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Collaboration in Taxco:

CARL PAPPE and BERNICE GOODSPEED

by Sheryl A. Fiegel


We always knew when Bernice was in the restaurant (Hotel Santa Prisca)--she wore so much silver jewelry that when she ate, her bracelets and necklaces would hit the plate and there would be a huge racket.

Gerald Squires (apprentice to Carl Pappe,1958--1959) 

Artistic collaborations challenge the stereotypical image of the solitary genius and expand the boundaries of what is possible.  Though more common today, the necessary teamwork required for a successful working relationship between two creative individuals has historically been elusive.  In 1935, an American-born cultural anthropologist and student of pre-Columbian archaeology met a Hungarian-born painter and printmaker in Mexico City.  Separately, they possessed specialized training and knowledge; together they complemented one another.  Their loving bond was a true partnership and would take them to the colonial town of Taxco where they would leave an indelible mark. 

Born in Hungary in 1900, Carl Pappe followed his father to the land of opportunity and settled in the Cleveland, Ohio area, home to one of the largest Hungarian American communities in America.  After training as an apprentice to a Hungarian muralist, he formalized his studies at the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art) from 1921-1925. 
 

 The Cleveland School of Art, c. 1920.

 Courtesy: Archives of the Cleveland Institute of Art

 

                                        

Carl Pappe as a student at the
 Pennsylvania Academy.
 
Courtesy: River Street Gallery,
Santa Cruz, California

                                


Presented with a scholarship from the Hungarian Society, Pappe enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the first and oldest art school in the country and at the vanguard of American modernism in the 1920’s.  He studied under Daniel Breckenridge and Hugh Garber from 1925--1926, but withdrew in his third year for medical reasons.

In 1929, Carl Pappe was in New York, working in stage design for fellow Hungarian immigrant, entertainment impresario Adolph Zukor, who founded Paramount Pictures.  The economic realities of the Great Crash led to Pappe’s unemployment and a series of odd jobs in Philadelphia, Boston, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  In 1934, the artist traveled to Mexico following a succession of venturesome foreign artists, including George Overbury “Pop” Hart, George Biddle, Jean Charlot, and Tamiji Kitagawa, who came to Mexico to document the indigenous people and their rich cultural traditions.

Many of these artists connected with prominent members of the Mexican modernist movement. After 1930, however, many came to Mexico to escape the effects of the worldwide depression and find a creative environment with an affordable life style.  Armed with letters of introduction to artists in Mexico, Carl Pappe sailed from New York to Veracruz.  He was later to tell people that he came to Mexico to paint bullfighters.
 

A few years earlier, Bernice Goodspeed had come to Mexico City to complete her studies in pre-Columbian art at the University of Mexico.  Self-possessed and deeply spiritual, she immersed herself in the culture and was baptized in 1934 at the sacred temple of Ometochtli in Tepoztlàn, Morelos. Her knowledge of archaeology made her a favored lecturer for visiting Americans who signed on with Cook’s Tours and Wells Fargo, the most popular companies for North American tourists.  She opened up a successful business across from the Wells Fargo office and offered a wide selection of Mexican handicrafts.   At a party in 1935, she met Carl Pappe who had been painting in a rented studio while supplementing his income as a cook and tour guide. 

Carl Pappe
"Mexican Stone Cutter," 1936, woodcut.

Courtesy: Sheryl A. Fiegel


During the four years they were there together, they became acquainted with major figures in the Mexican and expatriate intelligentsia.  Pappe attended lectures by Diego Rivera, often visited the studio of muralist José Orozco, and became friendly with the sculptor Isamu Noguchi who was in the city executing a relief mural for the Abelardo Rodriguez market.  In fact, Pappe's observation of the construction of that public art commission may have been the basis for an early woodcut titled "Mexican Stone Cutter" (1936). 

The historical connection between woodblock printing and book illustration goes back to the Middle Ages so it should be no surprise that Bernice Goodspeed collaborated with Carl Pappe on her book, "Mexican - Tales with Maps and Directory."  His sympathetic representation of three native figures in dramatic silhouette on the cover was effective in communicating the dignity of his subjects.  A similar woodblock print titled "Nina" (1936) is in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.
 

 

Cover, "Mexican-Tales with Maps and Directory" by Bernice I. Goodspeed, illustration by Carl Pappe. 

Courtesy: Sheryl A. Fiegel

Carl Pappe, "Nina," 1936, woodcut.

Collection: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts


Concurrent with his relief printing, he created a series of intaglio prints.  These delightful renditions of the native inhabitants and the unspoiled world in which they lived were probably sold in Goodspeed’s shop.  

 

Brochure from Bernice Goodspeed's shop in Mexico City.

Courtesy: Sheryl A. Fiegel
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl Pappe
"Mother," c. 1938, etching.

   
Courtesy: Rachel Davis Fine Arts, Cleveland, Ohio
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl Pappe
"Figure," c. 1938, etching.

Courtesy: Abigail Furey Fine Prints,
Brighton, Massachusetts

Some reflect Goodspeed's interest in the native culture.  "Mujeres Choulando" makes reference to the women of Cholula, which is an important pre-Columbian archaeological site in central Mexico. 
 

Carl Pappe
"Mujeres Choulando," c. 1937,
etching and aquatint. 

Courtesy: Rachel Davis Fine Arts, Cleveland, Ohio                                      

    Carl Pappe
Truncos de Amate, c. 1937,
etching and aquatint.

  Courtesy: The Annex Galleries,
Santa Rosa, California

 


Another titled "Truncos de Amate" alludes to the significance of the amate tree which was used during the Aztec Empire for ritual and communication.  Today, amate paper is primarily known as the substrate used by the Nahua painters from Guerrero.  Both of these prints have secondary meanings beyond the picturesque.

The road to the colonial silver mining town of Taxco had been well traveled by other artists.  It started with American architect William Spratling who opened a silver workshop there at the suggestion of the American ambassador to Mexico.  Spratling’s presence attracted other notables such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siquieros, and Caroline Durieux, all of whom were regular visitors.  The completion of a new tourist hotel in 1931 further facilitated the establishment of Taxco as a destination of choice.  American artists Olin Dows and Marion Greenwood visited while Howard Cook spent a year and a half there as the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Tamiji Kitagawa was dispatched to Taxco as director of a new government-sponsored Open Air Painting School for local boys from 1932 to 1936.  It was against this backdrop that Carl Pappe convinced Bernice Goodspeed to leave the bustle of Mexico City for the potential of a more idyllic life. 

They arrived in Taxco on the eve of World War II and settled into a space on the Calle del Arco near the Cathedral of Santa Prisca.  The transplanted business model of offering quality artwork and handicrafts was a commercial success and expansion soon followed.  The two established a small silver workshop with Goodspeed pulling from her extensive knowledge of pre- Columbian art to create her designs.  The high demand for Mexican silver during the war led to them increasing the number of silversmiths at the workshop to almost twenty.  After the war, tourists flocked to Taxco, and guidebooks encouraged them to visit the Pappe-Goodspeed Studio for paintings, clothes, and silver.  Business was booming, and it was decided to build a facility to house their many ventures.  Construction on what was to be called Casa de los Telares (Casa de Sr. Carl Pappe) began in 1948. 

Carl Pappe continued to be a prolific artist encouraged by brisk sales of oil paintings, watercolors, and monotypes of Taxco and the countryside.  He would occasionally venture into the abstract much to the consternation of Goodspeed, always the consummate businesswoman, who didn’t see the attraction of nonrepresentational art for visitors looking for souvenirs of their stay in Mexico. 

 

Carl Pappe
"Candlelight Walk," c. 1947, monotype. 

Courtesy: Stevens Fine Art, Phoenix, Arizona
 

Within this time frame, Pappe began what would be a defining body of work that documented mid-twentieth century Taxco and its environs.  Technically advanced, "Taxco in Black and White" was a portfolio of finely executed woodcut prints that take the viewer on a journey through the twisted cobblestone streets of that historically preserved colonial town.  Two of these prints are in the collection of the Library of Congress and were included in a catalogue of its holdings published by Johns Hopkins Press in 1970. This compendium is considered to be the most comprehensive listing of the finest examples of American printmaking.  There are a total of five Carl Pappe works in the collection; all of them outstanding examples of his woodblock printing.
 

Carl Pappe
"Calle Humboldt, Taxco," c. 1950, woodcut. 

Collection: Library of Congress, Pennell Fund


Carl Pappe
"Calle ex Convento, Taxco," c. 1950, woodcut. 

Collection: Library of Congress, Pennell Fund


Bernice Goodspeed, Taxco, c. 1960. 

Courtesy: Juana Hernandez Flores

 

As Carl Pappe's work was reaching new levels of sophistication, Bernice Goodspeed was refining her craft as well.  It is known that Pappe would often step in to resolve any design issues, but the origin of her abstracted imagery is clear.  With an expansive inventory of motifs inspired by the Indians of Central Mexico, she worked conscientiously to give her pieces a certain level of authenticity.   

Some of her most successful jewelry designs incorporate linear interpretations of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, geometric, and floral designs executed in flat relief.   The visual relationship of these pieces to the relief matrix created when transferring an image in woodblock printing is evident.  Although the same case can be made for the possible influence of pre-Columbian stamp seals, the connection of Goodspeed’s flat relief works with Pappe’s woodcut production is more probable; their studio/workshop had an abundance of woodblocks on hand.  They were both working in similar ways at the same time and many consider these to be their best and most distinctive works.
 

 

                                                 

Bernice Goodspeed
Sterling salt cellar.

Courtesy: Tannery Creek Antiques online at Rubylane.com
 and at Cookstown Antique Market

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernice Goodspeed
Sterling silver cuff and maker's mark.

Courtesy: Marbeth Schon

 

 

 

Bernice Goodspeed
Sterling silver earrings with carved greenstone and maker's mark.

Courtesy: Marbeth Schon

Bernice Goodspeed
Sterling silver pin and earrings.

Courtesy:  Michaan's Auctions


In 1956, Casa de los Telares (Casa de Sr. Carl Pappe) was ready for occupancy.  An elaborate network of rooms for artists and artisans surrounded the couple’s living quarters.  Painting, printmaking, and sculpture studios were for the use of Carl Pappe and his students while the weaving and silver jewelry workshops were under the purview of Bernice Goodspeed.  Pappe is credited with teaching many of the young artists of Taxco and providing them with a practical vocation.  He also maintained his connections with the Pennsylvania Academy and would often host art students sent by his former professor Morris Blackburn.
 
Casa de los Telares, c. 1958. 

Courtesy:  Kenneth Watson

Studio at Casa de los Telares,
c. 1958. 

Courtesy: Kenneth Watson

Carl Pappe at Casa de los Telares, c. 1958. 

Courtesy: Kenneth Watson
 

Two young Canadian artists, Kenneth Watson and Gerald Squires, on their way to attend art school in San Miguel de Allende, instead stopped in Taxco and signed on with Carl Pappe for the winter of 1958--1959.  They confirm that Pappe was a great and generous teacher and recall with fond memories the hours of studio and plein air study with the master painter and printmaker.  They also witnessed the first indications of a debilitating illness that would eventually take the life of Bernice Goodspeed.

The vast enterprise at Casa de los Telares proved to be too much to handle and the property was sold to a member of the Chicago Swift family who then expanded the property into a prominent residence with the assistance of renowned Taxco architect Mario H. Flores.  They renamed the house Casa Robin (this historic home is currently for sale due to the death of its previous owner). Carl Pappe and Bernice Goodspeed went back to Calle del Arco and continued their business on a smaller scale.  Other books on Mexico, authored by Goodspeed and illustrated by Pappe, continued to sell well and "Mexican Tales" went into its fifth edition.  Her reputation as a silver maestra was well established when she died from emphysema in 1971.  Pappe closed their shop the following year. 

In 1994, the Council of Culture and Convention of the State of Guerrero mounted an exhibition of paintings by Carl Pappe to acknowledge his "genius" and his many contributions during a fifty-five year career in Taxco.  He was there to receive the accolades bestowed on him by his fellow citizens and artists.  Four years later, he passed away at the age of ninety-eight. Back at Casa de los Telares (now Casa Robin), a solitary sculpture of a donkey by Carl Pappe stands sentry at the entrance as silent tribute to a couple who worked together to build a life filled with creative pursuits in a country not of their birth. Their  love of Taxco and Mexican culture was undeniable, and they left an enduring  legacy of artistic contributions that extend far beyond provincial boundaries.
 

Carl Pappe sculpture, Casa Robin, c. 1980. 

Courtesy: Sheryl A. Fiegel

 

Sources:

"A Century of Art: Carl Pappe 1900 – 1998," exhibition curated by Robert Watson, 2000.  River Street Gallery, Santa Cruz, California.

"American Prints in the Library of Congress: A Catalogue of the Collection" by Karen F. Beall, The John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1970.

"Aspects of American Printmaking 1800 – 1950" ed. James F. O’Gorman, essay, "Yankee Printmakers in Mexico 1900 – 1950" by Richard Cox, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York, 1998.

"Carl Pappe: The Late Works," exhibition essay by  Abraham Davidson,
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1995.


"Mexican Silver
" by Penny C.  Morrill  and Carole A. Berk, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1994.

"Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920 – 1950" ed. John Ittmann, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, in association with Yale University Press, 2006.

"The Color of Silver: William Spratling, His Life and Art" by Taylor D. Littleton, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2000.

"The Graphic Work of Howard Cook: A Catalogue Raisonne" by Betty and Douglas Duffy, Museum Press Inc., Washington, DC, 1984.

Interview, Gerald Squires, Holyrood, Newfoundland, Canada, 04/20/2011.

Interview, Thomas Priemon, Woodbury Heights, New Jersey, 05/10/2011.

Article, "Paul Coopers Return from Mexico Trip," "The Modesto Bee," 09/20/1956, page 11.

_____________________________________
 

Sheryl A. Fiegel is an art historian with a BA and MA in Art History.  She is president of her own fine art services company and has a special interest in printmaking.
 

Casa Robin Today
 

Casa Robin, the exquisite Taxco home built by Carl Pappe and Bernice Goodspeed, is currently being used as a private residence, but its versatile floor plan allows for development as a corporate retreat, a bed & breakfast, or an educational institution. This landmark property is now available for purchase and an appraisal is available upon request.

Please visit www.casarobin.com and/or email: casarobintaxco@gmail.com

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_____________________________________
 

Article by Sheryl A. Fiegel

Please see picture credits with photographs

Web design by Marbeth Schon
www.mschon.com

 Copyright © 2011 Modern Silver Magazine