American art the_edith_and_milton_lowenthal_collection_the_metropolitan_museum_of_art_bulletin_v_54_no_1_summer_1996

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<ol><li> 1. American Art The Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection LisaMintzMessinger TheMetropolitanMuseumof Art </li><li> 2. TheMetropolitanMuseumof ArtBulletin V 1 .I .N ? * . ~N I, f 4 .) I S r E i -I ? . . , I' * V ,oip ilr. . , I I P . i f ^ XA. .- a. t I' f . -! /, ejI, ,/ *4. / / -A /. I . .i r , t I ! . . t I. ir ,S I' . I The Metropolitan Museum of Art is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin www.jstor.org </li><li> 3. Thispublicationwas made possiblethroughthe generosityof the LilaAchesonWallaceFundfor TheMetropolitanMuseumof Artestablished by the cofounderof Reader's Digest. Reprintof The MetropolitanMuseumof ArtBulletin (Summer1996) ? 1996 byThe MetropolitanMuseum of Art,1000 FifthAvenue,NewYork,N.Y.10028-0198. Design:PatrickSeymourforTsangSeymourDesign. Allphotographs,unless otherwisenoted, byThe PhotographStudioof The MetropolitanMuseumof Art. Photographers:Joseph CosciaJr.,KatherineDahab, Anna-MarieKellen,Oi-CheongLee, PatriciaMazza, CaitlinMcCaffrey,BruceSchwarz,EileenTravell, KarinL.Willis,and CarmelWilson. Photographysuppliedand photocopyrightheld bythe institutionslistedinthe captionsaccompanyingthe illustrations,except as noted. Thefollowingphotographswereobtainedfromthe LowenthalPapers,TheArchivesof AmericanArt, SmithsonianInstitution,Washington,D.C.:John Atherton,Bar Detail;DarrelAustin,TheFamily,Spirits of the Stream;PaulBurlin,TheSoda Jerker,Merchant of Pearls;DavidBurliuk,Blue Horse;JonCorbino, FightingHorsemen;BriggsDyer,Streetin Galena; RaphaelGleitsmann,StarkCounty-Winter;George Grosz,StandingNude;RobertGwathmey,Endof Day; PeterHurd,AnEveningin Spring;FrankKleinholz, FlowerVendors;WaltKuhn,TheMandolinist;Rico Lebrun,TheBeggar;LuigiLucioni,Variationsin Blue; Joseph De Martini,TheLighthouse;HenryMattson,The Wave;ElliotOrr,Heraldof Disaster;AnthonyPisciotta, EnchantedCity;Josef Presser,MagicMountain; AbrahamRattner,Temptationof SaintAnthony; MaxWeber,GoodNews. MadisonArtCenter,Wisconsin,photographsbyAngela Webster. Cover:StuartDavis,ReportfromRockport,detail.See page 8. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin www.jstor.org </li><li> 4. Director's Note Edithand MiltonLowenthalwere pioneeringcollectors of con- temporaryAmericanart, who, in a span of approximatelytwenty years, amassed holdingsthat exemplifythe range of American artof the 1930s and 1940s. Theirpassion and commitment as collectors were instrumentalin increasingawareness and appreciationof the worksof those decades among other collec- tors and institutions.Theybecame champions of Americanart, and theircontributionsto a heightened awareness of the merits of that artare celebrated in this Bulletinand in the accompany- ing exhibitionat the MetropolitanMuseum (October10, 1996- January12, 1997). The publicationand the exhibitionhighlight the 8 workspresented posthumouslyfromthe Edithand Milton LowenthalCollectionto the Museum, as well as a selection of fortyother paintings,sculptures, and drawingsfromtheir hold- ings now in publicand privatecollections. The 48 worksare illustratedin color and discussed in separate entries. A com- plete checklist of the 155 worksthat at one time or another constituted the Lowenthals'holdingsof twentieth-century Americanart concludes the text. The Museum received seven paintingsand a drawingfrom the Lowenthals'collection in 1992, includingtwo paintingsby StuartDavis (ReportfromRockportand Arboretumby Flash- bulb);one byArthurDove (TheInn);two by MarsdenHartley (AlbertPinkhamRyderand Mt. Katahdin,Maine, No. 2); one by MaxWeber (Hasidic Dance); and one paintingand one drawingby CharlesSheeler (Americanaand TheOpen Door, respectively).Eacheither fills a lacuna in the Museum's collection or adds strengthto alreadydistinguishedholdings. These works,and the fortyothers accompanyingthem in the exhibition,stand as testimony to the strengths of the Lowenthals'collection. We are happyto give ourvisitorsthe opportunityto examine these worksin one forum,and to express our appreciationto the Lowenthalsand their heirs, Mr.and Mrs.LouisM. Bernsteinand Mr.and Mrs.AlfredE. Bernstein.We also extend our sincere thanks to LisaMintz Messingerfor her role in mountingthe exhibitionand her authorshipof this publication. Philippede Montebello Director 3 The Metropolitan Museum of Art is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin www.jstor.org </li><li> 5. Introduction Notes to the texts can be found beginningon page 54. InJanuary1943, when Edithand MiltonLowenthalacquired theirfirstcontemporaryAmericanworks,they also kindleda life- longpassion forthe artof theirowntime. Theirenthusiasm led them to become staunch and earlydefenders of modernartas it developed inAmerica.Overthe yearsthe Lowenthalswere hailed as pioneersforboldlycollectingpieces fromthe 1930s and 1940s even beforethey were widelyreflectedinotherAmerican collections and museums. Throughnumerousgifts made during theirlifetimes,the Lowenthalsplayeda significantroleinincreas- ingthe presence of AmericanartinAmericanmuseums and in raisingnationalawareness of that art'sconsiderablemerits. The Lowenthals'commitmentto contemporaryAmerican artwas engendered in partbytheir manyvisitsto the large juriedexhibition"ArtistsforVictory,"held at the Metropolitan Museumduringthe winterof 1942-43. Duringits installation fromDecember 7, 1942 (the one-year anniversaryof the bombingof PearlHarbor),throughFebruary22, 1943, the Lowenthalsvisitedabout twenty-sixtimes to studythe 1,418 workson view,all bycontemporaryAmericanartists. Infact, theirfirstfourpurchases were made directlyfromthe exhibition. Reflectingon this experience in 1952, MiltonLowenthalwrote: Ourexperiencein collectingcontemporaryAmericanartcom- menced withan excitingand wondrousdiscovery-that in this magnificentcountryof ours there existed an artin whichwe couldjustifiablytakegreat pride.Inone tremendouslythrilling moment there fellfromourshoulders the weightof an apolo- getic attitudethe Americanpeople have too long felt towards the artof theirown country.No longerwere we a nationof ingeniousmachines butalso a nationpossessed of a soul and a spiriturgentlyand magnificentlyexpressingitself in canvas and stone; a nationpossessed of poets, musicians and artists equal to those of any othernation.... Eachartistspoke in his own tongue, yet all merged in one gloriousresoundingvoice crying,"Thistoo is you America."Canthere be any wonder then that withthisjoy that filledourhearts we turnedto the Americanartistforthe most thrillingexperience of ourlifetime together,the collectingof contemporaryAmericanart?...Our task is clear.TheAmericanartistdeserves oursupportand encouragement. Wemust not failhim. Thefeelings of nationalpridearoused inthe Lowenthals echoed the intentof the exhibition'sorganizers,a nonprofit groupcalled ArtistsforVictoryInc. Its members shared a desire to involveartists inAmerica'swareffort,"sothat we shall remaina free nation, dedicated to a creativeuseful life, prac- ticingthe arts and sciences of peace." One of the firstprojects EdithLowenthal,ca. 1935-40 MiltonLowenthal,ca. 1935 of this groupwas the competitionat the Metropolitan,and by all accounts the patrioticmessage of the exhibitionwas well receivedbythe publicand the press. As one reporterproclaimed, the show "reaffirmsour beliefthat it is worthfightinga warso that the individualmay continue to express himselfwithoutfear, and that we value his freedom so preciouslywe willexhibit,in the midstof war,the productof his expression." Greatlyinspiredbywhatthey had seen at the Metropolitan, the Lowenthalsbegan to frequentother NewYorkmuseums and galleries, and withina yearthey had acquiredan astounding forty-sevenworksfromsixteen differentvendors. Theyadded eighty-threemore pieces between 1944 and 1949. Afterthat, the rate of theiracquisitionsdeclined, but by 1965, when the Lowenthalsmade their last purchase, the total numberof works that had been partof theircollection had grownto an impres- sive 155 items (eighty-eightpaintings, eight sculptures, and fifty-ninedrawings).What is perhaps most astonishing, con- sideringthe qualityof theirselections, is thatthe entirecollection was acquiredforsomething under$100,000. Atfirstthey patternedtheirchoices afterthose made bythe museums and galleriesthey most respected. Itis verytellingthat thirtyof the sixty-sixartistsinthe finalincarnationof the Lowenthal Collectionwere representedinthe "ArtistsforVictory"exhibition. Evenlater,when they had developed considerableexpertise,they frequentlyacquiredspecific worksafterseeing them in museum shows. Unlikesome collectors who had curatorsrecommend purchases, the Lowenthalspreferredto consult installationson theirownto determinethe artiststhey should consider. Theirassociation withdealers, on the other hand, was much more personaland direct. Forexample, the Lowenthals 4 The Metropolitan Museum of Art is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin www.jstor.org </li><li> 6. found a sympatheticand guidingspiritin EdithGregorHalpert, owner-directorof the DowntownGallery,whomthey met during theirfirstweeks of purchasing.Halpert'simpressiverosterof artistsincludedsuch notables as StuartDavis,ArthurDove, MarsdenHartley,YasuoKuniyoshi,Jacob Lawrence,Georgia O'Keeffe,AbrahamRattner,Ben Shahn, CharlesSheeler, and MaxWeber.Not surprisingly,these were the same artistswho were the foundationof the LowenthalCollection.Intotal the Lowenthalsacquiredforty-sixpicturesfromHalpertbetween 1943 and 1958. Althoughthey patronizedmanydifferent galleries-Paul Rosenberg,forexample, sold the Lowenthals twenty-oneworks-their relationshipwithHalpertwas the most essential in shapingtheiraesthetic judgments and in defining the emphasis of theirholdings. Yet,inspite of the obvious influences exerted by museum standardsand galleryadvice, the Lowenthalsremainedopen to the meritsof manydifferentkindsof art.Theirselections, which were sometimes eclectic or adventurous,showed an unusual willingnessto take chances on the unproven.Inadditionto pieces bythe well-knownartistsof the period,scattered through- out the collectionare those by lesser-knownfigureson whom they took a chance, sayingthat it required"nospecial courage to buynames." Believingthat the process of collectingwas a constant learningexperience, they shaped and reshaped their holdingsmanytimes as their interests changed and developed. Understandably,as theirknowledgeof twentieth-centuryart expanded, so too didthe scope of theirholdings.Amongtheir purchases were a few paintingsfromthe 1910s and 1920s, whichindicatedsome of the earlyforces that shaped modern artinthis country,as well as a limitednumberof pieces from the 1950s and 1960s, primarilybyyoungerartists. Atthe core of the collection, however,was alwaysthe remarkableconcen- trationof artfromthe 1930s and 1940s, which, notably,they acquiredat a time when few museums or privatepatrons specialized inthis field. Americanartcreated duringthese decades was character- ized byan extraordinarydiversityinterms of style and subject matter.No one ideologyor methodologywas followedbythe majorityof artists, and manydifferentschools of thought coexisted, makingit difficultto identifya primarystyle forthe period.Whilesome artistswere willingto incorporatethe lessons of EuropeanModernismintotheirwork,others assumed a more isolationistattitude, lookingonlyto Americafor inspira- tion. Realism,Expressionism,biomorphicand geometric abstraction,Precisionism,Regionalism,Social Realism,and Installationview of the 'Artistsfor Victory"exhibitionat The MetropolitanMuseum of Art,1942-43. Atfar left is John Heliker'spainting, Boat Yards,LongIslandSound (Newark Museum), whichwas purchased by the Lowenthalsafter the close of the exhibition. Surrealismallflourishedduringthese decades, when the spirit of aesthetic freedom and experimentationwas especially strong inthe UnitedStates. Thisbroadrange of often opposing ideas was as much a productof the democratic system of free expression as it was a symptom of the turmoiland uncertaintyfelt byAmericansfac- ingthe social, political,and economic upheavals caused bythe GreatDepression and WorldWarII.Feelings of nationalism, fueled in partbygovernmentprograms-such as the Works ProgressAdministrationFederalArtProject(1935-43), which paidartiststo produce paintingsand murals-led artists of vastlydifferentschools to search forthe one subject or style that could be considered uniquely"American."A similarsense of nationalismprovidedthe organizingprinciplebehindthe Lowenthals'diverse acquisitions. The pieces the Lowenthalsacquiredreflected the zeitgeist of the 1930s and 1940s throughtheir use of color,expression- istic techniques, and fractured imagery. Landscapes and especially humanfigures interpretedmore abstractlythan real- istically dominate the Lowenthals' selections. Eventhough their aesthetic tastes favoredthe more Expressionisticstylings of PaulBurlin,Hartley,Rattner,and Weber,the Lowenthalsdid acquirea distinguishedsamplingof worksthat belonged to other contemporaryart movements. Notablyabsent fromtheir holdingsare the radicalpaintingsbythe AbstractExpressionists, which began to gain recognitionin the late 1940s and early 5 </li><li> 7. Edithand MiltonLowenthal(seated) withLloydGoodrich, associate directorof the WhitneyMuseum of AmericanArt, in the installationof the LowenthalCollectionat the Whitney Museum, 1952. 1950s, just as the Lowenthalswere beginning to curtail their collectingactivities. The Lowenthalsfocused particularlyon the oldergen- erationof Americanartists (those bornbetween 1875 and 1895)-such as Hartley,Davis,Weber,and Rattner-most of whom had established reputationsas avant-gardeModernists inthe 1910s and 1920s and continued in this vein for de- cades. Recognizingthe hardshipsfaced byartists in our society, the Lowenthalsmade a pointof buyingthe workof those still living(one notable exception being Hartley,whose paintings they began to collect a year after his death). Theirpurchases led to lifelongfriendshipswitha numberof prominentartists. The Lowenthalscame to representa new breed of American collector,drawnnot fromthe wealthiest sector butfromthe professionalclass, collectors whom HermonMore,directorof the WhitneyMuseum, identifiedin 1952 as being "unliketheir predecessors, [because they] do not wait untilthey have accu- mulatedgreat fortunesto seek redemptionon theirdeathbeds, byturningto art." The Lowenthalswere generous donorsto museums and lendersto exhibitions.Overthe years the Lowenthalsgave twenty-nineof theirAmericanworksto three New York-area museums-the BrooklynMuseum;the NewarkMuseum, New Jersey;and the WhitneyMuseumof AmericanArt,NewYork- in additionto sixty-sevendonations made to institutionselse- where aroundthe country.Between 1943 and 1948 they lent a total of fifteen pieces...</li></ol>