The New Spirit: American Art in the Armory Show, 1913
The New Spirit: American Art in the Armory Show, 1913 celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the famous and controversial 1913 Armory Show with a major exhibition that opened exactly 100 years to the day from the original. The New Spirit was the first exhibition to focus primarily on the American artists represented in that show.
The International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as The Armory Show, held at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue at East 25th Street in Manhattan, giving the show its unofficial name, comprised more than 1,200 works of art by American and European artists. While American art constituted two-thirds of the work on view, it was the European art that caused a stir and that has dominated discussion of the Armory Show ever since.
The exhibition at the Montclair Art Museum presented mainly the American artists who contributed to the Armory Show and enlisted new scholarship to challenge the conventional notion that their art was largely provincial. The exhibition spotlighted the diverse range of American art that was exhibited with nearly 40 works of various media by 36 American artists, including several notable female artists. It included works by well-known artists like Edward Hopper, Robert Henri, and John Marin, as well as works by artists such as Manierre Dawson, Kathleen McEnery, and E. Ambrose Webster, who, despite their talents, remain at the periphery of mainstream American art history. An introductory section featured works by Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse to reveal the influence and context of European modernism. Special efforts were made to recreate details of the original installation, including burlap wall coverings, decorative pine trees, and yellow-hued streamers overhead, forming a tentlike canopy for the exhibition space.
The Montclair Art Museum collaborated with the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art on a gallery that was devoted to rare and unique primary documents pertaining to the Armory Show. These included personal letters, floor plans, sales records, admission tickets, catalogues, buttons, and invitations, as well as reproductions of the original installation. The Archives of American Art also launched a related online exhibition, The Story in Primary Sources.