The Ways and Means of Painting


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Beautiful book of portraiture

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On April 30, 2016 at 10:10 PM, Ellen Stuttle said:

 

Digressing further to (1) correct the first statement (it was Allan not Joan) and provide the context, and (2) quote Barbara's account of her reconciliation with Joan and Allan.

The following material comes from a 2008 discussion.  I've provided it not using the quote feature, since if someone responds to a post which has material in a quote box, that material gets deleted in the response. (I hate the awkwardness of the blinking new software.)

 

===============================

==== Part of Post by JERRY BIGGERS, January 24, 2008 at 1:11 am - link:

Well, David Kelley's invitation for Nathaniel to speak at TOC events was viewed as an endorsement by TOC Board member Allan Blumenthal, who promptly resigned and has not spoken at TOC events since. An interesting aside is that Allan Blumenthal is a relative of Nathaniel, and a member of Rand's Inner Circle until, finally, he was told by Ayn that his presnce was no longer welcome. Subsequently, he told Barbara Branden in her biography of Rand, that he had come to the conclusion that Rand may have been evil from the start and that that aspect of her personality was a causative element in her creation of Objectivism. It is curious that such a statement did not detract from his acceptance on the IOS/TOC board.  ==== end

 

==== Reply by ELLEN STUTTLE, January 24, 2008 at 3:15 AM - link:

Oh, dear, the way things get mixed-up and false stories get spread...

You might be right about Allan's viewing Nathaniel's invitation [should have read "being invited"] as an "endorsement," or at least a "sanction," but that isn't quite how David described the issue to my husband and me back at the time when it was decided to invite Nathaniel. Instead the sound of it was more that Allan just didn't want to be part of an organization where Nathaniel was speaking.

That Allan is a relative of Nathaniel's is true; he's Nathaniel's first cousin. They grew up together and never got along well.

You have it backward about the split between Ayn and Allan. The Blumenthals split with Ayn, not the reverse. She made things unpleasant enough for them with her nagging about their musical and artistic tastes (and some other issues), Joan says it almost seemed as if she was trying to drive them away. But the break originated from their side. You can find this in Barbara's biography (pp. 386-87). (I also know the story in more detail than Barbara provides, having heard further details from Allan himself not long after he and Joan had broken with Ayn.)

What you write about Allan's opining on Ayn's evil is NOT in Barbara's biography. Instead it's a further gloss on something Roy Childs reports in his final interview, conducted by Jeff Walker. It goes significantly farther than what Allan is reported as saying in Jeff Walker's book -- which in turn goes farther than what Allan was saying in 77-80 (after which I lost touch with him). Back then (the late '70s) he said, "I thought the ideas were great and the woman was crazy." He clearly didn't mean "crazy" as in certifiable, instead colloquially. He was negative but not as negative as it sounds as if he became later on.

I question the accuracy of the story Roy Childs tells -- about Allan and Joan arguing that Ayn was evil (on an evening when Roy visited the Blumenthals along with Barbara, who counter-argued, said Roy, that, no Ayn wasn't evil). Maybe, if Barbara reads this, she could say how accurate the report is.

Something I know for a fact is that Roy could elaborate stories and even get them thoroughly wrong. For instance, he tells a story in the same interview about a good personal friend of mine and gets every detail wrong -- and I know that the friend wasn't the source of any of the errors because I was there the night Roy met her, at a private dinner party attended by only four people, my friend and I, her then-current boyfriend, and Roy. I wasn't even out of earshot of any of the conversation, so I know what he was told, and how wrong he got it (though he makes a good story of what he reports).

Also in the same interview he describes AR as high on speed from her diet pills plus caffeine. As I mentioned on another thread (see), possibly Roy himself was the source through which, on the West Coast (Roy's homebase), Ayn's use of diet pills became magnified.

Long and short: I don't know if Allan really did eventually come to the opinion that Ayn was evil, or if that's a Childs-style exaggeration. But it is not in Barbara's biography.

Ellen

PS: Barbara gives the date of the split between Ayn and the Blumenthals as 1978; that's off by a year -- it was 1977.

==== end reply by Ellen Stuttle

 

==== Part of Follow-up Post by JERRY BIGGERS, January 24, 2008 at 9:39 am - link:

Thanks. I stand corrected on the details that you provided. The story that Allan Blumenthal later described Rand and her philosophy as "evil" does not appear in Barbara's book (at least, I could not find it after reading your post). In which case, as you said, that story probably originated from Jeff Walker's interview with Roy Childs and subsequently, in Walker's book, The Ayn Rand Cult.  === end

 

==== Second Reply by ELLEN STUTTLE, January 25, 2008 at 0:27 am - link:

 I'm afraid I have to correct further. Please note, I didn't say that the "evil" story appeared subsequently in Walker's book. It isn't in Walker's book either.

Here is what Allan is reported as saying in Walker's book The Ayn Rand Cult:

Walker quoting Allan B. said:

pg. 247

According to Allan Blumenthal, Rand "created an entire system, including her philosophical system, to deal with her own psychological problems." To which this interviewer stammered, "All of Objectivism was to deal with her own psychological problems?" Blumenthal insisted, "That's my view." Though surely an exaggeration, this perspective reframes the statement she once made: "Objectivism is me..." [ellipsis in original] {end}

==== end second reply by Ellen Stuttle

 

BARBARA BRANDEN had meanwhile posted scotching the "AB said that AR is 'evil'" story and telling about her reconciliation with Joan and Allan Blumenthal.

==== Post by BARBARA BRANDEN, January 24, 2008 at 9:46 am - link:

Ellen, you are right in your post correcting Jerry Biggers' description of Allan Blumenthal's break with Rand and his estimate of her.

Jerry, this is not in any way a criticism of you. I have an idea of the sort of stories that float aroumd, and it's impossible for someone who wasn't directly involved to know what is true and what isn't. But it was Joan and Allan who ended their relationship with Rand, it was not Rand's decision. Further, I never heard Allan state that Rand was evil -- it's not the way he talks or thinks.

Chris, you asked when the Blumenthals and I reconciled. It was in 1976. I had returned to New York in 1975, where I remained for two years, and Joan and I -- after not seeing each other for more than seven years -- almost literally bumped into each other on Fifth Avenue one day. We had been close friends in Winnipeg from the time we were twelve or thirteen; we had taken an apartment together when we attended UCLA; I had introduced her to Ayn and Objectivism; and we had married cousins. Our rupture in 1968, after Rand published "To Whom It May Concern," was very painful for both of us. We began talking, and over the next few weeks I told Joan -- and then Allan -- a great deal that she had not known about "the break' and my part in it, and we began picking up the pieces of our friendship. It was a development that made me very happy, and still does; my friendship with Joan has always been one of the most importamt relationships of my life.

Barbara

==== end post by Barbara

 

NOTE: I'm completely surprised at Allan's having said something so overwrought and indefensible as the statement Walker quoted, if the quote is accurate.  The context makes it look as if it is accurate.

Ellen

Joan was interviewed in the March 1993 issue of Full Context by Karen Reedstrom. Some of it is biographical, including the following:

JMB: "I read The Fountainhead when I was fourteen, and found it interesting. My understanding at the time from The Fountainhead was that it was largely an issue of artistic integrity. That appealed to me, integrity in general was very appealing to me. I was very friendly with Barbara Branden, and later when I went away to college Barbara followed---along with Nathaniel Branden---and they introduced me to Ayn Rand." [Joan was born in Los Angeles, lived in Winnipeg from age six to sixteen, then returned to LA to attend UCLA.]

. . .

KR: "You and Allan are one of the few couples, both of whom are well known to people interested in Objectivism. Has your interest in Objectivism helped your personal life?"

JMB: "Allan and I actually met through Objectivism. Allan's cousin, Nathaniel Branden, who was the cousin of my friend Barbara Branden planned for us to meet when he knew Allan was coming to New York to study at the Julliard School of Music. I resisted the idea of a blind date briefly, but Nathan was determined. We took to each other instantly. But apart from how we met, we both feel that Objectivism had little to do with our personal relationship. We always seem to have had fundamental things in common."

KR: "What was your first impression of Ayn Rand?"

JMB: "I thought she was fantastically brilliant. She happened to be very charming and very interesting, and I was terrified of her. She was really terrifying!"

KR: "Just because she was so brilliant?"

JMB: "No. I knew a lot of brilliant people; I always have. I've been very lucky that way. It wasn't that. It was that she asked piercing questions when she didn't even know you. As a teenager I was hardly accustomed to that. So I felt on the spot every moment."

. . .

JMB: "I was taken to her country house in the Valley in Los Angeles, expecting to meet her and have, perhaps, light conversation but nothing quite as heavy as was wanted there. Also she gave me a speech from Atlas Shrugged to read. She was far from the end of Atlas at that time, but she had written the money speech, and she gave me that to read because of something that came up in the conversation. I was very impressed by that speech. I also liked Frank very much right from the beginning."

. . .

JMB: "He had done something I had not seen until that time. They had a gallery around the living room. They had a Neutra house, a very beautiful and interesting house. Around this gallery Frank had plants falling down into the living room. I loved it."

Joan mentioned that her "first serious teacher [in art] was a nun in a Catholic convent in Winnipeg." Joan attended the Winnipeg School of Art, studied painting and drawing at UCLA, and did graduate work in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU). She studied at the Art Students League for several years. She studied at the Artists Workshop in Venice and painted at a school in Connecticut. 

Somewhere I have something on the reason(s) the Blumenthals' split with Rand, but so far I've been unable to locate the piece. I've read NB's second autobiography, and I recall from that that as his split with Rand was unfolding, but before it was announced by Rand in The Objectivist, he had been seeing Allan at Rand's bidding and was discussing with Allan his affair with Rand and his new love. In the remark of Allan's on his own later split with Rand, as I recall, the problem was the incessant demands from Rand on Allan for engagement in psychological analysis concerning whatever she was trying to fathom. I gather she had a regular process like that going in day-by-day discussions with Nathan during his years with her. It is an element in her nonfiction writing I always found---not only with her, but with any others, especially Nietzsche---a waste and repugnant and distracting from real philosophical engagement. It's wonderful of course in construction of fictional characters.

 

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1 hour ago, Guyau said:

Joan mentioned that her "first serious teacher [in art] was a nun in a Catholic convent in Winnipeg." Joan attended the Winnipeg School of Art, studied painting and drawing at UCLA, and did graduate work in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU). She studied at the Art Students League for several years. She studied at the Artists Workshop in Venice and painted at a school in Connecticut. 

Somewhere I have something on the reason(s) the Blumenthals' split with Rand, but so far I've been unable to locate the piece. I've read NB's second autobiography, and I recall from that that as his split with Rand was unfolding, but before it was announced by Rand in The Objectivist, he had been seeing Allan at Rand's bidding and was discussing with Allan his affair with Rand and his new love. In the remark of Allan's on his own later split with Rand, as I recall, the problem was the incessant demands from Rand on Allan for engagement in psychological analysis concerning whatever she was trying to fathom. I gather she had a regular process like that going in day-by-day discussions with Nathan during his years with her. It is an element in her nonfiction writing I always found---not only with her, but with any others, especially Nietzsche---a waste and repugnant and distracting from real philosophical engagement. It's wonderful of course in construction of fictional characters.

What was your gut reaction to Galt's speech--first time and subsequently?

--Brant

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I read Atlas three times all the way through, the last two within three years of the first. I read Galt’s speech in order in the book on my first read. I return to the speech regularly in writing about Rand’s philosophy. My first reading of the speech was an episode of the “scales falling from the eyes.” I studied it intently in all its issues, and in both its diagnoses of past wrong thinking and its proposals for correction in a positive philosophy of pretty wide span. This was a book in which I recognized myself in the psychologies of its protagonists and recognized some important truths in me being given expression in Rand’s statements of her philosophy. In my first read, I was discerning, and I had some criticisms of the new philosophy. Unfortunately, I never wrote them down and no longer remember any of them.

My first reading of the book got to be quite an emotional experience by the time I got to Galt’s speech (Rand’s speech). I have some memory of reading it at night in an old house where I had a job monitoring burglar alarms. I was alone there. I recall crying during part of the speech and thinking something like “but we didn’t know.” (Pretty sure I cried also at Eddie’s last scene.) The great flaw in my mindset—set by Rand’s craft and my short experience—was in the political aspect, for at that time and perhaps in the next few years, I tended to see our country as if it were playing out the decline imagined for the fictional work. So as it came to be, I saw the Nixon imposition of wage and price controls as a step that would be followed by steps right on to the desperate attempts in Atlas at nearly total government control of the economy by freezing in place what people could do. I got entirely out of that delusional way of thinking (and its facile divisions of human types) in a little while.

In the speech, Rand makes logical points against the concept of God and points against received ethics, epistemology, and economics that were square argument. (I was already atheist and lover of science.) There is also some psychology stuff asserted of people having wrong ideas. I don’t remember what I thought of that on the first read. I imagine I thought some of it right because now, some of it seems right (as in much of what she said about faith), but not entirely (as in her overly social analysis of mysticism [1044–45]). The cramming of materialism into a “mysticism” of muscle has long seemed strained to me, perhaps from the first read on. That is some of her psychology-modeling in that book. In her fiction, that aspect is not, for me, where the serious weighing of her philosophy lies. It lies in questions such as “What all can it really mean to say every man is an end in himself?” In other words, the most weighty criticisms of mine go always to her own positive conceptions.

In the title essay of For the New Intellectual, there is lots of psychological portraiture pinch-hitting for the more arduous task of discerning accurately the history of philosophy, meeting the arguments, and uncovering the ways ideas have actually moved and not moved the world.

 

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You must have been quite young. (I was 19.) What do you imagine your reaction would have been if you had first read it a few years earlier or in your 30s?

The big thing for me was I stopped being a conservative and much more intellectual. I don't consider the two to be compatible enough to co-exist in my head. It's not that someone can't be a conservative intellectual--they're all over the place, albeit in fewer numbers it seems--just that I can't be. I then became an Objectivist intellectual before canning that too. Rand never did. She got stuck in her self-created Atlas Shrugged matrix.

--Brant

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From what I see of Anne Heller’s biography of Rand on Google Books, Heller interviewed Joan and Allan Blumenthal in March 2004. “‘By then, there was something almost reckless in Ayn’s attitude toward us,’ Joan Blumenthal recalled. ‘Along with Leonard, she considered us her closest friends, but, often, she would seem to deliberately insult and antagonize us. . . . She seemed almost to invite a break.’” In 1978, these friends of twenty-five years’ standing phoned to tell her they would no longer see her” (399).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Brant, yes, I read Rand’s Fountainhead beginning after first year of college, at age 18, her Atlas that next fall at age 19. That’s an interesting question I’ve never thought of. My socialism was from Christian ethics, and I had continued that ethics and politics after leaving religion. Reading Rand then dissuaded me from socialism by shifting my moral ground and by her contributors to Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. It is unclear to me if I should, without her, have worked myself out of the altruist morality. It’s possible I’d have learned contemporary economic theories bolstering socialism and continued in that politics. I think my love life would have proceeded same as it did, although without the first-hand-values man Roark to lend support in that fight against the world. Now I think of it, if I had read Roark and Atlas in my 30’s, I think my reaction would have been the same as earlier because on the one hand I’d have still seen myself in those souls, and on the other hand I’ve remained open to learning and changing my mind to this day. At the later age, I doubt Atlas would have gotten me so concerned about immanent collapse of the mixed economy, because of the greater number of years it had endured in my life to that later age.

As for reading Atlas earlier than I did, I’m not sure how much of the philosophy I’d have absorbed. In late high school, I’d read some Plato, Rousseau, and Locke, but by the time I did actually read Rand, I’d had a college introduction to (Thomist) philosophy. But one doesn’t have to get all of it to be taken with what one does get. I may have taken to her, even at the earlier times, but the clash with faith and with love of God would have been something whose resolution either way I cannot bet a coke on. I am sure that earlier, as in actual, I’d have been puzzled by the absence of black people in Atlas—this is America? In one high-school class discussion, whose issues I cannot recall, a teacher said to me point blank in the class: “You should read Ayn Rand. You’re just like her.” I did not follow up on that. Later, when I was in trouble, a cousin gave me Fountainhead and Atlas. In the front of the latter, he wrote “Read The Fountainhead first,” and on another front-page, he wrote “Let your actions be guided by rational choice.”

 

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Minor correction to the post of mine Stephen quoted above:

I was mistaken in saying that the "evil" story told by Childs isn't in the Walker book.  Walker did quote that story, but it isn't indexed under the entries for the respective participants other than the one for Childs himself.  It's on page 261.  I came across it while looking for something else.

 

Also:

On May 4, 2016 at 2:14 PM, Guyau said:

From [...] Anne Heller’s biography of Rand[:] "In 1978, these friends of twenty-five years’ standing phoned to tell her they would no longer see her” (399).

I suppose that Heller picked up the (incorrect) date from Barbara's biography.  The year the Blumenthals split with Rand was 1977.  They then moved to Palm Springs for a time but found that they didn't like living there (they enjoyed vacationing there).  By the summer of 1978 they'd returned to New York City.

Ellen

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