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


American Self-Taught Painters Between the World Wars

January 9, 2009 - March 14, 2009


Hirshfield, Morris

Joy, Josephine

Kane, John

Lebduska, Lawrence

Moses, Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma")

Pippin, Horace

Santo, Patsy


In 1942, Sidney Janis published his book They Taught Themselves: American Primitive Painters of the 20th Century. Later hailed as classic, this was the first study of its kind. Janis's book established the framework and foundation for the field of contemporary self-taught art as we know it today. In an introduction that feels remarkably fresh, the author grappled with issues that still confound scholars: nomenclature, quality and definitions. Relying as much as possible on his subjects' own words, he presented capsule biographies of 30 artists. Of these, five (Morris Hirshfield, John Kane, Grandma Moses, Joseph Pickett and Horace Pippin) are considered among the most important self-taught artists of the twentieth century, and an additional seven (Emile Branchard, Henry Church, William Doriani, Lawrence Lebduska, Israel Litwak, Patsy Santo and Patrick J. Sullivan), while not as well remembered, made significant contributions to the field in the first decades of that century. Although Alfred Barr, in his introduction to They Taught Themselves, gently chided Janis for being overly inclusive, the author's selections have, on the whole, held up remarkably well.


As an initial attempt to codify a field then in its infancy, They Taught Themselves is today considered a beginning. But the book was, in its own time, the culmination of a fascination with the "primitive" that had gradually permeated the art world over the course of the two preceding decades. After World War I, which temporarily stifled international cultural activity, America began to grapple intently with the lessons of European modernism introduced at the 1913 Armory Show. Proclaiming as its motto "No Jury! No Prizes!" the Society of Independent Artists, incorporated in 1917 and supported by leading figures like Childe Hassam, Maurice Prendergast and William Glackens, made a concerted attempt to bring greater expressive freedom to the New York art scene. It was soon emulated by similar organizations in other cities. Although the embrace of self-taught artists was not explicitly part of the Independents' program, the Society's unjuried annual exhibitions provided a ready outlet for untrained painters, among them Emile Branchard and Patrick J. Sullivan. Inevitably, some forward-thinking artists and dealers began to make the same connection between unschooled talent and modernism that had earlier attracted Kandinsky and Picasso to Henri Rousseau. The New York dealer Stephan Bourgeois exhibited Branchard and later Lawrence Lebduska along with contemporary modernists such as Gaston Lachaise and George Ault. "The future," Bourgeois declared in 1923, "belongs to the Naives and the children."


During the 1920s, interest in the work of contemporary self-taught painters was for the most part exceeded by interest in early American folk art and artifacts. Cutting-edge artists like Charles Demuth, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Elie Nadelman and Charles Sheeler collected the older material, which was publicly exhibited at the Whitney Studio Club (the Whitney Museum's predecessor) in 1924. The dealer Edith Gregor Halpert, who represented Sheeler, Kuniyoshi and Nadelman, was prompted to focus professionally on folk art after the 1929 stock-market crash curtailed the demand for more expensive work by trained American and European masters. Halpert found a willing, and solvent, buyer in Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, whose patronage in turn helped legitimize the folk field. In 1931, Halpert established the American Folk Art Gallery as an offshoot of her Downtown Gallery. Works by trained and untrained artists, seen as complementary components of the modernist enterprise, were often exhibited side-by-side.


A decisive step in the art world's embrace of self-taught painters came in 1927, when the artist Andrew Dasburg convinced the jury of the Carnegie Institute's prestigious Annual International Exhibition of Paintings to accept the work of a common laborer, John Kane. Kane's acceptance occasioned some nasty grumbling on the part of the many trained artists who were rejected by the Carnegie's jury, but Kane went on to prove his mettle, exhibiting at every subsequent International until his death in 1934. He was also included in "annuals" at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in the first and second Biennial Exhibitions at the Whitney Museum (which was founded in 1931). In 1930, Duncan Phillips, a stalwart champion of modern art, purchased the first of several John Kane paintings for his Washington, D.C., museum.


A key catalyst in legitimatizing the field of self-taught art was Holger Cahill, who worked as a curator at the Newark Museum and the Museum of Modern Art before being tapped, in 1935, to head up the Federal Art Project. (Edith Halpert's lover in the early 1930s, Cahill subsequently married Dorothy Miller, a curator at MoMA.) Cahill organized groundbreaking exhibitions of American Primitives and American Folk Sculpture at the Newark Museum in 1930 and 1931 respectively. But his most important curatorial effort was undoubtedly American Folk Art: The Art of the Common Man in America, an exhibition organized in 1932 at MoMA, where Cahill was serving as Acting Director. All three exhibitions focused on pre-twentieth-century material and intermingled utilitarian and non-utilitarian creations indiscriminately. In Cahill's view, it was all "art," regardless of its original context or the maker's intention.


While Cahill clearly exerted a significant influence on the Museum of Modern Art, its founding Director, Alfred Barr, was himself an enthusiastic advocate of self-taught art who readily embraced twentieth-century exponents of the genre. In the decade following its establishment in 1929, MoMA included John Kane in no fewer than four surveys of contemporary trends, among them its fifth-anniversary exhibition, Modern Works of Art. The 1932 American Folk Art show was followed up by a 1938 survey of contemporary self-taught American and European artists,Masters of Popular Painting. In the catalogue for that exhibition, Barr described the self-taught field as one of the "major . . . movements of modern art," on a par with Cubism and Surrealism. Masters of Popular Painting was supplemented in 1939 by a showing of Unknown American Painters. Organized by Sidney Janis, a member of the museum's Advisory Committee, the Unknowns exhibition was a forerunner to They Taught Themselves. In 1941, when MoMA opened its first gallery devoted to the permanent collection, the selection was limited to the work of untrained painters. The Museum Bulletin at the time put forth the guiding premise that "Modern Primitives" (as they were then frequently called) were both more "international in character" than their trained American colleagues and more democratic, in that they "all express the straightforward, innocent and convincing vision of the common man." Barr thought the new display was an ideal way to introduce the American public to the broader tenets of modernism.


As indicated by the oft-repeated phrase "common man," the modernist impulses of the 1920s had by the '30s melded with Depression-era populism. The adjective "popular" in the title Masters of Popular Painting was not intended to connote popularity, let alone commercial success, but rather was used as a synonym for "of the people." Untrained artists represented beliefs America needed in order to survive the Great Depression: democratic egalitarianism, self-made success and resilience in the face of adversity. These artists, plucked from obscurity by the arbiters of art-world trends, represented the melting-pot ideal: they came from all walks of life, all racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds; many of them were immigrants. In the catalogue for the Masters exhibition, Cahill accused traditional art critics of practicing "esthetic Calvinism" by confining their attentions to rarified individuals, ostensibly distinguished from "the great mass of the non-elect by a special sensitiveness." Janis equated unschooled artists with Abraham Lincoln, the iconic hero of the day who happened to be a favorite subject of many self--taught painters. "[Lincoln's] obscure beginnings, his silent struggles with knowledge and his open conflicts with life are their own," Janis wrote. The Depression had created a steady supply of potential self-taught artists (most of whom had previously been employed in other areas), as well as a demand for the grass-roots sensibilities they personified.


Almost all the canonical American self-taught artists of the early twentieth century were "discovered" in the period between John Kane's 1927 debut and the publication of They Taught Themselves in 1942. Like aficionados of "outsider" art in the later twentieth century, those that pioneered the field in the 1930s took to the road (often unpaved in the deeper countryside) to ferret out hidden treasures. Cahill, who regularly went on scouting trips for Halpert, found the paintings of Joseph Pickett, a one-time carnival worker and shopkeeper, in the artist's hometown of New Hope, Pennsylvania, where they had languished unappreciated since his death in 1918. Cahill saw to it that three of Pickett's four surviving works went quickly into the collections of the Newark Museum, the Whitney and MoMA, which included the artist in both its 1932 and 1938 exhibitions of self-taught art. Among the many painters in that 1938 exhibition were some, like John Kane, who already had a track record, and others, such as the disabled World-War-I veteran Horace Pippin, who had only recently come to light. Lawrence Lebduska worked as a decorative muralist for the interior designer Elsie de Wolfe and had been exhibiting since the late 1920s, when he attracted the attention of the violinist and art patron Louis Kaufman. Emile Branchard, who began to paint while recovering from tuberculosis, was discovered by the dealer Stephen Bourgeois at the Society of Independent Artists in 1919. Patrick J. Sullivan likewise showed with the Independents, where his work caught the eyes of Sidney Janis and his wife Harriet in 1937. An unemployed housepainter, Sullivan created a small oeuvre of idiosyncratic, densely layered paintings that he called "parables in picture form."


It is not clear exactly when Sidney and Harriet Janis began collecting, and ultimately championing, self-taught artists. Among modernist masterpieces that included paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Leger, the couple owned Henri Rousseau's famous canvas The Dream, and it may be that this inspired them to start looking for American counterparts to the "Douanier." By the time of the 1938 Masters show, Janis's interest was well-enough known that an itinerant collector named Louis Caldor was advised to bring him some amateur paintings he'd found in Upstate New York. They were by an elderly farmwife named Anna Mary Robertson Moses, later to become world famous as "Grandma" Moses. It was the dealer Hudson Walker who introduced Janis to the work of Morris Hirshfield--a retired clothing manufacturer and Janis?s foremost protégé. Around this time, Janis also became aware of the housepainter Patsy Santo, who was discovered by the artist Walt Kuhn at the Rutland [Vermont] State Fair in 1937. Israel Litwak, a laid-off cabinet-maker, was accorded the honor of a one-man show at the Brooklyn Museum in 1939. Josephine Joy, who attracted notice at an exhibition sponsored by the California Art Project, was among many self-taught artists (including Lebduska and William Doriani) supported by Depression-era government works programs, which accepted artists regardless of their professional qualifications. Janis found Doriani at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Mart, Gregorio Valdes in the back room of a Greenwich Village gallery, and Cleo Crawford when visiting a friend in New City, New York. Many of these artists were included in the 1939 Contemporary Unknowns show at MoMA, and all were accorded chapters in They Taught Themselves.


The central roles played by the Carnegie, the Whitney, Duncan Phillips and other early enthusiasts notwithstanding, the importance of MoMA's commitment to self-taught artists cannot be overestimated. The museum counted among its trustees the wealthiest and most powerful collectors of the period: Stephen C. Clark, Marshall Field, A. Conger Goodyear, Mrs. Simon Guggenheim, Sam Lewishon, Henry Luce, William S. Palely, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller and John Hay Whitney. Where MoMA led, dealers and collectors followed. At the time of John Kane's 1927 debut, there were few galleries interested in showing the work of an untrained housepainter, and Kane for the most part had to deal directly with potential customers. By the time of the artist's death in 1934, the situation had changed dramatically. Valentine Dudensing, a New York dealer who counted such luminaries as Mondrian and Matisse in his "stable," became the first representative of the Kane estate. The Philadelphia dealer Robert Carlen forged a successful relationship with Horace Pippin a year after his 1938 debut at MoMA. European emigré dealers such as J.B. Neumann and Otto Kallir arrived in America already aware of the connection between modernism and self-taught art. Kallir, best remembered for introducing the Austrian Expressionists to the U.S., launched Grandma Moses's career at the Galerie St. Etienne in 1940, and Neumann showed Litwak and Lebduska--alongside Munch, Klee, Kandinsky and Beckmann. Janis (who would open his own gallery in 1948) formed an alliance with the dealer Marie Harriman, wife of prominent Democratic politician Averell Harriman. Marie Harriman's gallery exhibited Branchard, Doriani, Pippin and Santo, and hosted a show of the They Taught Themselves group following the book's publication. The social cachet of collecting self-taught artists in the 1930s and early '40s was affirmed by celebrity buyers like Katherine Cornell, Hedy Lamarr, Charles Laughton, Clifford Odets, Cole Porter, Claude Rains, Edward G. Robinson and Helena Rubenstein.


Nevertheless, and despite the undeniable human-interest appeal of the artists' colorful biographies, the press was never entirely enamored of the "primitive" trend. The Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph, egged on by a jealous local artist, declared that John Kane was a "fraud" because he had painted over a photograph. Damning with faint praise, a 1936 Lebduska review concluded that, "The large canvases would be [as] easy and fascinating to live with as a Persian rug, and the small ones could decorate the room of a fortunate child." Of Lebduska's 1939 show at the Dudensing gallery, the New York Post wrote, "Not very profound, but attractive." A relatively positive review of Doriani, by Edward Alden Jewell of the New York Times, lauded the artist's sense of "design" but added that, "His color is often ghastly." "Recognizing naiveté and honest, untutored expression of this sort, one may, at the same time, be prone to overrate it," a reviewer noted in reference to Horace Pippin's first New York exhibition in 1940. At best, the genre was (in the words of Times critic Howard Devree) "an interesting side alley of art." By the early 1940s, reviewers were complaining about a glut of "primitives" in the galleries; they seemed sick of the whole thing.


Rising antipathy toward self-taught artists and resentment of the Museum of Modern Art's enormous influence on the art market came to a head in 1943, when Barr mounted a one-man show of paintings by Morris Hirshfield. The conservative Art Digest scathingly dubbed Hirshfield "The Master of the Two Left Feet," because (as Janis explained in They Taught Themselves) slipper samples were made only for left feet, and the artist followed a pattern familiar to him from his days as a garment manufacturer. "Unfortunately," wrote Peyton Boswell in the Digest, "the Museum of Modern Art has the vested power to 'make' any artist its lighthearted officials decide to 'take up.' While serious professional artists fight for the recognition that means life to them, the Modern fiddles away its resources building a precious cult around amateurism." Hirshfield was described as a "fumbling old man," and Emily Genauer of The World Telegram believed he had been pitifully "exploited for a stunt." "Enough is enough of an oddity," wrote another critic. The Hirshfield retrospective was one of MoMA's most reviled exhibitions ever, and it gave ammunition to Barr's adversaries on the Museum's Board. Stephen C. Clark, perceiving Barr as a threat to MoMA's dignity and viability, had him removed forthwith from his post as Director. Barr remained on in an advisory capacity, but the Museum's advocacy of self-taught artists was over.


The artists chronicled in They Taught Themselves were products of an era that was coming to a close by the early 1940s. Many of them, elderly at the time of their discovery, were not even alive when the book was published, or died soon thereafter. Some, like Sullivan, went back to their original jobs as the economy improved and more or less stopped painting. Of the group, only Grandma Moses survived and went on to ever greater fame in the post-World-War-II period. But she was sui generis; arguably the first artist ever to be accorded "superstar" status by the general public, Moses was rarely taken seriously by the art-world elite. Self-taught art was no longer seen as part of the modern movement, and connoisseurs of American folk art tended to reject twentieth-century material. Untrained American artists continued to work in obscurity, but the "field" as such went into a protracted period of dormancy. The rediscovery and rebranding of these artists as "outsiders" was likewise a protracted process, spearheaded by such pioneering collectors as Michael and Julie Hall and Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., and demarcated by public phenomena like Roger Cardinal's 1972 book Outsider Art and the 1982 "Black Folk Art" exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. Ensconced within specialized institutions such as the American Folk Art Museum and the annual Outsider Art Fair, self-taught art has gradually become a legitimate art-historical genre in its own right. And yet, the field remains hobbled by a seemingly inescapable paradox, separate and therefore inherently unequal.


The "outsider" artists who found favor in the late twentieth century tended to lead more marginalized lives than their self-taught predecessors, and "outsider" art tends to depict inner visions rather than the external surroundings (landscapes, portraits and so on) featured in paintings by early twentieth-century self-taught artists. Nevertheless, it is hard to draw a clear-cut distinction, based either on biography or subject matter, between the two groups. More to the point, both groups represent similar ideals: Dubuffet's idea of an art untainted by "received culture" (the premise of "outsider" art's prototype, art brut) is the same holy grail sought by the original modernists in Rousseau and his American counterparts. Sidney Janis described the subjects of his book as "innocents" who "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." According to the 1938 MoMA catalogue, "primitives" embody "absolute and unqualified purity." For all their alleged "innocence," however, self-taught artists then and subsequently often battled with harsh realities that included poverty, mental illness and alcoholism. Like all artists, self-taught painters were and are attuned to visual stimuli in their environments, absorbing influences on an ad-hoc basis. Contrary to Janis's belief that these artists lack the critical capacity to judge and learn from their own work, the best of them grow and develop just as trained artists do. The ideals that have historically been projected onto self-taught artists have little bearing on them or their work, but rather reflect the needs of a jaded art world. Fuzzy concepts like "innocence" and "purity" act as a shield for lapses in quality and at the same time prevent the work of the better artists from being studied as rigorously as it should be. These concepts keep self-taught artists in a cultural ghetto.


The rupture that, sixty-five years ago, severed the field of self-taught art from the mainstream art world was produced by stresses resulting from America's attempt to absorb the lessons of European modernism. The more provincial members of the domestic art establishment felt they were being passed over, and they resented the ascendancy of self-taught artists, whom they believed to be unqualified. Those who dreamed that America would one day spawn a sophisticated modernist culture of its own were ashamed to think that Hirshfield was our answer to Picasso. Despite, or perhaps because of, their humble democratic roots, mid-century American art critics were particularly dismissive of "low brow" culture, including the so-called "art of the common man." Today, however, the concepts of "high" and "low" art have lost much of their former power and meaning. As the boundaries between "high" and "low" blur, the divide between self-taught and schooled artists likewise diminishes. All draw from an open-ended panoply of visual resources, and all must be judged, ultimately, by the same standards. It is time for self-taught artists to move out of the ghetto and be recognized as equals.


We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to all the lenders whose generosity made this exhibition possible, including Merrill C. Berman, Carroll Janis, Annette Kaufman and several anonymous collectors. Special thanks go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, whose collections of self-taught art, now rarely on public view, document the close connection that once existed between these institutions and the self-taught field. Copies of Sidney Janis's book They Taught Themselves (236 pages, paperback), reprinted by Sanford Smith and Associates in 1999, may be purchased for $30. Postage and handling charges are $10; N.Y. residents, please also add sales tax. Checklist entries include references to the original edition of the Janis book and catalogue raisonné numbers, where applicable.