A surprising and revealing memoir populated with art historians, art influencers, and the former lover and lifelong friend of Marcel Duchamp, Beatrice Wood.
Francis M. Naumann, a distinguished expert on Dada and Marcel Duchamp reflects upon his mentors, including Leo Steinberg, John Rewald, and perhaps his greatest influence: Beatrice Wood, a renowned ceramic artist and one of the most prominent participants in New York Dada. Wood set Naumann upon a course of original research that would define him, but also provided a moral platform for what an art historian could be. Artwork by Kathleen Gilje; French flaps.
II. Leo Steinberg
III. John Rewald
IV. Leo and Bill / Leo and John
V. Beatrice Wood
VII. Hannah and John
VIII. Arrivals and Departures
IX. Significant Others
X. Nature vs. Nurture
An odd but consistently engaging text about academic mentorship, about art, about art history, about writing, about ageing, about illness, about artists and about being successful and self-confident in New York in the second half of the twentieth century. It’s an unexpected pleasure. […] This is undeniably an enjoyable book, full of humour and personality and a real sense of all the various people who mean a lot to Naumann. It’s an easy, warm, unpatronising read and – entering it with no pre-conceptions at all – thoroughly enjoyable!
— Scott Manley Hadley, Triumph of the Now
[A]t heart, Mentors is an accessible and richly detailed celebration of intense cross-generational exchanges between individuals who champion and challenge each other. Naumann’s cogent and open communicative style, and his personal and professional integrity, should be inspirational and valuable to all, for Mentors is an encounter with a fine and fiercely exacting mind.
"Naumann’s writing is entertaining and authentic. He sings the praises of those who formed his own character as well as embraces their flaws. From the bordellos to the classrooms and from high rises to high on the hills of France and Italy, this story offers a unique and riveting view into the world of art history and the people therein."
— Seattle Book Review, 4.5 stars
Naumann allows the reader to see how patterns of sexual comradery among prominent male scholars reinforced the masculinization of art historical scholarship. Naumann broke with that sexist world when, to both Steinberg’s and Rewald’s befuddlement, he took an interest in the work of Beatrice Wood, an accomplished California potter. … Naumann first met Wood in 1976 during the course of his research into New York Dada when she was 84 and he 28, and he played a tireless role in reigniting her art world career through his devotion to writing about and exhibiting her work — something he has continued to do for other forgotten women Dada and Surrealist artists including Mary Callery, Henrietta Myers, and Maria Martins. Wood became Naumann’s “closest friend and confidant” until her death at 105 in 1998. … The course of Naumann’s life directed by his choice to adopt different aspects of his mentors, shows how we become ourselves through the ongoing transformation spawned by these relationships.
— Robert R. Shane, The Brooklyn Rail