‘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.’

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, December 1914…

In Ireland…

…Poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 49, has started selling some of his manuscripts to his Irish-American friend, collector John Quinn, 44, and using the funds to support his dad, painter John Butler Yeats, 75, living near Quinn in Manhattan. Dad refuses to come home to Dublin.

Yeats’ ‘Hostess’ for many years, Lady Augusta Gregory, 62, back from the Abbey Theatre’s third tour of America, has rented out her stately home, Coole Park in the west of Ireland, for shooting parties.

Coole Park

Coole Park

In England…

Virginia, 32, and Leonard Woolf, 34, married two years now, are celebrating Christmas in Marlborough, near their Bloomsbury friend, writer Lytton Strachey, 34. There is a big party planned at the Lackett, the cottage Lytton is renting. He has introduced his lover and cousin, painter Duncan Grant, 29, to David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, 22. They seem to hit it off.

In France…

…British King George V, 49, has recently visited the frontline troops.

American writer Gertrude Stein, 40, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 37, have taken to walking around Paris with their friend, painter Pablo Picasso, 33. On the Boulevard Raspail one night, as Alice tells it later in her Autobiography, they see their first camouflaged cannon. Picasso stops:

“He was spell-bound…It is we that have created that, he said. And he was right, he had. From Cezanne through him they had come to that. His foresight was justified”

Big Bertha cannon, used in Paris

Big Bertha cannon, used in Pari

In America…

…The New York Stock Exchange, having closed except for bond trading when war broke out in Europe, has reopened. The Dow Jones Average drops 24%, the largest one day drop in its history.

Recently married, and recently fired from his personnel job, Harvard University alumni Robert Benchley, 25, has given the speech at the dinner following the Harvard-Yale game. His parody translation of a description of football from the Chinese earns him the reputation as ‘the greatest humourist of all time at Harvard.’

In New Jersey, Rev. Sylvester Beach, 62, has been the subject of gossip, even in New York publications, for having an affair with one of his parishioners. His wife Eleanor, just turned 53, preferring to live apart from her husband, tells him that she’ll take their daughters back to Europe, where they had lived before, to benefit from the travel experience. Her only regret, she writes, is that her daughter Nancy, 27, who prefers to be known as ‘Sylvia,’ will be ‘lost to this country.’

Sylvia Beach

Sylvia Beach

 

 

 

All are looking forward to 1915, feeling that the war will be over soon…

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, July 1914…

In England…

…Americans Gertrude Stein, 40, and her partner Alice B. Toklas, 37, are visiting London. They are hopeful that British publisher John Lane, 60, of Bodley Head will make good on his promise to publish Gertrude’s Three Lives. Most of literary London isn’t familiar with her writing, but both Lane’s wife and his friend, art critic Roger Fry, 47, have recommended her.

In exchange Lane introduces Gertrude and Alice to the magazine Blast, published by Wyndham Lewis, 31. On a trip to Cambridge, they meet and become friends with philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, 53. Alice says that when she meets a genius she hears bells and it has happened three times: When she met Gertrude almost seven years before, then Pablo Picasso, 32, the very next day, and now Alfred. After this encounter however–no more bells.

 

The catalog for John Lane's publishing house, Bodley Head.

The catalog for John Lane’s publishing house, Bodley Head.

Gertrude’s friend and supporter, American Mabel Dodge, 35, has encouraged her to meet with Lane, and Gertrude promised Mabel that she will “do her best to look like a genius” in London. They attend Lane’s Sunday afternoon salon, and, as she did in her own drawing room in Paris, Gertrude sits quietly listening until a topic arises that she is interested in, and then talks for hours in an uninterrupted flow. Alice just sits and listens.

At the end of the month, King George V holds a conference at Buckingham Palace to work out how to introduce Home Rule to Ireland without inciting a civil war. Leaders from both sides, the nationalists and the unionists, sit down together for the first time to talk things out, as civilized countries do.

Also in London, American journalist and playwright George S. Kaufman, 24, has sailed over to take in the European sights. He manages to attend a meeting of suffragettes before taking off to visit the Netherlands and France.

In France…

…In addition to Kaufman, another newspaperman, New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 27, is in Paris to learn about theatre and interview legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, 69. He’ll be heading home soon.

Gertrude’s brother Michael, 49, has lent 19 of their paintings by Henri Matisse, 44, to a German gallery. The artist had asked his friends to make the loan, assuring them that the gallery in Berlin was a perfectly safe place to send them.

Matisse’s Promenade des Oliviers which the Steins lent to a Berlin gallery in July 1914, and recently sold for £2.77 million in London

Matisse’s Promenade des Oliviers which the Steins lent to a Berlin gallery in July 1914, and recently sold for £2.77 million in London

On the 26th of the month, when Michael’s wife Sarah turns 44, the Tour de France ends with a victory by the incumbent champion, Belgian Philippe Thys, 24. Everyone is looking forward to next year’s race.

In America…

…at the New York Tribune, top columnist FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 32] is lobbying to get a full time reporting job for his protégé, George S Kaufman, on his way back from his European tour.

Alfred Stieglitz, 50, owner of the 291 Gallery, publishes a special issue, “What is 291?” of his magazine Camera Work, including a tribute to the writings of Gertrude Stein by her friend and American publicist Mabel Dodge.

Stieglitz's magazine Camera Work

Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Work

Dodge is also working on a longer essay, “The Secret of War,” which the socialist magazine The Masses is interested in publishing. Based on her recent experience in Europe, she writes that the secret of war is that “Men like fighting. That is the force behind the war… We have been saying for a long time that war isn’t civilized. We should have realized perhaps that civilization isn’t human… [Another truth is] just as deep and just as profound… Women don’t like war.”

100 years ago this month, May 1914…

Vanessa Bell, about to turn 35, is in Paris for the opening of a new staging of Twelfth Night [La Nuit des Rois], by Jacques Copeau, also 34, with costumes by her fellow Bloomsbury painter Duncan Grant, 29. Her husband, art critic Clive Bell, 33, is also along for the trip. The visiting Bloomsberries take advantage of the opportunity to see the art collection of American ex-patriates Michael, 49, and Sarah Stein, 43, at their flat on rue Madame. In turn they introduce the Brits to Henri Matisse, 44.

Michael’s sister, Gertrude Stein, 40, takes Duncan to meet her favourite of the Paris artists, Pablo Picasso, 32, in his studio. Duncan notices that the Spaniard is experimenting with papier-colle, and volunteers to bring him some wallpaper rolls he has found in his hotel room, altho Picasso protests that this amounts to stealing. Duncan later writes to Clive about the upcoming return visit,

‘I shall find it difficult to know what to say…’

Copeau’s minimalist version of Twelfth Night is a big hit, and reviewers single out Duncan’s costume designs as

‘enchanting, gay and reposeful…[but]…inappropriate to the play.’

Here is a piece of fabric designed by Vanessa the year before for the Omega Workshops, which Duncan used in one of the costumes for the play:

Maud by Vanessa Bell (1913)

Maud by Vanessa Bell (1913)

And here is the Facebook page for the Abbey Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night which is running until the end of this month: https://www.facebook.com/abbeytheatredublin?fref=nf

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.