The past is a reservoir of names who have left behind their legacies and still continue to enrich our lives… and though they may have been well-noted during their lifespan, time has worn away their memories like the erosion of a seawall. The twenty-first century is especially hard on the past for the present barely has time to take a breath, when sudden at the next exhale the future becomes the present. The bombardment of information is a snowstorm burying facts at an unprecedented rate. So fast is this entombing of details that for those of us who wish a more leisurely promenade are saddened; often what we wish to savor unexpectedly whizzes by without having a chance to take hold.
Today’s blog brings you a most notable woman, the esteemed thinker: Lillie P. Bliss (1864 – 1931 )American art collector, patron, and co-founder of the Museum of Modern Art with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Mary Quinn Sullivan. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of a successful textile merchant who moved his family to the Murray Hill Section of New York City when she was two. Her ambitious and well-connected father became Secretary of the Interior under President McKinley where Lillie acted as hostess for him in Washington when her mother was taken ill.
Lillie became an active supporter of the arts, at first particularly of music however her interest in modern art was inspired by the Armory Show of 1913 and her friendship with the painter Arthur B. Davies. Although modern art at the time in the United States was often criticized as inferior, Bliss saw the value in the new art and collected work by, among others, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, and Davies. In 1929 she became one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and when she died two years later she left most of her paintings to the Museum.
And so as tribute to Ms. Bliss, who we can thank for having the foresight to embrace and preserve the arts, we dig deeply into the pile of forgotten names. As remarked by Nelson Rockefeller, “It was the perfect combination. The three women, among them, my mother, Lillie Bliss and Mary Sullivan, had the resources, the tact and the knowledge of contemporary art that the situation required. More to the point, they had the courage to advocate the cause of the modern movement in the face of widespread division, ignorance and a dark suspicion that the whole business was some sort of Bolshevik plot.”
First Image: Armory Show of 1913
Second image: 1924