By Sybil Gordon Kantor
Becoming up with the 20 th century, Alfred Barr (1902-1981), founding director of the Museum of contemporary artwork, harnessed the cataclysm that used to be modernism. during this book—part highbrow biography, half institutional history—Sybil Gordon Kantor tells the tale of the increase of recent artwork in the US and of the fellow accountable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's occupation from the Nineteen Twenties in the course of the Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either optimistic and detrimental, that encompass Barr and his achievements.
Barr fervently believed in a cultured in response to the intrinsic features of a piece of artwork and the fabrics and strategies considering its production. Kantor indicates how this formalist process was once expressed within the organizational constitution of the multidepartmental museum itself, whose collections, exhibitions, and courses all expressed Barr's imaginative and prescient. while, she exhibits how Barr's skill to reconcile classical objectivity and mythic irrationality allowed him to understand modernism as an open-ended phenomenon that increased past purist summary modernism to incorporate surrealist, nationalist, realist, and expressionist art.
Drawing on interviews with Barr's contemporaries in addition to on Barr's wide correspondence, Kantor additionally paints brilliant images of, between others, Jere Abbott, Katherine Dreier, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson, Lincoln Kirstein, Agnes Mongan, J. B. Neumann, and Paul Sachs.
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Extra info for Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art
30 Both King and Abbott complained about Barr’s reticence, his indisposition to share his innermost thoughts. Yet Barr could write to a German art dealer in New York, J. B. Neumann—a wildly enthusiastic man who served as Barr’s mentor for many years—that “when I first saw [Corot’s Montigny les Corneilles] in your bedroom it hurt. It made my throat feel queer and my eyes smart. ”31 And again, Philip Johnson recalled Barr’s erudition in persuading the museum’s collections committee to buy a triptych of Marilyn Monroe painted by James Gill: “He was intensely interested in the Monroe mythology, the symbolism.
31 And again, Philip Johnson recalled Barr’s erudition in persuading the museum’s collections committee to buy a triptych of Marilyn Monroe painted by James Gill: “He was intensely interested in the Monroe mythology, the symbolism. He harked back to Aphrodite and even the White Goddess. ”32 Johnson, who probably knew him better than anyone, spelled out three aspects of Barr’s character: “The first was his unbridled passion, a torrential passion that I have never known anyone else in my lifetime to have had.
P. ”35 His advice taken, he then wrote on February 1922, to Gauss at Smith College: You know as well as I how great a pleasure it has been to have you interested in Vermeer. Vermeer is my best beloved among painters. I’d like to have you meet also Mynheir Gerhart Terborch who is even more fastidious than Vermeer in his choice and arrangement of subjects. He builds up his figures out of a velvety black envelope instead of the cool light of Vermeer . . wonderful painting of texture and surface especially silk which I know will appeal to your feminine eye.
Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art by Sybil Gordon Kantor