The International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as The Armory Show, held at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue at East 25th Street in Manhattan, giving the show its unofficial name, comprised more than 1,200 works of art by American and European artists. While American art constituted two-thirds of the work on view, it was the European art that caused a stir and that has dominated discussion of the Armory Show ever since. Special attention centered on the European avant-garde artists Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, and Henri Matisse. It was their works that the press focused on, whipping their readership into a frenzy and igniting overwhelming curiosity, consternation, and concern among the public. Nevertheless, a significant number of the contemporaneous accounts were decidedly mixed and nuanced, yet over time, the emphasis on the foreign art in the show and denigration of the American as provincial and imitative became the dominant narrative. This exhibition challenges that myth.
Stavitsky said: “The usual emphasis on foreign art in the Armory Show is linked to the pervasive notion that American art before 1940 has played only a marginal role in historical narratives, especially in relation to French art, which became the standard for modern art. A myth therefore grew that the American art in the Armory Show was a relative monolith of conservatism. In fact, the American art on view was vastly diverse—in media, style, gender, and age. The untold story of the Armory Show is that it in fact displayed the dynamism and diversity of American visual art.”
In presenting mainly the American artists who contributed to the Armory Show, the exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum spotlights the diverse range of American art that was exhibited. It features 36 American artists and nearly 40 works in various media: paintings, sculptures, prints, watercolors, and other works on paper. The exhibition includes works by well-known artists like Edward Hopper, Robert Henri, and John Marin, as well as works by artists such as Manierre Dawson, Kathleen McEnery, and E. Ambrose Webster, who, despite their talents, remain at the periphery of mainstream American art history. The Armory Show is famously considered the first to expose American audiences to Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism on a large scale; however, the styles represented range quite broadly, from Ash Can School realism in works by William Glackens, Robert Henri, and John Sloan to Manierre Dawson’s highly abstract Untitled (Wharf Under Mountain). Women artists represented nearly 20% of the almost 200 Americans in the show, and several appear in MAM’s exhibition, including Katherine S. Dreier, Grace Mott Johnson, Ethel Myers, and others. The featured artists include those who had established reputations such as Maurice Prendergast as well as young emerging artists like Stuart Davis. Works by Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse reveal the influence and context of European modernism. Special efforts have been made to recreate details of the original installation, including burlap wall coverings, decorative pine trees, and yellow-hued streamers overhead, forming a tentlike canopy for the exhibition space.
A significant part of the Armory Show story is the work of its artist-organizers, principally Arthur B. Davies, Walt Kuhn, and Walter Pach, who worked feverishly and under crushing deadlines to bring about and publicize this exhibition of unprecedented scope. A related exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum features works from MAM’s permanent collection by the artist-organizers of the show.
The Montclair Art Museum has also collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution’
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue, distributed by the Penn State University Press for the Montclair Art Museum. The catalogue includes an introduction by Gail Stavitsky and essays by Laurette E. McCarthy on the American artists in the show and on the art collectors. An essay by Charles H. Duncan, collections specialist at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, presents the history of the Armory Show’s primary sources. It will be available in The Store at MAM for $29.95. Hardcover: 8 ½ x 11 inches, 160 pages, 60 color/40 black-and-white illustrations.
Redefining American Art: Organizers of the 1913 Armory Show in MAM’s Collection
This exhibition is drawn from MAM’s permanent collection and features works by the artist-organizers of the 1913 Armory Show. It is curated by Kimberly Fisher, MAM curatorial assistant.
Oscar Bluemner’s America: Picturing Paterson, New Jersey
Selections from the Vera Kouba Bluemner Collection, Stetson University, DeLand, Florida
This exhibition features 29 works created between 1910 and 1917 by the modern painter Oscar Bluemner of Paterson, New Jersey, a once-thriving manufacturing center that became a center of social, political, and economic upheaval in the early 20th century. One work by Bluemner, Hackensack River (ca. 1912, Naples Museum of Art), is included in The New Spirit.
Free First Thursday Nights at MAM
The Museum is open the first Thursday of the month (October –June) from 5 to 9 p.m., with free admission to the galleries, unique programming, and a full-service bar with special First Thursday Night prices. Free First Thursday Nights are made possible by a generous grant from the Roche Foundation and offered in partnership with Egan & Sons. See montclairartmuseum.org for more details.
The Museum will maintain a site dedicated to the exhibition for journalists seeking further information, including a checklist, images, and related events and programs. Please visit montclairartmuseum.org/
Group tours may be booked by calling 973-259-5136 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New Spirit: American Art in the Armory Show, 1913 is made possible with generous support from J.P.Morgan.
This exhibition is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Exhibition Angels: The Vance Wall Foundation, The Susan V. Bershad Charitable Fund, Tracy Higgins and James Leitner, Jacqueline and Herb Klein, Toni LeQuire-Schott and Newton B. Schott, Jr., Adrian Shelby and Edward Bindel, Margo and Frank Walter, and the Judith Targan Endowment Fund for Museum Publications.
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The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) presents exhibitions and programs that reflect its collection of historic and contemporary American and Native American art. MAM's Yard School of Art offers classes for people of all ages.