By Sybil Gordon Kantor
Transforming into up with the 20 th century, Alfred Barr (1902-1981), founding director of the Museum of recent artwork, 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 paintings in the United States and of the guy chargeable for its triumph. Following the trajectory of Barr's profession from the Nineteen Twenties in the course of the Forties, Kantor penetrates the myths, either confident and unfavourable, that encompass Barr and his achievements.
Barr fervently believed in a classy according to the intrinsic characteristics of a piece of artwork and the fabrics and strategies concerned about its construction. Kantor exhibits how this formalist method used to be expressed within the organizational constitution of the multidepartmental museum itself, whose collections, exhibitions, and guides all expressed Barr's imaginative and prescient. while, 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 vast correspondence, Kantor additionally paints vibrant pix 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
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.
12 Apparently, correlating Barr’s enthusiasm for art with his religious heritage has been irresistible. But the case is more complex; Barr’s intensity did not manifest itself in zealotry. 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. ”14 What guided Barr and, more to the point, had a profound effect on his turn of mind was the nonauthoritarian organization of Presbyterianism, which was among the Protestant sects that featured congregational self-government. This aspect of Presbyterianism engendered in the young Barr a questioning attitude and KNOWING ALFRED BARR supported a fierce independence—just skirting rebellion—that he ultimately expressed in a modernist aesthetic systematized within the context of traditional art history.