Olivier Messiaën

Olivier Messaien

1908 (Avignon, France) – 1992 (Clichy-la-Garenne)

One of the great 20th C composers, Messiaën’s unusually individualistic music has been widely influential. He studied with Dukas and Widor: his own body of students included Boulez (characteristically condescending), Stockhausen, Goeyvaerts, Barraqué, Henry, Grisey and Kurtág, while Xenakis sat in on his classes. Boulanger disapproved of his teaching methods, Delaunay lent him a painting by her husband, Jolivet was influential as a fellow-member of la Jeune France, and Bernstein conducted an important première. Messiaën wrote to Poulenc thanking him for defending him, and visited Durey during the Occupation. Milhaud described the Messiaëns as “charming and impossible.”

Olivier Messiaën knew…

Meyer Schapiro

Meyer Shapiro

1904 (Šiauliai, Lithuania) – 1996 (New York)

The charismatic Schapiro was fundamental in changing the scope, methodologies and academic integrity of art history. Boas, Dewey and Sloan were influential teachers to him, Trilling and Zukofsky classmates at Columbia, and Motherwell, Frankenthaler, Judd, Kerouac and Ginsberg among students the convivial Schapiro influenced. He brought his lifelong friend Kracauer to the US, and welcomed Léger and Lipchitz with his erudition. He gave critical encouragement to his friend Willem de Kooning, bumped into Gorky in museums, dragged Newman and Gottlieb up to Columbia, and sustained a legion of friends and correspondents.

Meyer Schapiro knew…

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schönberg

1874 (Vienna) – 1951 (Los Angeles)

Schoenberg was substantially self-taught, though Zemlinsky, met at age 20, was an important mentor, and Mahler considered him his protégé. He was backed by Strauss for a teaching post, while Kandinsky enthusiastically included his paintings and writings in Blaue Reiter ventures. Milhaud (who visited with Poulenc) and Varèse were strong and admiring friends. Berg, Webern, Eisler, Cage and Harrison were among his students. Mann, a Los Angeles friend, modelled a fictional composer partly on Schoenberg, leading to a famous spat. He told Brecht how a donkey taught him, and played tennis with Gershwin.

Arnold Schoenberg knew…


Émile-Auguste Chartier

1868 (Mortagne-au-Perche, France) – 1951 (Le Vésinet)

Aron, Canguilhem, Weil and Maurois were all taught by the self-effacing Alain (the pen-name by which Émile-Auguste Chartier is better-known): Canguilhem was strongly influenced by him, while Weil credited him as having had a lasting effect on her philosophy, especially regarding political thought. Alain was one among Rolland’s vast circle of correspondents.

Alain knew…

Allan Kaprow

Alan Kaprow;Allen Kaprow

1927 (Atlantic City, N.J.) – 2006 (Encinitas, Calif.)

Kaprow had a significant influence on the great expansion of alternative modes of visual-arts practice. Hofmann, Schapiro and Cage taught him; Wolpe put him up. Segal (living on a neighbouring farm), Brecht, Watts and Lichtenstein were among a lively coterie of New Jersey artists. Rauschenberg, Johns, Dine, Grooms and Leslie joined in his happenings, while Duchamp brought along Ernst, Huelsenbeck and Richter (who found an affinity), and helped him get grants. Oldenburg’s good friendship faded after a disagreement. Samaras and McCarthy were students, Baldessari a colleague. Stockhausen approved a performance, on condition Paik took part.

Joseph Beuys

1921 (Krefeld, Germany) – 1986 (Düsseldorf)

The influential Beuys helped realign the parameters for art-making. He met Lorenz through working with the wildlife film-maker Sielmann in post-war years. Grass was a fellow-student, though their connection was tangential. Paik and Maciunas were met in the early 60’s, the start of his association with Fluxus. He made sound pieces with Paik, Moorman and Vostell, cooked at Spoerri’s restaurant, invited Morris and Rainer to perform, met Warhol in Naples, and greatly respected Cage. Richter ran into him as a student, Kiefer was among those he taught. Sacked from his teaching job, he founded a Free University with Böll.

Joseph Beuys knew…

Paul Klee

1879 (Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland) – 1940 (Muralto)

Klee holds a unique, and very influential, position in the history of twentieth century art and art-education. Nolde called him a falcon, soaring in the starry cosmos. In Munich, already in his thirties, he met Kandinsky (a lifelong close friend and colleague), Marc, Macke, and others associated with the Blaue Reiter venture, including Jawlensky. He met Delaunay, an important influence, in Paris. Schlemmer, then a student leader, tried to attract him to Stuttgart. Rilke shared an apartment with him, Gropius drew him to the Bauhaus, Picasso, Braque and Kirchner all visited. Josef Albers (among others) noted that he wasn’t easy to know.

Paul Klee knew…

Vasily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky;Vasili Kandinsky

1866 (Moscow) – 1944 (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France)

Kandinsky was extremely influential, not only as one of the pioneers of abstract art, but equally as a theoretician, teacher and organiser. He and Marc led the Blaue Reiter project in Munich. In Moscow, as a post-revolutionary arts supremo, he worked with Rodchenko, Stepanova, Gabo, Pevsner, Popova, Malevich and Tatlin before an ideological split (Goncharova and Larionov kept on writing). Invited by Gropius to a post at the Bauhaus (with Klee a next-door neighbour), he invited his old friend Schoenberg to lead a music department there, though perceived anti-semitism halted the idea. Duchamp pointed him to a home in France.

Vasily Kandinsky knew…

Ferruccio Busoni

1866 (Empoli, Italy) – 1924 (Berlin)

Busoni’s stature as an influential composer and musical visionary is increasingly recognised. As a child prodigy he met Brahms and Liszt, and as a student, Mahler, Delius, Grieg and Tchaikovsky. He knew Boccioni well, and met his lifelong friend Sibelius through his teaching post in Helsinki. Among his many other pupils were Grainger, Weill, Wolpe, Krenek, Luening, and most significantly Varèse. He supported Bartók, corresponded with Schoenberg, and was helped by Rilke. In WW1 Zürich he knew Joyce, Zweig, Werfel and Bloch, and was regularly spotted out walking with his big dog Giotto by the young Elias Canetti.

Ferruccio Busoni knew…

William Small

1734 (Carmyllie, Scotland) – 1775 (Birmingham)

The amiable Small was inspiring both as a teacher, and as a prime animating force behind the pioneering scientific/industrial Lunar Society. He knew Black and Hutton in Scotland. Franklin, met in Virginia, recommended him to Boulton (Small became his friend, confidant and technical advisor); through Boulton he met Wedgwood, Darwin, Baskerville, Edgeworth and Keir (who loved him affectionately). Small corresponded with Watt, and helped him draft his steam-engine patent. Jefferson credited his teaching for setting him on course for life (and sent him three cases of madeira that sadly arrived after Small’s early death).