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The 1913 Armory Show

February 17, 2018

Camille Pissarro, Paul Burlin, Elie Nadelman, Jo Davidson, Abraham Walkowitz, and William Zorach were among the Jewish artists represented at the Armory Show in New York City, which opened on this date in 1913 and introduced America to the avant-garde of the art world. Known officially as the “International Exhibition of Modern Art,” the show took place at the armory of the U.S. National Guard’s 69th Regiment (Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th streets). Among the participating European painters were Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Marcel Duchamp, Vincent Van Gogh, and Wassily Kandinsky; among the many Americans were Mary Cassatt, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, and James Whistler. Four thousand guests visited the armory on opening night, and the exhibition, which moved to Chicago in March of 1913, and later to Boston, created a seismic shift in American perceptions of modernism.

“[P]revious to [the Armory Show] there was a real dislike for modern art. It disturbed their equilibrium . . . People would come [to the show] and laugh, loudly. I was there every day, answering questions. . . and I said to them, ‘We’ll see. Just write down on a piece of paper what you just told me, and put [it] in an envelope, open it 20 years later, and you’re going to laugh at yourself.’ That’s inevitable, in every progress, we have to go through those three states [of fear, sneer, and cheer].” —1958 interview with Abraham Walkowitz