By Sybil Gordon Kantor
Transforming into up with the 20th century, Alfred Barr (1902-1981), founding director of the Museum of contemporary 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 US and of the guy liable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's profession from the Twenties during the Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either optimistic and unfavorable, that encompass Barr and his achievements.
Barr fervently believed in a cultured in line with the intrinsic qualities of a piece of paintings and the fabrics and strategies all for its construction. Kantor exhibits how this formalist procedure was once 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 exhibits how Barr's skill to reconcile classical objectivity and mythic irrationality allowed him to understand modernism as an open-ended phenomenon that extended 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 vibrant 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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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.
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. After graduating from Princeton in the summer of 1923 and spending his vacation time in Vermont, he arrived at Vassar College in the fall to teach art history for a year. This obliged him to assist in teaching several courses—one in Italian sculpture, another in Italian painting from early Christian times through the Renaissance, and a third in northern European painting—all in the first semester.
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 . . ” An example of Barr’s analytical approach, he thought, was the cold perfection he saw in the work of Michelangelo, while King, in contrast, felt that a “boiling” lay beneath the exterior of the works.