Past Exhibitions

All Good Art is Political

Käthe Kollwitz and Sue Coe

October 26, 2017 - March 10, 2018

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

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

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


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


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 America 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


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


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


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


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


Tracing the Narrative of "Outsider" Art

January 15, 2013 - March 30, 2013


Bauchant, André

Bombois, Camille

Corbaz, Aloïse

Crepin, Joseph

Darger, Henry

Evans, Minnie

Gill, Madge

Hirshfield, Morris

Kane, John

Morgan, Sister Gertrude

Moses, Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma")

Pippin, Horace

Ramirez, Martin

Traylor, Bill

Vivin, Louis

Wölfli, Adolf

Yoakum, Joseph E.

Zemankova, Anna

Zinelli, Carlo


Humans are a story-telling species. From carefully selected fragments of information, we construct narratives that give coherence and meaning to our lives. "Modernism" is the name of the story we invented to describe the disparate aesthetic responses to Western industrialization. "Outsider Art" is one of several names (others include "Art Brut," "folk," naïve," "primitive" and "self-taught") that we gave to the creations of people who, though not part of the modernist mainstream, nevertheless produced work that the modernists considered germane to their own efforts. The creators who were assigned these various labels had almost nothing in common. They included farmers and circus performers; mental patients and spirit mediums. The artists, for the most part, neither knew each other nor of one another, and their works shared few, if any, stylistic characteristics. United only by their relative ignorance of the art world's ongoing discourse, this group constituted a shape-shifting, all-purpose "other."


Throughout history, the "other" has generally been viewed in negative terms. War was often justified by a belief that the foreign enemy was subhuman. Colonialism was rationalized as a mission to bring European civilization and Christian salvation to barbaric pagans. Closer to home, Freud descried what he called the "narcissism of minor differences": a tendency for people to feel threatened by, and therefore to demonize, neighboring groups that are, in all but a few respects, very similar to themselves. Freud believed this phenomenon to be the root cause of anti-Semitism, and also of the deep-seated hatreds afflicting border territories like the Balkans. The concept of the "other" is fundamental to personal identity: we define ourselves, to some extent, in terms of what we are not.


There can never be parity in an us-versus-them dichotomy, but as industrial capitalism gradually undermined the religious and socioeconomic structures of the pre-modern era, Europeans began to project onto the "other" the virtues of an idealized past. These allegedly primitive "others" were believed to embody humanity in its primordial, uncorrupted state. The British poet John Dryden hailed the "noble savage": a being "free as nature first made man/Ere the base laws of servitude began." The Romantics preferred the work of the fifteenth-century Italian and Flemish "primitives" to that of the more technically sophisticated Renaissance masters. "You will always find vital sap coursing through the primitive arts," observed Paul Gauguin. "In the arts of an elaborate civilization, I doubt it!" Kindred values were ascribed to children, who like "noble savages," were thought to retain a spontaneity and authenticity lacking in fully socialized adults. "The child sees everything in a state of newness," Charles Baudelaire wrote in his 1863 essay, "The Painter of Modern Life." "Genius is nothing more not less than childhood regained at will."


The early modernists were at best ambivalent toward modernity: they loathed capitalistic materialism and the ascendant bourgeoisie. Around the turn of the twentieth century, artists began to wonder whether primitivism might offer a formal as well as a conceptual antidote to the stultifying aspects of contemporary civilization. Academic training was increasingly viewed as an impediment to true creativity. "The academy is the surest means of ruining the force of the child," Wassilt Kandinsky observed. "An academically educated person of average talent distinguishes himself by having learned the practical-purposeful and by having lost the ability to hear the inner resonance. Such a person will deliver a 'correct' drawing which is dead. If a person who has not acquired artistic schooling--and is thus free of objective artistic knowledge--paints something, the result will never be an empty pretense." Artists did not bother to distinguish among the various forms of primitivism. Paul Klee studied drawings by children and the mentally ill. Picasso collected tribal sculpture and encouraged the contemporary self-taught painter Henri Rousseau. The Blauer Reiter Almanac reproduced the work of Rousseau alongside Egyptian shadow figured, votove paintings by European peasants, children's drawings and the paintings of the composer Arnold Schoenberg (who as an artist was more or less self-taught).


Rousseau was the prototypical "naif": a grown man who ostensibly saw the eyes of a child. Before long, other similar talents were discovered: amateur painters who, chiefly for economic reasons, had been denied access to formal training but who, thanks to the primitivist vogue, were given an unexpected shot at recognition. In the 1920s, the dealer and art historian Wilhelm Uhde pulled together a group he dubbed "Painters of the Sacred Heart." These included, in addition to Rousseau, André Bauchant, Camille Bombois, Séraphine Louis and Louis Vivin. By 1927, there was an "American Rousseau," the Pittsburgh housepainter John Kane, who on his third try gained admittance to the prestigious Carnegie International Exhibition. Sidney Janis's 1942 book They Taught Themselves, profiled no fewer than 30 such artists, amon them Kane, Morris Hirshfield, Horace Pippin and Grandma Moses. These painters, Janis wrote, "retain an untouched quality, a spiritual innocence. They rarely learn from a developed painting culture because it is far removed from their perceptions and, being removed, cannot touch them. Each creates his own world." Uhde described the "Sacred Heart" painters in similar terms: "Their work is the expression of heart and soul, uncomplicated by mind, and thus akin to the wisdom of nature."


A virtually identical primitivist narrative was appplied to folk art and the art of the mentally ill. Holger Cahill, who in the 1930s curated several groundbreaking folk art exhibtiions at the Newark Museum and New York's Museum of Modern Art, wrote that the material was "simple, unaffected and childlike." It was, the scholar Alice Winchester later concurred, "characterized by the qualities belonging to the original state of man." Hans Prinzhorn believed that the mentally ill artist taps into "the original process of all configuration, pure inspiration, for which alone, after all, every artist thirsts." In his 1922 book, Artistry of the Mentally Ill, he wrote that, "The configurative process, instinctive and free of purpose, breaks through in these people without any external stimulus or direction." Walter Morgenthaler, whose study of Adolf Wölfli, A Mental Patient as Artist, was published in 1921, opined that Wölfi's drawings were "raw and clumsy, but they are primordial, too. In these works, part of the powerful and fundamental artistic foundation lies uncovered, elements of which certain modern artists, through their conscious demolition efforts, had been the first to search for."


Primitivism elevated the stature of many creations that had never before been taken seriously, but the intention was not necessarily to place these works on the same footing as "real" art. Picasso's circle considered Rousseau something of a joke, and the German Expressionists aped "primitive" art primarily to certify the authenticity of their own work. When Kane was admitted to the Carnegie International, trained artists (many of whose submissions had been rejected) were furious. Similar protests greeted the Museum of Modern Art's 1943 Hirshfield retrospective. Nevertheless, in the interwar period institutional support of self-taught art was far stronger in the U.S. than it was in Europe. Not only the Newark Museum, the Carnegie and MoMA, but the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney and the Phillips Collection, among others, routinely exhibited and acquired the work of untrained painters during this period. In the preface to the catalogue of MoMA's 1938 survey of American and European self-taught artists, "Masters of Popular Painting," the museum's director, Alfred Barr, identified the subject as one of three"major movements of modern art," along with Abstraction and Surrealism.


From the outset, the American version of the primitivist narrative differed slightly from its European prototype. In the United States, there was no aristocracy to overthrow, no reviled bourgeoisie. Americans had always embraced their middle class and extolled the virtues of hard work and individual initiative. Primitivism therefore took on a populist slant, made all the more timely by the exigencies of the Great Depression. Untrained artists were said to represent core American values like egalitarianism, self-made success and resilience in the face of adversity. The artists, Barr declared, express "the straightforward, innocent and convincing vision of the common man. In 1941 MoMA even devoted the first installation of its permanent collection exclusively to the so-called "Modern Primitives." The Museum Bulletin at the time put forth the premise that these painters were both more "international in character" than their trained American colleagues and more democratic. Barr thought the new display was an ideal way to introduce the American public to the broader tenets of modernism. This was "modern lite."


Modernism and primitivism were closely intertwined, and their storylines naturally evolved in tandem with one another. Like many contemporaneous political "isms" (nationalism, fascism, communism), the aesthetic narratives of the early twentieth century attempted to impose cohesion and coherence on a world perceived as hopelessly fragmented and senseless. Some of the earliest modernist "isms" (Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism) were pejorative, invented by hostile critics; other terms, like Expressionism, were never fully embraced by the artists to whom they were applied. Nevertheless, as the twentieth century progressed, art historians found the various "isms" useful in bringing order to an ungainly welter of new styles, and in explaining these developments to a skeptical public. In 1935, Barr drew a famous diagram in which he charted the interactions among some two-dozen distinct modernist trends. All of them, he concluded, led to only two possible outcomes: "non-geometrical abstract art" and "geometrical abstract art." This attempt to turn a web of diverse artistic manifestations into a neat linear progression was taken up and decisively advanced by the influential postwar avatar of abstraction, Clement Greenberg. "Content," Greenberg decreed, "is to be dissolved so completely into form that the work of art or literature cannot be reduced in whole or in part to anything not itself."


Greenberg's credo was more than just a theory; it was used as a prescription for American cultural dominance in the Cold War era. By appropriating and fulfilling the abstractionist mandate, it was believed that America's artists could take the lead from Europe. This revised modernist narrative left almost no place for primitivism. Folk and tribal art largely reverted to the domain of anthropology. But contemporary domestic self-taught painters, while beloved by the general public, were exiled from both academia and the art establishment. It was not just that trained artists resented them (although this resentment was fierce enough to cost Barr his job in 1943). The realism favored by most of the Modern Primitives was deeply out of sync with the art world's abstractionist ethos. When a Grandma Moses exhibition toured Europe to great acclaim, some Americans were embarassed. The Europeans, wrote one such critic, "praise our naïveté and our integrity, but they begrudge us as a full sophisticated artistic expression. Grandma Moses represents both what they expect of us and what they are willing to grant us."


Nevertheless, modernism's growing acceptance--its commerical success and academic institutionalization--exacerbated the need for a pristine, cleansing "other." Even as primitivism faded from the official art scene in the United States, the concept was being reformulated by the French artist Jean Dubuffet. Echoing the prewar modernists' contempt for contemporary civilization, Dubuffet averred that, "Creative invention has surely no greater enemy than the social order, with all the appeals to adapt, to conform, to mimic." He advocated what he called "Art Brut" (raw art): art that evokes "humanity's first origins and the mose spontaneous and personal invention; works which the artist has entirely derived from his own sources." These were the same idealized values that had earlier been projected onto folk art, tribal art, children's drawings and the "naïfs," but Dubuffet ultimately decided that none of the forgoing genres qualified as propert Art Brut. He was looking for work that was completely untouched by "received culture" or preexisting tradition. This work was more driven by inward-looking visions, less connected to a commonly shared reality, than the art of the prewar Modern Primitives.


Although Dubuffet began collecting Art Brut in 1945, it was really only in the 1960s that the material began to reach a broader audience. Clearly Art Brut, with its counter-cultural stance, appealed to the antiestablishment mentality of that period. In 1964 Dubuffet began publishing a series of detailed monographs on each of the artists in his collection, and in 1967 the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris mounted a major exhibtion of the work. However perhaps the mose singularly influential event, in terms of popularizing Art Brut, was the publication, in 1972, of Roger Cardinal's book Outsider Art. Cardinal's book was the first English-language study of Art Brut, but the title (chosen by his editior) was not a literal translation. Whereas the French term placed its emphasis on the object, "outsider" implicitly referenced the creator. Dubuffet had always been at pains to explain that Art Brut was not an art of mental illness, even if many of the works were created by socially marginalized individuals. Outsider Art, nonetheless, was often viewed largely in terms of biography.


Outsider Art eventually developed a wide following in the United States. As in Europe, awareness of this sort of work--by whatever name--had been growing since the 1960s. When the Museum of Early American Folk Art was founded in New York in 1961, it was commonly believed that all legitimate folk art had been eradicated by the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., a voracious collector who was also a co-founder of the museum and its first curator, blithely ignored this premise. (The adjective "early" was dropped from the museum's name in 1996.) Not only did Hemphill collect contemporary work and present it at the museum, but he also stretched the definition of folk art itself. Whereas folklorists insist that folk art is communal (often utilitarian) in nature and traditional in form, Hemphill delighted in the idiosyncratic and the personal. In his 1974 book Twentieth-Century Folk Art and Artists (coauthored by Julia Weissman), he featured an array of works that ranged from conventional folk objects, such as duck decoys and weathervanes, to drawings by artists like Martín Ramírez and Joseph Yoakum, who fit more comfortably into the "outsider" paradigm.


In keeping witht he populist stance adopted by Cahill and Barr in the 1930s, Hemphill and others favored the term "folk," because put simply, this was the work of "truly American folk: everyday people out of ordinary life, who are generally unaware of and most certainly unaffected by the mainstream of professional art--its trained artists, trends, intentions, theories and developments." Far less doctrinaire than Dubuffet's approach. this viewpoint readily accommodated the work of African-American creators such as Bill Traylor and Sister Gertrude Morgan, who, while isolated from white society, were deeply in tune with the values of their own communities. Indeed the "outsider" label, explicitly premised on a mainstream white perspective, seemed offensive when applied to the art of African Americans. Nevertheless as a marketing concept, "outsider" had an appeal that vastly exceeded "folk" (incurably hampered by crafts associations) or the more pedestrian, if relatively neutral "self-taught." "Outsider" linked the European theory of Art Brut to values--like individual empowerment and disdain for arbitrary authority--that resonated deeply with the American public.


The debate over labeling--so widespread that by the late 1990s it was routinely referred to as "term warfare"--reflected the incipient failure of the underlying primitivist model. The non-western cultures once viewed as primitive had long since been returned to their original contexts, where they could be studied on their own terms rather than as projections of unrealistic ideals. Similarly, the actual contexts of the "domestic primitives" called out for recognition and respect. Even Dubuffet had to admit that there was no such thing as an art completely removed from received culture. The attributes once ascribed to "outsiders"--lack of influence, lack of development, lack of artistic intention--turned out in many cases to be self-fulfilling prophecies; not sought, and therefore not found. From Henri Rousseau to the present, the best self-taught artists have always been deply engaged in the creative process. It is this engagement that accounts for the quality of their work, that makes it art.


Once the primitivist overlay is removed from self-taught artists, all that remains to separate them from their trained colleagues is their relative distance from mainstream culture. But this distinction, too, has ceased to be terribly meaningful. "High" art no longer has a unified storyline against which the "other" may be juxtaposed. There hasn't been a new art-world "ism" since postmodernism, which in itself signaled the end of the modernist narrative. Instead of a strict linear trajectory, we now have a loose network of creative connections extending in all directions. The discourse has changed, admitting a plethora of elements once banned from the realm of "high" art. In the 1950s, Grandma Moses was chided for sprinkling glitter on her snow scenes, and Henry Darger, had he exhibited at the time, would have been dismissed for copying comic strips. Today trained artists use all manner of ephemeral craft materials, and pop culture serves as a common reference point in much the same way that Greek mythology once did. Of course, in any cultural discourse there will always be worthy creations that inadvertently get left out. But this is simply a mistake, not a matter of intrinsic significance.


The absence of any cohesive narrative shaping the twenty-first century aesthetic discourse creates its own set of possibilities and problems. The false, demeaning dichotomy that kept great self-taught artists from being recognized as the equals of their schooled peers has lost much of its former relevance. Without any fixed rules or heirarchies, all artists must be understood in terms of their specific contexts and goals, and evaluated based on whether those goals have been successfully achieved. But what, asks the British artist Grayson Perry (himself a master of formerly debased genres like pottery), if the artist's goal is to produce "a load of shit"? Art "seems to have become everything," Perry complains, and "the danger is that we've got no judgment on what is good." Sometimes it seems that the traditional arbiters of quality--the museums and the academy--have ceded their authority to the marketplace. The loss of the modernist narrative has left us curiously adrift. We need our stories, even if we know they are fables.