film, had lobster cooked by Hofmann, and a house designed by Breuer (Cage and Cunningham visited). Bass and Tony Smith were among his students.

György Kepes knew…

Josef Albers

1888 (Bottrop, Germany) – 1976 (New Haven, Conn.)

Albers’ renown, despite his austerely lyrical paintings, is primarily as one of the great teachers. At the Bauhaus he was taught by Itten before taking over his course; among colleagues there, Kandinsky (a warm friend), Klee, and Schlemmer all continued to correspond. He owed his posts at the Bauhaus and later at Yale to Gropius, and at Black Mountain to Philip Johnson, met by chance in Berlin. Bill, Rauschenberg, Noland, Twombly, Hesse and Davidson were among his students, Motherwell and Reinhardt further teaching colleagues. Cage dedicated a piece to him. Rauschenberg described him as a beautiful teacher and impossible person.

Josef Albers knew…

Walter Gropius

1883 (Berlin) – 1969 (Cambridge, Mass.)

Gropius is renowned as a pioneering architect and as a highly influential figure in design education. Working for Behrens, he met Mies and possibly Corbusier (later, a colleague at CIAM). Van de Velde wanted him to take over his own position in Weimar. Klee, Kandinsky, Itten and Moholy-Nagy were all recruited by Gropius to the Bauhaus (he rejected van Doesburg), where Mies, Breuer, Schlemmer and Josef Albers all became key colleagues. Stravinsky (a Bauhaus supporter) and Moore were among a wide circle of friends. Sert succeeded him at Harvard. Mahler protested to Gropius about his affair with his wife, unavailingly.

Charles Bernstein

1950 (New York) –

As a young poet not yet committed to that career, Bernstein travelled to San Francisco to meet Silliman; they became (and remain) colleagues in the ‘Language’ poetry movement Bernstein was instrumental in founding. Creeley was a long-term colleague in Buffalo — they were central to the starting and running of a renowned poetry program. Higgins was also a long-term colleague and correspondent. Bernstein wrote a libretto for Ferneyhough based on Walter Benjamin’s writings, and was a great (and fond) admirer of Guest, who had been inspirational to him.

Charles Bernstein knew…

Nadia Boulanger

1887 (Paris) – 1979 (Paris)

Widor and Fauré taught Boulanger. Saint-Saëns was a family friend (or family enemy, as it’s been put). She was a loyal friend of Stravinsky: Milhaud, Ravel and Poulenc were other composers close to her. She was deeply moved by Menuhin’s playing as a child, and taught at the school he founded. Among her own students were Copland, Glass, Bernstein, Carter, Ibert, Thomson and Jones: also Musgrave, Gismonti, Barenboim, Bacharach, Piazzolla (she told him to concentrate on the tango), Piston, Rorem and Bowles. She disapproved of Messiaën’s teaching, and advised Gershwin he could learn nothing from her.

Nadia Boulanger knew…

László Moholy-Nagy

1895 (Bácsborsod, Hungary) – 1946 (Chicago)

Moholy was linked to Schwitters’ advertising business. Hausmann was a lifelong friend and sharer of cross-disciplinary ideas. Gropius appointed Moholy to the Bauhaus, making him his closest associate; Albers and Breuer were fellow teachers there, while Gropius, Breuer and he later lived in the same block of London flats. Kepes followed him from Berlin to Chicago as assistant, collaborator and colleague, while Eisenstein asked his students to help on a pioneering fly-through shot. Grierson, Read, Hepworth, Nicholson, Moore and Betjeman were among his London circle. Holidaying in France, he took photographs while Giedion wrote about them.