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 paintings, 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 guy liable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's profession from the Twenties in the course of the Nineteen Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either confident and damaging, that encompass Barr and his achievements.
Barr fervently believed in a cultured in keeping with the intrinsic qualities of a piece of artwork and the fabrics and strategies all in favour of its construction. 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 accelerated 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 bright photos 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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Additional info for Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art
3 Like their colleagues shaping the new discipline at Harvard, professors in the first generation at Princeton were usually trained in literature or classical studies or science and largely self-taught in art history. The confluence of theology and art history, as well as science and art history, in the shaping of the art history graduate departments had an impact on Barr’s ultimate career. Many ministers—and in the next generation, sons of ministers—could be found lecturing on the history of the fine arts in neophyte departments of art history.
His consummate involvement with art, rarely disclosed even to his closest associates, did not replicate his spiritual life; in a nonspecific sense it replaced that life, as it did for many of his generation. 13 On December 23, 1921, he wrote to his friend Katherine Gauss: “How can you be pessimistic if you open the shutter of your soul to beauty. . My Christianity is intellectual and therefore feeble. Belief is emotional and I have never had an experience strong enough to require an emotional religion.
Examples abound in his correspondence of what could be construed as either exactitude or petty insistence on observing precepts to the letter. He seldom speculated on questions if he couldn’t be absolutely sure of the answer; faced with a request for a recommendation for a student he couldn’t remember after ten years, he said so. 18 When Frank Crowninshield inquired about his publications, Barr’s reply might be seen as too literal and petulant: “I believe . . (I am) author of some 19 or 20 catalogues, editor and part author of about eight more, and unofficial editor of some ten more.
Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art by Sybil Gordon Kantor