By Sybil Gordon Kantor
Growing to be up with the 20 th century, Alfred Barr (1902-1981), founding director of the Museum of recent 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 USA and of the guy chargeable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's occupation from the Twenties throughout the Nineteen Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either optimistic and adverse, that encompass Barr and his achievements.
Barr fervently believed in a classy according to the intrinsic features of a piece of paintings and the fabrics and strategies taken with its construction. Kantor indicates 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. even as, she indicates 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 large correspondence, Kantor additionally paints brilliant pictures 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
The second course with Morey, in medieval art, fixed his decision to pursue art scholarship. Synthesizing multiple aspects of medieval culture, from folklore and handicrafts to theology, fascinated Barr from the beginning. Recognized as one of the leading scholars of medievalism, Morey established it as a course of study in the United States. Joining the faculty in 1906, Morey was among the second generation of professors appointed by Marquand who were Barr’s teachers. In the American spirit of exploration, Morey turned to areas characterized by their scarcity of documents and monuments, such as Hellenistic, pre-Gothic, and so-called “primitive” Italian art.
36 Again, Mather sensed the forms of modernism, but ridicule debased his criticism because he was unable to overcome his innate conservatism. Even though he deprecated their efforts, Mather correctly observed that avantgarde artists were influenced by primitive art: “High among those are the Congo blacks who have fixed their fears and obscenities in ebony images nearly as enduring as bronze. ”37 Mather’s found almost nothing of worth in Matisse, calling his work “garish and unsteady . . ”38 This view of Matisse eventually caused an open conflict between Barr and Mather.
Which I suppose is true. Yet none of my teachers was nearly as open to new ideas and so tolerant of contemporary art they didn’t like. Furthermore I always felt that you had a real sense of the importance of first hand contact with a work of art and of qualitative judgements. This was valuable especially with an education overwhelmingly based on photographs. However conservative you may find yourself to be, you will always THE PRINCETON YEARS have philosophical objectivity. . 45 BARR MOVES ON TO VASSAR Barr had set a five-year plan for himself of working and going to school in alternate years to finance his education.