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

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 was once modernism. during this book—part highbrow biography, half institutional history—Sybil Gordon Kantor tells the tale of the increase of contemporary paintings in the US and of the fellow answerable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's occupation from the Twenties throughout the Nineteen Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either confident and damaging, that encompass Barr and his achievements.

Barr fervently believed in a cultured in line with the intrinsic features of a piece of artwork and the fabrics and strategies curious about its production. Kantor exhibits how this formalist strategy 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 indicates how Barr's skill to reconcile classical objectivity and mythic irrationality allowed him to understand modernism as an open-ended phenomenon that multiplied 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 huge correspondence, Kantor additionally paints vibrant 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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Along with his rectitude, Barr assumed a personal manner and form that eschewed any display of emotional response in his aesthetic activities. Barr explained away his “coldness” when he wrote to Gauss: You called me impersonal and artistic—lost in the extreme—I wonder if you believe the former quality truly characteristic. As for the latter I must be very careful—true artistry is that which is self-concealed. But impersonal? It is a position not a point of view, a frame of mind, a coat of mail which I have cultivated for years and now that it is become a habit I am “hoist by my own petard” in the most tragic manner.

I have completely rearranged the Modern Painting course. It took eight and a half hours merely to plan it. A continuous urge to learn more, to understand what before was woefully superficial—and then I have no energy for anything else and I am far behind in sleep. 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.

34 Barr’s letters to Gauss, in a correspondence that bespeaks the emerging maturation of a young man in his twenties, are the most revealing personal source of his contradictory, complex character—unyielding in the face of opposition to his programs and, at the same time, retiring and modest. He had the ability to be selfdisciplined, self-taught, self-directed while seeming to participate in the group action so necessary to promoting and establishing a new movement. His letters are 11 12 PROLOGUE full of humor, tenderness, sensitivity, erudition, and poetry, as well as expressions of unrequited love, as Barr positioned himself as teacher, his most comfortable role, to Katherine Gauss, a girl he was trying to impress.

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