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Selected Letters of Henry McBride

Henry McBride; Edited by Steven Watson and Catherine J. Morris

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Henry McBride (1867–1962) became a towering figure in art criticism during a long career that began in 1913—the year of the famous Armory Show in New York that opened American eyes to avant-garde developments in European art—and continued until the advent of Abstract Expressionism in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A sensitive and discerning observer of the changing cultural landscape, McBride not only wrote prolifically for publication but also corresponded extensively. In this remarkable collection of selected letters, Henry McBride describes some of the most important events and figures of twentieth-century modernism. Written in a characteristically charming, gossipy, and warm-hearted style, these letters reveal McBride’s responses to revolutionary changes in the world of art and in the world at large.

Closely allied to the pivotal circles that shaped modern culture, McBride counted among his correspondents such friends as Gertrude Stein, Carl Van Vechten, the Stettheimer sisters, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Demuth, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Marianne Moore. His letters, along with the biographical introduction, headnotes, and rich annotation provided in this volume, present a unique perspective on twentieth-century modernism by one of its most ardent supporters.

Steven Watson is a cultural historian and the author of Prepare for Saints. Catherine J. Morris is a writer and curator.

“Witty, engaging, and thoroughly likable, McBride seemed to know everyone of significance. His letters provide an insider’s perspective on the elite cultural world in which he was an active participant—a world which no longer exists.”—Barbara Haskell, Whitney Museum of American Art

"Not only was Henry McBride a great art critic, helping modernism get a foothold in this country, but he was a beloved friend to artists, collectors, and connoisseurs. This book gives us the everyday McBride in warm and astute correspondence with great ‘moderns’ of the early 20th century. He comes alive as a sensitive and artful human being."—Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History, Stanford University

“An intimate look at the critic known for his accessible style, which avoided academic jargon while incorporating a broad range of cultural references. . . . One can see in his amusing letters the same wit and wry observation that characterized his criticism and helped make it so readable and discerning. Critics of our own time could profit from his example.”—Lynda Hammes, Art & Auction

“With the assistance of McBride’s longtime companion, the editors bring insight to the introduction, selection, editing, and arrangement of the letters and to a biographical chapter on McBride and paragraph-length sketches on his friends. . . . This highly recommended work supports research on art criticism and 20th-century culture.”—Choice

This highly recommended work supports research on art criticism and 20th-century culture.

“Whether the fare was Virgil Thomson’s opera Four Saints in Three Acts, Picasso’s or Marcel Duchamp’s paintings or Gertrude Stein’s prose, critic Henry McBride was noted for his friendly, upbeat acceptance of modernist art, literature and music in such avant-garde periodicals as the Dial. . . . Students and less formal fans of modernism will want to check out this informal champion’s quotidian.”—Publishers Weekly
ISBN: 9780300083262
Publication Date: December 11, 2000
384 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
24 b/w illus.
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