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Past Exhibitions

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 11, 2017 - October 13, 2017


The Woman Question

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka

March 14, 2017 - June 30, 2017


You Say You Want a Revolution

American Artists and the Communist Party

October 18, 2016 - March 4, 2017


Recent Acquisitions

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Featuring Watercolors and Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection

March 29, 2016 - July 1, 2016


Paula Modersohn-Becker

Art and Life

November 3, 2015 - March 19, 2016


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015


Leonard Baskin

Wunderkammer

April 23, 2015 - July 2, 2015


Alternate Histories

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

January 15, 2015 - April 11, 2015


Marie-Louise Motesiczky

The Mother Paintings

October 7, 2014 - December 24, 2014


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014


Ilija/Mangelos

Father & Son, Inside & Out

April 24, 2014 - July 3, 2014


Modern Furies

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I

January 21, 2014 - April 12, 2014


Käthe Kollwitz

The Complete Print Cycles

October 8, 2013 - December 28, 2013


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013


Face Time

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture

April 9, 2013 - June 28, 2013


Story Lines

Tracing the Narrative of "Outsider" Art

January 15, 2013 - March 30, 2013


Egon Schiele's Women

October 23, 2012 - December 28, 2012


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012


Mad As Hell!

New Work (and Some Classics) by Sue Coe

April 17, 2012 - July 3, 2012


The Ins and Outs of Self-Taught Art

Reflections on a Shifting Field

January 10, 2012 - April 7, 2012


The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 5, 2011 - September 30, 2011


Decadence & Decay

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz

April 12, 2011 - June 24, 2011


Self-Taught Painters in American 1800-1950

Revisiting the Tradition

January 11, 2011 - April 2, 2011


Marie-Louise Motesiczky

Paradise Lost & Found

October 12, 2010 - December 30, 2010


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 13, 2010 - October 1, 2010


Käthe Kollwitz

A Portrait of the Artist

April 13, 2010 - June 25, 2010


Seventy Years Grandma Moses

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Artist's "Discovery"

February 3, 2010 - April 3, 2010


Egon Schiele as Printmaker

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 3, 2009 - January 23, 2010


From Brücke To Bauhaus

The Meanings of Modernity in Germany, 1905-1933

March 31, 2009 - June 26, 2009


They Taught Themselves

American Self-Taught Painters Between the World Wars

January 9, 2009 - March 14, 2009


Elephants We Must Never Forget

New Paintings Drawings and Prints by Sue Coe

October 14, 2008 - December 20, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008


Hope or Menace?

Communism in Germany Between the World Wars

March 25, 2008 - June 13, 2008


Transforming Reality

Pattern and Design in Modern and Self-Taught Art

January 15, 2008 - March 8, 2008


Leonard Baskin

Proofs and Process

October 9, 2007 - January 5, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007


Who Paid the Piper?

The Art of Patronage in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

March 8, 2007 - May 26, 2007


Fairy Tale, Myth and Fantasy

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007


More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006


Parallel Visions II

"Outsider" and "Insider" Art Today

April 5, 2006 - May 26, 2006


Ilija!

His First American Exhibtion

January 17, 2006 - March 18, 2006


Coming of Age

Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth

November 15, 2005 - January 7, 2006


Sue Coe:

Sheep of Fools

September 20, 2005 - November 5, 2005


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005


Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part II

Self-Taught Artists

January 18, 2005 - March 26, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005


Sue Coe: Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round and Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 8, 2004 - October 16, 2004


Animals & Us

The Animal in Contemporary Art

April 1, 2004 - May 22, 2004


Henry Darger

Art and Myth

January 15, 2004 - March 20, 2004


Body and Soul

Expressionism and the Human Figure

October 7, 2003 - January 3, 2004


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2003 - September 12, 2003


In Search of the "Total Artwork"

Viennese Art and Design 1897–1932

April 8, 2003 - June 14, 2003


Russia's Self-Taught Artists

A New Perspective on the "Outsider"

January 14, 2003 - March 29, 2003


Käthe Kollwitz:

Master Printmaker

October 1, 2002 - January 4, 2003


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002


Workers of the World

Modern Images of Labor

April 2, 2002 - June 15, 2002


Grandma Moses

Reflections of America

January 15, 2002 - March 16, 2002


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoscha

From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

November 23, 2001 - January 5, 2002


The "Black-and-White" Show

Expressionist Graphics in Austria & Germany

September 20, 2001 - November 10, 2001


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001


Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001


"Our Beautiful and Tormented Austria!": Art Brut in the Land of Freud

January 18, 2001 - March 17, 2001


The Tragedy of War

November 16, 2000 - January 6, 2001


The Expressionist City

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000


From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000


European Self-Taught Art

Brut or Naive?

January 18, 2000 - March 11, 2000


Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000


The Modern Child

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)

September 14, 1999 - November 6, 1999


Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999


Sue Coe: The Pit

The Tragical Tale of the Rise and Fall of a Vivisector

March 30, 1999 - June 5, 1999


Henry Darger and His Realms

January 14, 1999 - March 13, 1999


Becoming Käthe Kollwitz

An Artist and Her Influences

November 17, 1998 - December 31, 1998


George Grosz - Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

Art & Gender in Weimar Germany

September 23, 1998 - November 11, 1998


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Taboo

Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998


Sacred & Profane

Michel Nedjar and Expressionist Primitivism

January 13, 1998 - March 14, 1998


Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Master Draughtsman

November 18, 1997 - January 3, 1998


The New Objectivity

Realism in Weimar-Era Germany

September 16, 1997 - November 8, 1997


Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997


Käthe Kollwitz - Lea Grundig

Two German Women & The Art of Protest

March 25, 1997 - May 31, 1997


That Way Madness Lies

Expressionism and the Art of Gugging

January 14, 1997 - March 15, 1997


The Viennese Line

Art and Design Circa 1900

November 18, 1996 - January 4, 1997


Emil Nolde - Christian Rohlfs

Two German Expressionist Masters

September 24, 1996 - November 9, 1996


Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996


Sue Coe's Ship of Fools

March 26, 1996 - May 24, 1996


New York Folk

Lawrence Lebduska, Abraham Levin, Isreal Litwak

January 16, 1996 - March 16, 1996


The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996


From Left to Right

Social Realism in Germany and Russia, Circa 1919-1933

September 19, 1995 - November 4, 1995


Recent Acquisitions

June 20, 1995 - September 8, 1995


On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995


Earl Cummingham - Grandma Moses

Visions of America

January 17, 1995 - March 18, 1995


Drawn to Text: Comix Artists as Book Illustrators

November 15, 1994 - January 7, 1995


Three Berlin Artists of the Weimar Era: Hannah Höch, Käthe Kollwitz, Jeanne Mam

September 13, 1994 - November 5, 1994


55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994


Sue Coe: We All Fall Down

March 29, 1994 - May 27, 1994


The Forgotten Folk Art of the 1940's

January 18, 1994 - March 19, 1994


Symbolism and the Austrian Avant Garde

Klimt, Schiele and their Contemporaries

November 16, 1993 - January 8, 1994


Art and Politics in Weimar Germany

September 14, 1993 - November 6, 1993


Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993


The "Outsider" Question

Non-Academic Art from 1900 to the Present

March 23, 1993 - May 28, 1993


The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993


Art Spiegelman

The Road to Maus

November 17, 1992 - January 9, 1993


Käthe Kollwitz

In Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth

September 15, 1992 - November 7, 1992


Naive Visions/Art Nouveau and Expressionism/Sue Coe: The Road to the White House

May 19, 1992 - September 4, 1992


Richard Gerstl/Oskar Kokoschka

March 17, 1992 - May 9, 1992


Scandal, Outrage, Censorship

Controversy in Modern Art

January 21, 1992 - March 7, 1992


Viennese Graphic Design

From Secession to Expressionism

November 19, 1991 - January 11, 1992


The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991


Recent Acquisitions

Themes and Variations

May 14, 1991 - August 16, 1991


Sue Coe Retrospective

Political Document of a Decade

March 12, 1991 - May 5, 1991


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, drawings and prints

January 22, 1991 - March 2, 1991


Egon Schiele

November 13, 1990 - January 12, 1991


Lovis Corinth

A Retrospective

September 11, 1990 - November 3, 1990


Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990


Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin

A Study in Influences

March 27, 1990 - June 2, 1990


The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990


Grandma Moses

November 14, 1989 - January 13, 1990


Sue Coe

Porkopolis--Animals and Industry

September 19, 1989 - November 4, 1989


The Galerie St. Etienne

A History in Documents and Pictures

June 20, 1989 - September 8, 1989


Gustav Klimt

Paintings and Drawings

April 11, 1989 - June 10, 1989


Fifty Years Galerie St. Etienne: An Overview

February 14, 1989 - April 1, 1989


Folk Artists at Work

Morris Hirshfield, John Kane and Grandma Moses

November 15, 1988 - January 14, 1989


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

June 14, 1988 - September 16, 1988


From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

April 12, 1988 - May 27, 1988


Three Pre-Expressionists

Lovis Corinth Käthe Kollwitz Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 26, 1988 - March 12, 1988


Käthe Kollwitz

The Power of the Print

November 17, 1987 - January 16, 1988


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987


Folk Art of This Century

February 10, 1987 - March 28, 1987


Oskar Kokoschka and His Time

November 25, 1986 - January 31, 1987


Viennese Design and Wiener Werkstätte

September 23, 1986 - November 8, 1986


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, Drawings and Prints

May 27, 1986 - September 13, 1986


Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986


Käthe Kollwitz/Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 28, 1986 - March 15, 1986


The Art of Giving

December 3, 1985 - January 18, 1986


Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985


European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985


Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985


Expressionist Masters

January 18, 1985 - March 23, 1985


Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna

November 13, 1984 - January 5, 1985


Grandma Moses and Selected Folk Paintings

September 25, 1984 - November 3, 1984


American Folk Art

People, Places and Things

June 12, 1984 - September 14, 1984


John Kane

Modern America's First Folk Painter

April 17, 1984 - May 25, 1984


Eugène Mihaesco

The Illustrator as Artist

February 28, 1984 - April 7, 1984


Early Expressionist Masters

January 17, 1984 - February 18, 1984


Paula Modersohn-Becker

Germany's Pioneer Modernist

November 15, 1983 - January 7, 1984


Gustav Klimt

Drawings and Selected Paintings

September 20, 1983 - November 5, 1983


Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983


Alfred Kubin

Visions From The Other Side

March 22, 1983 - May 7, 1983


20th Century Folk

The First Generation

January 18, 1983 - March 12, 1983


Grandma Moses

The Artist Behind the Myth

November 15, 1982 - January 8, 1983


Käthe Kollwitz

The Artist as Printmaker

September 28, 1982 - November 6, 1982


Aspects of Modernism

June 1, 1982 - September 3, 1982


The Human Perspective

Recent Acquisitions

March 16, 1982 - May 15, 1982


19th and 20th Century European and American Folk Art

January 19, 1982 - March 6, 1982


The Folk Art Tradition

Naïve Painting in Europe and the United States

November 17, 1981 - January 9, 1982


Austria's Expressionism

April 21, 1981 - May 30, 1981


Eugène Mihaesco

His First American One-Man Show

March 3, 1981 - April 11, 1981


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele

November 12, 1980 - December 27, 1980


Summer Exhibition

June 17, 1980 - October 31, 1980


Kollwitz: The Drawing and The Print

May 1, 1980 - June 10, 1980


40th Anniversary Exhibition

November 13, 1979 - December 28, 1979


American Primitive Art

November 22, 1977


Käthe Kollwitz

December 1, 1976


Neue Galerie-Galerie St. Etienne

A Documentary Exhibition

May 1, 1976


Martin Pajeck

January 27, 1976


Georges Rouault and Frans Masereel

April 29, 1972


Branko Paradis

December 1, 1971


Käthe Kollwitz

February 3, 1971


Egon Schiele

The Graphic Work

October 19, 1970


Gustav Klimt

March 20, 1970


Friedrich Hundertwasser

May 6, 1969


Austrian Art of the 20th Century

March 21, 1969


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

October 31, 1968


Yugoslav Primitive Art

April 30, 1968


Alfred Kubin

January 30, 1968


Käthe Kollwitz

In the Cause of Humanity

October 23, 1967


Abraham Levin

September 26, 1967


Karl Stark

April 5, 1967


Gustav Klimt

February 4, 1967


The Wiener Werkstätte

November 16, 1966


Oskar Laske

October 25, 1965


Käthe Kollwitz

May 1, 1965


Egon Schiele

Watercolors and Drawings from American Collections

March 1, 1965


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

November 21, 1964


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964


Mary Urban

June 9, 1964


Werner Berg, Jane Muus and Mura Dehn

May 5, 1964


Eugen Spiro

April 4, 1964


B. F. Dolbin

Drawings of an Epoch

March 3, 1964


Austrian Expressionists

January 6, 1964


Joseph Rifesser

December 3, 1963


Panorama of Yugoslav Primitive Art

October 21, 1963


Joe Henry

Watercolors of Vermont

May 1, 1963


French Impressionists

March 8, 1963


Grandma Moses

Memorial Exhibition

November 26, 1962


Group Show

October 15, 1962


Ernst Barlach

March 23, 1962


Martin Pajeck

February 24, 1962


Paintings by Expressionists

January 27, 1962


Käthe Kollwitz

November 11, 1961


Grandma Moses

September 7, 1961


My Friends

Fourth Biennial of Pictures by American School Children

May 27, 1961


Raimonds Staprans

April 17, 1961


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin

March 14, 1961


Marvin Meisels

January 23, 1961


Egon Schiele

November 15, 1960


My Life's History

Paintings by Grandma Moses

September 12, 1960


Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection

May 2, 1960


Martin Pajeck

February 29, 1960


Eugen Spiro

February 6, 1960


Käthe Kollwitz

December 14, 1959


Josef Scharl

Last Paintings and Drawings

November 11, 1959


European and American Expressionists

September 22, 1959


Our Town

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 23, 1959


Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

May 1, 1959


Gustav Klimt

April 1, 1959


Käthe Kollwitz

January 12, 1959


Oskar Kokoschka

October 28, 1958


Village Life in Guatemala

Paintings by Andres Curuchich

June 3, 1958


Two Unknown American Expressionists

Paintings by Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

April 28, 1958


Paula Modersohn-Becker

March 15, 1958


The Great Tradition in American Painting

American Primitive Art

January 20, 1958


Jules Lefranc and Dominique Lagru

Two French Primitives

November 18, 1957


Margret Bilger

October 22, 1957


The Four Seasons

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

June 11, 1957


Grandma Moses

May 6, 1957


Alfred Kubin

April 3, 1957


Franz Lerch

March 2, 1957


Egon Schiele

January 21, 1957


Josef Scharl

Memorial Exhibition

November 17, 1956


Irma Rothstein

May 19, 1956


Käthe Kollwitz

April 16, 1956


A Tribute to Grandma Moses

November 28, 1955


As I See Myself

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 20, 1955


Juan De'Prey

April 19, 1955


Erich Heckel

March 29, 1955


Freddy Homburger

March 2, 1955


Masters of the 19th Century

January 18, 1955


Oskar Kokoschka

November 29, 1954


Isabel Case Borgatta and Josef Scharl

October 12, 1954


James N. Rosenberg and Eugen Spiro

April 30, 1954


Per Krogh

April 2, 1954


Cuno Amiet

February 16, 1954


Eniar Jolin

January 14, 1954


Irma Rothstein

December 8, 1953


Josef Scharl

November 11, 1953


Grandma Moses

October 21, 1953 - October 24, 1953


Wilhelm Kaufmann

September 30, 1953


Lovis Corinth, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

May 27, 1953


A Grandma Moses Album

Recent Paintings, 1950-1953

April 15, 1953


Streeter Blair

American Primitive

February 26, 1953


Paintings on Glass

Austrian Religious Folk Art of the 17th to 19th Centuries

December 4, 1952


Hasan Kaptan

Paintings of a Ten-Year-Old Turkish Painter

October 29, 1952


Margret Bilger

May 10, 1952


American Natural Painters

March 31, 1952


Ten Years of New York Concert Impressions by Eugen Spiro; Four New Paintings by

January 26, 1952


I-Fa-Wei

Watercolors of New York by a Chinese Artist

December 1, 1951


Käthe Kollwitz

October 25, 1951


Drawings and Watercolors by Austrian Children

May 21, 1951


Grandma Moses

Twenty-Five Masterpieces of Primitive Art

March 17, 1951


Roswitha Bitterlich

January 18, 1951


Oskar Laske

Watercolors of Vienna and the Salzkammergut

October 14, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

May 11, 1950


Austrian Art of the 19th Century

From Wadlmüller to Klimt

April 1, 1950


Chiao Ssu-Tu

February 18, 1950


Anton Faistauer

January 1, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

November 30, 1949


Autograph Exhibition

October 26, 1949


Gladys Wertheim Bachrach

May 24, 1949


Oskar Kokoschka

March 30, 1949


Eugen Spiro

February 19, 1949


Frans Masereel

January 13, 1949


Ten Years Grandma Moses

November 22, 1948


Käthe Kollwitz

Masterworks

October 18, 1948


American Primitives

June 3, 1948


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

April 5, 1948


Miriam Richman

February 7, 1948


Vally Wieselthier

Memorial Exhibition

January 10, 1948


Christmas Exhibition

December 4, 1947


Fritz von Unruh

November 10, 1947


Käthe Kollwitz

October 4, 1947


Grandma Moses

May 17, 1947


Lovis Corinth

April 16, 1947


Hugo Steiner-Prag

March 15, 1947


Mark Baum

January 11, 1947


Eugen Spiro

November 25, 1946


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

May 17, 1946


Ladis W. Sabo

Paintings by a New Primitive Artist

April 8, 1946


Georges Rouault

The Graphic Work

February 26, 1946


Käthe Kollwitz

Memorial Exhibition

November 21, 1945


Fred E. Robertson

Paintings by an American Primitive

June 13, 1945


Max Liebermann

The Graphic Work

April 18, 1945


Vienna through Four Centuries

March 1, 1945


Eugen Spiro

January 20, 1945


Grandma Moses

New Paintings

December 5, 1944


Käthe Kollwitz

Part II

October 26, 1944


A Century of French Graphic Art

From Géricault to Picasso

September 28, 1944


Max Liebermann

Memorial Exhibition

June 9, 1944


Juan De'Prey

Paintings by a Self-Taught Artist from Puerto Rico

May 6, 1944


Abraham Levin

April 15, 1944


Lesser Ury

Memorial Exhibition

March 21, 1944


Grandma Moses

Paintings by the Senior of the American Primitives

February 9, 1944


Betty Lane

January 11, 1944


WaIt Disney Cavalcade

December 9, 1943


Käthe Kollwitz

Part I

November 3, 1943


Will Barnet

September 29, 1943


Lovis Corinth

May 26, 1943


Josephine Joy

Paintings by an American Primitive

May 3, 1943


Oskar Kokoschka

Aspects of His Art

March 31, 1943


Eugen Spiro

February 13, 1943


Seymour Lipton

January 18, 1943


Illuminated Gothic Woodcuts

Printed and Painted, 1477-1493

December 5, 1942


Abraham Levin

November 4, 1942


Walt Disney Originals

September 23, 1942


Documents which Relate History

Documents of Historical Importance and Landmarks of Human Development

June 10, 1942


Honoré Daumier

April 29, 1942


Bertha Trabich

Memorial Exhibition of a Russian-American Primitive

March 25, 1942


Alfred Kubin

Master of Drawing

December 4, 1941


Egon Schiele

November 7, 1941


Betty Lane

June 3, 1941


Flowers from Old Vienna

18th and Early 19th Century Flower Painting

May 7, 1941


Weavings by Navaho and Hopi Indians and Photos of Indians by Helen M. Post

January 29, 1941


Georg Merkel

November 7, 1940


What a Farm Wife Painted

Works by Mrs. Anna Mary Moses

October 9, 1940


Saved from Europe

Masterpieces of European Art

July 1, 1940


American Abstract Art

May 22, 1940


Franz Lerch

May 1, 1940


Wilhelm Thöny

April 3, 1940


French Masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries

February 29, 1940


H. W. Hannau

Metropolis, Photographic Studies of New York

February 2, 1940


Oskar Kokoschka

January 9, 1940


Austrian Masters

November 13, 1939


ART WITH AN AGENDA

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001

ARTISTS

Arntz, Gerd

Grosz, George

Heartfield, John

Hoffmann, Josef

Klutsis, Gustav

Kokoschka, Oskar

Kollwitz, Käthe

Kubin, Alfred

Meidner, Ludwig

Moser, Kolomon

Peche, Dagobert

Schiele, Egon

ESSAY

Modernism, though sometimes studied from a strictly formalist perspective, encompassed a wide range of political, commercial, literary and utilitarian agendas. During the first decades of the twentieth century, avant-garde artists, fired up with utopian idealism, sought to rescue the masses from drudgery and bad taste by investing art and artifacts with revolutionary purpose. Not all these artists were specifically political, but almost all the early modernists felt that art served some higher, transformative goal, be it spiritual, personal or social. Europe at the time was in a state of upheaval. Industrialization had overturned the socio-economic structure of the entire continent, undermining the aristocratic order and empowering the working class in ways that could be perceived as either frightening or exciting, depending on one's own class allegiances. Technology, too, was frightening to some, but many others were invigorated by the prospect of a "brave new world." At the outset modernity entailed a push--pull between danger and promise, and this dualism was in turn reflected in the art of the period.

 

Whether they fled civilization's demoralizing advance, as did Paul Gauguin, or welcomed the apparently imminent demise of a stultifying regime, as did the Italian Futurists, forward-thinking artists were united in their rejection of the status quo and their quest for a more vital alternative. Expressionists, Cubists and their slightly younger cousins, the Surrealists, all shared a distaste for the artificial and a reverence for the authentic, which they manifested through a repudiation of the academy and bourgeois culture. These artists rent asunder, once and for all, nineteenth-century standards of taste and approved subject matter, substituting for them a very personal vocabulary of form and color. The political significance of this transformation should not be underestimated, for the old styles were associated with the old regime, just as the new ones presaged a hoped-for new age of individual freedom. The scandals provoked by modern art in the first decades of the twentieth century--which would reach their climax with the Nazi attacks on "degenerate" art--are indicative of the tangible threat that conventional society perceived in such work.

 

The socio-economic ramifications of modernity were addressed most directly within the field of the applied arts, which naturally was also most immediately affected by industrialization. Here art and social issues were overtly fused. In the mid-nineteenth century, proponents of the British Arts and Crafts revival, curiously melding progressive and reactionary ideas, had sought to create a socialist workers' paradise by resurrecting the medieval workshop, which was held to foster community alongside craftsmanship. When the workshop principle was transplanted to Austria in the early twentieth century, however, the political agenda was largely jettisoned, while the artistic mandate was considerably expanded. Artists and artisans of the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop), founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann (checklist nos. 31-34) and Koloman Moser (checklist nos. 61 and 62), joined forces in pursuit of the Gesamtkunstwerk--the total artwork--combining everything from architecture (checklist nos. 35, 37, 38, 73 and 74) and painting to fashion design (checklist nos. 57, 58, 80, 81 and 83). The Werkstätte's goal was to counter industrialization with handicraft, in the process elevating the taste of the masses and infusing all of life with aesthetic value. Far from espousing a socialist, much less a democratic doctrine, the Austrian avant garde favored what might best be described as a benevolent artistic dictatorship. Those with taste would rule by acclamation; artists would be supported by a cadre of like-minded patrons; and the cultural benefits would trickle down from the enlightened few to the many.

 

The idea of the "total artwork," coupled with the anti-elitist desire to level the “high” and “low” arts, fostered the belief that a true artist should be able to do everything. At the Wiener Werkstätte, artists designed utilitarian objects, creating some that were extraordinarily innovative and others that defied practical use or manufacture. Painters such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka (checklist nos. 41-43) and Egon Schiele (checklist nos. 70-72) enthusiastically pitched in, contributing wall decor, postcards, posters and the like. Schiele and Kokoschka also dabbled in literature, as did Ernst Barlach (checklist no. 14), Max Beckmann (checklist no. 15), Wassily Kandinsky, Alfred Kubin (checklist nos. 53-55), Ludwig Meidner (checklist nos. 59 and 60) and other artists associated with the Expressionist movement. Many produced illustrations for writings by themselves and others, or cycles of interrelated images. Taking off from the exquisitely crafted periodicals of the Art-Nouveau period, the concept of the artist's publication assumed unprecedented dimensions. Portfolios containing original graphics reflected the new aesthetic importance accorded printmaking and also helped to disseminate and promote the work. Publications like the Blauer Reiter Almanac and the Futurist Manifesto served as artistic polemics in which form and content were integrally connected.

 

Most members of the early twentieth-century avant garde initially welcomed the First World War, perceiving it as a cleansing action that would at last sweep away the remnants of nineteenth-century bourgeois culture. In a sense, the war accomplished this goal, helping to topple aristocratic regimes in Russia, Germany and Austria. And while progressive artists ultimately recoiled from the carnage wrought by the global conflict, they heralded the role of art in contributing to the social transformation now at hand. Particularly in countries that had been touched by revolution, the avant garde felt compelled to side with the masses. Even in remote America, Stuart Davis could characterize his artist colleagues as exploited laborers who had more in common with the working class than they did with their bourgeois patrons. Figures as diverse as the French Surrealist André Breton and the Russian Communist Leon Trotsky believed that socialism would free the artist from the hostile commercial forces that hampered creative expression under capitalism. Artists were seen--and saw themselves--as the natural allies of revolution.

 

The revolutionary artists who came of age in the period between the two world wars were quick to recognize that technology was a logical adjunct to their efforts. Its dehumanizing downside momentarily forgotten, technology was hailed as the handmaiden of progress, guarantor of a better life for all. Embraced as an artistic tool, technology provided a perfect way to reach the masses by permitting the production of vast quantities of imagery at low cost. Furthermore, mechanical reproduction effaced the touch of the artist's hand, which carried the taint of bourgeois preciousness. Painting was, for the moment, "out." Photomontage--as practiced by John Heartfield (checklist nos. 27-30) and others in Germany, and by Constructivists like Gustav Klutsis in Russia (checklist nos. 39 and 40)--struck just the right note: cool, mechanistic and exuding a sense of newness.

 

Artists renounced the cult of individualism that had frequently characterized the earlier avant garde, while retaining such stylistic innovations as the use of abstract form and expressive color. The German artist Gerd Arntz created a complex vocabulary of symbolic shapes in order to strip his social commentaries of personal associations (checklist nos. 5-13). Seeking to outrage the bourgeoisie, Dadaists and Surrealists joyously cribbed from "low" culture, appropriating an intentionally irritating hodgepodge of commercial type and symbols. Constructivists, working under the collectivist mantle of the new Soviet state, refined these chaotic experiments into a coherent formal language that combined clean typography, bright, attention-getting color and elemental abstraction.

 

These aesthetic innovations were predicated on the notion that new times demanded new forms of expression. Linear perspective, it was said, reinforced the oppressive logic of capitalism. Realism implied a passive acceptance of the status quo, whereas the disjointed design found in photomontage assumed a reordering of reality. However, as it turned out, the masses were slow to accept this new art that had been so lovingly developed for them. Just because the Dadaists mimicked commercial design did not make their work automatically accessible to a large public. People saw cynical self-promotion in an art that looked commercial but in fact was not selling anything except, perhaps, the artists themselves. Constructivist typography was hard to read, abstract imagery hard to comprehend. The public found these works confusing and even insulting.

 

As the revolution foundered in Germany and Stalinism took hold in the Soviet Union, artists reverted to a realist orientation. Trotsky had written that all representational art is essentially political: either affirming the existing order or critiquing it. German artists such as George Grosz and Käthe Kollwitz took the latter approach. Grosz used satire and caricature to raise awareness of the corruption endemic to the Weimar regime (checklists nos. 18-26), while Kollwitz, through her compassionate portrayals of the downtrodden (checklists nos. 45-52), hoped to provoke meaningful social reform. The Russians, who had once been allied with the German left-wing, now damned its art as too negative. The philosophy of Socialist Realism demanded uncritical praise of Soviet industry and agriculture. A virtually identical doctrine would be instituted in Nazi Germany, where all the advanced artists who had flourished during the Weimar era were banned.

 

Their temporary obliteration by the politics of Communism and fascism notwithstanding, avant-garde artists of the inter-war period ironically bequeathed a substantial legacy to commercial design. The public gradually grew accustomed to quirky typography and abstraction, which came to replace the what-you-see-is-what-you-get realism of prior advertisements. Rather than simply depicting merchandise, modern design imparted the aura of style and novelty that was necessary to distinguish products in the vast consumer marketplace. Letters were manipulated to convey ideas, color to evoke emotion (checklist nos. 16, 75 and 76). Abstract stylization transformed images into essential objects: the ur-auto, or -ship or -stick of gum. By compelling viewers to use their imaginations to complete and interpret such stylized representations, advertisers engaged customers in a participatory game that snagged their attention if not their loyalty. Thus the best-laid plans of socialist artists came to serve the great capitalist machine.

 

The unprecedented growth of consumer capitalism after World War II, plus the pressure of Cold-War politics, gave a peculiar spin to the art-world's agenda. In the 1950s, many intellectuals recoiled at the prospect of a mass culture, which they feared would annihilate all standards of taste and quality. Thus the belief developed that high culture could only survive if it was cocooned, kept in isolation from the corrupting hordes. This belief, which persists among some art critics to the present day, found its most cogent expression in the writings of Clement Greenberg, who decreed that art should disdain all social ties and strive for the purity exemplified by abstraction. "Content," he wrote, "is to be dissolved so completely into form that the work of art . . . cannot be reduced in whole or in part to anything not itself."

 

As against the moralistic totalitarianism of Socialist Realism, Greenberg et. al. offered an aesthetic totalitarianism of absolute abstraction. Although the American public in the 1950s largely disdained abstract art, the U.S. government was gradually won over by the art establishment, which championed the Abstract Expressionists as models of democratic freedom. Through a series of international exhibitions organized by the CIA’s front organization, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and later by the State Department, Abstract Expressionism was in effect employed as propaganda to counter the rigidity of Soviet cultural doctrine. Ignoring the messy and mixed agendas of early modernism, Cold-War era critics traced a pristine formalist trajectory from Europe to the United States and anointed America's abstract artists as the logical successors to the pre-war avant-garde. Homegrown modernism was promoted to establish the United States as an art-world superpower, a status deemed commensurate with the nation's post-war economic and military might.

 

The political use that was made of Abstract Expressionism demonstrates that all art has an agenda--even, or perhaps most especially, when its defenders are loudly denying any such ulterior motive. That is to say, all art has a social context, which artists can choose to embrace or deny. The push--pull between engagement and distancing was in a sense hard-wired into the modernist mandate. While some artists wanted to remake the world, others retreated into the production of “art for art’s sake.” Indeed, these two goals were often intimately related, for many felt that in rejecting contact with a tainted world, art might yet offer redemption. Their socialist pretensions notwithstanding, few members of the early twentieth-century avant garde were authentic egalitarians. Clinging to their elitist status, artists expected that the masses would just naturally follow their example. If artists cannot escape the political implications of their work, neither do they always identify them correctly.

 

Modernism and the various ideologies that helped shape it are presently fading into history. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that, while things did not always turn out as hoped, many dire predictions proved inaccurate. “Consumer culture” is not a complete oxymoron. Certainly industrialization generated more than its share of kitsch, but it also succeeded in making a huge variety of tasteful products available to the masses at affordable prices. For better or for worse, culture has been truly democratized. People crowd our museums, buying Van Gogh bookmarks and Picasso mugs. By validating the work of such artists as Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell, contemporary critics recognize that originality and quality are not determined by or limited to elitist modes of creative expression. Several generations of artists have now been reared on film, television and comic books, and contemporary “high” art is infused with traditions derived from the “low.” While prejudice against representational art--particularly work with obvious illustrative or political content--lingers, the formalist dogma of Clement Greenberg and his colleagues has been largely discredited.

 

It remains to be seen how the anti-elitist thrust of contemporary culture will affect the art-world’s agenda. Like most situations, the present one has negative as well as positive aspects. On the one hand, the demise of any serious socialist alternative has encouraged the all-out pursuit of wealth by every segment of the art community. On the other hand, the democratizing of culture means that the art world must be genuinely responsive to the needs of the masses. Those who support the old elitist model of artistic patronage see only debasement in the resulting “blockbuster” mentality. However, as neither artists nor museum directors any longer hold themselves aloof from the general public, it is to be hoped that the art-world's future agenda will be not merely to make money, but to address, boldly and passionately, the human concerns that lie at the heart of all great art.

 

We would like to covey our warmest thanks to Merrill Berman, a pioneering collector of this material, for his generous loans. Checklist entries include catalogue raisonné numbers, where applicable. Unless otherwise indicated, image dimensions are given for the prints and full dimensions for all other works.