"The Part Played By Women:"

The Gender of Modernism at the Armory Show


Vogue, 1940
Frank Crowninshield's Armory Show
Vogue, 1940
In 1940, Frank Crowninshield, former editor of Vanity Fair, a magazine that helped popularize modern art in America, commended women for their unprecedented appreciation of modern art in "The Part Played by Women," a section of his retrospective article on the Armory Show. In 1913, Crowninshield had been art editor of The Century and wrote Walt Kuhn in support of the exhibition, enthusiastically calling it "our movement" (Brown, Story 144). Crowninshield continued to promote now canonical artists such as Picasso and Matisse on the pages of Vanity Fair in the teens and twenties until it merged with Vogue in 1936. In his Vogue article written 27 years after the Armory Show, Crowninshield identified women's consumption of the (by 1940) canonical art as an instinctive, almost impulsive reaction to the exhibition that led to the first purchases of modern art in America: "it was, without doubt, the women who reacted most spontaneously to the works seen at the Armory" (Crowninshield 115). His examination of modern art patronage in the United States stressed a pattern of gendered sponsorship, naturalizing aesthetic perception and relying on the notion of a niave gaze. By indicating the role of women in the Armory Show as consumers of the new cultural products, Crowninshield helps to disguise the position of these particular women within the field of cultural production, both as producers of cultural objects themselves and as connoisseurs with access to an education in modern art before the Armory Show. Louisine Havemeyer and Bertha Honore Palmer were the first patrons of Impressionists in Boston and New York and Chicago, and Sarah Sears "instituted the rage for Cézanne in America" (Crowninshield 115). Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Gertrude Stein, Etta and Claribel Cone, and Lillie P. Bliss complete Crowninshield's assemblage of Armory Show allies, all women (Crowninshield 115-116). Crowninshield's list actually includes only one patron from the Armory Show, Lillie Bliss, whose purchases were at least matched by those of John Quinn and Arthur Jerome Eddy.

Subsequent accounts of the Armory Show have similarly characterized women's involvement in the 1913 exhibition as collectors of the new art. A prime example, reprinted in the 1975 collection of source documents on the show (as was Crowninshield's Vogue article), is Meyer Schapiro's "Armory Show in Retrospect" from Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries: Selected Papers, first published in 1952 and later called "Rebellion in Art." In this essay, Shapiro also emphasized a gendered pattern of modern art consumption:

Women, it is worth noting, were among the chief friends of the new art, buying painting and sculpture with a generous hand. Art as a realm of finesse above the crudities of power appealed to the imaginative, idealistic wives and daughters of magnates occupied with their personal fortunes . . . At this moment of general stirring of ideas of emancipation, women were especially open to manifestations of freedom within the arts (Shapiro 162).
Schapiro's parallel between the collection of paintings and sculpture and the suffrage movement, like Crowninshield's account, does little to explore the conditions of these women's patronage. Shapiro's account, like Crowninshield's, is also silent about the participation of women artists in the Armory Show.


By indicating the role of women in the Armory Show as consumers of the new cultural products, Crowninshield helps to disguise the position of these particular women within the field of cultural production, both as producers of cultural objects themselves and as connoisseurs with access to an education in modern art before the Armory Show.


Patrons of modern art in the early 20th century provided cultural legitimacy to the avant-garde and to modern artists working in Europe and America, and women are counted among the most visible and active in institutionalizing modern art: Katherine Dreier through the Société Anonyme, Lillie Bliss and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller through the Museum of Modern Art, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney through the Whitney Studio Club, later the Whitney Museum of American Art. The depiction of women as financial supporters persists as the primary way of understanding women's involvement in the Armory Show. As such, it excludes women artists from the story of the Armory Show, which has become such an integral part of modern art in America. Milton Brown, who wrote the most extensive published account of the Armory Show to date, does not single out women as patrons at the Armory Show, for he acknowledges the equal number of male consumers of Duchamps, Picabias, and Duchamp-Villons; he does, however, emphasize the importance of economic assistance by women before and after the show. The women who donated money to the Armory Show, both for organizational funds and through purchases of works, become reduced in Brown's account to a set of doting admirers surrounding the charming but calculating president of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, Arthur B. Davies. In his Story of the Armory Show, Brown indicates "the general feeling" that Davies' election as president of the AAPS was based on his financial connections, funds Davies could "manipulate [from] a whole circle of devoted women art patrons" (Brown, Story 59). The emphasis on women's role as financiers is also apparent in the AAPS' organizational body. Unlike the 1917 Society of Independents, which counted three women among the founders, the Armory Show's list of officers included women only as Honorary Vice Presidents. Both Mabel Dodge and Clara Davidge received this title along with Stieglitz, Monet, Renoir, and Redon.

Elsewhere, art historians have discussed the decided shift between 19th- and 20th-century art patronage in America, the latter developing out of an increased engagement with the works and the artists themselves. Brown describes the new American collector not in his book on the Armory Show, but in his survey of early 20th-century American art: "None of them were rulers of vast financial or industrial empires. In many cases they were living on inherited wealth . . . They were less concerned with the accumulation of luxury objects as an expression of wealth, prestige, or power" (Brown, American Painting 92). Barbara Rose also indicates the motivations of art patrons who began collecting in the years around the Armory Show: "These new collectors differed from their predecessors in that they immersed themselves in the art of the present and became its evangelists . . . they also were advised, not by connoisseurs or dealers, but by artists" (Rose, Readings 79). Early modernists were most often supported by a few select patrons who were already familiar with the artists or who grew to know them closely. Critics at the time of the Armory Show expressed contentions about the intellectual and educational requirements to accept the new art in an effort to legitimize it at the Armory Show. John Weichsel's article, "The Rampant Zeitgeist," published in Camera Work in 1913, praises of the "class of thinkers [who] are sponsors for the most recent art, the most ingenious of any that ever existed" (Weichel 16). These patrons were not the industrial capitalists (who had been the primary collectors in the 19th century) but a new class of cultural aesthetes with fewer liquid assets but more social credibility. They were the readers and followers of Neitzsche, Bergson, Whitman, Veblen, and often Blavatsky. They represented a professed desire to keep the art market autonomous from the markets for other goods where "it is not for the maker to set the goal for art, but for the buyer" (Weichel 16). These highbrow patrons were also distinct from lowbrow art enthusiasts who were "acted upon by emotions infinitely more than by philosophical justification" (Weichel 16). Weichel offers up a modern art patron who is intelligent, educated, rational, and, in contrast to earlier counterparts, is not guided merely by a desire to amass more wealth.


Brown describes the new American collector not in his book on the Armory Show, but in his survey of early 20th-century American art: "None of them were rulers of vast financial or industrial empires. In many cases they were living on inherited wealth . . . They were less concerned with the accumulation of luxury objects as an expression of wealth, prestige, or power."


As wives and daughters of the "magnates," the relationship between avant-garde and modern art and a clearly capitalist system was diffused. By dividing cultural and economic development within the family, modern art remained autonomous from the capitalist market through a vague definition of these women's position within the field of cultural production. Charlotte Gere and Marina's Vaizey's recently published Great Women Collectors recognizes the friendship between Mary Cassatt and both Palmer and Havemeyer before their marriages to successful industrial capitalists. Cassatt advised both women on their purchases of Impressionist paintings and instructed them in developing an aesthetic perception. Similarly, Lillie Bliss had started taking the recommendations of Arthur B. Davies before the Armory Show, and Baltimore natives Claribel and Etta Cone were life-long friends of the Steins, who introduced them to many of the painters they subsequently patronized. The consultation that occurred between painters and patrons was obviously not limited to these women collectors and their artist-friends. Walt Kuhn almost gleefully reports of the powers of persuasion he used on John Quinn, one of the top buyers at the Armory Show; Walter Arensberg, who began collecting modern art somewhat timidly at the Armory Show, was notoriously devoted to Charles Sheeler, Marcel Duchamp, Mina Loy, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens.

A list of similar connections between painters and patrons could go on indefinitely. Yet what the accounts of early 20th-century collectors have generally neglected is the correlation between art patronage and art production, especially in the case of women collectors. Pierre Bourdieu has described avant-garde art, the most legitimate, seemingly anti-commercial art, as art produced for producers. Focusing on women's consumption of cultural products and naturalizing their taste masks the grounds on which modern art was often accepted or appreciated. An examination of many of these early women collectors at the Armory Show reveals their own occupations as painters, sculptors, and writers and the fact that they were recognized by their peers and often the general public as professionals.

Women Collectors and Artistic Production: Gertrude Stein and Katherine Dreier

Even a superficial examination of several of Crowninshield's collectors reveals a list of women from upper-middle-class families who enjoyed an extensive education in the arts, both through official channels (academies, art schools, private tutors) and through encouters with key texts and authors (writers, painters, and sculptors). Sarah Sears, better known as Mrs. Montgomery Sears, was known first for her painting rather than her patronage. In 1905, W. Shaw Sparrow praised her work in Women Painters of the World. As a winner of numerous prizes and honors in major exhibitions in the late 19th and early 20th century, Sears was active in the official art worlds of Paris and New York (Sparrow 73). Sears also, because of her position as an artist and her social class, befriended Mary Cassatt and, like Cassatt, accumulated a collection of Impressionist and early post-Impressionist work.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, c. 1920
Another woman better recognized as both a patron and an artist was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. By the time of the Armory Show, Whitney had participated in a number of large exhibitions and had gained a considerable recognition as a sculptor. She had originally worked under an assumed name, since she rightly ascertained that her family's reputation would cause her work to be ridiculed. Whitney studied privately and at the Art Students' League and purchased a studio in Greenwich Village (one of the marks of a professional artist). She was also a student in Paris, where Rodin critiqued her work well before the Armory Show. Whitney exhibited in the Buffalo Exposition of 1901 and the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 (Rubinstein 187); she, in addition, submitted her work to the National Academy of Design. Her Paganism Immortal won a distinguished rating in 1910 (Rubinstein 188). Although her work remained reliant on neo-classical models, Whitney was an early supporter of exhibits outside the academy, and she showed her work at the Independent exhibition of 1910 (Naumann, New York Dada 180). She decided not to show her work at the Armory Show, even though her work would have been welcomed and scarcely out of place beside academicians James Earle Fraser (her teacher) and Bessie Potter Vonnoh. In addition to the 1915 Titanic memorial, Whitney continued to produce large commissioned memorials and small statuettes throughout her lifetime. While Sears and especially Whitney played significant roles in legitimizing modern art in the United States, they were successful as academic artists during their lifetimes. Even though their relationship to the avant-garde remains as economic providers, they were informed about and engaged with the works that they purchased.


An examination of many of these early women collectors at the Armory Show reveals their own occupations as painters, sculptors, and writers and the fact that they were recognized by their peers and often the general public as professionals.


Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein, 1913
Two American modernists connected with the Armory Show, also two of the most influential patrons of modern art, are Gertrude Stein and Katherine Dreier. At the time of the Armory Show, both had gained recognition for their work but not for their patronage. Though Stein had been buying the work of Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso with her brother Leo since 1905 and had certainly influenced a number of American and European artists through their exposure to the Frenchmen's work, the Armory exhibition introduced Stein as the first literary cubist. Martin Green comments on her connection to the show in New York: 1913: "Gertrude Stein, thanks to the force of her personality and the enigma of her work . . . was associated with the Armory Show from the first, and at every level of commentary in America" (Green 73). The Steins, listed under Leo's name, were one of the only sources for Picasso's work at the exhibition, and the entire family (Michael, Sarah, Leo, and Gertrude) were invaluable in sending Kuhn and Davies to the right dealers and private collections when they were in Paris (Green 74). However, it was for her work that Stein was remembered at the Armory Show.

Stein had the privilege of being the only non-visual artist included in this early dialogue on modern art in America through the publication and distribution of her portrait of Mabel Dodge, "Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia." Stein's portraits of Matisse and Picasso had established credibility for her work when they appeared in Camera Work in 1912 next to works by the artists. Widespread attention came when her portrait of Dodge was included in the much more broadly circulated Arts and Decoration—juxtaposed with Brancusi's Mademoiselle de Pogany and provided for sale at the exhibition. Dodge's own reproductions of the portrait, handed out to all visitors and pasted to the walls of her home, aided the distribution of Stein's work as well, and Dodge's introduction, "Speculations," introduced Stein as a bohemian expatriate. The translation of cubism into other mediums outside painting and sculpture was lampooned from the beginning of the Armory Show in cartoons depicting cubist-inspired fashions and architecture. Stein's writing was similarly parodied during the course of the exhibition, almost as much as the paintings by Matisse and Duchamp. Critics described her work in terms similar to Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, as an enigmatic puzzle that intentionally confused the audience. One writer for the Chicago Tribune alluded to Stein in an attempt to explain the perceived incongruity between the titles and the works found in Gallery I:

I called the canvas Cow with Cud and hung it on the line,
Although to me 'twas vague as mud, 'Twas clear to Gertrude Stein" (Brown, Story 138).
A mock telegram came from Stein at the closing of the show—a statement of her approval in the form of a parodic poem.


Stein had the privilege of being the only non-visual artist included in this early dialogue on modern art in America through the publication and distribution of her portrait of Mabel Dodge, "Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia."


After the Armory Show, Stein's writing persisted as a literary counterpart to European and American modern art, especially in the post-Armory discussions of cubism in the United States. Her portrait of Matisse was quoted in the 1913 reviews of department-store shows of cubist paintings in Cleveland and Pittsburgh (Sheon 99). Marsden Hartley, who had developed a friendship with Stein while he was living in Paris, wrote to her at the end of 1913, saying that "You are much talked of—even in Philadelphia you are said to be a creator of style . . . you are a new value in the eyes of many—not in the eyes of some" (Mellow 231). Hartley later used Stein's portrait of him, found in the play IIIIIIIIII, in the foreword to his 1914 exhibition at '291.' Stieglitz also reproduced this portrait in Camera Work to provide another example of modern poetry (this was also around the time he started printing Mina Loy's work).

Katherine Dreier
Katherine Dreier, c. 1910

Another equally illustrative case of artist-turned-collector is Katherine Dreier, a painter who has only recently received much attention for her artistic production. She perhaps more than any other artist who participated in the Armory Show has been routinely "rediscovered" as an artist rather than a patron. In Abraham A. Davidson's Early American Modernist Painting, published in 1981, Dreier's artistic production is never mentioned, even in connection with the Armory Show (169). Her work has recently been analyzed along with other American artists who were influenced by the work of Wassily Kandinsky in Theme and Improvisation: Kandinsky and the American Avant-Garde, 1912-1950. At the time of the 1913 exhibition, Dreier had two main pursuits: painting and a social activism (She started a settlement house and was active in leadership roles in the suffrage movement). Nonetheless, Brown's account stresses her purchases at the show, a Gauguin and a Redon, even as he acknowledges she had 'not yet begun her campaign for modern art" (Brown, Story 129). Dreier, who was invited to the Armory Show by the committee, had already held her first solo exhibition in London in 1911 at the Doré Galleries, where the first Vorticist show was later held in 1915 (Tufts 26). She had also participated in several other group exhibitions in Frankfurt, Leipzig, Dresden, and Munich in 1912 (Herbert, Apter, and Kenney 213).

Although now known primarily as a protégé and companion of Marcel Duchamp, Drier's interest in modern art derived from her own artistic efforts. She began studying art at age 12 (Tufts 26) at the Pratt Institute with Walter Shirlaw, who according to Dreier "taught her the connections between beauty, rhythm, and vitality, and so prepared her to read Kandinsky and to make 'the leap into the great new expression in art.'" (Green 239) She lived and studied in London, Paris, and Munich before the Armory Show and would "come to Paris to the Steins' salons, to meet the new ideas; the color schemes of the Fauves left her gasping" (Green 63). Dreier read Kandinsky's Spirituality in Art in 1912 (in the original German) and understood art in the terms given to her by him and through theosophy (Green 239). She likely had seen van Gogh's work before the 1912 Sonderbund exhibition, but the large comprehensive section provided at the Cologne show confirmed his stature as a modern master as surely for Dreier as it did for Kuhn and Davies. Dreier's interest in van Gogh caused her not only to purchase Mademoiselle Ravoux, which she then lent to the Armory Show, but also to travel to his birthplace in Holland. According to Frances Naumann, after the Sonderbund Dreier painted a series of landscapes in a "thick impasto style reminiscent of Van Gogh" (Naumann, New York Dada 156). She also produced a number of studies of Amsterdam—most likely including The Avenue, Holland, which appeared in the Armory Show. While painting in the land of van Gogh's birth, she also contacted his sister and acquired the rights to translate her reminiscences of her brother into English. The text, published in 1913 (van Gogh's first autobiographical work published in the United States), includes a forward by none other than Arthur B. Davies (Herbert, Apter, and Kenney 748).


At the time of the 1913 exhibition, Dreier had two main pursuits: painting and a social activism (She started a settlement house and was active in leadership roles in the suffrage movement).


Dreier exhibited both The Avenue, Holland and Blue Bowl in the Armory Show, adopting the brushstroke of van Gogh and a "deliberately primitive" style (Bohan 7). Stephen Watson refers her paintings in the show as "timid still-lifes," but he must be speaking only of The Blue Bowl (181). Previously a commissioned muralist, after the Armory Show Dreier turned to the decorative arts, producing "large decorative panels in bright colors, which incorporated a simplified figurative style reminiscent of Gauguin" (Naumann, New York Dada 156). One of Dreier's purchases at the show was a lithograph by Gauguin, and the artist's Faa Iheihe, perhaps his most striking work in the show, may have encouraged Dreier's return to mural designs.

After seeing her work at the Armory Show, William Macbeth invited Dreier to show her work in October of 1913. Like other contemporary artists, Dreier also found a place to show her work in one of the numerous club buildings in Manhattan, and the Mid-Town Associationís Drug and Chemical Club hosted a solo exhibition in November. Royal Cortissoz, strident critic of the Armory Show, described Dreier's work not in the terms he reserved for the avant-garde, insane or demoralized, but "decorative": "Nearly all her canvasses show a strongly marked decorative quality. The sketch for a mural decoration shows the artistís concern with the true decorative aim. Her work shows an ability to speak the decoratorís proper language" (Cortissoz 15). The term decorative has conflicting associations in the history of modernism. The decorative arts—screen making, glasswork, pottery, and dress design—were an essential source of inspiration for many avant-garde painters and sculptors. On the other hand, artists like Kandinsky identified a danger within decorative work of reducing art to a superficial and banal rather than spiritual form. The decorative arts were also associated with the artistic production of women, and Cortissoz's insistence on Dreierís status as a "decorator" seems to identify her as an amateur, producing in a less sophisticated medium than painting and sculpture. The idea of a livable art appealed to Dreier, as it did to the organizers of the Armory Show. The two rooms of paintings and sculpture she constructed in a domestic setting for the 1923 International Exhibition of Modern Art Exhibition, a deliberate tribute to the Armory Show, featured the works in an upper-class apartment. By 1914, Dreier had found enough like-minded fellow artists to form the Cooperative Mural Workshops, modeled in part after the Arts and Crafts movement and the Omega Workshops of Roger Fry (Green 15). The organization, which also included fellow Shirlaw student Anne Goldthwaite and dancer Isadora Duncan, showed their work at John Quinn's Carroll Galleries in 1915 (Herbert, Apter, and Kenney 749).

The Garden
Katherine Dreier
The Garden, 1918.

Although the Cooperative Mural Workshops soon disbanded, in 1916 Dreier helped found the Society of Independent Artists, through which she met Duchamp. She exhibited in the 1917 show and began working toward non-representational portraiture. While her interest in modern art is often understood in relation to her correspondence with Duchamp, her early abstractions are undoubtedly influenced by her interest in Kandinsky's theories, to which she was introduced in 1912. Dreier's most commonly reproduced work is her portrait of Duchamp, in the collection of MOMA. A slightly earlier portrait of Duchamp, called Study in Triangles, recalls Kandinsky's first chapter in On the Spiritual in Art, "The Movement of the Triangle." In this painting, following Kandinsky's logic and Dreir's painting, Duchamp reaches the top rung of the avant-garde ladder and becomes as Dreier would later call him "a modern Leonardo" (Herbert, Apter, and Kenney 9). Dreier, like other modernists, created her own means of showing her work, through the Société Anonyme and chose to use it as an exhibition vehicle for the next ten years. After the Société ran out of money, she produced a series of 40 watercolors for a 1935 exhibit at the Annot Art School in New York.

Dreier's paintings reveal a continued concern with developing a distinct abstract style that has not been recognized in the narratives of the Armory Show. While the 1913 exhibition was only one of many influences on Dreier's development as an artist and as a promoter of modern art, it perhaps encouraged her to combine her interest in social activism and modern art in ways that had not come together for her before the Armory Show. Reexamining her role as an artist, rather than a collector at the Armory Show, provides evidence not only of Dreier's involvement in significant artistic production in the early 20th century, but also further questions the ways in which the discourse about the Armory Show helped to define the boundaries of the avant-garde.


Dreier's paintings reveal a continued concern with developing a distinct abstract style that has not been recognized in the narratives of the Armory Show.


According to Pauline Ridley, "the most conventionally acceptable ways in which women could relate to the world of culture around the turn of the century was as hostesses of literary and artistic 'salons'" (Perry, Women Artists 90). Gill Perry adds to Ridley's argument the importance of economic capital in gaining access to predominantly male spheres of cultural production, using the example of Gertrude Stein: "For Stein, the economic power to purchase works of art . . . although this was [at first] done in consultation with her brother Leo Stein, first gave her access to the somewhat hermetic circle of avant-garde artists gathered around the figure of Picasso" (Perry, Women Artists 90). Perry's argument overshadows Stein's theoretical affinity with and contributions to her contemporaries during the early 20th century and ignores her negotiations within these groups regarding her gender. It also neglects to address the ways in which her consumption helped to confirm the avant-garde status of the artists whose work she purchased and showed in her home. Whitney Chadwick has spoken about the ways in which "vanguard ideology marginalizes the woman artist as surely as did the guilds in the fifteenth century, and the academies in the seventeenth and eighteenth century" (Chadwick 279). A reexamination of women artists, like Dreier, who participated in the Armory Show, underscores versions of the modern produced by women both inside and outside the vanguard coteries of the early 20th century.

Damaging to women who did contribute work within an identified circle of artists was the development of a feminine aesthetic that was used to define the most celebrated women artists of this period, Marie Laurencin and Georgia O'Keefe. Guilliame Apollinaire's Les Peintres Cubistes, first published in 1912, defined Laurencin as a "scientific Cubist," but her distinctive contribution was as a femme peintre: "Miss Marie Laurencin knows how to express, in the high art of painting, an entirely feminine aesthetic" (39). Even before her association with the cubists, Apollinaire had accessed her work after the Salon des Independents in 1908:

Though she has masculine defects, she has every conceivable feminine quality. The greatest error of most women artists is that they try to surpass men, losing in the process their taste and charm. Laurencin is very different. She is aware of the deep differences that separate men from women—essential, ideal differences. Mademoiselle Laurencinís personality is vibrant and joyful. Purity is her very element (qtd. in Sandell 24).
John Quinn, collector and life-long supporter of modern art, praised Laurencin as a femme peintre: "One of the things that I like about Laurencin is that she paints like a woman, whereas most women artists seem to want to paint like men and they only succeed in painting like hell" (qtd. in Sandell 62).

While Laurencin by all accounts seems to have accepted the gendered reading of her work, O'Keefe was contemptous of similar comments made throughout her lifetime that indicated her work was the expression of a feminine consciousness. Oscar Bluemner's essay reprinted in a 1935 retrospective of O'Keefe's work claimed her as "the priestess of Eternal Woman," her art "flowering forth like a manifestation of that feminine causative principle" (Chave 361). It is important to note that the gendered reading of Laurencin and O'Keefe's work, along with the support of major critics (Apollinaire and Stieglitz) allowed them to gain considerable status within a predominantly male art world and may explain the 1924 comment of Marsden Hartley, who knew artists like Dreier, Marguerite Zorach, and Katharine Rhoades personally: "if there are other significant women in modern art [besides Sonia Delaunay, Marie Laurencin, and Georgia OíKeefe] I am not as yet familiarized with them" (Hartley 15).


Damaging to women who did contribute work within an identified circle of artists was the development of a feminine aesthetic that was used to define the most celebrated women artists of this period, Marie Laurencin and Georgia O'Keefe.


The invisibility today of many women artists who did participate in the Armory Show and in avant-garde circles speaks to the effect of criticism that dismissed women who produced work that appeared to be indebted to the same sources as most avant-garde painting of the late 19th and early 20th century. Women who produced works that could be connected to the schools of cubism, fauvism, expressionism, and futurism were criticized as imitators. While many early American modernists were accused of similar acts of blatant replication and were often denigrated in the name of American nationalism by critics who despised modern art, major supporters of American modernists also understood the work of many women artists to be imitations rather than assimilations of theories by canonical artists. The Armory Show provides evidence of a number of women artists—Dreier and others—who participated in the growth of modern art in New York in the years around the 1913 exhibition.

The Story of the Armory Show: Writing American Modernism

La Toilette des jeunes filles
Marie Laurencin
La Toilette des jeunes filles
Although many artists were neglected in the initial reviews of the Armory Show, as often happened in large exhibitions, female artists are scarcely mentioned in any subsequent art historical accounts either. Yet the Armory Show provides significant documentation of a growing number of women exhibitors in large independent shows. Nearly fifty women (out of 300 total artists) exhibited in the Armory Show; female sculptors were notably active in the exhibition, reflective of their prominence in late 19th- and early 20th-century America. The European participants primarily included painters who took part in the Paris Salons and the Cologne Sonderbund Show. Laurencin, who had exhibited with the cubists in the 1911 Salon des Independents' exhibition, was shown in Gallery I. Though Laurencin's work has a precarious relationship to cubism, she did experiment with similar structural techniques during the time of the Armory Show. Her painting La Toilette des Jeunes Filles, from 1912, shown in the Armory Show, confirms Laurencin's commitment to formal experimentation in this period. Heather McPherson describes it as "the apogee of Laurencin's cubist-inspired phase" (Hyland and McPherson 27). The fauve artist Emile Charmy was also chosen; she had not exhibited with the fauves in the 1905 Salon d'Automne exhibition but had been shown at Berthe Weill's gallery with other fauve painters. Olga Oppenheimer, an all but forgotten German Expressionist painter, was represented by woodcuts of a popular novel, treated similarly by Max Pechstein and Georg Schrimpf, among others (Gaze 1048).


[T]he Armory Show provides significant documentation of a growing number of women exhibitors in large independent shows.


In the United States as in Europe, the early 20th century saw the first generation of women who began to obtain a more or less equal education in the arts. Women artists most often acquired this access due to the advent of opportunities outside the academies. Though many classes still adopted a separate but equal policy, women gradually gained admittance to instruction and the long prohibited subject, the nude. The NAD did not exclude women from their exhibitions, but it did exclude them from membership. Christian Brinton in the International Studio notes the unusually large number of women artists in the Spring 1913 National Academy of Design Exhibition. Nonetheless, from 1825 to 1953 the NAD offered membership and associate membership to only 75 women out of 1300 total (Levin 13), which meant that women had a relatively small chance of gaining organizational control.

As was clear from the Independent exhibitions, the NAD was declining as the site of legitimate culture. The movement to open up new exhibition spaces, begun with the Eight in 1908, was moderately welcoming to women artists. The 1910 Independent exhibition included many of the same women artists who participated in the Armory Show: Florence Barkley, Bessie Marsh Brewer, Edith Haworth, Amy Londoner, Josephine Paddock, Mary Rogers, and Hilda Ward (Rubinstein 167). Henri also invited two female students for the 1911 McDowell Club shows that also exhibited in 1913, Kathleen McEnery (see below) and May Wilson Preston. The Armory Show, the largest exhibition held in New York outside the Academy of Design, gave the growing population of women artists another chance to show their work. It also marks one of the first opportunities in the U.S. for women to exhibit their work as modernists. As such, the exhibition provides evidence that there were women who were already experimenting with form and color before the Armory Show, or, like other participants, were perhaps encouraged or emboldened in part by what they saw there.

Due to the Armory Show's benchmark status, the study of many early 20th-century American artists is focused on their painting before and after 1913. Milton Brown reminds us of the aim of the exhibition committee, which was to exhibit works "in which the personal note is distinctly sounded" (Brown, Story 90). Brown praises the organizers for their foresight: "out of the mass of works, they accepted examples by Oscar Bluemner, Maurice Becker, Glenn O. Coleman, Stuart Davis, Andrew Dasburg, Edward Hopper, Bernard Karfiol, Joseph Stella, and Margaret and William Zorach" (Brown, Story 90). Brownís list contains those painters and sculptors who would later gain recognition as modern artists. Barbara Rose similarly narrows down the "hundreds of paintings and sculptures by Americans, [to] a few dozen [that] could be described as modern . . . These included the sculpture of Nadelman and Lachaise, and the paintings by Bruce, Burlin, Bluemner, Carles, Dasburg, Halpert, Hartley, Marin, Prendergast, Russell, Schamberg, Sheeler, Stella, and Walkowitz" (Rose, American Art 75). Rose also includes Stanton Macdonald-Wright as an exhibitor, but there is no evidence that he participated. (Rose, American Art 75). While neither Brown nor Rose profess the list to be complete, the lack of women artists is striking.

Rhythm Magazine
Rhythm Magazine, 1911
Marguerite Zorach, the only woman artist in the Armory Show considered by either Brown or Zorach to hold claims to the modern, is one of the few American artists of either gender to have received critical attention in relation to the Armory Show, during and after the exhibition. Especially remarkable is that Zorach was virtually unknown in the New York art world. She had just moved to New York in the fall of 1912, and did not have a '291' exhibition behind her as many of the other American moderns did: Marin, Walkowitz, Hartley, Bluemner, Halpert, and Maurer. In February of 1913, Marguerite Thompson Zorach had just recently moved from Paris where she had studied at La Palette under John Duncan Fergusson. Fergusson was involved in producing and editing the British little magazine Rhythm, which featured the work of artists who also exhibited together in London. While studying in Paris, Zorach developed a style similar to fauvist and early Blue Reiter works—her work from around 1910 exhibited bold color and linear rhythms. In her alliance with the group of artists from La Palette, one of many Parisian schools teaching post-impressionist techniques, she was published in Rhythm in 1911 and 1912. She exhibited in several shows in Paris in the early teens, including the American Women Artists Association in February 1910 and the 1911 Independent and Autumn Salons. Zorach also met Stein via her aunt, who knew Stein's family from San Francisco, and through Stein she was introduced to Picasso (Hoffman 10). Upon returning to the United States, Zorach's work became some of the first fauve-inspired paintings exhibited in this country (Tarbell, Zorach 67). Prior to the Armory Show, she also held solo exhibitions of her work in her hometown of Fresno, California and in Los Angeles.


While neither Brown nor Rose profess the list [of future American moderns who participated in the Armory Show] to be complete, the lack of women artists is striking.


Landscape
Marguerite Zorach
Landscape
Zorach submitted her work shortly before the Armory Show to the domestic committee and undoubtedly was chosen for her strong fauve style. She was represented by two paintings in the exhibition (a number consistent with other American artists)—exhibited in Gallery D. Both paintings were later destroyed, but details of one of the works are available through reviews of the exhibition. The striking feature of Zorach's Study is her movement away from landscape, which was more typical for early fauve work (hers as well). Instead, she focused on the figure of a woman. Zorach's choice of figure study may have elicited the criticism she received, since the perceived assault on the human form was much more egregious to critics of the Armory Show than the strident colors of fauve landscapes. This in part explains the attacks on Matisse's work as well. Charles Camoin, Georges Braque, Emile Charmy, and Alfred Maurer, another American fauvist, were represented at the Armory Show by fauvist landscapes, but they received little or no attention in the press. An article in the New York American emphasizes the non-organic appearance of Zorachís painting: "In the 'study,' by Marguerite Zorach, you see at once that the lady is feeling very, very bad. She is portraying her emotions after a dayís shopping. The pale yellow eyes and the purple lips of her subject indicate that the digestive organs are not functioning properly. I would advise salicylate of quininine in small doses" (qtd. in Tarbell, Zorach 69). Although it is difficult to interpret the response without seeing Zorach's work, the color scheme Levy describes seems in line with Zorach's other fauve-inspired paintings from this period. The remarks are similar to those made about Matisse's Woman with Green Eyes when it was exhibited at the 1910 Grafton Gallery exhibit in London. Physical and mental illness of the artist or the artist's subject was one of a number of ways of dismissing fauve portraits and non-representational art in general, and of identifying modern works. Zorach also received brief recognition for her "extreme modernity" in the New York Times.


The remarks [that followed Zorach's exhibition of her Study in the Armory Show] are similar to those made about Matisse's Woman with Green Eyes when it was exhibited at the 1910 Grafton Gallery exhibit in London.


Provincetown
Marguerite Zorach
Provincetown, 1916.
While Zorach had embraced fauvism in the years she studied in Paris, she did not employ cubism in her work until after the Armory Show. Zorach, like many artists in New York at the time, explored cubist treatment of line and space in the years following the 1913 exhibition. Zorach participated in a number of exhibitions in conjunction with other American moderns and was the only woman artist included in the Forum Exhibition in 1915. Only Zorach, out of seventeen artists, was excluded from the catalogue, which featured essays and reproductions of one work by each of the other artists in the exhibition. She was listed along with her husband, William Zorach, next to his essay and his work (Levin, "Changing Status" 14-15). She exhibited at the People's Art Guild and the Daniel Gallery in 1916 and at the Society of Independents' show in 1917.

As she participated in many of the same exhibitions as other modernists, she also began work in a medium that was generally not accepted as avant-garde. She started working on tapestries, translating the designs she created on canvas into wool. Tapestries were more convenient to create after the birth of her first child, and the sales from Zorach's work also supported the family for entire years (Hoffman 27). Zorach continued to paint throughout the 20s but returned to painting on a much more regular basis in the 1930s.


Zorach, like many artists in New York at the time, explored cubist treatment of line and space in the years following the 1913 exhibition.


Two other painters, Kathleen McEnery and Anne Goldthwaite, were among the artists who participated in post-Impressionism before the show, but, in many senses of the word, remained independents. McEnery moved from New York not long after the Armory Show, and Goldthwaite, who never accepted modernism, began producing representational studies of the American South. Ethel Myers, who has been recognized primarily in relation to the Ashcan school, produced small caricatures comparable to the work Lachaise produced and received favorable reviews at the Armory Show. These artists are not exceptions; they attest to the fact that many women artists were working in New York in the early 20th century and that some explored non-representational form to a certain extent before the Armory Show. McEnery, Goldthwaite, and Myers, however, were not announced as modernists at any of Stieglitz's galleries, at Whitney's Studio Club, Dreier's Société Anonyme, or by any other champions of American modernism.

The House on the Hill
Anne Goldthwaite
The House on the Hill,
1910 or 1911.
Anne Goldthwaite's The House on the Hill, included in the Armory Show, recalls the work of Cézanne in its deliberate emphasis on parallel landscape elements—an endless series of overlapping mounds. Goldthwaite arrived in Paris in 1906 and was immediately introduced to the work of Cézanne and Matisse at Gertrude Stein's: "Some six days after arriving in Paris [I] met Stein and was introduced to the most remarkable pictures I had ever seen" (Breeskin 24). Goldthwaite then helped organize the Académie Moderne in Paris, under the instruction of Charles Guerin, with additional critique by Othon Friesz and Albert Marquet, who, although initially fauvists, began studying, and perhaps teaching from, the landscapes of Cézanne after 1908 (Breeskin 12). Shortly after the Armory Show, Goldthwaite became a lifelong friend of Katherine Dreier and soon after painted portraits of Dreier and her sister Dorthea (Rubenstein 178). She worked with Dreier on the Cooperative Mural Workshops and was later included in a Société Anonyme exhibition featuring former students of Walter Shirlaw, as a tribute exhibition to their teacher.

While the Armory Show did not appear to affect Goldthwaite's work, critics began connecting her painting with Cézanne's after the 1913 exhibition. According to A. D. Defries in the International Studio in 1916, Goldthwaite's landscapes "were simply very sincere studies in the manner of the French artists at the beginning of this century" (Defries 4). Defries cited other critics' insistence on Goldthwaite's allegiance to Cézanne, but emphasized the artist's own denouncement of a by this time established modern tradition: "[My use of Cézanne's techniques] has been unconscious" (Defries 4). She described the unwanted affiliation with modernism in her memoirs: "I had not been back from Paris long, and whenever I had shown my work I had been called a modernist . . . Perhaps I was modern, but if it were true, I was so innately and not by conscious effort" (Breeskin 30). Her rejection of Cézanne's influence on her painting seems in part a reaction against being pronounced as an imitator of male painters: "Though I was constantly being pigeon-holed and attacked, I never really got over being surprised each time it occurred" (Breeskin 30). Defries used Goldthwaite's lack of theoretical discourse on her painting as a reflection of her feminine consciousness:

I have found that women artists work much less consciously than men, and have fewer theories about their work. The work of women in this direction seems almost completely a case of intuition becoming unconsciously articulate. Women reason less, and in time when they attain a greater freedom they may prove to be nearer to the unreasoning spirit of creation than the more trained mentality of the male can ever be (Defries 4).
Defries follows the pattern of many critics who attempted to essentialize a feminine aesthetics (though Defries' notion of consciousness also allows influence from external events, such as the suffrage movement). Goldthwaite later reached some acclaim as a regionalist, primarily for her paintings of African-Americans in the South, where she was born and spent most summers. These paintings overshadowed her earlier work, much as Thomas Hart Benton will be remembered as a painter of American Scene murals rather than as an early modernist.


While the Armory Show did not appear to affect Goldthwaite's work, critics began connecting her painting with Cézanne's after the 1913 exhibition.


Going to the Bath
Kathleen McEnery
Going to the Bath, 1912.
Kathleen McEnery studied with Henri at the New York School of Art and then moved to Paris shortly before the Armory Show. She was one of the only women invited to participate in the McDowell Club exhibition of 1911, organized by Henri. Her work of this period, though representational, reflects an engagement with a post-Impressionism through her use of a simplified palette and strong lines. Going to the Bath, shown in Gallery D, focuses on female nudes but deemphasizes breasts and buttocks, atypical for most American artists of the time. She later exhibited at the McDowell Club in 1915 and continued painting in the teens and 20s, showing her work in Rochester, where she moved in 1915, and at the Society for Independent Artists exhibitions of 1920 and 22. McEnery, like Goldthwaite, appears to have changed her work little after the Armory Show, though her later still lives show an even more striking use of color than her work in the exhibition did.

Matron
Ethel Myers
Matron, 1912.
Ethel Myers was praised in a New York Sun article just prior to the Armory Show for her individualistic works. Her choice to depart from the conventional representation of women in sculpture earned her the compliment of "not hesitating to see things as they are." The anonymous reviewer, perhaps Henry McBride, also admires "her own amusing way" of constructing her sculptures. Susan Fort has noted Myers' satirical stance, which "poked fun at her gender's slavish devotion to modish attire" (Fort 77). Myers' work has most often been compared to that of the Ashcans, yet her sculpture also shows formal exploration that was not customary in American sculpture at this time. Abstenia St. Eberle, who critics have also cited as a sculptural counterpart to the Ashcan school, employed long-established modeling techniques in her work. Myers' sculpture, on the other hand, can be usefully compared to Lachaise's Statuette or Lehmbruck's Kneeling Woman, which exaggerate and simplify the features of their subjects. Myers studied painting, not sculpture, at the Art Students' League, but after marrying Jerome Myers and having a child, she switched to small sculptures, which occupied less space and allowed more room for her husband's painting. Fifteen of her sculptures were exhibited in late 1912 at Folsom Galleries, where Maurer's work was shown just prior to the Armory Show. Nine of Myers' sculptures from the 1912 exhibition were chosen for the Armory Show. Myers seldom exhibited in the 20s; she gave up sculpting and supported her family by designing women's hats and clothes for celebrities (Rubinstein 169). When she started showing her work again after her husband's death in 1940, her work seems to have been little affected by the Armory Show.

The Influence of the Armory Show: Modernism Comes to America

A second major focus of many Armory Show narratives involves an attempt to gauge the effect the exhibition had on American artists. Although numerous painters have been discussed in this context—Arthur B. Davies and Joseph Stella are just two examples—the work of female artists involved in early 20th-century American modernism has received relatively little commentary. Like Davies and Stella, these women produced work that claimed to be modern and was promoted within avant-garde spaces like the Armory Show. One artist who most poignantly substantiates the Armory Show's influence on modern art in America is Frances Simpson Stevens. She is not included in any account of the show but is the only known American to directly participate in the Futurist movement in Italy. Katharine Rhoades, who produced the Dada magazine 291 with Maurice de Zayas, was part of the Stieglitz circle, and reviews and examples of her work disclose experimentation and engagement with modernist ideals. A third woman artist, who at the time of the Armory Show displayed symbolist paintings and later went on to form the Transcendental Painting Group, is Agnes Pelton. All three of these women have received more critical attention in the last five years but have not been discussed in analyses of the Armory Show.

Avant-Garde Artists at Work

Frances Simpson Stevens as avant-garde artist. Stevens (center) is surrounded by (clockwise, from top right) Marcel Duchamp, Gene Criotti, Hugo Robus, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, and Albert Gleizes.
Very little is known about the early training of the artist Frances Simpson Stevens, and until recently (1994) she was known primarily through her single painting in the Arensberg collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Naumann, "Lost" 110). According to Francis Naumann, Stevens was alone among American artists in exhibiting with the Futurists in Italy. Her involvement with modernism in some ways begins with her participation in the Armory Show, which undoubtedly provided Stevens with one of her first exposures to modern art. She studied briefly with Robert Henri, who was known to use examples of Cézanne in his classes. Henri, an early teacher of many artists who would go on to become modernists (Morgan Russell, Samuel Halpert, Andrew Dasburg, and Man Ray) was insistent on discouraging imitation in his students' work. Stevens painted Roof Tops of Madrid, her contribution to the Armory Show, during the summer of 1912 while she was studying with Henri in Spain. This painting probably reflects the swiftly executed brushstrokes of Henri more than any modernist technique. During the 1912 trip to Europe, Henri also took students to visit Gertrude Stein in Paris, where they would have seen work by Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and other fauvists. Stevens most likely gained an introduction to "futurism" not through the Italian painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlos Carrá, or Gino Severini but through Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase at the Armory. Futurism, a loosely tossed term in American criticism at the time and often unidentified with the movement in Italy, represented more than any other term the new, the now, the most outrageous art of the time. By 1913, however, Stevens undoubtedly had some knowledge of the specific artists who called themselves Futurists for, according to Carolyn Burke, one reason Stevens traveled to Italy was to meet the Futurists there (Burke 51).


A second major focus of many Armory Show narratives involves an attempt to gauge the effect the exhibition had on American artists. Although numerous painters have been discussed in this context—Arthur B. Davies and Joseph Stella are just two examples—the work of female artists involved in early 20th-century American modernism has received relatively little commentary.


Dynamism of a Printing Press
Frances Simpson Stevens
Dynamism of a Printing Press, 1914.

In addition to the passionate fervor of the Armory Show that certainly encouraged any interest Stevens had in modern art, Naumann refers to an equally important introduction to Mabel Dodge that likely took place some time during the Armory exhibition (Naumann, "Lost" 112). Dodge arranged for Stevens to live with Mina Loy, the modern British poet and painter who was living in Florence at the time of the show and had asked Dodge to find her a boarder. If Stevens did go to Italy in search of the Futurists, the desire for artistic collaboration was mutual: "When Frances made the acquaintance of the Florentine painters Carlo Carrá and Ardengo Soffici, who . . . had joined the futurists earlier in the year, they began turning up at the Costa San Giorgio in the hope of enlisting her in the movement" (Burke 151). Early in 1913, Marinetti met Stevens, then Loy, and began encouraging them to become his pupils. He also introduced the two women to other Futurist painters, bringing them to Loy and Stevens' home (Naumann, "Lost" 107). Before the fall of 1913, Stevens had translated parts of the Futurist manifestos into English, and she provided the local English paper in Rome with commentary for the 1913 Futurist show (Naumann, "Lost" 107). In 1914, Stevens and Loy exhibited with the Futurists at the International Exhibition of Futurism in the Galleria Futurista in Rome where Stevens showed eight machine-image works like Dynamism of a Printing Press (above). She remained in Italy during 1914, until sometime in the late fall. Her works that survive through photographic reproductions owe less to Futurism's depiction of dynamic movement on canvas than to its glorification of the machine—in this case, the printing press.

Returning to the U.S. due to World War I, Stevens became known to Stieglitz, who asked her for a contribution to Camera Work in 1914 (Stevens 30). During this period, Stevens also published political cartoons in the little magazine Rogue, published by Allan Norton and supported by Walter Arensberg (Naumann, "Lost" 110). Steven's solo exhibition at New York's Braun Gallery in March 1916 (Naumann, "Lost" 110) actively connected her work to the Futurists. The advertisements for the show included her own translations of excerpts from Futurist manifestos and emphasized her relationship to the movement in Italy. She showed a remarkable 21 works at this 1916 solo exhibition.

Dynamic Velocity of Interborough Rapid Transit Power Station
Frances Simpson Stevens
Dynamic Velocity of Interborough Rapid Transit Power Station, 1916.
By 1916, when Loy arrived in New York, Stevens was described as "a regular at Stieglitz's gallery . . . she continued to paint in the Futurist manner" (Burke 213). Stevens introduced Loy to Walter Arensberg within a few days (Burke 213). Other artists Stevens would have known, if only through Arensburg, were Morton Schamberg and Charles Sheeler, whose machine-image works parallel her Futurist-inspired painting of 1916, Dynamic Velocity of Interborough Rapid Trasit Power Station (right). The painting, purchased by Arensberg, is the only known surviving work by Stevens. During this time, she also began creating objets d'art, hand-painted paper-maché heads (which she called pupae, "dolls") that could be used as wig or hat stands. The striking contrast between her presentation as an avant-garde painter (above) and as an artisan (below) reflects the distinction between the two fields of art production at the time.

The Artisan at Work
Frances Simpson Stevens
as artisan
In 1917, Stevens exhibited with other American and European moderns at the People's Art Guild and the Penguin Club as well as the 1917 Society of Independent Artists Exhibition (Petteys). Her participation in avant-garde circles seemed to come to an end with her 1917 publication in The Blind Man, a magazine edited by Duchamp, Henri-Pierre Roché, and Beatrice Wood. The Blind Man's first issue (out of a total of two) was devoted to Duchamp's entry to the Society of Independent Artists' Exhibition, Fountain. After Stevens' marriage to a Russian count in 1918, she disappeared from the art world. Evidence of her prodigious work in the second decade of the last century exists in exhibition catalog listings and the few photographs of her work. While Stevens did not sustain a long career as an artist, her participation in the Futurist movement and her painting and cartooning in New York reflect the Armory Show's inclusion of women artists that experimented within vanguard circles not as patrons but as producers of modern art.


Other artists Stevens would have known, if only through Arensburg, were Morton Schamberg and Charles Sheeler, whose machine-image works parallel her Futurist-inspired painting of 1916, Dynamic Velocity of Interborough Rapid Trasit Power Station .


Stieglitz Group
Stieglitz Group, c. 1910
Katharine Rhoades, virtually unknown now, also produced her work within the community now recognized as the First American Avant-Garde (the second being the Abstract Expressionists). The lack of attention given to her work is reflected in Brown's 1988 catalog to the Armory Show, which questions even the spelling of Rhoades' name. Rhoades became interested in modern art during a trip to Paris in 1908 with Marion Beckett, who also exhibited in the Armory Show. Although Rhoades destroyed most of her early work in the 1920s, her paintings that survive show an awareness of the work of Cézanne (Heller and Heller 467). Between 1908 to 1913, Rhoades was one of the active members of the Stieglitz circle, along with Marin, Weber, Hartley, Walkowitz, De Zayas, Dove, and Marion Beckett (Homer, Stieglitz 78). Edward Steichen, who guided Stieglitz in many of his early exhibitions, had suggested a show at '291' for Rhoades in 1912. Like other artists that Stieglitz supported, Rhoades was undoubtedly influenced more through her involvement with the artists of '291' than through the Armory Show itself. Though she did not exhibit at Stieglitz's gallery until 1915, she and Beckett participated in the 1914 "Modern Art" exhibition at the National Arts Club. In 1914, Rhoades' poetry was published alongside Mina Loy's in Camera Work (Heller and Heller 467), and Rhoades also contributed to the 1914 issue "What '291' Means to Me," a collection of comments by '291' artists and aesthetes. Rhoades' contribution, a poem, indicates the significance she placed on her engagement with other artists at '291': "I touch four walls—I hear voices . . . those who have touched its world—I too went gazing, questioning, answering . . . I too merged with the voices; and the walls echoed" (58). Her reflections give credence to her own artistic production within the celebrated circle of artists.

Untitled
Katharine Rhoades
Unidentified drawing, c. 1915.
Rhoades' work in the Armory Show, Taillories, also exhibited in Chicago, may or may not have been influenced by European modernism, but by the time of her 1915 exhibition with Beckett at '291,' she was described in many of the same terms as other modern artists in the United States. Elizabeth Carey, from the New York Times roused the revolutionary rhetoric used at the time of the Armory Show to report: "Miss Rhoades [is] now fighting under the post-Impressionist banner" (Carey, Untitled 19). Peyton Boswell in the New York Herald observed that Rhoades used "strident and striking color to the limit," (Boswell 18) while Forbes Watson, critic for the New York Evening Post, supported the work of Rhoades, as he did the work of many American modernists:

Miss Rhoades possesses a good sense of color, and a freshness in her manner of expressing it which is far from ordinary . . . Landscape, while entirely unrealistic in the conventional sense, conveys what is far better than any literal exactness of fact, a real sense of living air and light (19).
The terms in which critics evaluated Rhoades' work at the 1915 exhibition place her paintings within a loosely defined expressionism, which prioritized emotion, intuition, and spirituality. Charles Caffin in the New York American insisted that Rhoades' reliance was on intuition, rather than observation: "Miss Rhoades seems to have a capacity of psychically sensing her subject" (19). Agnes Meyer, a journalist, photographer and fellow member of the Stieglitz circle reviewed Rhoades' work at the time of the 1915, commenting on the artist's individual vision:
her whole impulse to paint seems to spring from a close communion with and a desire to impart the underlying significance of the world as she sees it . . . There seems at first to be a strange and foreign quality in her portraits but a sympathetic study reveals the fact that she has seen further or at least differently than we (Meyer 8).
Meyer again points to Rhoades' ability to visually articulate a metaphysical consciousness and stresses her status as a seer, psychic, or medium through which highly developed states of consciousness are expressed.

Woman
Maurice de Zayas, Agnes
Meyer, and Katharine Rhoades
Woman, 1915.
These assessments of Rhoades' painting after the Armory Show suggest the correlation between her work and the work of the more celebrated '291' artists. Even though Rhoades destroyed most of her work after the twenties, there is other evidence of her collaboration with artists working in New York in the early 20th century. In addition to exhibiting at Stieglitz's gallery, Rhoades helped produce the little magazine 291, seen as one facet of the Dada movement in New York (Naumann, New York Dada 58). William Innes Homer, who estimates Rhoades as a lesser talent, remarks on the "progressiveness" of one of Rhoades' pieces for 291 (Homer, Stieglitz 173). Announced "as both a magazine of satire and as representing modern French art," 291 focused on caricature and psychological portraits (Green 245). While the magazine is often remembered for Picabia's and de Zayas' portraits of Stieglitz, at the time, Marsden Hartley described the magazine as "a chance for de Zayas, Meyer, and Rhoades to experiment" (qtd. in Leavens 128). Meyer later reflected on the writing in the journal as "'stream-of-consciousness' writing . . . we were on the track of something only dimly understood before the crucial analysis of Freud and the works of such successful explorers of the unconscious as Virginia Woolf and Joyce became popular" (qtd. in Leavens 128). Rhoades' collaborative visual poem, created with Meyer and de Zayas, recalls both stream of consciousness writing and Apollinaire's calligrams of the same period. In "Woman," (above) published in May 1915, the speaker in Rhoades' contribution to the piece disengages her body from a fixed gender, one aspect of Dada experimentation, through the music of Wagner:

I was not a woman. I became merely a part of the attunement of the moment as did all the others. The strangers were standing so near that I could have touched them and I think we were touching. We had dropped our little selves. We were not-but something greater than ourselves was breathing (qtd. in Bohn 249).
The poem illustrates Rhoades' interests in fashioning new images and perceptions through visual poems. In her poetry, as in her painting, she emphasized not empirical data but a highly subjective, individual expression. In 1917, Rhoades was nominated in the Bulletin of the Dada Movement for president of the Independent Artists Association along with Dodge, Stieglitz, Duchamp, Walkowitz, Loy, Marin, Pach, and Arensberg (Januzzi 578). While, as Willard Bohn attests, the lack of access to Rhoades' work prevents an evaluation of her impact, her participation in the Armory Show and her engagement in modernist projects within the avant-garde circles of the early part of the last century should contribute to the conception of womenís involvement in the International Exhibition.


Rhoades' work in the Armory Show, Taillories, also exhibited in Chicago, may or may not have been influenced by European modernism, but by the time of her 1915 exhibition with Beckett at '291,' she was described in many of the same terms as other modern artists in the United States.


The last artist who deserves reexamination in light of the Armory Show is Agnes Pelton. Unlike Rhoades and Stevens, Pelton's work has generated a moderate amount of scholarship, especially in recent years. Pelton also went through years of academic training, starting with her studies at the Pratt Institute with Arthur Dow, who also taught Max Weber and Georgia O'Keefe. Dow, according to Milton Brown, was a "pioneer in the teaching of design principles based on Chinese and Japanese art" (Brown, American Painting 138). In his book Composition, first published in 1899, Dow recommended the study of Chinese, Japanese, and Native American designs. He also argued that there should be no distinction between the fine and decorative arts (Moffatt 38). Pelton graduated from Pratt the same year as Max Weber, in 1900 (Zakian 138). In 1910, Pelton spent a year in Italy, where she studied under Hamilton Easter Field, also an enthusiast of Asian art, and an admirer of Picasso; Field commissioned the Spaniard to decorate his library in 1910. In 1911, perhaps as a result of Field's suggestions, Pelton began what she called "Imaginative Paintings," which, like Impressionism explored the effects of light, but was also influenced by Symbolism. Beginning with her first solo exhibition in 1911, Pelton had 14 such exhibitions by 1936 (Blankenship 1).

Vine Wood
Agnes Pelton
Vine Wood, c. 1910.
At the time of the Armory Show, Pelton lived primarily in Greenwich Village but spent summers at Field's studio in Maine (Zakian 139). According to Tiska Blankenship, Walt Kuhn saw Pelton's work at a 1912 exhibition at Field's studio. Kuhn then invited her to exhibit two of her "Imaginative Paintings," Vine Wood and Stone Age, in the Armory Show. Vine Wood illustrates Pelton's exploration of a landscape of dreams, recalling a prelapsarian paradise where wood-nymph and monkey coexisted. Although far from her later non-objective paintings, Pelton's work at the Armory Show reveals a concern with interior vision. Pelton, who went a number of times to the exhibition, could not have missed Improvisation, No. 27, the only work in the show by Kandinsky, who would have a resounding influence on Pelton's understanding of painterly abstraction. While there is no mention of Pelton's reaction to the show, her mother's recollections echo the enthusiasm voiced by other modern painters and writers for the show: "Nothing in the art line has ever caused the sensation that has been this exhibit . . . and although it has caused endless criticism from all sources, it remains the great event of events, and everyone regrets it closing. Agnes could not resist going to see the last of it and brought home a Matisse photograph as a final souvenir" (Levin and Lorenz 125). After the Armory Show, Pelton exhibited in 1915 at the Women's Suffrage Exhibition at the Macbeth Galleries, had a solo exhibition in 1917, and received honorable mention for her entry, Philosophy, in Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's mural decoration contest (Tufts 80).

Star Gazer
Agnes Pelton
Star Gazer, 1929.
Although Pelton continued her work in relative isolation, she was one of the early visitors to Mabel Dodge's home in Taos in 1919, shortly before O'Keefe's stay. Pelton's visit to the desert of New Mexico brought about a period of organic painting. She focused on "realistic portraiture and landscape oil painting, as well as on pastels of Native Americans and desert landscapes" (Blankenship 1). During her stay with Dodge, she also held a solo exhibition at the newly opened School of American Research in Santa Fe where her paintings of New Mexico were shown.

After spending ten years painting on Long Island with intermittent travels to Hawaii, Beruit, and Syria, Pelton turned to less figurative work again. Though she created her first paintings that could properly be called abstractions in 1926, she continued to develop figurative works as well. In 1929, the same year that the Museum of Modern Art opened, Pelton introduced her method of non-representational painting with an exhibition titled "Abstractions" at the Montross Gallery (Levin and Lorenz 126). After this exhibition and another in 1931, she was included in an early survey of modern art, Understanding Modern Art, published in 1931.

Awakening
Agnes Pelton
Awakening, 1943.
In his 1931 modern art survey, the artist and critic Leo Katz evaluated Pelton's work in the terms that other critics often used to assess women modernists: "When she began her abstract compositions, there was still touch of decorative[my emphasis] quality in them. She has grown out of this phase completely" (734). Katz goes on to characterize her work in terms of its mystical, other-worldly qualities: "Her later work is of a strictly mystical, visionary character . . . Often her pictures look like semi-materialized thought forms, and her colors have an unearthly luminousity" (Katz 734). Pelton's interest in theosophy and her move to California led her to Dane Rudhyar, the French-American composer and philosopher who explored the relationship between atonality and dissonance and a "cosmic" form of spiritual expression, a modernism that coincided with Pelton's understanding of painterly abstraction. He believed, as Pelton did, that "The urge to surmount materialism in some of these [other] movements has driven them away from emotional reactions" (Blankenship 1). Rudyhar introduced the artist to Raymond Jonson, who invited Pelton to become one of the founding members of the Trancendental Painting Group (TPG), a community of artists working in the Southwest (primarily in New Mexico) and committed to non-representational painting. Though Pelton remained in California, her connections with the artists of the TPG, and especially Johnson, were through Rudhyar, theosophy, and Kandinsky. Pelton's paintings remain a testament to an integration of organic and non-organic forms designed to produce emotive sensations. As with most artists who visited the Armory Show, a direct relationship between Pelton's work and her involvement in the exhibition would merely be reductive, but as an artist who developed an extremely unique abstract vision, she can be considered along with artists like Stuart Davis, Morton Schamberg, and Joseph Stella in the retrospective evaluation of the 1913 exhibition.


"Her later work is of a strictly mystical, visionary character . . . Often her pictures look like semi-materialized thought forms, and her colors have an unearthly luminousity."


Through investigating the careers of individual artists who participated in the Armory Show, it is clear that a substantial number of women artists adopted a variety of formal principles used to delineate modernism in America, whether it be through the work of Cézanne, through Matisse and other fauve artists, through cubism and all its adversaries, or through the work of Kandinsky. While Dreier, Zorach, Goldthwaite, McEnery, Myers, Rhoades, Stevens, and Pelton are only a few of the women who contributed work to the Armory Show, and there were numerous other women modernists who were not in the exhibition at all, the examples provided above illustrate the participation of women artists in the quite unique opportunity to show their work in a large, unjuried exhibition. While the dominant understanding of women's involvement in the Armory Show (as with early modernism) has been through their consumption of modern art objects, women were decidedly engaged in the experimentation and freedom that the Armory Show signified for a whole generation of artists.



Tour the Armory

I Prefer the Navajo Rug:
Locating an American
Primitive

Marketing Modern Art:
From the Armory to the
Department Store

Sources