Oral Histories

Interview of Stephen S. Kayser

Immigrant from Germany and art historian. UCLA lecturer in art history.
Subtitle:
The Shapes of Time
Topic:
UCLA and University of California History
UCLA Faculty
Interviewer:
Hast, Sybil D.
Interviewee:
Kayser, Stephen S.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Abstract:
Growing up in Karlsruhe, Germany; an Orthodox Jewish family; education; bar mitzvahs and Jewish education; anti-Semitic teachers; Paul von Hindenburg's election and the German Communist Party; the Karlsruhe Technische Hochschule; working as a journalist; promoted to theater and music critic; Heinrich Rickert; the University of Heidelberg; Ludwig Curtius; on the loss of a classical foundation to Western education; the need for survey courses in the arts; moving to Mannheim; inflation in Germany after World War I; moving to Berlin; a sketch of German political history prior to World War I; German cultural life after World War I; Richard Strauss and the premiere of Salome; Heinrich and Thomas Mann; social ideologies and the arts; the Weimar Republic; the rise of Hitler; downfall of the Weimar Republic; the decline of cultural life under the Nazis; Max Reinhardt and the German theater before Hitler; Wilhelm Furtwängler; Santa Monica as an émigré refuge; nazism and the Bauhaus; prominent artists of the time; Elektra as conducted by Strauss; personal relationships with Strauss; Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal; Hofmannsthal's Jewish background; Stefan Zweig; Strauss and the Nazis; The Reichsmusikkammer; Joseph Goebbels; compromises with the Third Reich; art became propaganda under the Nazis; Stefan George; Thomas Mann; temporary tolerance of Jewish religious life; nationality and religion; escape from Germany to Czechoslovakia; Tomás Masaryk; Kayser and his family leave Czechoslovakia for the Netherlands and then the United States; research at Columbia University; tutoring students at Columbia University in German art history; Kayser's first published article in the United States; Matthias Grünewald; moving to Berkeley in 1940 to teach identification of paintings; Kayser and his wife work in the shipyards in Richmond, California; joining the California National Guard; a docent at the M. H. De Young Memorial Museum; meeting Salvador Dalí; teaching art history at San Jose State College; Kayser's wife contracts Menière's syndrome; the death of Kayser's parents; Kayser is invited to install a museum for the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; moving into the Warburg house in New York; Jewish ceremonial objects; Judaism as a way of life; Jewish traditions; the museum opening; lecturing on Jewish art; exhibitions at the museum; defining art and beauty; symbolism in Jewish art; the Bible and the Talmud; women in biblical terms; publications by Kayser; returning to California in 1962; teaching at the University of Judaism; Kayser begins teaching for UCLA Extension and then for the UCLA College of Fine Arts; philosophy of teaching; on the poor preparation for the university in American high schools; changes in art with the advent of Christianity; art through the ages; harmony and polyphony in music; Byzantine music and icons; opera as an example of integrated arts; personalities, not style, change the evolution of Western art; Wagner contrasted with Richard Strauss; Wagner's effect on modern music; Beethoven's Emperor Concerto compared to Wagner's Tristan und Isolde; the beginnings of atonal music and polytonality in Strauss; cubism; architecture in the early twentieth century; changes in arts education at UCLA; existential philosophy and the myth of Sisyphus.