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At its postwar height in the late nineteen fifties, the New York art scene was buzzing with activity.  


Notable artists such as Milton Avery, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns and many others were creating new and exciting forms of artistic expression. 


It was in this milieu that Marvin Lazarus found himself in 1956, both as a lover of modern art and sculpture and because he was married to painter Roberta Fast.  In fact, it was Roberta who convinced Mr. Lazarus to first try his hand at photograghy in the fall of 1957. 


For Mr. Lazarus, learning photography came easily. After only a few months of self-training, he decided to undertake the challenging task of finding and photographing the best artists and sculptors in the New York art scene.  It was a daunting task, but one which he enjoyed for many years.  


After taking portraits of his subjects, Mr.  Lazarus also made entries into  a private journal, where he recorded his impressions and observations of the day's events.


On this page, you will find select excerpts from that journal, which is now being produced as an ebook under the title Perfect Timing: The Private Journal of Marvin Lazarus (1958-1962).     

Marvin Lazarus

Self-Portrait (1959)

© 2018, Lazarus Family. All rights reserved.



"Called Motherwell and pushed him into an appointment at 12:30. I was surprised to see him up close. He is both beefy yet long, a strange combination.


Had to work fast as he had an appointment. Neither the situation, the timing nor the place (studio) lent itself to the project.  I felt rushed and pushed into stock situations.


He said that he bought a place in Provincetown and maybe – since he knew he was an  awful subject - we could re-shoot there.  Also, he said re: teaching, he had a sabbatical and found he turned out twice as many paintings. He then took another year off and the same thing happened.  So now he has quit teaching.


Said he bought the Provincetown house because he can’t stand the competition in East Hampton. He said that there "everyone of the group is under pressure, there is a sense of constant competition”  In Provincetown, if I understood him correctly, you have those who have “made it" and even with the young, there is not the intense competition."

Robert Motherwell

Gelatin Silver Print (1960)

© 2018, Lazarus Family. All rights reserved.



On visiting Jacques Villon in the outskirts of Paris.


"A male Red Cross nurse met us. He was assigned by the government to take care of Villon, who was 86 at the time. Villon was pleased to pose any way I asked, but each movement for him was a great effort, so I tried to shoot him in one or two places only.


The atmosphere of the studio – paintings, sculptures, easels, etc , was very like that of an old world artist. But also, there was a stove going furiously to keep him warm. The more I worked the more I sweated until I was wringing wet.


The pictures taken in the leather chair were among the last. As he sat there, he fell asleep like a baby. Considering his age, however, he was most alert and charming."

Jacques Villon

Gelatin Silver Print (1961)

© 2018, Lazarus Family. All rights reserved.



"He has an apartment high up overlooking the river. Although he’s abstract, the apartment has classic busts on classic columns; looks more renaissance than modern.


He’s teaching at Hunter while Motherwelli is on sabbatical. Teaching drawing and watercolor as both he said are “technical” If you teach painting it is difficult because you get into a struggle over philosophy.


He said he used to teach Larry Rivers  and it was a fight. He said the young, good painter feels obligated to war against the older generation painter."


William Baziotes

Gelatin Silver Print (1959)

© 2018, Lazarus Family. All rights reserved.



"In 1959, Tristan Tzara gave me a note to him, but he had gone on a trip. This time (1961) he was a prime target. I spoke to Dikos Bazantios, who spoke to him, but his answer was “not now, later” etc. I decided to go ahead anyway and let him throw me out. He darn near did.


I went about 6:00pm to his place. (He works all night - sleeps days). It is on a side street; a ramshackle affair. I went through a door into a courtyard - an alley really. It was narrow, dark and at the end there was a plaster, man sized Giacommetti sculpture rotting away and looking for all like a disintegrating skeleton of a man.


I heard voices on my left and knocked. I was very nervous. A head peered out at me. It had tall hair, eyeglasses, a slab-like face. It did not look like the Giacommetti of the many photographs I’d seen - but rather like George S. Kaufmann the playwright. This above all else threw me off balance.


I stuttered in my weak - and now weaker if not paralyzed French - that I wanted to do some pictures. “No - I’m busy”. I talked some more. “I’m a friend of Byzantios.” His answer was “No - I’m working”. More talk; I sweated. It’s bad enough in English - but in nervous French!  At this point he was mumbling profusely and disgustedly.


He was painting when I knocked - I didn’t blame him. But I wanted that picture. Finally I said “One picture - right here.” He looked at my case, light stands, lens case. etc. and said “no.” I figured this might happen so I had put a tiny Retina camera in my pocket loaded with fast film. While he was giving me his final”no” I fished out the camera, laughed and said “Just one.”


I presume he figured this was the easiest way to eliminate me so he stood still indicating approval. I took out a meter (it was a dark alley and who wanted to ruin a single exposure). He indicated annoyance. So I shot. Four shots. And wondered all the way home if there was anything on the film."

Alberto Giacometti

Gelatin Silver Print (1961)

© 2018, Lazarus Family. All rights reserved.



Friday, December 8


"Took Ad Reinhardt's picture.  Ad’s paintings are something of a mystery, being practically black on black. Apparently Ad, who is an expert on oriental art, is trying to “paint” an oriental idea from what he told me.


To an oriental person, “art” is a thing: separate and apart. A picture is not an expression of the artist’s soul: it is “art” –  a thing distinct with its own rules and life. Reinhardt seeks almost to portray a spirit – an art spirit, a contemplative specter.


In the event an artist, he says, learns rules – certain strokes do certain things. He practises these throughout his life until they become automatic. A picture is not an expression of an artist – it is the representation of a tradition which has its own life. Even the arrangement of the squares is arbitrary, in order to reduce the “effect” in influence of  the artists personality. This then is the theory.


But one can’t divorce Ad’s personality from it. I think he is something of a conscientous dissenter. If New York were painting black paintings, he would do action paintings." 

Ad Reinhardt

Gelatin Silver Print (1962)

© 2018, Lazarus Family. All rights reserved.



"I asked about Gertrude Stein. He answered: 


'She was a very strange person.  She had no interest or appreciation of sculpture. The whole family was strange, including Leo. She lived in a beautiful house and had many visitors. But she was calmly convinced she was a genius. Not bragging, just matter of fact, she said, “Tell me Jacques, who is there in English besides Shakespeare and me?”


I did two heads of Gertrude. The first when I had first met her. She posed in my studio and she couldn’t sit still. All she would do is keep laughing and laughing.


The thing [that] mystified me was when she laughed her knees and thighs kept trembling or vibrating. I suddenly realized, it was her breasts. They hung that low. She was a huge woman you know."

Jacques Lipschitz

Gelatin Silver Print (1962)

© 2018, Lazarus Family. All rights reserved.

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