Strength in Numbers

American Fine Art Magazine, November 1, 2023

Lincoln Glenn and Graham Shay 1857 have joined forces to present a sweeping exhibition of works by American artists who exhibited in the 1913 Armory Show.


Billed as “the show that shocked America,” the 1913 event marked the dawn of Modernism in the United States, introducing a public accustomed to representational art to the radical practices of the leading European avant-garde artists and the American artists that were, or would be, influenced by them.


“As the key organizer, Arthur B. Davies pronounced while standing in one of the 1913 Armory Show’s galleries: ‘New York will never be the same again,’” recounts Lincoln Glenn partner, Eli Sterngass. “The 1913 Armory Show not only made a huge impact on the masses of passive viewers, but also on the American artists, many of whom took in European innovations such as cubism for the first time.”


On view through December 8 in Lincoln Glenn and Graham Shay’s joint gallery space in New York’s Upper East Side, the exhibition features more than 60 works by 54 artists that highlight the emergence of modernism in American art at its subtlest to its fullest expression.


Aptly staged on the heels of the contemporary iteration of the Armory Show, which took place in New York City in September, this exhibition harkens back to its roots and shines a light on the ripple effect the originating event had in the art world well into the 20th century. Highlights of the exhibit are paintings by Marsden Hartley, Guy Pène du Bois, George Bellows, Agnes Pelton and Joseph Stella to name a few, as well as rare gems by lesser-known, equally important artists, including women.


The earliest work in the exhibition, and one of the most significant, is a watercolor by James McNeill Whistler of the seaside town of Dieppe in Normandy from the mid-1880s.


“Whistler is of the biggest names in American and international art of the 19th century,” explains Sterngass. “His original work is rare at both galleries and at auction, and most are in museums. Although deceased by the original 1913 Armory Show, he was included in the exhibition by organizers who hoped to establish a historical trajectory for modernist directions in American art, which is exactly what this exhibition attempts to rematerialize.”


The bulk of the show is comprised of works of the organizers, including examples by John Sloan, William Glackens, Walt Kuhn, Jonas Lie, Ernest Lawson, George Bellows, George Luks, Guy Pène du Bois and Jerome Myers. “The exhibition proceeds to the modernist inclinations of Agnes Pelton, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Oscar Bluemner and Joseph Stella,” Sterngass explains, “before leaping 50 years ahead to a fully-abstracted painting by Paul Burlin from 1963.” Among the approximately 300 artists included in the 1913 Armory Show, 50 of them were women. Several of these female artists are represented in the exhibit, includomg Bessie Potter Vonnoh, Abastenia St. Leger Eberle, Ethel Myers, and Edith Dimock.


A vibrant piece titled View of the City Across the River by Arthur Freund (1890-1923), who exhibited at the Armory at the young age 23, is another notable inclusion in the show. “Possibly the only painting of his that has been on the market in the past 30-plus years, the artist is little-known and died at age 33,” says Sterngass. “But the quality of this painting makes us wonder how his career could have panned out.”


The exhibit also features two works by Jonas Lie (1880-1940), including the widely exhibited Frosty Morning, which features a sparkling scene of snow-laden birch trees.


An example of Marsden Hartley’s (1877-1943) earliest modernist paintings—and one of the earliest in America—will also be on display. “Formerly an impressionist, in 1909, his dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, encouraged Hartley to visit the Greenwich studio of Albert Pinkham Ryder,” shares Sterngass. “This resulted in works that mimic Ryder’s depictions of the moonlit sky, and a new series of emotionally and tonally dark landscapes of Maine.”


Graham Shay director Cameron Shay speaks to two more paintings of note by Guy Péne du Bois (1884-1958). “Péne du Boi’s early style, associated with New York realism, was informed by his study with William Merritt Chase at the New York School of Art and training with Robert Henri,” he explains. “By 1920, he had achieved his mature style, which was characterized by stylized, rounded, almost sculptural figures painted with invisible brushstrokes. A favorite and often utilized model was his daughter Yvonne, represented in the exhibition in Portrait of Yvonne, circa 1935. Yvonne, a beautiful young woman is shown seated, elegantly dressed, a rouge gold trimmed cape covering her bare shoulders. Adorned with a string of pearls and jewelry, she stares into the distance with a contemplative gaze. The painting is a modern version of the classic, early 20th-century society portrait.”


Artists of the 1913 Armory Show runs through December 8 and is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. A complimentary exhibition catalogue with an essay by art historian Lisa N. Peters, Ph.D. accompanies the exhibition.