‘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.

 

 

 

 

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‘Such Friends’: John Quinn in 1904

New York City, October 1904

Ohio-born John Quinn, 34, a junior partner in a major law firm, has recently moved out of a comfortable boarding house to his own lodgings on West 87th Street.

His apartment is already cluttered with hundreds of his books and paintings he has begun collecting. He is doing well enough in the law practice to employ a valet.

But what Quinn is most excited about is his upcoming three-week vacation to Europe.

Two years ago, he made his first trip to Ireland, to connect with his Irish roots. Quinn quickly was accepted in to a circle of friends including the poet William Butler Yeats, now 39; the playwright Lady Augusta Gregory, 52; the novelist George Moore, also 52; the poet and painter, ‘AE’ [George Russell], 37; the playwright John Millington Synge, 33; and the founder of the Gaelic League, Douglas Hyde, 44. He’s been helping them with the legalities of their American tours, the American copyright of their works, and the Irish theatre company they are establishing.

On this trip, Quinn plans just a short stop in France, some time in England on the way to Ireland and on the way back, and almost two full weeks in Dublin. This will be the third year in a row that he has visited Ireland, and he hopes to continue to make it an annual occasion.

Over at the New York Evening Mail, on Broadway and Fulton Streets, a new columnist from Chicago is settling in. Franklin Pierce Adams, 23, always writing as FPA, has transferred his new wife and his column about a little bit of everything, now called ‘Always in Good Humour,’ to midtown Manhattan.

mail_and_express_building_01

Mail and Express Building, New York City

Up on West 44th Street, the two-year-old Algonquin Hotel has bought the carriage stables next door to expand its residential services. However, the real revenue is from short term guests.

 

Paris, October 1904

John Quinn is disappointed that he can’t spend more time in France. This morning he managed to see the Chartres cathedral, but he is back in Paris just for the afternoon before leaving for Folkestone.

Two other Americans, siblings Leo, 32, and Gertrude Stein, 30, who moved to 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank the year before, from the Bloomsbury area of London, are enjoying learning about and buying paintings from the dealer Ambroise Vollard, 38. He has managed to get a room full of works by Paul Cezanne, 65, into the second salon d’automne at the Grand Palais. Leo is studying art at Academie Julian, and Gertrude has joined him on his buying trips to Vollard’s gallery on rue Lafitte. They find Cezanne particularly intriguing, but Gertrude is more focused on the writing she is doing late at night.

27-rue-de-fleurus

27 rue de Fleurus, Left Bank, Paris

Across town in Montmartre, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 23, is settling in to his new studio and his new life with Fernande Olivier, also 23. After several visits, he has decided to make Paris his home, and his dealer Vollard is finding new buyers for his work.

 

London, October 1904

Arriving late Sunday night, John Quinn checks in to the Carlton Hotel, at the corner of the Haymarket and Pall Mall. He spends the whole day Monday visiting bookstores with a stop at the Leicester Galleries in Leicester Square.

carlton-hotel-1905

Carlton Hotel, London

Up in the Bohemian Bloomsbury section of London, the move is on. Painter Vanessa Stephen, 25, has shipped her nervous sister Virginia, 22, off to their aunt’s while she moves her and their brothers into a three-story walk up in Gordon Square. Their widowed father, editor of The Dictionary of National Biography, Leslie Stephen, 72, died in February. Vanessa feels liberated.

Her aunts and uncles are scandalized that these young people would live on their own in such a neighbourhood.

Vanessa doesn’t care. This past spring, on their way back from Italy, she and Virginia had visited Paris with friends. They smoked cigarettes and talked about art into the wee hours at the Café de Versailles. That’s what they are going to do now in London, in their own home.

 

Dublin, October 1904

After a miserable train trip across England to the port of Holyhead—he had paid for first class, but was put in a bunk bed—John Quinn is thrilled to be back in Ireland. He checks in to the Shelbourne Hotel in St. Stephen’s Green at 6:30 Tuesday morning, and finds a welcoming telegram from AE already waiting for him.

shelbourne-and-lake

Shelbourne hotel and the Stephen’s Green lake, Dublin

After a much-needed two-hour nap, Quinn is visited by his friend Yeats, and they walk over to the nearby studio of painter John Butler Yeats, 65, the poet’s father. Following a leisurely lunch at the Empire Restaurant, the men are joined by Lady Gregory who has brought fresh food from her western Ireland home, Coole Park, on the train with her. Augusta surprises Quinn by announcing that he is going to be the special guest at a reception with the actors of their young theatre company that evening, in gratitude for his generous donations in the past two years.

The Irish National Theatre Society, with its co-directors Yeats, Gregory and Synge, is becoming more stable. Having premiered Synge’s emotional one-act play, Riders to the Sea, this spring, they are getting ready to move in to their own building on Abbey Street. They should be able to start performing there by Christmas.

In addition to starting a national theatre, Lady Gregory has helped other Irish writers and artists as well. Earlier this year, she sent some money to a young writer AE had recommended, James Joyce, 22, so he could take off for Switzerland with his new love, Nora Barnacle, 20, where he had been offered a job teaching English. Lady Gregory wished him well.

For the next two weeks, Quinn’s holiday in Dublin falls in to a pleasing pattern. Breakfast with Willie and a visit to his father’s studio in the morning, lunches with fascinating writers and artists each afternoon, dinner and late night conversation about theatre with Yeats and Lady Gregory, usually at her rooms in the Nassau Hotel. What a life! This is how he would prefer to spend all his days.

 

London, November 1904

W B Yeats has come with John Quinn to London for his last week of vacation. Visiting Yeats’ rooms in the Woburn Buildings in Bloomsbury, Willie introduces Quinn into British culture, and the American appreciates the writers and painters he meets.

wobrun-buildings

Yeats’ rooms in the Woburn Buildings, Bloomsbury, London

Nearby in Gordon Square, the doctor says Virginia is well enough to visit her brothers and sister in their new home for ten days. Before she goes back to their aunt’s, they have dinner with one of their brother’s Cambridge University friends, Leonard Woolf, 23, who is back home on leave from his government job in Ceylon.

Yeats has one last breakfast with Quinn in the Carlton hotel, and then drives him to Waterloo station to see him off on the boat train to Southampton for the trip home to New York City aboard the St. Paul.

 

New York City, November 1904

While John Quinn was away, the New York City subway, under construction for the past four years, has finally opened. Theodore Roosevelt, just turned 46, has been elected to a full term as President, having first taken office three years ago when the sitting President William McKinley, aged 58, had been assassinated. With Roosevelt assured in office for four more years, there is a ‘progressive’ feel in the air.

Roger Fry, 37, editor of England’s Burlington magazine, and recently turned down for the post of Professor of Art at the Slade School, has made a special trip to the States to raise money for his magazine. Friends introduce him to J P Morgan, 67, of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5th Avenue at 87th Street, an inveterate collector of art, books, clocks and various objets d’art. Morgan is more impressed with Fry than the Slade School was.

metrop-museum-of-art

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Back home, Quinn misses the cultural life of Europe that he has enjoyed for the past three weeks. Now he is back to the old grind of his law practice. His main client, the National Bank of Commerce, has supreme confidence in his abilities. He is working with and meeting important people. There is work to do.

But his heart is with his friends in Ireland…

johnquinn

John Quinn (1870-1924)

This year I’ll be piecing together my planned biography of John Quinn. 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.

 

 

 

 

In Paris, on September 8th, 1907…

Alice Babette Toklas, 30, hears a bell ring.

Having just arrived in Paris, Alice has been taken to rue Madame, near the Luxembourg Gardens, to visit with her fellow San Franciscans, the Stein family, who have been living there for the past few years.

The oldest, Michael, 42, and his wife, Sarah, 37, are art collectors who hold regular salons on Saturday nights to show off their paintings. Sarah had brought three Matisses home to California last year, after the earthquake, and Alice had been invited to see them there.

Michael’s brother, Leo, 35, also a serious art collector, comes by for dinner. He lives a few blocks away, with their sister, Gertrude, 33.

As Gertrude described the moment, years later in her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:

And there…I met Gertrude. I was impressed by the coral brooch she wore and by her voice. I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken, and I may say that in each case it was before there was any general recognition of the quality of genius in them…In this way my new life began.’

A few days later, Alice heard a bell again when Gertrude took her to meet the Steins’ painter friend, Pablo Picasso, 25.

‘From that day on they were together until Gertrude’s death…They never travelled without each other or entertained separately, or worked on independent projects"—Diana Souhami, Gertrude and Alice

‘From that day on they were together until Gertrude’s death…They never travelled without each other or entertained separately, or worked on independent projects”—Diana Souhami, Gertrude and Alice

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Paris, winter, 1906…

…Pittsburgh-born writer Gertrude Stein, 35, is taking her early evening walk. She leaves the Bateau Lavoir studio where she has spent the afternoon sitting in a big broken chair for her portrait by her friend, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 24.

'Such Friends' at Bateau Lavoir this week!

‘Such Friends’ at Bateau Lavoir this week!

Gertrude loves this time in the city, making her way down the steep steps and streets of Montmartre, across the Seine, to the apartment she has shared with her brother Leo, 33, at 27 rue de Fleurus for almost three years.

'Such Friends' at the top of the streets in Montmartre this week

‘Such Friends’ at the top of the streets in Montmartre this week

Gertrude and Leo are taking a great interest in the painters working in Paris these days. They’ve filled their own atelier with the paintings. Art lovers from Paris and abroad try to get invitations to come to their salon on Saturday nights to see the paintings and hear Leo declaim on his theories of modern art. Gertrude sits and listens.

Picasso's Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together. You can read my piece, ‘On Seeing Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein for the Second Time, June 9, 2002’ here: https://suchfriends.wordpress.com/the-american-ex-patriates-in-paris/on-seeing-picasso%E2%80%99s-portrait-of-gertrude-stein/

In spring, 1906…

…English painter Duncan Grant, 21, is living in Paris. When his aunt gave him £1000 for his birthday in January, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it.

He has brought along his cousin and current lover, essayist Lytton Strachey, just turned 26, but the relationship is not going well. They’ve mostly spent time hanging out with English friends and relatives. Trying to make connections within the art world, Duncan is studying with painter Jacques-Emile Blanche, 45, and has visited the most talked-about art show, the Salons des Independents, but didn’t notice anything in particular.

American ex-patriate siblings, Leo, 33, and Gertrude Stein, 32, have also visited the exhibit. They were thrilled to hear about the scandal surrounding The Joy of Living [Bonheur de vivre] by their friend, Henri Matisse, 36. They started buying up his paintings last year and are planning to invite him to their salon at 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank to introduce him to one of their other favourites, Pablo Picasso, 24.  She’s been sitting with him for her portrait.

 

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

100 years ago this month, October 1914…

In America…

Lawyer and art collector John Quinn, 44, has plenty to worry about.

John Quinn, 1870-1924

John Quinn, 1870-1924

He is looking out for—and financing—Irish painter John B. Yeats, 75, father of his friend, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, 49. When the younger Yeats was visiting New York recently, the two friends agreed that Quinn would buy some of WB’s original manuscripts, and the poet would use the proceeds to pay for some of his father’s expenses.

But Quinn is more worried about Walter Pach, 31, one of his partners in the Armory Show of

the year before. They have decided that the Germans probably won’t occupy Paris soon, so Walter can sail off to France for a full month to convince European artists like Pablo Picasso, about to turn 33, Henri Matisse, 44, and others that they should lend their latest works to galleries in New York.

Pach and Quinn are determined to continue the work of the Armory show by organizing

–and financing—continual exhibits of the latest in art from Europe.

Once in Paris, Pach gets in touch with Matisse through fellow American Michael Stein, 49, who encourages the French artist to lend his works. Quinn had just bought Matisse’s Blue Nude from Michael’s brother Leo, 42, for a bargain basement price.

Blue Nude by Henri Matisse, 1907

Blue Nude by Henri Matisse, 1907

Leo is eager to get out of Paris, away from his sister, Gertrude, 40, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 37. The siblings have been fighting over who owns which paintings, so Leo is happy to sell what he can rather than leave it to Gertrude.

Quinn decides he will make good use of his own political contacts to help Pach on his

mission. He writes to the son of a friend, who is working in the American embassy in Paris,

‘I don’t want to burden you with unnecessary things, but I have told Mr. Pach that I was a

personal friend of your father’s…and that there was some poetic justice in my writing you about Mr. Pach’s mission, because it was your father and I that were really responsible, I feel, for the free art provisions in the Underwood Tariff Bill.’

Quinn and Congressman Oscar Underwood senior, 52, had managed the year before to get

US law changed so that works of art less than 20 years old would no longer be subject to higher import taxes. That was a big enough battle. Quinn is not going to let something like a world war stop his fellow Americans from experiencing the latest in European art.

Pach gets the paintings.

For more information about John Quinn, see the page to your right, https://suchfriends.wordpress.com/about-such-friends/i-want-to-tell-you-about-an-amazing-man/

And for more about the Armory Show, see the piece: https://suchfriends.wordpress.com/about-such-friends/the-armory-show-1913/

100 years ago this month, April 1914…

…Leo Stein, 41, is pissed off. He hasn’t been enjoying living with his sister Gertrude, 40, for quite some time anyway, and years ago even quit reading that drivel she writes. And then, about seven years back, Alice B. Toklas, now about to turn 37, showed up at 27 rue de Fleurus. Leo has no problem being hospitable to visitors from their home town, San Francisco. But she moved in!

At first, he’d given up his studio so Alice could have a room. But now, it’s just too much. No one is listening to him anymore. Leo knows it is time to move out, but the big question is, what about the paintings?

Leo decides he will sell three of the paintings by Pablo Picasso, 32, to Gertrude. He never liked that Spaniard anyhow. But he’s determined to keep most of those by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 73, and particularly  Five Apples by Paul Cezanne, dead now eight years:

by Paul Cezanne, 1877-78

Five Apples by Paul Cezanne, 1877-78

Leo writes to Gertrude:

‘I am willing to leave you the Picasso oeuvre, as you left me the Renoir, and you can have everything except that I want to keep the few [Picasso] drawings that I have…I’m afraid you’ll have to look upon the loss of the apples as an act of God.’

Leo doesn’t care that his own sister is heartbroken to give that one up.

Gertrude turns around and sells the three Picassos back to their dealer, and buys some works by Juan Gris, 27. And never speaks to her brother again.

Fortunately, my brother and I had no problem dividing up the Donnelly estate, no paintings involved, and remain good friends to this day.

This May, I will be in Paris, leading my legendary ‘Such Friends’ walking tour of the cafes where the Americans in Paris hung out in the 1920s, and Woody Allen filmed Midnight in Paris in the 2010s. Let us know if you’d like to come along, and we can take in the Petit Palais exhibit about Paris in 1900, three years before Leo moved into 27 rue de Fleurus:

http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en/expositions/paris-1900-city-entertainment.