Emmy Award

Emily Pulitzer's gift to St. Louis has arrived in a concrete box. Hidden inside: the portrait of a woman who changed the city.

To Traurig, "Joe" is more than a formal exposition, however. She believes the Serra provides a representation of "the true marriage" of the Pulitzers: disruptive yet lyrical, exuberant yet taut, an ultimate balancing act of formal expression.

Life is never so elegantly composed or so artistically resolved as a sculpture. Jan Greenberg recalls the dramatic change Emily had to negotiate in her life and career when she married the wealthy, charismatic Joe, 20 years her senior.

Richard Serra's "Joe," commissioned for the Pulitzer Foundation: The walls fold in on each other and pull away, close then open to a center of sky.
Dirk Reinartz
Richard Serra's "Joe," commissioned for the Pulitzer Foundation: The walls fold in on each other and pull away, close then open to a center of sky.

Jan and her husband, Ronald, met Rauh when she first came to work at SLAM. The relationship transformed the young couple's lives: "Ronnie" would eventually open his own gallery (now the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery in the Central West End), and Jan would write children's books about art (a biography of van Gogh is her latest).

"I think, for her, it was really a hard thing to give up the career, which was really, really important to her," says Jan Greenberg. "If she had married anybody else, it would not have made a difference. But it was a big shift. On the one hand, clearly she was in love and starting a great, grand life, but on the other hand, it was the end of a career she worked very, very hard at. The fact that she was still involved with artists and art and they were so supportive of each other made it different."

No doubt the reserved, serious Emily appeared even more so in relation to the gregarious, fun-loving Joe, especially when, as Greenberg maintains, "a lot of that reserve is shyness." But those who speak about Emily also refer to her strong will, and, rather than being subsumed by a large personality, in many ways Emily thrived in the marriage.

"They were just marvelous to be around," says Greenberg. "Joe was full of fun. When we were with them, it always brought out the best in us. We always felt we had to rise to the occasion when we traveled with them because there was always the sense of fun and good manners and being a good sport. I can't tell you how many horrible mountains I skiied down to be a good sport. Emmy just rose to the occasion of this skiing. She was very stalwart, and I was the klutz at the top of the mountain, ready to cry.

"It was an interesting time. Both had equal energy to see and do everything culturally. They both liked the same kinds of things. They liked exotic travel, looking at ruins and ancient art. They liked going to the galleries, and they liked going to the museums. They both had a similar passion for the same things. They had this to talk about, to share. They were very well suited in a lot of ways in terms of lifestyle. It doesn't seem that way, but there was a certain simplicity of lifestyle that they shared together."

When Traurig was director of the Forum, she observed a contrast between Emily the strict professional in the gallery and Emily the casual art lover in the Pulitzer home. "I learned everything from her," Traurig says. "I had an art background and I had been in the field for many years, and that's why I was selected to be the director of the Forum. But when I worked with her, I would work with her on installing a show in the Forum, and she was the one that taught me museum standards of white gloves and everything had to be perfect and don't put a pencil in your pocket and all of that stuff. Then I would go house-sit at that house [in the country] and there was no humidity control. These are only the [Monet] 'Water Lilies' and things like that. I wouldn't dare mention that to her, but it was really great."

Traurig describes Emily's change from curator to benefactor as one that was handled "very gracefully. I didn't know her then, but she's told me a lot of stories about those times. She is a very humble person. Now she'll say, 'I don't understand why people don't think I'm just a regular human being.' Well, you have a lot more money than regular human beings, and intelligence and everything else."

As Mrs. Pulitzer, Emily didn't allow her curatorial skills to atrophy. She was closely involved with the Forum and co-curated a hugely successful exhibition of the sculpture of Ellsworth Kelly, which appeared at both the Whitney and SLAM in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

She also became embroiled in the local public-art fiascoes of Sonfist and Serra in the '80s. "In part she got aggravated and said, 'Well, then, why do anything?'" Traurig recalls. "Then the next part was 'Keep going forward. Keep showing things, and we'll show the variety and we'll show the opportunities. We'll make sure people understand what this is about.' She's always been big on education and explaining things and not just saying, 'Because I said it's really good' -- that's not her at all."

Some of the luster of the Pulitzer name dimmed during the '80s as well. The Riverfront Times reported that art loaned to SLAM by the Pulitzers, for which they took a significant tax deduction, was actually being stored and exhibited in their homes.

« Previous Page
Next Page »