Alfred H. Barr, Jr.: CUBISM AND ABSTRACT ART [Painting, Sculpture, Constructions, Photography, Architecture, Industrial Art, Theater, Films, Posters, Typography]. New York: Museum of Modern Art, [April 1936]. First edition. Quarto. Tan cloth stamped in black and red. Printed dust jacket. 250 pp. 223 black and white plates. Tipped-in errata sheet. The rare dust jacket edgeworn and lightly chipped to bottom edge. Spine and folds quite sun darkened. Scrape and small hole to front panel. Tan cloth spotted front and back and darkened along top edge. Former owners signature to front free endpaper. First leaves lightly foxed early and late. Uncommon in the first edition and rare with jacket. A good copy in a good dust jacket. Rare.
7.75 x 10.25 book with 250 pages and 223 black and white plates. Catalog of the groundbreaking Museum of Modern Art exhibition from March 2-April 19, 1936. According to Barr, the exhibition was "intended as an historical survey of an important movement in modern art." It was the first in a series of five exhibitions that were curated between 1936 and 1943 devoted to the principal movements in modern art. The series also included Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism (MoMA Exh. #55, December 7, 1936 - January 17, 1937) and Romantic Painting in America (MoMA Exh. #246, November 11, 1943-February 6, 1944).
The idea for the exhibition stemmed from Barr's days as an art history instructor at Wellesley College, where he designed and taught an innovative course in modern art. To a study of modern painting and sculpture, he added photography, architecture, graphic art, music and film. At that time there was no precedent for such a course; it was the first of its kind at an institution of higher learning.
Cubism and Abstract Art occupied all four floors of the Museum's gallery space at 11 West 53rd Street, at that time a five-story town house leased from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., husband of founding Trustee Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The exhibition included not only painting and sculpture but also examples of photography, architecture, furniture, designs for the theater, typography, posters, and films, for a total of nearly 400 works of art. Alexander Calder's A Mobile (1936) was hung from a flagpole above the street entrance. The opening of the exhibition was delayed for one week while Museum officials and Trustees debated with the United States Customs over the entry of nineteen abstract sculptures into the United States as art objects loaned for the exhibition.
Artists represented in this volume include:
Paintings and Sculpture: Drawings and Constructions: Alexander, Archipenko, Hans Arp, Rudolf Belling, Umberto Boccioni, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Carlo Carra, Paul Cezanne, Giorgio de Chirico, Robert Delaunay, Andre Derain, Theo van Doesburg, Cesar Domela-Nieuwenhuis, Marcel Duchamp, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Max Ernst, Lyonel Feininger, Nahum Gabo, Eugene-Henri-Paul Gauguin, Alberto Giacometti, Albert Gleizes, Venicent Willem van Gogh, Julio Gonzales, Juan Gris, Jean Helion, Charles Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier), Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Frank Kupka, Roger de La Fresnaye, Michael larionov, Henri Laurens, Fernand Leger, Wyndham Lewis, Jacques Lipchitz, El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, Franz Marc, Louis Marcoussis, Andre Masson, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Ladislaus Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Amedee Ozenfant, Antoine Pevsner, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso,Giovanni-Battista Piranesi, Odilon Redon, Alexander Rodchenko, Henri-Julien Rousseau, Luigi Russolo, Kurt Schwitters, George-Pierre Seurat, Gino Severini, Yves Tanguy, Vladimir Evgrafovich Tatlin, Georges Vantongerloo, Jacques Villon.
Photography: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray.
Architecture: Theo van Doesburg, Cornelis van Eesteren, Waler Gropius, Vilmos Huszar, Frederick Kiesler, Le Corbusier, Willem van Leusden, El Lissitzky, Berthold Lubetkin, Erich Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe, J.J.P. Oud, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, Antonio Sant'elia, Vladimir Tatlin.
Furniture: Marcel Breuer, Pierre Chareau, Josef Hartwig, Frederick Kiesler, Le Corbusier, Fernand Leger, Jean Lurcat, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld.
Typography and Posters: Herbert Bayer, A.M. Cassandre, Theo van Doesburg, F.H. Ehmcke, Alexei Gan, W.H. Gispen, Y. Humener, Senkin Klusis, Vladimir Lebedeff, Leistekow Sisters, El Lissitzky, E. McKnight-Kauffer, ladislaus Moholy-Nagy, C.O. Muller, H. Nockur, Alexander Rodchenko, Joost Schmidt, W. and G. Stenberg, David Sterenberg, Jan Tschichold.
Theater: Alexndra Alexandrovna Exter, Irakli Gamrekeli, Natalia Goncharova, Gregory Jakulov, Frederick Kiesler, Michael Larionov, Fernand Leger, I. Nivinski, Pablo Picasso, Lyubov Sergeievna Popova, Enrico Prampolini, Oskar Schlemmer, Lothar Schenk von Trapp, Varvara Stepanova, Vladimir Tatlin.
Films: Viking Eggelin, Hans Richter, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Alexandra Exter, Walter Reimann.
I have a lot of respect for Alfred Hamilton Barr, Jr. Not because of his role as the first Director of the Museum of Modern Art. Not because he instituted aggressive advertising campaigns for MoMA, insisting that exhibition catalogs be accessible both financially and intellectually to the public. Not because he coined the term "international style" to describe the tectonic shifts occuring in architecture in the late 1920s. Not because he was one of the earliest (and greatest) publicizers of modern art for the american public. Not because his perspective of modern art extended beyond painting, sculpture, and the graphic arts to embrace architecture, industrial design, theater, movies, and even literature and music.
The reason I have so much respect for Alfred Hamilton Barr, Jr. is that he synthesized his wide-ranging and inclusive view of the modern movement and gave it physical form as a diagram -- a flow chart (or family tree) of the Modern Art Movement -- on the dust jacket cover of CUBISM AND ABSTRACT ART. Anybody with any insight into the science of Information Design would certainly recognize Barr’s diagram as a true classic of the genre.
According to the MoMA website, Barr reworked the chart a number times -- he never considered it definitive. The Dust jacket artwork for CUBISM AND ABSTRACT ART is definitive. Barr’s diagram was both high-brow and low-brow ten years before Kirk Varnedoe was even born. With one idiosyncratic diagram, Barr projected his theories of the origins of modern art to his audience in an entirely new way. Isn’t that the essence of modernism?