From our vantage point a century on, 1913 looks like the year before the world exploded into war. Among the writers and artists I researched—William Butler Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, Gertrude Stein and the Americans in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table—there were signs that things were changing in the wider world.
What tied them all together was the Armory Show which opened in February of 1913.
Yeats’ ‘hostess,’ Lady Augusta Gregory, 60, visited while she was in New York with their Abbey Theatre. Squired by her close friend, American art collector John Quinn, 43, they saw paintings by her fellow Abbey director ‘AE’ [George Russell], 45.
In London, Vanessa Bell, 33, sister of Woolf, 31, and their Bloomsbury friends were all involved with the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibit which closed early so many of the paintings could be sent on to New York. Roger Fry, 46, put the London show together, Vanessa and her partner, Duncan Grant, 28, had paintings exhibited, Virginia’s new husband, Leonard Woolf, 32, served as secretary, and Vanessa’s husband Clive, 31, wrote the reviews.
In Paris, where the Armory Show’s organizers had visited to scout out paintings, Gertrude, 39, and her brothers Leo, 40, and Michael, 47, along with Michael’s wife Sarah, 42, lent generously, cajoled by the ubiquitous Quinn.
And back in New York, Dorothy Rothschild, 20, and Robert Benchley, 23, were living in Manhattan, not yet lunching at the Algonquin. They could not have escaped the hype.
On February 13, two days before the official opening in New York, there was a party in London where George Moore, 60, one of Yeats’ ‘such friends,’ and Lytton Strachey, 32, one of Woolf’s, met Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 35. Gertrude chronicled the moment this way in her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:
“Gertrude Stein and George Moore, who looked like a very prosperous Mellon’s Food baby, had not been interested in each other. Lytton Strachey and I talked together about Picasso and the russian ballet.”
To read about what all four groups were doing that spring, click on the link to your right, ‘The Armory Show, 1913.’ And to find out what they were doing day by day during this eventful year, check out the ‘Such Friends’ page on Facebook, and follow @SuchFriends.
Let the year begin!