Esteemed thinker: Lillie P. Bliss

Armory_Show_1

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. Llilie Bliss

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

 

Vincent van Gogh and his thoughts on art

van gogh museumMuseums are the windows to the past. They house treasures that have been unearthed, borrowed from other civilizations, reassembled from a time long ago, or displayed for the very first time. They are a wonderland of things that allow each of us admission to a time, place, or experience where we can become intimate with another. Museums come in many forms, some are for objects such as furniture, some are for prehistoric relics like dinosaur bones and fossils, some are for paintings and sculpture, and there are even museums for the news. Whatever the pleasures of men and women there is likely to be a collection somewhere displayed in some building…and fortunately saved for posterity.

Let’s look more closely at the fine art museum, a place where differing sets of values have decidedly created the spaces for viewing. There is modern art, classical art, ancient art, abstract art, and so on and so forth…and with each generation that visits and for each group of curators that have established the exhibitions, so has the appreciation for what we determine as “art” run the gambit. If we were to examine works through the ages we would find that a vast number of contemporaries often yearned for what came before. Many who lived during the age of “modern art” in the 1960s either liked the “new” works or scorned it… many longing for the look, feel, and style of “the past”. So it is with so many things, we often desire a return for what came before… and the appreciation for art is no different.

flower buds van gogh Today’s blog revisits the words of our esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch artist that hardly needs any introduction. A kind and troubled man who graced us with his gifts…where his paintings will forever be noted as “a Van Gogh” and we will all understand what that means…. although he lived a pauper’s existence he never extinguished his calling, art…

Let us now take a few minutes to look over his shoulder and read the words from a letter (1883) to his brother Theo …and we reaffirm that time stands still and often things we feel today have really not changed….

“… It makes me more nervous than is good for me to try to talk with people about my work. And what is the result? A refusal or being put off with fair promises. I assure you that I feel less energy for my work when I have been among people. …….I do not doubt that my wok has fault, but neither do I doubt that I am not quite wrong, and that I shall succeed, be it only after long seeking. And I do believe that it is dangerous to look for success elsewhere.
I think there is a difference between art appreciation today and that of earlier years. There used to be more passion both in the making and in the judging of works of art. This or that work was chosen deliberately; one side or the other was energetically taken. There was more animation. Now I think there is a spirit of capriciousness and satiety; people are in general more lax. Some time ago I wrote that I had noticed there was since Millet* a marked decline, as though the summit had been reached and decadence had begun. This has its influence on everybody and everything. …”

*Jean-Francois Millet (1814 – 1875) French realist painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France; best known for his paintings of peasants.