Rodman, Selden, 1909-2002

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1909-02-19
Death 2002-11-02
English, French, Spanish; Castilian, German

Biographical notes:

Selden Rodman was born February 19, 1909, in New York City. He graduated from Yale College in 1931. In the 1930s, he helped found the journal Common Sense (1932-1946) with Alfred Bingham. During World War II, he served in the foreign nationalities section of the Office of Strategic Services. In 1944, the Haitian government produced his play, The Revolutionists, which lead to a later career as co-director for the Haitian Centre d'Art (1949-1951), promoting Haitian folk art internationally and initiating the famous mural painting movement. In the 1950s, Rodman served as president of the Haitian Art Center in New York City, wrote numerous books on contemporary American art, and befriended emerging artists and poets like Allen Ginsberg and Andrew Wyeth. He became an important champion of folk and figural art, writing a critique of American modernism in his book The Insiders (1960). Rodman toured Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, writing numerous travel guides and meeting important artists and writers like Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz. He spent time in Haiti during the 1980s, continuing his role as informal ambassador for Haitian art and culture and returned to permanent residence in Oakland, New Jersey to live out his remaining years. Rodman published nearly forty books during his lifetime, including his own poetry and prose, art criticism, travel guides, memoirs, anthologies, and collections of interviews. He married Eunice Clark in 1933, Hilda Clausen in 1938, Maia Wojciechowska in 1950, and Carole Cleaver in 1962. Selden Rodman died November 2, 2002.

From the description of Selden Rodman papers, 1938-2000 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702166711

Selden Rodman (1909-2002), poet, author, critic, editor of COMMON SENSE, and folk art advocate, lived in New York City much of his life. His books include MORTAL TRIUMPH AND OTHER POEMS, CHALLENGE TO THE NEW DEAL, AND NEW ANTHOLOGY OF MODERN POETRY. Rodman's work with COMMON SENSE and other literary endeavors brought him into close contact with many literary figures including Ted Hughes, Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden, and Ezra Pound.

From the description of Selden Rodman collection, 1938-1959. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 173862901

Selden Rodman (1909-2002), author, editor, and folk art advocate.

From the description of Selden Rodman papers relating to Thomas and Klaus Mann, 1932-1971. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702198854

Selden Rodman was an author, poet, editor, art collector, and cultural critic. He was born in Manhattan in 1909 to an affluent family and named Cary Selden Rodman after his father, who died less than a year after his birth. While attending Yale in the 1930s, he co-founded with William Harlan Hale the Harkness Hoot, a satirical magazine critical of the university. After a trip to Europe, where he became acquainted with Ezra Pound and Thomas Mann, he returned to New York and, with Alfred Bingham, founded the leftist magazine Common Sense . Rodman cultivated cultural writers for the magazine, while Bingham wrote on politics and economics. Rodman also wrote poetry, history, and travel books and edited anthologies. In 1938 he first visited Haiti. His play, The Revolutionists, is based on the 1803 slave revolt that founded that country. He later became a patron of Haitian, Brazilian, and Mexican painting. He was a consistent advocate of the poor and of the culture and creations of the social underclass.

Rodman was married four times and divorced three times. He married Eunice Clark in 1933, Hilda Clausen in 1938, and Polish writer Maia Wojciechowska in 1950, with whom he had a daughter. In 1962 he married Carole Cleaver, with whom he had two children. In 1972 a serious fire consumed most of Rodman’s Oakland, New Jersey, home and severely damaged his papers. He died in Ridgewood, New Jersey, in 2002.

From the guide to the Selden Rodman papers, 1924-1972, (University of Wyoming. American Heritage Center.)

Selden Rodman was born February 19, 1909, in New York City. He graduated from Yale College in 1931. In the 1930s, he helped found the journal Common Sense (1932-1946) with Alfred Bingham. During World War II, he served in the foreign nationalities section of the Office of Strategic Services. In 1944, the Haitian government produced his play, The Revolutionists, which lead to a later career as co-director for the Haitian Centre d'Art (1949-1951), promoting Haitian folk art internationally and initiating the famous mural painting movement. In the 1950s, Rodman served as president of the Haitian Art Center in New York City, wrote numerous books on contemporary American art, and befriended emerging artists and poets like Allen Ginsberg and Andrew Wyeth. He became an important champion of folk and figural art, writing a critique of American modernism in his book The Insiders (1960). Rodman toured Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, writing numerous travel guides and meeting important artists and writers like Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz. He spent time in Haiti during the 1980s, continuing his role as informal ambassador for Haitian art and culture and returned to permanent residence in Oakland, New Jersey to live out his remaining years. Rodman published nearly forty books during his lifetime, including his own poetry and prose, art criticism, travel guides, memoirs, anthologies, and collections of interviews. He married Eunice Clark in 1933, Hilda Clausen in 1938, Maia Wojciechowska in 1950, and Carole Cleaver in 1962. Selden Rodman died November 2, 2002.

Selden Rodman was born February 19, 1909, in New York City to architect Cary Selden and wealthy socialite Nannie Van Nostrand (Marvin) Rodman. In 1927, Rodman went to Yale, where he helped found and edit the sardonic Harkness Hoot, and graduated in 1931.

After graduation and a transformative tour of Europe that included a stop in the Soviet Union, Rodman and traveling companion Alfred Bingham founded Common Sense (1932-1946), a "magazine of social protest," which boasted contributing editors like John Dewey, Upton Sinclair, Roger Baldwin, Lewis Mumford, and Max Eastman. The magazine posed a radical challenge to the politics of the New Deal, "attempting to find a place independent of both old liberalism and the newly fashionable intellectual Marxism," according to Bingham. In The Politics of Upheaval, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. described the monthly political magazine as the "most lively and interesting forum of radical discussion in the country." While Bingham oversaw political and economic commentary, Rodman handled cultural matters, persuading writers like John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser, and W. H. Auden to contribute to the magazine. Rodman continued his work with Common Sense until enlisting in 1943, serving first in an automatic weapons battalion and later as master sergeant in the foreign nationalities section of the Office of Strategic Services.

During the war, Rodman made a trip to Haiti as an intelligence officer in 1944, when his play The Revolutionists was produced by the Haitian government. The play was such a diplomatic success that shortly after the war the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs sponsored a second trip to Haiti, where he became co-director for the Haitian Centre d'Art (1949-1951). In this position, he directed and decorated the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Trinité and initiated the famous mural painting movement in Haiti. During his tenure, Haitian folk art and famous outsider artists, like Hector Hyppolite, achieved international renown.

While posted in Washington D.C. during the war, Rodman made his entree into the world of contemporary American art, meeting influential art critic Clement Greenberg, Peggy Guggenheim, and Sam Rosenberg. By the 1950s, Rodman had become president of the Haitian Art Center in New York City and was quickly incorporated into both American art and literary circles-now internationally acclaimed with the ascendancy of American abstract expressionism and Beat poetry. Rodman interviewed many of these emerging artists and poets, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Allen Ginsberg, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko for numerous publications including Conversations with Artists (1957) and Tongues of Fallen Angels (1972). Rodman also wrote a humanist's critique of these same abstract expressionists in his book The Insiders (1960), which denounced the artistic movement as void of content and championed instead figural artists like Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Ben Shawn, and Mark Tobey as the truly great contemporary American artists.

By 1960, Rodman had turned his attention to Latin America, returning first to Haiti and then traveling throughout Central and South America for the next fifteen years to publish travel guides and books on both the modern and folk arts of Latin America. While maintaining his permanent residence in Oakland, New Jersey, Rodman traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, throughout the Caribbean, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, and Ecuador, where he befriended famous writers and artists, such as Diego Rivera, Octavio Paz, and Pablo Neruda. Following this tour, Rodman settled part-time in Haiti until 1992, writing plays and histories of Haitian art, expanding his private art collection, and coordinating exhibitions of Haitian art in Haiti and in the United States. In so doing, Rodman became a leading expert on Haitian art and culture.

During his lifetime, Rodman had many romantic interests, marrying Eunice Clark in 1933, Hilda Clausen in 1938, writer Maia Wojciechowska in 1950, and journalist, poet, and playwright Carole Cleaver in1962. He had one daughter with Maia, Oriana ("Beebe"), and two children with Carole, daughter Carla Pamela and son Van Nostrand.

Rodman spent his remaining years with his fourth wife Carole in Oakland, New Jersey. Having already written over forty books, plays, and exhibition catalogs in his lifetime, Rodman published his final book, Geniuses & Other Eccentrics, in 1997-a fitting recollection of his many celebrated friends. Selden Rodman died November 2, 2002.

From the guide to the Selden Rodman papers, 1938-2000, (Manuscripts and Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Art, Haitian
  • Poetry--Editing
  • Arts
  • European literature--20th century
  • English poetry--20th century
  • Poets, English--20th century
  • Authors, German--Archives

Occupations:

  • Editors
  • Poets

Places:

  • Haiti. (as recorded)
  • Haiti (as recorded)
  • Bonampak Site (Mexico) (as recorded)
  • Haiti (as recorded)
  • Bonampak Site (Mexico). (as recorded)