In our weekly “Honoring the Artist” column, in which we interview each week’s cover artist, we’ve been asking the following question lately: If you could sit down for coffee with any artist in history, who would it be and what would you talk about?
“I would love to spend some time with Norman Rockwell. Since high school I’ve been drawn to his paintings and I suppose that led me to illustration. I would love to hear stories from that whole period when he was working. It was a great time for American illustration. It just seems like he had the life!” —Daniel Fiore
“I wrote my Art History thesis on Paul Klee’s theories of 2-D design. I’d like to thank him and tell him about what I learned, and I’m sure he could tell me more. I’d like to talk to Matisse. I read Hillary Spurling’s two-volume biography on him. He was so courageous, living through two world wars and continuing his work no matter what painful situations he endured. He was always able to find his expression. He’s a huge inspiration. I’m sure we’d find something to talk about.” —Margery Gosnell-Qua
“I think it might be Gustav Klimt or Pierre Bonnard. The discussion and questions for any artist would be the same. What drove you to become an artist? When did you consider yourself an artist? What’s your process? What’s your source of inspiration and what artists influence your work? Where and when do you do your best work? I’m particularly interested in how an artist structures his or her most productive days. I often pick up and read an interesting book titled Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. It’s a fascinating series of conversations with famous artists, poets, composers, playwrights and scientists about how they spend their days productively to get their work done.” —Lee Harned
“I think Salvador Dali. When I was in high school I really got into Surrealism, so who better to vibe off of than Dali!? His work is so amazing—the compositions, off-the-wall concepts and especially the technique and craft of his process. I like eccentric people. They always make for an interesting conversation. I wouldn’t ask him many questions, rather just listen to what he had to say.” —Scott Hewett
“Joaquin Sorolla, the master of painting figures in beautiful bright light. Mostly, I would want to pick his brain about the logistics behind his paintings. He painted very large canvases of horses in the water at the ocean—from life! There are photos of him painting at the beach with a little lean-to set up and a giant easel. He’s basically wearing a suit and tie. I would give anything to know how he pulled that off.” —Maryann Lucas
“It would probably be Picasso. He was so ahead of his time and a master of many mediums. I created a series of etchings based on his Vollard Suites. More than just talk to him, I would have loved to have seen him paint and use his brush. I would love to talk to him about what music he liked and listened to also.” —Peter Max
“I think I’d like to throw a dinner party at my house instead and invite Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, Van Gogh, Chuck Close, Zaha Hadid and Saul Bass. I know Chuck Close is still alive, but I just had to throw him in. I adore him. I think I would have to keep my mouth shut and let them do the talking.” —Kasmira Mohanty
“Vincent Van Gogh. We would talk about the landscape of the soul. And since you’re asking, it would be a bottle of Jameson with Jackson, Chianti with Leonardo, a beer with Pablo and milkshakes with Andy.” —Max Moran
“I wish I could talk to Robert Weaver again. He died in 1994 and was the best teacher I had in graduate school. I have lots of questions to ask him. I would also like to talk to my wonderful mother again. There are so many times I still want to shout downstairs, ‘Hey, Betty, turn on the news.’ She died in 2010. Besides writing some of the best scripts for Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, she was the funniest voice on our puppet show, The Cheap Show. You can still find it online.” —Mickey Paraskevas
“I think Edward Hopper, on the balcony of his painting “Second Story Sunlight.” I’d ask about his use of light in his paintings. As a master of light and shadow he could bounce light off the smallest detail in a dark space, and allow you to really think about what’s taking place in that scene and contemplate the mood that the figures might be experiencing.” —Gia Schifano
“I was very fortunate to have met and hung out a bit with Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist in the ’80s. I’d love to see them again but I don’t think we’d be drinking coffee. I’d ask Rauschenberg if what a friend of mine that knew him told me was true, that his mother once used some of his paintings to board up her windows in advance of a hurricane. And, that she had put them up face-in because she didn’t want the neighbors to think she was crazy.
“I’d love to watch Duchamp play chess or talk to Mark Rothko and Franz Kline about whether or not landscape painting can ever be viable. To watch Vija Celmins paint and talk to her about how she does what she does. Or, go back and tell Van Gogh that he’s going to be known and loved beyond his wildest dreams, and to please just keep painting.” —Adam Strauss
“I would invite Wolf Kahn (a contemporary abstract landscape artist) to coffee and would ask him how he chooses the subjects of his paintings, why he paints barns so often, why he never puts people in his paintings, how he chooses the beautiful vivid colors he paints with and ask him if he would teach me to see landscapes the way he does and help me learn how to be the colorist that he is.” —Maureen Tanzer