MM: This is Hans Buchwald, talking about his early experiences at Dumbarton Oaks for the Dumbarton Oaks Oral History Project. Asking questions will be Margaret Mullett and Lioba Theis, director of the Institute of Art History here in Vienna, behind the camera is Matthew Savage who will also ask some questions from time to time. Hans, how did you hear about Byzantine studies and how did you hear about Dumbarton Oaks?
HB: Well, I was introduced to Byzantine studies in my studies at the University of Vienna by Swoboda – Karl Swoboda, who was chair of the department at that time and who was giving most of the major lectures. And he liked that period of architecture particularly and shared many excellent, very old pictures of Byzantine buildings which fascinated me, partly because of their image (so unusual and usually very well made) but also because of the architectural quality that I saw in the buildings. And Demus, at that time – that’s Otto Demus – at that time he was president of the Austrian Department of Monuments and was only teaching, I think, one hour a week. And so, I did hear about Byzantine art a great deal from Demus – much less about Byzantine architecture. And of course, since I was already an architect – I had already my degree in the States for architecture, and I had already some practice, experience, before I studied art history in Vienna. I was particularly interested in the architecture, and the mosaics and paintings seemed very beautiful, but they didn’t seem to me to be something that would deeply interest me.
MM: So, you chose to write a doctoral thesis on the architecture and you chose to work with Demus.
HB: That’s right, yes.
MM: So, you stayed in Vienna to do that.
HB: Right, yes, yes.
MM: And at some point, you thought about Dumbarton Oaks or – ?
HB: Well, I think that Demus told me about Dumbarton Oaks and introduced me to the idea that it might be of interest to work there. He thought that I would certainly profit by a year in Dumbarton Oaks and suggested I apply, which I did. To my great surprise, I was accepted and spent a year at Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: And that year was 1960-61.
HB: ’60-’61. I arrived in, I guess, in September of ’60. I say “surprised” because I had been looking at Byzantine buildings and mosaics and paintings, of course, in Greece at the time. I spent about a half a year in Greece at that time, and I had met a very good architect and he offered me a job which I accepted because I thought it would be very nice to spend some time – even a couple of years – in Greece, working and looking at Byzantine things on weekends. And as it happened, I was to begin at the beginning of the following month – whatever that month was – and before I began work, the letter arrived that I had been accepted at Dumbarton Oaks. As I say, “to my surprise,” because I had completely forgotten about the whole thing. I was so involved with Greece and everything it had to offer – my life there, which was really very interesting and in many ways delightful.
MM: So, you arrived in September. And your first impressions – what was Dumbarton Oaks like then?
HB: Well of course, I was extremely pleased, to say the least. It’s a grand place – it was a grand place. And many new people who were very, very interesting – partly my age or a bit older (I was the youngest one there) – among the Fellows, very genuine Fellows, I should say. And many of the senior people, of course, were also extremely interesting – people whom I had partly met elsewhere and partly read. But now they were all there, sitting at the same table, sometimes for lunch, which was really quite fascinating and a great experience. But of course, also the building and the grounds impressed me. The gardens in September were still in full bloom, so that’s breathtaking. Mrs. Bliss took personal interest, of course, at that time, so the gardens were just – breathtaking. And yes, everything seemed very opulent and very nice – and very interesting for a young Byzantinist.
LT: So, when you came, you were directly get accessed to all parts – like the library, the garden, and – ?
HB: Oh, yes. And the swimming pool – don’t forget that!
LT: But of course, you got an introduction then officially – all the Fellows got an introduction and you slowly discovered the possibilities of Dumbarton Oaks as a research place.
HB: Well, I wouldn’t say slowly.
HB: I think that I got to work very quickly. I had been underway for a whole year, travelling through Italy, Greece, the Balkans, and Turkey. And I collected a great deal of material and had many, many impressions – very strong impressions – and I wanted to read about it and dig into my work. So, I did that and – quite astutely, I must say, there were long, long hours of work. Since my first degree was in architecture and architecture is very tough, I was used to very long days and nights, working. And I continued that at Dumbarton Oaks.
LT: Does it mean that Dumbarton Oaks’ library was open through the night?
HB: I don’t really remember how late, but it was certainly late enough so that you could make use of the books also in the evening. I don’t know if it was open through the night – probably not. I did that as an architecture student – worked through the night – that’s very common among architects. I don’t think it’s common among Byzantine art [laughing].
MM: But you had a desk in what we call now the Main House?
HB: I had a desk in the Main House, yes.
LT: Where was it?
HB: I don’t remember – somewhere.
MM: The reading room on the upper floor?
HB: Yes, and I must say, it was very nice to have everything right there. That was an enormous advantage. I think in my whole year at Dumbarton Oaks, I needed, as I recall, three books or journals which were not right there. Maybe a handful from the Library of Congress and then I think three book or journals which had to be brought in from New York or Cleveland or some place like that which is extraordinary. And the material which was not there was extremely obscure. One was a newspaper that appeared in Venice in the 1880s. I did my work on San Marco in Venice. So, I needed some newspaper reports which Dumbarton Oaks didn’t happen to have. But they were obtainable in the United States and I think probably copies or something like that – but aside from these very unusual things, everything was there.
MM: Fantastic. And books were brought in from Library of Congress?
HB: Yes. I didn’t need that much from the Library of Congress – very little. I think almost everything was right at Dumbarton Oaks, which was just perfect.
LT: Did you also have access to the photo collection? Did you need it?
HB: Not only did I have access to it, but I added to it. I made a deal with Dumbarton Oaks. Actually, I think they made a deal with me – that I could have all of my negatives enlarged if they got a copy – if the collection got a copy. And that was a good deal for me and a good deal for Dumbarton Oaks, I believe. Some of the things I photographed probably – not easily available.
MM: Great. And people’s field notebooks were also part of the – ?
MM: People’s field notebooks were in the archive at that time?
HB: I did not use field notebooks. I was working on San Marco, primarily. Of course, I started out working on the architectural sculpture of the eleventh century, but it turned out that San Marco had enough for a whole thesis.
MM: And more, I’d imagine.
HB: And there were no field notebooks for San Marco in Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: But there had been interest in San Marco there before, hadn’t there? Was it one of the projects? Were you aware of there being – the Dumbarton Oaks projects at the time?
HB: I don’t think there was a Dumbarton Oaks project for San Marco. Otto Demus certainly worked at Dumbarton Oaks on San Marco. But I don’t think it was a Dumbarton Oaks project. It was his personal project, I believe.
MM: But were the others happening – ? Was there collaborative work? Or were you all working very much on your own projects?
HB: I, myself?
MM: Well, you and your colleagues.
HB: Or others?
MM: Mhm. Others.
HB: I, myself, was not working collaboratively with anyone. Interdisciplinary work was not really very common. And the only projects that I was aware of were those in Istanbul. And I was very interested by them. I had made contact already much earlier with Paul Underwood in Istanbul and I was aware of his work and discussed it with him and was really quite excited by it but I had no personal input in those projects and I didn’t really know exactly what the parameters were and what was going to happen with all of that material.
MM: Did he come through? Did he visit Dumbarton Oaks while you were there?
HB: Paul Underwood? He was a Senior Fellow there.
MM: Ah. So, I suppose we should ask about the faculty who was there. The Director of Studies was – ?
HB: Kitzinger. Ernst Kitzinger. Well, the senior faculty that I remember – I think Ernst Kitzinger was the only art historian. Paul Underwood was actually trained as an architect, and he was there as well and is, actually, in effect, an art historian. But all of the others, I believe, were historians and philologists. And I don’t remember all of them – certainly not by name.
MM: But there was a sense of a distinct faculty?
HB: I know that Father Dvornik was there because we had a delightful lunch with him. I can tell you about that sometime.
MM: I’d love to hear about that.
HB: It’s a nice story.
LT: Others, like Robert Van Nice, were they from time to time – ?
HB: Well, Van Nice was there but he was not faculty. He – I don’t know exactly what position he had, and I did have a lot of contact with him. He was not a Fellow. He was not a scholar. He was an architect – a trained architect and he told me that he was looking for a job in the ’30s when it was very hard to get jobs for architects. There’s a famous story about the architect who invented selling apples because he couldn’t get a job. So, Bob Van Nice saw somehow that there was a job measuring up St. Sofia so he took that and thought that would be a stop-over after a couple of years he got a real job. And that’s the way he spent the rest of his life. Of course, everybody knows that. I don’t know if everybody knows that little anecdote of how he started. He told me that story.
MM: Peter Megaw had a very similar story – how he started out.
HB: I didn’t know that.
MM: And he was visiting, I think, around that time? Did he come through?
HB: I didn’t meet Megaw until much later – at congresses. I didn’t see him at Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: But was the community fairly stable or were there a lot of visitors coming and going?
HB: Well, the Senior Fellows were quite stable. As far as I know, all of the senior people were there for the whole year that I was. There were a number of visiting senior Fellows – some of whom I valued enormously, simply because of the personal interchange. The two that are most memorable – and I should say, extremely memorable – are André Grabar and – no. You’re catching my age. I’m forgetting names which are very obvious and which I know very well. A Russian scholar who is unfortunately long since passed away with a German name. Meyendorff.
LT: John Meyendorff.
HB: John Meyendorff. I had some fascinating conversations with him – one of the few senior people at that time who were not art historians, architectural historians with whom I had really extremely interesting conversations.
MM: And there was a director and a director of studies. The old pattern, that’s right?
HB: That’s right.
MM: And Thacher was –
HB: Thacher was the Director. Yes.
MM: And how did Kitzinger view his role as Director of Studies?
MM: No, Kitzinger.
HB: I had very little awareness of that. Being the most junior person in the whole establishment, at least on the scholarship level, I didn’t take an interest in the administrative hierarchy and how people did things and who did what and how they related. I’m afraid, on that I must pass completely.
MM: No, I think I was wondering, how much time he spent with the Fellows, whether there was a regular time for reporting in – ?
HB: No, there was nothing regular at all. I think that we were expected to give a little paper at some time or other on the work we were doing – I think late that year, so you had time to work on it. And otherwise, I don’t think there was any kind of regular interchange. I don’t remember Ernst Kitzinger being a person that I had a whole lot of contact with. It was maybe that I wasn’t that interested in pictures and he may not have been that interested in buildings but I certainly enjoyed talking to him a number of times. But our professional interests – even though we were both art historians, nominally – the interests were quite different. And I don’t remember talking to him a lot about Byzantine art. I talked much more to André Grabar while he was there. He was there for some months, as far as I can recall – maybe a couple of months, maybe three. And I remember very good conversations with him because he was more interested in architecture.
LT: Were these conversations between lunchtime or was there special time that you could meet and had tea or something, together?
HB: Well, there were two times: one was lunchtime. Everybody tended to eat together. The Junior Fellows certainly ate together – at lunch and at breakfast and at dinner, which was a bit much. This has changed in the meantime. But we saw each other also at tea, of course. And the Senior Fellows we saw regularly, if they came to lunch. A lot of them didn’t come regularly. But there was nothing regular about any kind of interchange. No. It was just as it happened.
MM: And it was a small enough community to make that possible. It was a time when Dumbarton Oaks was still buying objects – acquisitions – for the museum. Were you aware of discussions about – ?
HB: Once in a while people were excited by such things, and I remember talking to someone – I don’t remember quite who it was, it may have been Paul Underwood – told me something about some of the acquisitions and perhaps even some of the problems. But that was very unofficial, I believe. I was never confronted with any question or observation about the collection. No. I was very interested by the collection. I went there on my own, usually on weekends, because during the week I stayed busy in the library. I was really intent on getting finished.
LT: New acquisitions came directly on display. You were, let’s say – even if you did not learn about that, that they had new things – you saw these, because they were on display.
HB: Yes, yes.
LT: Were there guided tours to the collection?
HB: Not for us. There may have been for the public – I don’t know. Guided tours for the public didn’t particularly interest me.
LT: Kitzinger could have done something for the Fellows or –
HB: Not for the Fellows, no. I don’t know if he ever did anything for visitors. He may have. But I was never aware of a guided tour by Kitzinger. I don’t think that we were ever told anything about the collection by anyone officially.
LT: Was it at that time when the collection of the Pre-Columbian objects also came on display?
HB: I don’t think I saw any Pre-Columbian objects when I was there – at least not any number. I think a few pieces were there. I was amazed when finally the Pre-Columbian collection was opened. I was no longer at Dumbarton Oaks. I just visited Washington fairly regularly through the ’60s. I had spent quite a long time in Mexico and was fascinated by the Pre-Columbian objects. And so, I was very excited by the collection. But when I was a Junior Fellow there, I was hardly aware that there was such a thing at Dumbarton Oaks.
LT: Were there fellows who did research on Pre-Columbian?
HB: Not that I know of. I don’t think so.
MM: It was a Byzantine community.
HB: There may have been somebody somewhere. But –
MM: But not in your year.
LT: Just one more question on the collection. Did you learn about the paintings, for example, in the Music Room? Did you learn or hear anything about it?
HB: No, I looked at everything. I was an art historian first and a Byzantinist second. I looked at everything that I could find but there was nothing official about it. I just took an interest in it.
HB: There was a symposium, yes. I don’t remember the subject. I remember it was a grand occasion – very beautiful and very interesting. But I can’t tell you right now what it was all about.
MM: Was it several days? There was a time when it was very small and very quiet. How many – was it held in the Music Room? Was it very full? Or was it just the community talking about problems that concerned the immediate community?
HB: I’ve been to a number of the spring symposia and my memories mix up the years. And I’m not sure I can really with any distinctness say that that symposium was in a certain way. I do remember that it was a very nice occasion.
MM: And you had the opportunity to talk to the speakers – lots of social occasions.
HB: But I don’t remember specifically how that symposium worked out.
MM: And that was really the only occasion of its kind in the year.
HB: I think through that year there was nothing else. There were no grand meetings except for the presentations which the Junior Fellows gave towards the end of the year.
MM: And the Senior Fellows didn’t.
HB: No, I don’t remember any of the Senior Fellows giving talks about what they were doing. There were some outside lecturers. I remember Steven Runciman. That was my first occasion. I don’t remember the others. I know there were others. He’s the only one that stayed in my mind all these years for obvious reasons. No one can forget him.
MM: What about the Harvard people? Did the Dumbarton Oaks professors come though? Did they spend time?
HB: Neither while I was at Dumbarton Oaks nor while I was at Harvard teaching for several years afterwards did I know of any connection. I did know that there was a connection, but there was no connection that was obvious to me. I knew there was a lecture about Sardis that was a Harvard project that was at Dumbarton Oaks each year, but at least for a while, but I knew that only after I had started working at Sardis. While I was teaching at Harvard, there was no connection to Dumbarton Oaks that I was aware of except in the person of Ernst Kitzinger who arrived at Harvard from Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: Great. I’m sure we’ll think of other things. But perhaps we should move on to life at Dumbarton Oaks, perhaps, and ask you about your experience of being there? You lived in the Fellows Building, I think?
HB: I lived in the Fellows Building, yes.
MM: What was that like?
HB: Well, it had good sides and bad sides. “Bad” is perhaps too strong a word, but we didn’t have individual baths, for instance. We had to use all facilities together with the other Fellows, which at times became kind of a nuisance. You’d have to wait to take a shower or also – the walls were paper thin. And occasionally I heard my roommate in the next room saying his prayers – in Greek. But on the whole, it was a very fruitful experience. Three meals a day with the same people, after a while, limits conversation. I think there comes a point when you’ve said almost everything you can say. So, even if you may be friends with everyone, sometimes it became kind of a – let’s say, static experience.
LT: Did all the Fellows live in the Fellows Building?
HB: The Junior Fellows. The married Junior Fellows had apartments and didn’t come to meals. I think there were two or three of them at the time. And the unmarried Junior Fellows all lived in the Fellows Building. The ones that I remember were Robert Thomson whom I knew very well – we were closest in age and perhaps in some interests. Even though he wasn’t an art historian, we did have many other things in common and kept up with each other for many years. And Hans Belting whom I knew a bit less – and Per Nordhagen, I shouldn’t forget him. I’m still in touch with him though I haven’t seen him for quite a while. And John Barker, he was a married Fellow – and then Father Magoulias whom, I think, has, for many years, not been “Father” anymore. But for me, he will always be Father Magoulias. That’s all that I can remember. That may be all that there were. I’m not sure that there were any others. Oh yes, yes, there was this young Greek – just a historian – but I don’t remember his name [John Zizioulas]. He had the room next to mine. He was thinking of going into the priesthood, but he was a very devout person.
MM: But the faculty didn’t live in the Fellows Building.
HB: No. Well, Father Dvornik had an apartment in the Fellows Building. He was the only one, as far as I know.
MM: Was that the West Cottage?
HB: It was a cottage, just one of the arms. Whether it was west – if I think of the map of Washington, it was the west wing, yeah.
LT: And the other Senior Fellows – they did not live there, they had their own –
HB: They had their own apartments. Whether that was collective or whether – somebody was here and there. I think they were all over. I think they just had apartments somewhere in the area as far as I know. I only visited two or three of them at their homes.
MM: But you were fed three times a day.
HB: Right, yes, yes. I don’t think anyone liked the food, I must say. But that changed drastically in later years. I know that in recent years that’s improved immeasurably. But I think there was complete agreement between Junior and Senior Fellows that the food was not the best. I think the quality of the food was fine. The cooking was not to our taste. It may have been good for other people.
MM: And you had tea.
HB: We had tea, usually served by Der Nersessian, but I have forgotten her first name, although I never called her by her first name.
HB: Yes, Sirarpie. She usually presided over tea and led the conversation.
MM: How was that?
LT: Yes, where took that place?
HB: I think, in the library.
LT: In the library.
HB: I believe.
LT: And then she took over, let’s say, to guide a conversation there? Was it on the work you were doing or on the life? What was it?
HB: Small talk.
LT & MM: Okay.
HB: Sometimes it was Byzantine small talk.
MM: Of which there can be plenty –
HB: I forgot to mention her, of course, she’s an art historian but very far away from my material.
LT: But she was living there? She was –
HB: I don’t know if she was living at Dumbarton Oaks but she was certainly ever-present.
LT: Yes, living in Washington, yeah.
MM: So, was it in the Founders’ Room or in the study or – ?
HB: I think it was in the library – that corner room, now that we’re on directions – it was the south-east room of the first floor.
MM: The Founders’ Room.
HB: The first floor, American-style.
MM: Yes, yes. And did the Blisses come ever to tea?
HB: Not to tea, no. She was there quite often, particularly when the garden was still blooming or blooming again. At that time, there was a new garden being built by some Italians who spoke no English at all and she was apparently the only person who could tell them what to do, and she was there all the time, telling them, and changing things. It was very exciting to watch. She was an extremely charming person even though she was obviously very old. I don’t know, from the perspective of a twenty-seven-year-old, I can’t tell you whether she was in her 70s or 80s, but she was certainly quite up there and still very alert and active and charming.
MM: And interested in the projects of the Junior Fellows?
HB: She did occasionally speak to the Junior Fellows and ask us what we were doing. I don’t know how aware she was of what we were telling her. But I think she did have an interest. Mr. Bliss came much less. He seemed to be quite – well, I don’t know if he was ill, but not as active, either mentally nor physically, as she was. He did come, at least, two or three times while I was there, on what occasions, I don’t really remember.
MM: You just remember meeting him. What was the garden that was being constructed at that time? Do you remember which garden that was?
HB: It was just to the north – north-east of the main building. And it’s still there – it was there when I was there last a couple of years ago. It’s still there, the same shape. I think it was a tennis court.
MM, LT & MS: Oh, the pebble garden!
MM: The conversion of the tennis court into the pebble garden. That must have been amazing to watch.
HB: The Italians were putting them in – pebble by pebble. She was telling them which pebble to put where. But she was certainly taking a very active interest.
LT: So, from that social life – for the feast days, like Christmas, were they held together with the Blisses?
HB: No, no.
LT: That was clearly something different.
HB: I don’t remember any kind of festivities of that sort at Dumbarton Oaks. I had friends in Washington. And I think I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends in Washington and of course, I had family in Pennsylvania. But I don’t remember specifically. But if there were anything like a real Thanksgiving dinner – I mean, I’m sure we had turkey around Thanksgiving. But I don’t think there was anything like a real American Thanksgiving dinner at Dumbarton Oaks. I would have remembered that. And the same thing for Christmas. And Easter isn’t really celebrated much in America, anyway. So, those would be the two occasions which I would have remembered if there were something to remember.
MM: How about music? Were there concerts?
HB: There were concerts which I found delightful and we were allowed to come. It was hard to get a seat. They were usually very popular. I don’t know on which basis people came there – whether it was by invitation or whether they paid to get in. I really have no idea of that. But I know they were always full and the Junior Fellows were allowed to sit in the back somewhere. But they were excellent and delightful.
MM: Was Joan Aston organizing them in those days?
HB: I remember Jane [sic] very well, yes. We had a lot of contact, yes. She was extremely helpful, as a lot of the other staff was too. The woman from Yugoslavia, married to an American colonel, as far as I remember – she was there very many years.
HB: I think that’s it.
MM: Seka Allen?
HB: Yes, yes, yes. I called her Mrs. Allen. I was not on first name basis with her, as opposed to all the professors.
MM: But the library staff – how big was the library staff?
HB: Not big at all.
LT: Do you remember how many?
HB: No, I wouldn’t remember exactly how many. Very few. I think there were a couple of young helpers. Mrs. Allen and Jane. Jane was on first name basis. Maybe it was just the Anglo-Saxon element as opposed to the Central European.
LT: In these days was the basement used for library – ?
HB: Yes, Bob Van Nice was there, together with draftsmen whom I remember very well. I had long conversations with them and looked over their shoulders as they were drawing by hand all the curlicues – and all the little things here and there. Earthquake in the tenth century, earthquake in the fourteenth century – each one had a little – yes, we had long conversations.
LT: So, there are also the collections of the seals stored?
HB: That did not interest me. I had an awareness that there was such a thing, but I had no personal interest in these seals and coins. I think I ran into the grand man of Byzantine coins and I think other coins as well – Grierson.
LT: Grierson, yes.
HB: I ran into him several times, but I had no personal interest.
MM: But he would have been in the basement as well.
LT: That was my focus.
HB: The basement was used very much. I think there were already books down there, as far as I recall.
LT: And I suppose the roof on the second floor as well for books.
HB: The last time I was there, when there were still books in the main building, not very much had changed. Certainly the location of some sections had moved and maybe there was a shelf here or there where someone managed to squeeze in a few more books but basically, as far as I recall, the library – the way that books were stored in the whole building was essentially the same.
MM: So, the big change was when the Blisses moved out of the house.
HB: Yes, that really was a big change.
MM: But that created the Reading Room from the guest bedrooms.
HB: But I wasn’t there at that time.
LT: Were you also part of the social life of the Blisses in terms of that they invited the Fellows to their house?
HB: No. There may have been some occasion when – but I really don’t remember that the Blisses invited us as Junior Fellows. There may have been some occasion when we were there. But no real socializing, no.
LT: When you were working on your subject, did you hear about the work that was done in Istanbul just by those who were close to your topic like – architecture – so you were –
HB: Well, Paul Underwood – otherwise, no. Cyril Mango came occasionally. I think Ihor came once in a while but – and they were obviously anchored in Istanbul and everything it had to offer. But there was no great exchange, no. I think Underwood was the only person who would talk normally about things happening in Istanbul.
MM: And you stayed put in Washington, you didn’t go out to do fieldwork. You didn’t spend time – ?
HB: In that year? I did all my fieldwork the year before. I came with a whole bag of films –
MM: – photographs –
HB: – photographs, yes.
MM: – drawings.
HB: – notebooks, many notebooks. But no, there was no fieldwork when I was there. I could have stayed another year but I didn’t want to. I wanted to get moving.
LT: Were you ready with your work that you left after a year?
HB: Well, I worked hard to get ready. I knew that a second year was almost certain if you wanted it and on the other hand, I decided that I did not want it and people at Dumbarton Oaks (I have no recollection of exactly who) were very helpful because at that time Dumbarton Oaks closed down completely during the summer. There was nothing on except the air-conditioning. And that was for the books, not the people. And the Fellows Building closed down. So, I made a deal – well, there was no deal. I spoke to someone who got me a room in a beautiful townhouse for the summer with an archeologist at the Smithsonian who – the last time I knew – was still alive and is, I think, a hundred years or so. I’ve forgotten his name now, although that’s a shame because we were on very good terms – had cocktail parties together. Of course, he paid for the cocktails. But I could invite guests to his very beautiful house. And I had breakfast in his garden every morning. And the maid would bring the breakfast and the breakfast would keep me through the day. Huge bowl of fresh berries every day with cream after the bacon and eggs and toast, cereal, and coffee, and so on. And the New York Times, ready to read. He had arranged his little garden so that it was lush. Of course, Washington is in the tropics, as we all know, but he had arranged it in such a way so that from the surrounding houses, which were practically attached, as most houses are in Georgetown, you couldn’t see into the garden. It was quite private. He had some sculpture, nominally Greek sculpture. It probably came from Greece or Venice or some place like that. And a little fountain, I recall. It was a true delight. The only problem was getting from there to Dumbarton Oaks which was about six blocks. And in the heat, I almost melted. And the supermarket where I could buy something to eat was also air-conditioned, but the way between practically melted me – particularly, the humidity. But on the other hand, there was a swimming pool. The children of the Senior Fellows (I think, Paul Underwood had school-age children at that time) – some of the other ones did, I think, also – and when they were gone in the afternoon, say around six or seven, you could go down to the pool, maybe with a book, sit next to the pool, do some bathing, and some reading, and it was absolutely delightful. I enjoyed that summer enormously. And that gave me time to finish my thesis.
LT: So, you finished it actually there. You finished it practically there at Dumbarton Oaks.
HB: I finished it completely. Except that when I got back to Vienna, I found that the University had a little rule which no longer exists: either German or Latin. So, I had to translate it or had it translated. I couldn’t do it myself. But that’s post-Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: So, is there a single happiest memory from that time at Dumbarton Oaks?
HB: Well, I don’t know about a single happiest memory. But one memorable occasion was certainly a party that Robert and I gave in the Fellows Building. One thing that I do remember that does sort of put in a little tessera in the mosaic: Robert and I had the idea – this was in the spring – and we had both made any number of contacts in the Washington area. So, we one day got this brilliant idea – let’s have a party so we can invite some of the people who had invited us who were so many. And we didn’t have money that we could invite these people to a restaurant and we couldn’t invite them to Dumbarton Oaks for these dinners and so we thought, “Well, let’s have party.” Well, there was a woman, at that time, who was responsible for the Fellows Building. That was her only responsibility, as far as I know, within the whole structure of Dumbarton Oaks – a very responsible woman who, for us, was elderly, but not old. And we said, “Well, we’ll have to ask Mrs. – ” whoever it was, I forgot. I think it was a grand name in the Washington area. And we did that. We got an appointment with her and confronted her with the idea of having a party in the Fellows Building in the beautiful living room. And I remember the expression on her face and I remember her words as though it were yesterday.
LT: And so what was it?
HB: “Well,” she said. “I don’t know. No one’s ever asked anything like that.” So, she had to think about it. And after a few days, we got a positive answer. And we had our party and it was grand. Of course, everybody was invited and it went on quite a long time. It was a full house. It was a grand occasion. I remember that I had a tiny little Turkish record. And of course, at that time, you had the old-fashioned, I think, 78 still. And – it disappeared. Somebody liked that Turkish music! Very hard to get Turkish music like that which I had gotten from Turkey. Today you can buy Turkish music just as well in Stuttgart as you can in Istanbul. In those days, no. So, somebody liked that music. But the party was a great success.
MM: I’m sure it was.
HB: And we cleaned up afterwards. I’m sure that it was spic and span, as though, the next day, nothing had happened.
LT: It’s quite often now that you visited Dumbarton Oaks afterwards.
LT: If you compare your first experience with the later ones there, could you draw a development you had experienced personally?
HB: Oh, I think it loosened up a great deal. When I was there as a Junior Fellow, it was still quite rigid in many ways. There were lots of formalities.
LT: For example? Had you to dress up with a suit?
HB: Yes, yes. Well, I don’t think there was a dress code. But everybody did have a jacket, at least. I don’t remember if I wore a tie every day. But it was common. Although, I must say, I don’t really remember that – but just the whole behavior. I can’t really, at the moment, put my finger on it. But of course, that was a development in the United States since 1960 – since the nineteenth century. The whole development has loosened it up. People talk to each other in different ways. And I think that’s noticeable. The fact that you have only lunch together now, I think, is a great advantage. Certainly, the cooking has improved immeasurably. It’s become, really, quite good. People talk to each other in a different way. They’re more casual and it’s very open.
LT: Is it also helpful if they – to come by casual talking to each other to more results, I mean, more exchange on the work?
HB: I think there is more exchange on work. Recent years, of course, I’ve been at Dumbarton Oaks for maybe a week or two weeks. It’s not the same as being there all the time, but I have the impression that people talk about their work much more and much more openly. I think that’s certainly positive. They didn’t talk about their work very openly when I was there. For instance, I hardly knew what Hans Belting was working on and we had much in common in terms of interests. But I don’t remember talking – I remember talking to him a great deal but not on his and not on mine. People were sort of –
MM: Protective –
LT: – protective of their own work.
HB: Well, that must be true of the seniors, as well, with the exception of Underwood. Underwood and I were on a very sort of open basis. He discussed a great many things with me – some things which maybe he shouldn’t have, I don’t know. No one else did. Although, I, as I said, had some very open conversations with Grabar and Meyendorff. Not so much about our work, but about politics, and about – I remember I talked to Grabar about film. At that time I was very strong on film. I’d been in college in the States, I’d been president of the film club and we showed films every week – films, like, that were generally unavailable at that time in the States, except in New York. And so I had a great interest. He also had a great interest in film. So, we talked about films.
LT: Coming again or coming several times then, did you see that there were other steps of development like other technique was introduced? The photo collection opened to slides?
HB: Yes, common technology. But I wouldn’t say that –
LT: – it improved the possibilities –
HB: It didn’t introduce me to anything I didn’t know in terms of new media or –
HB: – or new technologies, no. Also, in terms of archeology, my work in archeology, I think, there was nothing at Dumbarton Oaks that would have introduced me to new techniques or – no, I don’t think so.
MS: How about the material in the photo collection at that time? Was that material valuable to you? Or did you have other material of your own?
HB: I can only talk about my work on San Marco and the context of San Marco in the eleventh century. There was nothing there – books, yes, but no photographic material that was of interest to me.
MS: Were there others using the photo collection for any purposes? How was it used at that time.
HB: Kitzinger must have. I don’t really know how he worked. None of the other Fellows that I knew were very concerned with the photo collection, no. I don’t think Hans Belting was. Per Nordhagen might have, I’m not sure about that. It’s possible that he – we never spoke about that. Per was a married Fellow so I didn’t get to know him quite as well as a Junior Fellow. I got to know him better later. But as a Junior Fellow, he didn’t live in the Fellows Building and so he wasn’t there for meals and so we didn’t have that much contact. The people whom you had contact with were there at meals. Well, occasionally, you’d get into a conversation with someone in the library, say, or at tea, but not very often.
LT: When the Junior Fellows had to give their reports, was there strong reaction on that? Was there critique? How was the style?
HB: There was critique, not terribly strong. I think the only person who said anything in my presentation was Hans Belting. I think Sirarpie was there but she didn’t say very much. I don’t think Kitzinger was there.
LT: Aha, so they did not come.
HB: Not everyone was there. I was there at a presentation – I don’t know how many years ago – I think it was when Henry Maguire was the Director because he asked me to come, and it was about architecture or about painting but also about the building in which the painting was. And I was surprised at how many people were –
LT: So, the style changed.
HB: I think it did, yes. And the person who was doing the presenting told me that he had been told not to talk much about the architecture. And that’s the only reason I was there – was because of the architecture.
MM: So, and you went back to Vienna. Did you feel there was a very different style between the two institutions?
HB: Oh, yes.
MM: There was a lot of coming and going, of course.
HB: You mean –
MM: – between Vienna and Dumbarton Oaks.
MS: There was Davies who was –
LT: I don’t think so.
HB: I’m not sure I’m following you, sorry.
MM: Maybe it was not at that time, but there had been a lot of coming and going between Dumbarton Oaks and Vienna –
HB: Oh, you mean the contact between Vienna and Dumbarton Oaks wasn’t that strong yet. Demus had been there a couple of times. I had been told that he was one of Mrs. Bliss’ favorites. And I think the reason (and this was hearsay for whatever it’s worth) was that she had the impression that he loved the garden. Apparently, he was reading Proust in the gardens. He would read Proust, walking through the gardens, which sounds delightful. I guess she saw him doing that and thought that was what should be done. But he’d been there a couple of times and he had a certain contact but, I wouldn’t call it a strong connection. I think that came a lot later with Johannes Koder.
LT: So, in the time when Hunger was actually building up the Byzantinistic element –
HB: I don’t think Hunger had much of a contact with Dumbarton Oaks. I think that bridge was built by Koder much later than I had been there. And in the meantime there wasn’t that much between Vienna and Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: Coming and going.
LT: I mean, did you tell your colleagues in Vienna about your experience in Dumbarton Oaks?
HB: I imagine that I did, I don’t really remember it specifically.
LT: It had the effect that others tried to go there?
HB: Well, the only others that would have gone there would have been Byzantine art historians. In my case, I didn’t have much touch with the people in Hunger’s department. And there were only three of us or, I guess, four. Ingrid Papadopoulos, Irmgard Hutter, Buschhausen. I don’t think I spoke to any of them specifically about Dumbarton Oaks. I don’t know. Of course, when I came back, I had my thesis finished, and I spent almost a year translating it. I didn’t do the translation myself but I went through it line by line with the translator and that was a very tedious job. And I hardly attended any courses. I think I went to some of the main courses but then I had my sort of friends who were not Byzantinists. They were interested in other fields – in art history – in Renaissance and whatever. So, I didn’t have all that much contact with the others. I did have good contact with Buschhausen. We had lunch very often together, but not at that time. When I came back from Dumbarton Oaks, I was very cut off from the University to a considerable extent because of the translation. And then I studied for my doctoral exams, which I did on my own. I didn’t have that much contact with them. So, it wasn’t as if I said, “You’ve got to go there.” I would have thought that would have been Demus’ job. He’s the one that got me involved. And I think if he wanted to involve someone else then that was –
LT: He could have done it.
HB: If he wanted to and if they wanted to. Irmgard got married at that time or maybe she already was married and may not have – had other plans.
LT: Buschhausen never went.
HB: Buschhausen wasn’t that far. He was younger. He wasn’t – at least when I was there – at that time, I don’t think he was working on his thesis yet. Ingrid was. I don’t know.
LT: Well, none of them went.
MM: Yeah, it’s very interesting. But you continued to visit over the years and still do.
HB: Oh yes, it’s a beautiful place, and I like it very much. But of course, the bottom line is you could get more work done there – in two weeks I could do the work there that in Vienna I could do in perhaps six weeks because the books are all right there, particularly of certain aspects. Although I must say it was easier before they changed the cataloguing. Much easier. So, you could work faster, particularly when you’re there for only two weeks. You know, the first week you say, “Oh, well, I’ve got two weeks.” But then there’s a crunch. You’re always short of time. Then every minute counts. When you have all the books you are looking for – let’s say, Italian Romanesque all in one shelf, that’s a big help.
LT: That you proposed to them to buy books you couldn’t find there?
HB: No, I don’t think I ever proposed that they buy a certain book.
LT: You found all the books you searched for?
HB: Well, in recent years that may not be true. But I’ve worked in some strange areas in recent years. I would never have expected them to have all that I was looking for. In Vienna, I have to use about six different libraries. I wouldn’t expect all of those books in one library, not normally. Maybe it’s possible at Oxford, I don’t know.
MM: I think people in Oxford use a lot of different libraries.
MM: Hans, I think we ought to thank you very much. And if we have further thoughts and you have further thoughts, I’m sure we can reprise, but it’s been wonderful.
HB: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking – pulling old memories out of my mind and bringing back some very nice memories so – I’m grateful to you for giving me opportunity to pull old memories out of my mind.
LT: I think it’s wonderful, I think it’s great.
MS: This was the 29th of June, 2008, interview with Hans Buchwald, conducted by Margaret Mullet and Lioba Theis, Matthew Savage on camera.