Alfred Stieglitz and Gallery 291

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Alfred Stieglitz and Gallery 291

A Modern Art Revolution Before the Armory Show

“Quite a few years ago…there got to be—a place….

The place grew—the place shifted…the place was where this man was….

—Shift—is something that cannot be tied—cannot be pigeonholed.

It jumps—it bounds—it glides


it must have freedom….

It seems those who do that worth the doing

are possessed of good eyes—alive eyes—warm eyes—

it seems they radiate a fire within outward.

The places they inhabit have a light burning—

a light seen from near and far by those who need this light—

and this light sometimes dim—sometimes brilliant—never out—….

To realize such a place—

a very tangible place was and is this man’s dream.”

John Marin about Alfred Stieglitz[1]

On February 17, 1913 the International Exhibition of Modern Art, or the Armory Show, opened to the public. It is unlikely that the some 4,000 guests milling around the eighteen rooms of the 69th Regiment Armory in New York that night could have realized the extent to which the artwork displayed would set off a revolution that would sweep the nation. Response to the Armory Show, however, was sensational. During the month long exhibition the, Armory Show became the talk of the town. The galleries were constantly full of people who came to gape at the spectacle, artists who came to study or deride, and celebrities and socialites who came to see and be seen. Former President Teddy Roosevelt even made a visit to the show praising the spirit of modernity present in the venture, but distrustful of the so called ‘radical’ art of the European avant-garde. In his response to the show published in Outlook, Roosevelt commented: “It is vitally necessary to move forward and to shake off the dead hand of the reactionaries; and yet we have to face the fact that there is apt to be a lunatic fringe among the votaries of any forward movement.”[2] In this statement Roosevelt summarized the public reactions to the show.

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