‘Such Friends’:  New York City, May 1917

The May issue of Vanity Fair is on the newsstands in Manhattan.

vanity-fair-cover-may-1917

Vanity Fair, May 1917

On the Upper West Side, lawyer and art collector John Quinn, 46, is eager to get his copy and see in print the article he submitted, ‘James Joyce: A New Irish Novelist.’

Quinn had sent most of his friends copies of the new novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce, 35. Earlier this year, his piece had been rejected by the New York Sun for being too long. So he had submitted it to Vanity Fair, knowing that they did not shy away from challenging their readers. They’d published Gertrude Stein, 43, after all. Vanity Fair had accepted it, offering to donate the $65 fee to an Irish charity of Quinn’s choice.

Ha! Quinn feels he is done with Irish charity, having supported his artist, writer and political friends there financially and morally over the last few years. He told them to give the cash to French war orphans instead.

But Irishman-in-exile Joyce has become his pet project. Quinn had heard his Irish friends talk about him when visiting Dublin almost ten years ago. But it wasn’t till the American ex-patriate poet Ezra Pound, 31, had introduced him to Joyce’s writing that he vowed to champion this new prose in America. Through Pound in London, Quinn had managed to get $100 to a grateful Joyce, ill in Zurich, by buying the original manuscript for A Portrait. Quinn felt that buying manuscripts and paintings from developing writers and artists was a good way to support them as well as increase his own holdings.

Portrait_of_the_Artist_as_a_Young_Man

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Paging through the current issue of Vanity Fair, Quinn finds his article nestled among the ads for perfumes and deodorants, children’s shoes and rubber body suits for weight loss.

Farther down in mid-town, Dorothy Rothschild, 23, is grabbing her copy of Vanity Fair to see her latest poem, ‘Actresses:  A Hate Song’:

I hate actresses.

They get on my nerves.

There are the Adventuresses,

The Ladies with Lavender Pasts.

They wear gowns that show all their emotions,…’

She’s been getting a lot of mileage—and $12 a shot—out of this theme, starting with ‘Men:  A Hate Song’ in the same magazine over a year ago.

Dottie is actually on staff at Vanity Fair’s sister magazine, Vogue, both owned by Conde Nast publishing.  She spends her days writing captions such as,

‘Brevity is the soul of lingerie—as the Petticoat said to the chemise.’  

vogue-cover-may-1917 (1)

Vogue, May 1917

Rothschild would love to switch over to the more literary Vanity Fair, and submits poems to get their attention. But mostly she is thinking about her upcoming wedding to Wall Street stock broker Edwin Pond Parker II, 24, about a month away.

Is this a good time to get married? Just last month, America entered the war in Europe! At least she will be able to change her name.

Also in midtown, looking through this month’s issue, is another sometime Vanity Fair contributor, Robert Benchley, 27. In ‘The Alcoholic Drama’ he reviews a roundup of plays, including one he wasn’t so impressed with:

Somehow it drags. One has plenty of time…to look about the house and see who is there, and then come back to the play, without missing a stroke.’

Benchley has just been fired along with all his colleagues on the New York Tribune Magazine. He’d loved that job. They’d even encouraged him to play a corpse in a play so he could write an article about it.

But the publishers of the Tribune are big supporters of America’s involvement in the war, so they’d gotten rid of any staff who disagreed. Benchley is a pacifist; and with a wife and 18-month old son in the suburbs, he is exempt from military service.

Bob had seen the disaster coming, so has applied for a rumoured opening at Vanity Fair. But the editor is vague about whether this will materialize, so Benchley is thinking of creative ways to free-lance. Writing articles for the Atlantic Monthly, advertising copy, movie titles. Even becoming a press agent for Broadway shows.

Quinn instructs the staff in his Nassau Street law office to send copies of Vanity Fair out to a list of his acquaintances. He wants to do everything he can to promote Joyce and his writing.

But he also has to get ready for the dinner party he is giving tonight. On Pound’s suggestion, he has invited the editors of a literary magazine based in Greenwich Village, The Little Review, Margaret Anderson, 30, and Jane Heap, 34, to dine that evening in his Central Park West ninth floor penthouse.

The purpose of the dinner is to discuss the support Quinn has been giving to the magazine via Pound, who has been appointed, at Quinn’s request, as The Little Review’s foreign editor. Quinn is sure he will be able to persuade these women to take his additional advice about how to run their little magazine.

Little Review May 1917

The Little Review, May 1917

This year I’ll be piecing together my planned biography of John Quinn (1870-1924). Read more about him on the link to your right: ‘I want to tell you about an amazing man.’

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap.

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‘Such Friends’: John Quinn and the Armory Show

New York City, Spring, 1913

 

All the buzz is about the Armory Show.

From mid-February to mid-March cars and carriages pull up in front of the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, loaded with people eager to see America’s first International Exhibition of Modern Art. Office girls come on their lunch hours; working class families come on weekends, and the social elite come again and again. They stare and laugh at the horrors they have read about in the press. Is it Nude Descending a Staircase? Or Staircase Descending a Nude? Who can tell?

Those more sophisticated, who think of the Impressionists as the latest thing, are surprised to find that indeed the Post-Impressionists are all the rage in Europe. One of the most well represented artists is the late Paul Cezanne, in Paris considered an old master by now; the most talked about is Henri Matisse, 43; and that “Paul” Picasso, only 31? Just plain crude.

John Quinn, 42, is ecstatic. He has worked closely with the American Association of Painters and Sculptors [AAPS] in the build up to the show—asking for lends of paintings from his art collecting friends, testifying before Congress to lower the taxes on art coming into the US from Europe, and promoting the exhibit every chance he gets.

He comes to the show almost every day, and buys paintings almost every day as well.

Uptown, 20-year-old Dorothy Rothschild

“No, we’re not related to those Rothschilds”

—is living on her own in her hometown of New York City for the first time. Her father died this year; her mother had passed away when she was three. She has a job using the skills she learned at finishing school—playing the piano at a dancing academy. When she was younger, Dottie and her father had written nonsense poems back and forth to each other. Now she is trying light verse, sending it to The Evening Mail newspaper column, ‘All in Good Humor’ by FPA, 31, that publishes that sort of filler, hoping to get her name in print.

Nude

Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912

Paris, Spring, 1913

 

The art dealers in Paris are awaiting the verdict from New York. How will the wealthy American collectors react to the paintings in the Armory Show? Will they really pay US$48,000 for a Cezanne? Hundreds of dollars for drawings by the young Spaniard, Pablo Picasso? And the Show organizers are going to send some of the most valuable paintings off to other cities—Chicago! Boston! What are they thinking? The few Americans who come to Paris to buy are shocked by what they see in the dealers’ galleries. How will they react when they see the same scandalous works lined up with the latest by their own American artists?

Quinn himself had been to Paris the previous autumn for a quick trip. He had encouraged Walter Kuhn, 35, and Arthur B. Davies, 50, from the AAPS to go abroad and pick up all they can for their show, sending introductory letters to all his European contacts.

Seven of the Armory Show’s paintings have been lent by American collectors living in Paris. Gertrude Stein, just turned 39, and her brother, Leo, 40, ex-patriates from San Francisco, have used their family money to put together quite a collection of works they personally feel connected to—Matisse, Picasso and his friend, Georges Braque, 30. They enjoy meeting the painters and talking to them in their salon at 27 rue de Fleurus. Late at night, Gertrude sits at a desk in front of Madame Cezanne with a Fan and tries to create in words what Cezanne created on canvas. A few of her attempts at translating Cubism into prose have been published in the States recently and are being publicized as part of the Armory Show.

Another San Franciscan, Alice B. Toklas, 35, had come to visit a few years before and then moved in with Gertrude and Leo. She had quickly taken on the role of handmaiden to the writer, cooking, cleaning, typing. Their relationship has grown so close that Gertrude’s brother feels he has to move out. Soon.

mme-cezanne-with-a-fan

Paul Cezanne’s Mme. Cezanne with a Fan, 1904

London, Spring, 1913

 

This spring, Gertrude and Alice are visiting London. They have come to find a publisher for Stein’s work, and spend time socializing with artists and writers there.

Kuhn and Davies had come to London the previous year to see the Second Post-Impressionist art show put on by Roger Fry, 46. They requested so many paintings that Fry had been forced to close his show early. The Second show had a better reception from the average Brit than the first, just two years before. Once the English had gotten used to Cezanne, they were more open to Matisse.

The Second show has been organized by Fry’s friends, artists and writers who live in the bohemian Bloomsbury section of London. They had come together in the homes of two sisters, Virginia Woolf, 31, married less than a year before, and Vanessa Bell, 33, a painter whose work was included in the London show. The family had decided early on that Vanessa would be the artist and Virginia would be the writer. Neither had traditional schooling, although Vanessa had attended art school and Virginia had had the run of her father’s library. Some reviews and small pieces of Virginia’s had been published in local papers, but now she is working on her first novel. The only person she would show it to, and not until she feels it is finished, is her new husband, Leonard, 32.

Virginia’s Bloomsbury friends are encouraging her. They get together most Thursdays at Vanessa’s house in Gordon Square to have dinner, then whiskey, buns and cocoa—and conversation and cigarettes late into the night.

Matisse room in the 2nd post imp exhibit by V

Vanessa Bell’s Matisse Room, 1912

Ireland, Spring, 1913

 

In Ireland all the talk is of the recent passage of Home Rule in the British House of Commons. Will this be the first step towards complete independence for the restless colony?

A strong Irish nationalist movement had been agitating for years, through political organizations to keep the language alive, like the Gaelic League, and cultural organizations to keep Irish folk arts alive, such as the Abbey Theatre. The Abbey presents plays in English, but based on Irish folk tales and legends gathered in the west of Ireland.

Quinn had met the founders of the theatre on his first trip to Ireland 11 years ago. Since then, he has supported their theatre with legal advice as well as cash. When any of his Irish friends visit New York, they stay with Quinn and his paintings in his Upper West Side apartment.

One of the theatre’s founders, the poet William Butler Yeats, 47, is still involved in the operations of the Abbey, but most of the work now falls to his original collaborator, Lady Augusta Gregory, 61.

This spring, Augusta is touring the United States with the Abbey for the second time. Two years ago when they performed the late JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, they had legal trouble in Philadelphia, but it was nothing compared to the riots that had broken out in Dublin when it premiered there four years before. Quinn had argued their case in Philadelphia and gotten them out of jail so they could continue their tour.

But now her trip is almost over. She is in New York, staying with Quinn, and is looking forward to taking in the Armory Show, where some of her friends’ works are exhibited.

Quinn has offered to escort Augusta around, pointing out the paintings he is most proud of.

Mostly, she wants to see what all the fuss is about.

armoury show poster

Poster for the original Armory Show, 1913

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with his ‘Such Friends,’ F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.