By Sybil Gordon Kantor

Becoming up with the 20 th century, Alfred Barr (1902-1981), founding director of the Museum of recent 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 paintings in the United States and of the fellow accountable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's profession from the Nineteen Twenties in the course of the Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either optimistic and destructive, that encompass Barr and his achievements.

Barr fervently believed in a cultured in line with the intrinsic characteristics of a piece of paintings and the fabrics and methods fascinated by its construction. Kantor indicates how this formalist method 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 elevated 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 large correspondence, Kantor additionally paints bright pics 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 resources for Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art

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He was not a spontaneous person. ” Barr’s habit was to study a work of art for a protracted period. For example, at the Museum he would keep a potential acquisition “at the end of the corridor outside his office a while so he can worry about it. ”29 Abbott stressed Barr’s “intellectual balance. ”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.

Like Morey, he analyzed complex material in search of patterns and stylistic order. On at least four occasions, Barr used a system of chronological charts, precisely drawn, to illustrate the pervasiveness of interlocking developments. The first, at Harvard in 1925, was a flow chart (fig. 4) for Paul J. Sachs outlining the chronol- THE PRINCETON YEARS 4. Barr’s chart showing the history of prints, enclosed with letter from Barr to Sachs, August 3, 1925. Harvard University Art Museums Archives, Paul J.

Listen to the sweet tale of my courses: 1. Byzantine Art [Porter]; 2. Engravings and Etchings [Sachs]; 3. Theory and Practice of Representation and Design (Fun with water colors and pencil and tempera) [Pope]; 4. Drawings—14th Italian, 14, 15th German, 18th French [Sachs]; 5. Modern Sculpture; 6. Florentine Painting; 7. Classical Culture in the Middle Ages with Rand; 8. Prose and Poetry, Tudor and Stuart. 9. Russian Music. The last five I merely listen to and take notes—but aren’t they swell? 1 37 38 CHAPTER 2 With these courses, Barr was inducted into a program that would direct him toward a formalist point of view, which first supplemented the historicist approach he had learned in Princeton and then overtook it.

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