Albert Eugene Gallatin 1881 —1952
ALBERT E. GALLATIN (1881 - 1952)
Born in Villanova, Pennsylvania, collector, writer and artist, Albert E. Gallatin was raised in a wealthy and cultivated family. In his childhood home, he was surrounded by Greek and Egyptian art collected by his forebears; his great-grandfather had been the Secretary of the Treasury under Madison and Jefferson, and a subject of portraits by Gilbert Stuart and Charles Wilson Peale.
After studying at New York Law School, Gallatin became the first president of the Motor-Car Touring Society, and was considered one of New York's most eligible bachelors and party givers. By 1903, however, Gallatin had turned away from high society, and had become interested in studying and collecting art. In this year, he published his first catalogue on the drawing of Aubrey Beardsley, in which he emphasized the decorative qualities of Beardsley's work.
Gallatin's next project was a scholarly publication entitled Whistler's Art Dicta, which was published in 1904. This was followed by two additional texts on Whistler, produced in 1907 and 1912. Gallatin's involvement in modern art evolved gradually. His interest in the French Impressionists led to a study of the art of Paul Cezanne, and eventually he focused on the work of American Precisionists, Charles Demuth, John Marin and Charles Sheeler. On each of these artists, Gallatin produced volumes of essay, which are still consulted today.
During World War I, Gallatin served as the chairman of the Committee on Exhibitions and
Pictorial Publicity of the United States Government Committee on Public Information, and coordinated the efforts of painters, graphic artists and sculptors. This involvement led to his book, Art and the Great War (1919), in which Gallatin wrote about his activities in the division.
Gallatin's perspective on art had changed by the end of the 1920's. His focus had shifted to the modern art of Europe, and he began to build up his personal collection, which included works by Cezanne, Picasso, Gris, and Leger. At the same time, he maintained an interest in progressive directions in American painting and added paintings by Demuth, Hartley, Marin and Sheeler to his holdings. In 1927, his gathering of European and American Works became the basis of the collection of the Gallery of Living Art, housed in the reading room of the New York University library that overlooked Washington Square Park. Gallatin changed the collection's name to the Museum of Living Art in 1933, and it remained in existence, serving as an important center for modern art in New York until 1943. With each passing year, Gallatin added to his holdings, acquiring significant works by Cubists, Neo-Plasticists, Constructivists, and other twentieth-century progressive artists. Running the museum as a place for seeing art and for the art community to gather, Gallatin kept it open during most evenings offered free admission and encouraged public debates and discussions.
In the year before opening the museum, Gallatin had become even more actively involved in art than previously, as he took up the profession of painting himself. Creating abstract works, he worked in a style informed by the late Cubist works of Picasso and Gris to which he added a taste for broad areas of open space broken up by clusters of oddly shaped forms.
Gallatin was a participantn the America Abstract Artists group, which was initiated in 1936, and he took part in this organization's exhibitions until 1952, maintaining close friendships with members, George L.K. Morris, Suzy Frelinghuysen, and Charles Green Shaw.
Upon receiving a letter in 1942 from New York University which asked Gallatin to return his gallery space to the institution to make way for an expansion of the library, he revoked the bequest he had made to the University of his collection and decided to give it instead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it is today considered one of the most significant gatherings of twentieth-century modern art.
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