‘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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At 27 rue de Fleurus, on the Left Bank of Paris, Christmas Eve, 1926…

…American novelist Sherwood Anderson, 50, is enjoying the annual party given by his fellow Americans, Gertrude Stein, 52, and Alice B. Toklas, 49. His wife Elizabeth, just turned 42, is a bit intimidated as she has not been to the legendary salon before, but Alice has taken her aside for a chat. As she always does with the wives of writers.

Over there is American composer Virgil Thomson, 30, and Sherwood and Elizabeth’s son and daughter appear to be enjoying themselves. But it is awfully hot, due to the new radiators Gertrude and Alice have had installed.

Sherwood is pleasantly surprised that the hottest American writer of them all, Ernest Hemingway, 27, isn’t there. Since Anderson had given Hemingway a letter of introduction to Stein a few years ago, the younger novelist had trashed his benefactor with a vicious parody novel, The Torrents of Spring.

andersonSherwood Anderson

Stein and Anderson had talked about Hemingway, and as she wrote later, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,

[They] are very funny on the subject of Hemingway. The last time that Sherwood was in Paris they often talked about him. Hemingway had been formed by the two of them and they were both a little proud and a little ashamed of the work of their minds.’

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

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, 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. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

On the Left Bank of Paris, in June, 1927…

…ex-patriate American composer Virgil Thomson, 30, is excited to begin his next project. He has commissioned fellow American Gertrude Stein, 53, to write a libretto for an opera. And now he has received her text.

Gertrude has been working on this since March and, as he expected, having already set some of her shorter works to music, it’s not exactly traditional.

Virgil and Gert working together

Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein working together

Stein and Thomson had decided that the subject would be saints. Maybe four.

Gertrude has written a story about 20 of them, although focusing on two, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Teresa of Avila. Virgil is thinking that he may have to write parts for two St. Teresas. And maybe a master and a mistress of ceremonies could actually sing Stein’s stage directions.

Overall, he likes it. Virgil can see in Gertrude’s characters the creative people they all know on the Left Bank, who come to Stein’s salon on rue de Fleurus.

From Four Saints in Three Acts by Gertrude Stein

Pigeons on the grass alas.
Pigeons on the grass alas.
Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass. Pigeons
large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the
grass.
If they were not pigeons what were they.
If they were not pigeons on the grass alas what were they. He had
heard of a third and he asked about it it was a magpie in the sky.
If a magpie in the sky on the sky can not cry if the pigeon on the
grass alas can alas and to pass the pigeon on the grass alas and the
magpie in the sky on the sky and to try and to try alas on the
grass alas the pigeon on the grass the pigeon on the grass and alas.
They might be very well they might be very well very well they might
be.
Let Lucy Lily Lily Lucy Lucy let Lucy Lucy Lily Lily Lily Lily
Lily let Lily Lucy Lucy let Lily. Let Lucy Lily.

Beagles on the grass

In the late 1970s I was privileged to meet Virgil Thomson and shake his hand. Thank you, David Stock. RIP.

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

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. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At 27 rue de Fleurus, on the Left Bank of Paris, in the summer of 1921…

…the door bell is ringing.

Writer Sherwood Anderson, 44, and his wife, sculptor Tennessee Anderson, 47, have come with his letter of introduction to meet writer Gertrude Stein, 47, whose work he has admired.

27 rue de Fleurus

27 rue de Fleurus

Stein herself opens the door. Only because her partner, fellow San Franciscan, Alice B. Toklas, 44, is away on

some domestic complication in all probability,

as she remembers later.

Anderson is already well known in the States for his novel Winesburg, Ohio, and he has read the few pieces of Stein’s works which have been published in “the little mags.”

His introductory letter, from their fellow American, Sylvia Beach, 34, owner of the Shakespeare & Company bookshop on nearby rue de l’Odeon, says in part, that Anderson

is so anxious to know you, for he says you have influenced him ever so much and that you stand as such a great master of words.”

Gertrude immediately invites him in.

Sylvia Beach at her shop, Shakespeare & Company

Sylvia Beach at her shop, Shakespeare & Company

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

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In Paris, December, 1918…

…Pvt. Harold Ross, just turned 26, is working on the weekly newspaper for the American Expeditionary Forces [AEF] in France, The Stars & Stripes.

The Armistice was declared last month, but the American troops are still here, preparing to go home, so the paper will continue to be published every Friday for a few more months. But Ross is feeling a rumbling among the service men who work on the paper, against the current managing editor. There is talk that they want to overthrow him and put Ross in charge.

Ross has gathered quite an interesting group of writers around him. Sgt. Alexander Woollcott, 31, showed up a few months ago. He’d left his division to come to Paris and work on the paper. When this short, round, silly soldier had presented himself and announced that he was the drama critic for the New York Times, Ross had laughed hysterically. Turns out it was true.

Another New York newspaperman showed up shortly after, Franklin Pierce Adams, just turned 37, the most popular Manhattan columnist of the time, known as FPA. Ross had let him try out a similar column in Stars & Stripes, but FPA’s cosmopolitan humour just hadn’t worked with enlisted men in the trenches.

But now that the ‘War to End All Wars’ is over, what next? Serving as Stars & Stripes editor for even a few months would help when he got stateside. But what could he do back in New York City in the coming decade? All the other vets would be there too, looking for jobs. And a drink, if Prohibition passes. What Ross would really like to do is start his own magazine.

Stars and Stripes montage 1918

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

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard University, in 1924…

…recent composition graduate, Virgil Thomson, 27, is fondly remembering his time spent in Paris. He’d had the opportunity to study with Nadia Boulanger, 36, although he didn’t go along with all of her teaching methods, the way the other American ‘Boulangeries,’ as he called them, did.

And Virgil had also met one of his heroes, composer Erik Satie, 58. He’d hung out with fellow composer Darius Milhaud, 31, at a funky bistro near Place Vendome, Le boeuf sur la toit, named after one of Milhaud’s recent pieces.

Having returned to the States two years ago, Virgil is earning a little bit of money by writing music criticism for magazines like Vanity Fair, and working as an organist near Boston. He’d even spent a year in New York, playing and conducting. Both places seem cold and sterile to him.

And now, here he is, back at Harvard. As a teaching assistant.

But Virgil has had offers. He’s considering becoming the director of the music program at the University of South Carolina. Or taking a major organist post back home in Kansas.

No. He won’t. The time has come. Back to Paris.

“I said to my friends that if I was going to starve, I might as well starve where the food is good”

Virgil Thomson, composer and music critic, in 1921

Virgil Thomson, composer and music critic, in 1921

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

On the Left Bank of Paris, Spring, 1925…

…a man walks in to a bar.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, 28, whose third novel, The Great Gatsby, has just been published by Scribner’s back in the US, goes to the Dingo on rue Delambre. He has been told he will find there the American writer that everyone in Paris is talking about, Ernest Hemingway, 25.

After reading a few of Ernest’s stories last year, Scott had written to his Scribner’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, 40, about

Hemmingway…I’d look him up right away.  He’s the real thing.’

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Wearing his finest Brooks Brothers suit, Scott finds Ernest drinking at the bar with some of his British ex-pat friends, Duff Twysden, 32, and her distant cousin and current squeeze, Pat Guthrie, 30. Fitzgerald orders champagne for all, asks Hemingway questions about his wife, feels violently ill, and passes out. His new friends send him home in a taxi.

Hemingway is not impressed.

Ernest Hemingway, Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Donald Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie in Pamplona, Spain, for the bullfights a few months later, July 1925.

Ernest Hemingway, Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Donald Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie in Pamplona, Spain, for the bullfights a few months later, July 1925.

 

On the Left Bank of Paris, December, 1921…

…recently arrived Americans, Ernest Hemingway, 22, and his new wife, Hadley Richardson Hemingway, 30, are having drinks at one of their favourite cafes, the Dome, on the Boulevard de Montparnasse. They’re very excited about starting their new life here, living off Hadley’s trust fund and Ernest’s writing for the Toronto Star.

But, they’re lonely. They don’t know anyone. Their friend back in Chicago, novelist Sherwood Anderson, 45, has given them letters of introduction to other ex-patriate writers in the city, but they haven’t summoned up the courage to use them yet.

At the Dome in the 1920s

At the Dome in the 1920s

At the Dome last week

At the Dome last week

About ten minutes away, at 27 rue de Fleurus, two other American friends of Anderson, writer Gertrude Stein, 47, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 44, are getting ready for their Christmas party. Each year they invite the writers and painters living in Paris. Well, the ones they like.

And, on the other side of the Luxembourg Gardens, on rue de l’Odeon, there is a buzz around the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, run by another American, Sylvia Beach, 34. Irish author James Joyce, 39, is getting ready to give a reading of his new novel, Ulysses, which Sylvia is preparing to publish early next year. This reading is a way of getting more pre-orders to finance the project. All of cultural Paris is coming.

But not Gert and Alice. They cancelled their membership in Sylvia’s bookstore when she took on Joyce.

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

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon in the 1920s

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon in the 1920s

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon last week

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon last week

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 San Francisco, at 5:15 am, on Wednesday, April 18th, 1906…

…the earth moves.

A major earthquake wipes out 80% of the city and surrounding area, killing 3000 people and leaving almost three-quarters of the population homeless.

Back in Paris, American Michael Stein, 41, is worried about the family property back home, right in the middle of all the earthquake fires. His brother and sister, Leo, 33, and Gertrude, 32, who live a few blocks away, leave all responsibility for the family finances to him. He and his wife, Sarah, 35, decide they had better make the trip back to the US.

Sarah is thrilled. This is her chance to impress all their friends with the clothes and jewellery she has been buying in Paris. And the paintings. She has got to bring some of the paintings with her. Sarah decides on three Matisses, including the one of his wife with a green stripe. The folks in America have never seen anything like THAT.

Green Stripe (Madame Matisse)

Green Stripe (Madame Matisse)

 

 

 

 

Gertrude, in the evenings, is sitting in front of one of the artworks she and Leo have bought, Cezanne’s Portrait of Madame Cezanne. She is trying to do with her writing what Cezanne has done with his painting.

Portrait of Madame Cezanne

Portrait of Madame Cezanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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