The following article, entitled 18 Painters Boycott Metropolitan; Charge ‘Hostility to Advanced Art’, appeared in the New York Times (May 22, 1950):
“Eighteen well-known advanced American painters have served notice on the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will not participate in a national exhibition at the museum in December because the award juries are ‘notoriously hostile to advanced art.’ This was made known last night in an open letter to Roland L. Redmond, museum president, in which the painters and sculptors asserted that the organization of the exhibition and the choice of the jurors ‘does not warrant any hope that a just proportion of advanced art will be included.’ The letter charged that Francis Henry Taylor, museum director, had ‘on more than one occasion publicly declared his contempt for modern painting.’ It added that Robert Beverly Hale, the museum’s associate curator of American art, had, in ‘accepting a jury notoriously hostile to advanced at,’ taken his ‘place beside Mr. Taylor.’ ‘We draw to the attention of those gentleman,’ the letter went on, ‘the historical fact that, for roughly 100 years, only advanced art has made any consequential contribution to civilization.’ The letter declared the signers’ belief that ‘all the advanced artists of America will join us in our stand.’ The artists who signed the letter were Jimmy Ernst, adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Hans Hofmann, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Richard Pousette-Dart, Theodoros Stamos, Ad Reinhardt, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Willem de Kooning, Hedda Sterne, James Brooks, Weldon Kees and Fritz Bultman. The letter also was signed by ten sculptors with the notation that they supported the artists’ stand. The sculptors were Herbert Ferber, David Smith, Ibram Lassaw, Mary Callery, Day Schnabel, Seymour Lipton, Peter Grippe, Theodore Roszak, David Hare and Louise Bourgeois. Mr. Newman, one of the artists, explained that he and his colleagues were critical of the membership of all five regional juries established for the exhibition but were specifically opposed to the New York group, the ‘national jury of selection’ and the ‘jury of awards.’ The New York jurors are Charles Burchfield, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Leon Kroll, Ogden Pleissner, Vaclav Vytlacil and Paul Sample. The national jury is composed of Mr. Hale, Mr. Pleissner, Maurice Sterne, Millard Sheets, Howard Cook, Lamar Dodd, Francis Chapin, Zoltan Sepeshy and Esther Williams. The jury awards, which will confer the prizes, includes William M. Milliken, Franklin C. Watkins and Eugene Speicher. The exhibition is to be known as ‘American Painting Today—1950.’ Mr. Redmond is in Europe and could not be reached for comment. Both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Hale said they preferred not to comment until they had seen the letter.”
What are your thoughts on this group of 18 American artists, sometimes referred to as the Irascibles, writing an open letter to the administrative leadership of the Metropolitan Museum of Art criticizing them for being against advanced art?
Nina Leen, The Irascibles, 1950