My Love Affair with Modern Art: Behind the Scenes with a Legendary Curator

Skyhorse
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A memoir of the twentieth-century art world, from the famed Art Institute of Chicago curator, critic, and historian.
 
Katharine Kuh made it her personal mission to bring modern art to the people of America. In 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, she opened Chicago’s first commercial avant-garde art gallery, exhibiting Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Ansel Adams, Alexander Calder, and Joan Miró. She went on to serve as the Art Institute of Chicago’s first curator of modern painting and sculpture. Her long career also took her to New York, where she was an art critic for the Saturday Review.
 
Kuh traveled extensively, developing close friendships with many of the artists she championed and admired, including Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Fernand Léger. In this “scintillating collection of incisive essays,” Kuh takes you on a personal tour of the art world she loved. With her keen wit and insight, she shares personal remembrances of the artists she knew, from their personal lives to their creative influences and working methods. Kuh also elaborates on what inspired her most, the difference between looking and seeing, and the adventurous thrill of curatorial sleuthing (Chicago Tribune).
 
Also included is a preface by Kuh’s close friend, art historian Avis Berman, sharing details of Kuh’s personal life that make her story even more compelling.
 
“Kuh focuses a sharp, critical eye on the art, the artists, and the small, extraordinary world in which they all struggled and triumphed.” —ARTnews
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About the author

Katharine Kuh founded her own Chicago gallery in 1935. Her sixteen years at the Art Institute of Chicago coincided with that institution’s emergence as one of the world’s greatest museums. She chronicled two decades of contemporary art as a critic at the Saturday Review. Kuh died in 1994.
 
Avis Berman is an art historian, author, and Edward Hopper expert. She was a personal friend of Katharine Kuh and lives in New York City.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Skyhorse
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Published on
Dec 27, 2011
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781628722697
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
Biography & Autobiography / Artists, Architects, Photographers
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Leo Castelli reigned for decades as America’s most influential art dealer. Now Annie Cohen-Solal, author of the hugely acclaimed Sartre: A Life (“an intimate portrait of the man that possesses all the detail and resonance of fiction”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times), recounts his incalculably influential and astonishing life in Leo and His Circle.

After emigrating to New York in 1941, Castelli would not open a gallery for sixteen years, when he had reached the age of fifty. But as the first to exhibit the then-unknown Jasper Johns, Castelli emerged as a tastemaker overnight and fast came to champion a virtual Who’s Who of twentieth-century masters: Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Twombly, to name a few. The secret of Leo’s success? Personal devotion to the artists, his “heroes”: by putting young talents on stipend and seeking placement in the ideal collection rather than with the top bidder, he transformed the way business was done, multiplying the capital, both cultural and financial, of those he represented. His enterprise, which by 1980 had expanded to an impressive network of satellite galleries in Europe and three locations in New York, thus became the unrivaled commercial institution in American art, producing a generation of acolytes, among them Mary Boone, Jeffrey Deitch, Larry Gagosian, and Tony Shafrazi.

Leo and His Circle brilliantly narrates the course of one man’s power and influence. But Castelli had another secret, too: his life as an Italian Jew. Annie Cohen-Solal traces a family whose fortunes rose and fell for centuries before the Castellis fled European fascism. Never hidden but also never discussed, this experience would form the core of a guarded but magnetic character possessed of unfailing old-world charm and a refusal to look backward—traits that ensured Castelli’s visionary precedence in every major new movement from Pop to Conceptual and by which he fostered the worldwide enthusiasm for American contemporary art that is his greatest legacy.

Drawing on her friendship with the subject, as well as an uncanny knack for archival excavation, Annie Cohen-Solal gives us in full the elegant, shrewd, irresistible, and enigmatic figure at the very center of postwar American art, bringing an utterly new understanding of its evolution.
In American Salons, Robert Crunden provides a sweeping account of the American encounter with European Modernism up to the American entry into World War I. Crunden begins with deft portraits of the figures who were central to the birth of Modernism, including James Whistler, the eccentric expatriate American painter who became the archetypal artist in his dress and behavior, and Henry and William James, who broke new ground in the genre of the novel and in psychology, influencing an international audience in a broad range of fields. At the heart of the book are the American salons--the intimate, personal gatherings of artists and intellectuals where Modernism flourished. In Chicago, Floyd Dell and Margery Currey spread new ideas to Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, and others. In London, Ezra Pound could be found behind everything from the cigars of W. B. Yeats to the prose of Ford Madox Hueffer. In Paris, the salons of Leo and Gertrude Stein, and Michael and Sarah Stein, gave Picasso and Matisse their first secure audiences and incomes; meanwhile, Gertrude Stein produced a new writing style that had an incalculable impact on the generation of Ernest Hemingway. Most important of all were the salons of New York City. Alfred Stieglitz pioneered new forms of photography at the famous 291 Gallery. Mabel Dodge brought together modernist playwrights and painters, introducing them to political reformers and radicals. At the salon of Walter and Louise Arensberg, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia rubbed shoulders with Wallace Stevens, Man Ray, and William Carlos Williams. By 1917, no art in America remained untouched by these new institutions. From the journalism of H. L. Mencken to the famous 1913 Armory Show in New York, Crunden illuminates this pivotal era, offering perceptive insights and evocative descriptions of the central personalities of Modernism.
Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic Sebastian Smee tells the fascinating story of four pairs of artists—Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon—whose fraught, competitive friendships spurred them to new creative heights.

Rivalry is at the heart of some of the most famous and fruitful relationships in history. The Art of Rivalry follows eight celebrated artists, each linked to a counterpart by friendship, admiration, envy, and ambition. All eight are household names today. But to achieve what they did, each needed the influence of a contemporary—one who was equally ambitious but possessed sharply contrasting strengths and weaknesses.

Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas were close associates whose personal bond frayed after Degas painted a portrait of Manet and his wife. Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso swapped paintings, ideas, and influences as they jostled for the support of collectors like Leo and Gertrude Stein and vied for the leadership of a new avant-garde. Jackson Pollock’s uninhibited style of “action painting” triggered a breakthrough in the work of his older rival, Willem de Kooning. After Pollock’s sudden death in a car crash, de Kooning assumed Pollock's mantle and became romantically involved with his late friend’s mistress. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon met in the early 1950s, when Bacon was being hailed as Britain’s most exciting new painter and Freud was working in relative obscurity. Their intense but asymmetrical friendship came to a head when Freud painted a portrait of Bacon, which was later stolen.

Each of these relationships culminated in an early flashpoint, a rupture in a budding intimacy that was both a betrayal and a trigger for great innovation. Writing with the same exuberant wit and psychological insight that earned him a Pulitzer Prize for art criticism, Sebastian Smee explores here the way that coming into one’s own as an artist—finding one’s voice—almost always involves willfully breaking away from some intimate’s expectations of who you are or ought to be.

Praise for The Art of Rivalry

“Gripping . . . Mr. Smee’s skills as a critic are evident throughout. He is persuasive and vivid. . . . You leave this book both nourished and hungry for more about the art, its creators and patrons, and the relationships that seed the ground for moments spent at the canvas.”—The New York Times

“With novella-like detail and incisiveness [Sebastian Smee] opens up the worlds of four pairs of renowned artists. . . . Each of his portraits is a biographical gem. . . . The Art of Rivalry is a pure, informative delight, written with canny authority.”—The Boston Globe
The spellbinding story, part fairy tale, part suspense, of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, one of the most emblematic portraits of its time; of the beautiful, seductive Viennese Jewish salon hostess who sat for it; the notorious artist who painted it; the now vanished turn-of-the-century Vienna that shaped it; and the strange twisted fate that befell it.
 
The Lady in Gold, considered an unforgettable masterpiece, one of the twentieth century’s most recognizable paintings, made headlines all over the world when Ronald Lauder bought it for $135 million a century after Klimt, the most famous Austrian painter of his time, completed the society portrait.
 
Anne-Marie O’Connor, writer for The Washington Post, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, tells the galvanizing story of the Lady in Gold, Adele Bloch-Bauer, a dazzling Viennese Jewish society figure; daughter of the head of one of the largest banks in the Hapsburg Empire, head of the Oriental Railway, whose Orient Express went from Berlin to Constantinople; wife of Ferdinand Bauer, sugar-beet baron.
 
The Bloch-Bauers were art patrons, and Adele herself was considered a rebel of fin de siècle Vienna (she wanted to be educated, a notion considered “degenerate” in a society that believed women being out in the world went against their feminine “nature”). The author describes how Adele inspired the portrait and how Klimt made more than a hundred sketches of her—simple pencil drawings on thin manila paper.
 
And O’Connor writes of Klimt himself, son of a failed gold engraver, shunned by arts bureaucrats, called an artistic heretic in his time, a genius in ours.
 
She writes of the Nazis confiscating the portrait of Adele from the Bloch-Bauers’ grand palais; of the Austrian government putting the painting on display, stripping Adele’s Jewish surname from it so that no clues to her identity (nor any hint of her Jewish origins) would be revealed. Nazi officials called the painting, The Lady in Gold and proudly exhibited it in Vienna’s Baroque Belvedere Palace, consecrated in the 1930s as a Nazi institution.
 
The author writes of the painting, inspired by the Byzantine mosaics Klimt had studied in Italy, with their exotic symbols and swirls, the subject an idol in a golden shrine.
 
We see how, sixty years after it was stolen by the Nazis, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer became the subject of a decade-long litigation between the Austrian government and the Bloch-Bauer heirs, how and why the U.S. Supreme Court became involved in the case, and how the Court’s decision had profound ramifications in the art world.
 
A riveting social history; an illuminating and haunting look at turn-of-the-century Vienna; a brilliant portrait of the evolution of a painter; a masterfully told tale of suspense. And at the heart of it, the Lady in Gold—the shimmering painting, and its equally irresistible subject, the fate of each forever intertwined.
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