Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the by Sybil Gordon Kantor

By Sybil Gordon Kantor

Turning out to be 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 paintings in the United States and of the guy chargeable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's occupation from the Nineteen Twenties throughout the Nineteen Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either confident and adverse, that encompass Barr and his achievements.

Barr fervently believed in a classy in line with the intrinsic characteristics of a piece of paintings and the fabrics and strategies considering its production. Kantor exhibits how this formalist method used to be expressed within the organizational constitution of the multidepartmental museum itself, whose collections, exhibitions, and courses all expressed Barr's imaginative and prescient. whilst, she exhibits how Barr's skill to reconcile classical objectivity and mythic irrationality allowed him to understand modernism as an open-ended phenomenon that improved 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 broad correspondence, Kantor additionally paints vibrant pix 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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Vation of the philistines. . ”7 His lifelong friend and colleague, the architect Philip Johnson, remarked that Barr had “[a] passion . . very narrow, very clear in his own mind. ”8 Alice Marquis made good the title of her unauthorized biography9 Alfred H. : Missionary for the Modern. Barr, she judged, “prodded and shamed and proselytized his countrymen into embracing his vision of modern art. ”10 Marquis even suggested that in the task of raising 5 6 PROLOGUE money for the Museum, Barr was echoing his father’s fund-raising sermons on behalf of the endowment of the church.

Generally, Barr’s reserve functioned to hide his enthusiasm. King described Barr as “having a transparent shield around him. . His habit of appraising everything gave him a strange air. . ” His appearance was important—he dressed very carefully, to the hilt. [He was] conscious of appearance, of deportment. ”25 King described Barr’s stance toward art as continually critical, appraising everything both analytically and synthetically. Barr “was always interested in the platonic underlying forms .

47 On November 14, the Vassar Miscellany News reported that the Kandinsky exhibition was the subject of much discussion by both students and professors, none of whom seemed to be sympathetic. The editor wrote that the quality of newness could be legitimate but dangerous because it allowed so many poseurs who paint “tortured cubes and inebriated squares and call them ‘The Temptation of St. ’” The writer reported on the reaction of a Mr. Chatterton, a professor of art at the college, who said that the language of the pictures was “unintelligible”: “Both [Chatterton] and Mr.

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