By Sybil Gordon Kantor
Starting to be up with the 20th century, Alfred Barr (1902-1981), founding director of the Museum of recent paintings, 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 United States and of the guy liable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's profession from the Nineteen Twenties during the Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either optimistic and detrimental, that encompass Barr and his achievements.
Barr fervently believed in a cultured in response to the intrinsic characteristics of a piece of artwork and the fabrics and strategies all in favour of its construction. Kantor indicates how this formalist technique was once expressed within the organizational constitution of the multidepartmental museum itself, whose collections, exhibitions, and guides 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 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 vast correspondence, Kantor additionally paints brilliant 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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Additional resources for Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art
42 Agnes Mongan in a letter to Bernard Berenson agreed: You have never met Alfred, have you? When you do many of the questions you asked me last year about Marga will be answered, I know of no pair more diverse in background, in emotional inheritance, or in outward manner—& more devoted or more reliant upon the well-being of the other, and I like & admire them both immensely. 43 The description of Barr that appeared in the individual profiles of the “Commencement Issue” of his high school newspaper hardly would change over his lifetime: “a sincere nut of the silent but deadly type.
A fine sense of humor and benevolence, with music also. ”44 The last sentence, a seemingly contradictory characterization, was a constant pattern, revealing a combination of traits at the core of Barr’s personality and proving most fruitful for his ultimate accomplishments. It found expression in Barr’s ability to embrace the openendedness of modern art. Despite seeming to be analytical to the point of coldness, the suppression of his spiritual life in the interest of “scientific objectivity” (an emerging cultural value) characterized his demeanor.
Perhaps his obdurate dedication to art, plus an almost palpable shyness that distanced him from people as well as his frail demeanor—he was sick frequently—encouraged both legends; ultimately his frailty was misconstrued as a manifestation of spirituality. 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.
Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art by Sybil Gordon Kantor