Albert Eugene Gallatin
Oil on canvas
8.1 x 10 in. / 20.5 x 25.5 cm
Albert Eugene Gallatin
b. 1881, Pennsylvania, United States
d. 1952, New York, United States
A. E. Gallatin was in influential art collector, patron, and abstract artist. He was born in Villanova, Pennsylvania to a prominent and wealthy family. His great-grandfather, and namesake, had been the Secretary of Treasury under Jefferson and Madison, as well as a co-founder of New York University (NYU). Gallatin began collecting art in his teens, purchasing refined works by artists such as Aubrey Beardsley and James McNeill Whistler. He also wrote extensively, championing artwork that prioritized aesthetic qualities over the realism of Degas and Millet. In 1902 Gallatin inherited his family fortune and, bolstered by this income, continued to develop his reputation as an art connoisseur in New York and collect art by American artists, primarily from the Ashcan School.
While initially dismissing modernism, Gallatin eventually become one of the largest proponents of modern art in the United States. Influenced by friends and fellow art critics, such as C.R.W Nevinson and Clive Bell, Gallatin became fascinated by the formalist nature and pure abstraction of Cubism. In the 1920s, he became a member of the Société Anonyme and, through frequent trips to Paris, collected work by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Juan Gris, and other avant-garde artists of their circles. In 1927 Gallatin opened the Gallery of Living Art, the first museum devoted exclusively to modern art, in New York University’s main building to showcase his evolving collection. Entrance to the museum was free and became a valued resource for New York artists. The museum was active until 1942 when the space was reclaimed by the university, and Gallatin donated his collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gallatin continued to exhibit his collection in New York and in 1942 notably curated a show of American women, which included Suzy Frelinghuysen, Alice Trumbull Mason, and Esphyr Slobodkina.
As he grew his collection, Gallatin was also developing into an artist himself. He first took classes with Robert Henri in 1926, but by the following decade was fully devoted to a pure and non-objective style. He joined the American Abstract Artists group in 1937, and along with Charles G. Shaw, George L.K. Morris, and Frelinghuysen—fellow wealthy New Yorkers of the group—was dubbed a “Park Avenue Cubist.” Gallatin’s work became characterized by both Synthetic Cubist and Constructivist styles, undoubtedly inspired by the works in his collection. His work is unique, however, for its clear and evocative emphasis on negative/positive space. In 1952, Rose Fried Gallery held a retrospective exhibition of his work.
Today, Gallatin’s work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia.