from the ASA Newsletter, Summer 1984;
Maulsby Kimball was president and executive director of the ASA from 1962 to 1972.
I was born in Buffalo, NY on May 20, 1904 and grew up there. The home atmosphere was a cultured and artistic one with regular reading aloud of poetry and fine literature. My mother was a very artistic person and a very good painter in oils. My father was a lawyer whose loves were playing quartettes, where he was a violist, and collecting paintings.
I was a typical “second born” (in the sense of Karl Koenig), unresponsive to guidance and without a sense of duty: a problem until late adolescence. Looking back, I experience this early rejection of convention as the seed of my creative freedom as an artist. However, problems caused wear and tear on my parents, the trying of several schools, even the co-founding of one of the first progressive schools in the country, the Park School, in Buffalo.
I cannot remember much of the child-age drawing and painting. The conscious urge to engage in art was awakened by the drawing in a biology class. Later, I found myself living near the Art Students League in New York City. There I participated in evening drawing classes for about five years. I became friends with a very talented younger, well-established painter, Jay Connaway, and spent many hours watching him paint, living into the remarkable qualities of his painting. Eventually, I acquired a set of oil paints for my first halting efforts at painting—unbelievably bad but engrossing.
Then came one of the most vivid and significant moments of my life. One day I was painting. Suddenly I experienced an inner flash of knowledge that painting and a life of art were to be mine. It was like a revelation, certainly the speaking of my inner being as I had never experienced it before. From that moment I had a sense of purpose and direction. This called for a reorientation of life. I left New York City, moved back to the family home in Buffalo, and for the next two years studied intensively—morning, afternoon, and evening—at the local Albright Art School.
In 1930 I moved to Philadelphia and met a remarkable esoteric teacher and therapist, Dr. Ella D. Kilgus, a student of Rudolf Steiner’s work. She worked actively to bring her patients to a spiritual transformation. I remained in close touch (1930- 1955). For years we had summer classes in painting in Sullivan, Maine, where Dr. Kilgus had a summer home. We read Steiner lectures aloud in the evenings, and through this I became immersed in anthroposophy. Out of this background, and together with others, I formed and conducted the Bryn Mawr Art Center (1937-1955). I also headed the art department of the Haverford School for twelve years (1945-57). I spent a year in the army and a number of months doing projected drawings in perspective for a helicopter company as part of the war service. Earlier there were many months of doing medical illustrations, first for the anatomy department of the University of Pennsylvania and later as a freelance illustrator.
Meanwhile, in 1933 the Anthroposophical Society had invited Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, Guenther Wachsmuth, and Hermann von Baravalle to the US for a lecture tour. In 1939 Baravalle returned to this country to become a significant influence for the development of the Waldorf school movement. From time to time I invited him to lecture. In 1949 Baravalle’s sister, Elisabeth (Ilse) Metaxas came from Europe to teach eurythmy at the Kimberton Farms School and at Adelphi College. The first summer she was here I invited her to join us and teach eurythmy in the summer school we had in Maine — and in 1952 we were married. A few years later, we lived in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., I painting and teaching, and Ilse conducting a eurythmy school at the New York headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society.
As time went on I became more active in the anthroposophical work. This began with a special project for the centenary of Rudolf Steiner’s birth in 1961. We formed the Rudolf Steiner Exhibitions Trust, which borrowed paintings from anthroposophical artists in Europe, and circulated exhibition groups of these and other anthroposophical material to hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the country, often accompanied by lectures. In 1962 I became yet more active in Society work and for ten years, up to 1972, was president and then executive director (as well as member of the council and of the executive committee) of the Anthroposophical Society in America. This called for many classes and lectures throughout the country.
In 1974 Ilse and I immigrated to South Africa, where we spent 21 months. Ilse taught eurythmy, and I taught painting, lectured, and exhibited in various South African cities and Rhodesia. The high point for each of us was a series at the St. George Cathedral in Capetown, and 20 lecture demonstrations at the University of Capetown.
My painting has developed its character over the years. At first it was straight representation. Then I became influenced by the dynamics of the French moderns. In the 1930s one of the outstanding anthroposophic artists, William Scott Pyle, came to Philadelphia as a patient of Dr. Kilgus. In a few sessions spent with him I became deeply influenced by the possibilities of cosmic quality in painting and imagination directly out of color. I have worked to develop this through the years. This has led to the exhibiting of paintings world-wide, and having pictures in collections in sixteen countries on four continents, most recently two paintings in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard where the curator, Konrad Oberhuber, commented: “Maulsby Kimball’s art is music made visible in color and form.”
Throughout the years the study of anthroposophy has been a major continuing influence. I attribute to several years of weekly eurythmy classes the metamorphosis from conventional painting to a much more flowing and imaginative way of working. Ilse was our fifth eurythmy teacher and I have often said that “I have married my fifth eurythmy teacher.” This work in eurythmy did much towards developing the “musical qualities” in my painting. I had been brought up with music, had studied violin when very young and then piano, later viola and for a number of years had played viola in quartets. At the age of sixty, I started singing lessons which led to a rich musical experience. I always had an instinctive sense for handling things in music, but in my painting I had to labor “the hard way” through all possible problems. Having had to work so hard to achieve living qualities in painting has helped me to understand these problems when teaching and helping others. Life called on me to teach from preschool-age children to real “old timers,” including a number of guest-teacher blocks in Waldorf schools and teacher-training classes. The most recent teaching task was painting classes for foundation-year and teacher-training students for several years, at the Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento.