by Megan Fort, Ph.D. Research Assistant

Walter Pach, ca. 1909. Photograph by Pach Brothers Studio. Walter Pach Family papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Walter Pach, ca. 1909. Photograph by Pach Brothers Studio. Walter Pach Family papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

As the European agent for the Armory Show, the American artist and critic Walter Pach played a crucial role in making the final selection of most of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French art sent to New York for the exhibition, thus changing the course of modern art in the United States.

Pach, who had moved from New York to Paris in 1907 to pursue painting, was part of the circle surrounding Gertrude and Leo Stein. He moved among the Parisian avant-garde, exhibiting with them and immersing himself in their new artistic vision. In numerous articles he wrote for American publications, including one on Paul Cézanne in 1908 that was the first on the artist published in the United States, he introduced and interpreted the avant-garde ideas developing in Europe for an American audience.

Pach first learned of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors and their plans for an international exhibition through newspaper articles and through a mailing he received in 1912 in Paris inviting him to exhibit. That summer he wrote to the Association’s president, Arthur B. Davies, offering to use his connections in Paris to help in any way he could. Davies admired Pach’s knowledge of modern European art and understood the potential value of his resources.

On November 6, 1912, Davies met Pach and his co-organizer Walt Kuhn in Paris and spent a frantic ten days selecting objects for the exhibition. Pach introduced them to the most vanguard artists, including Constantin Brancusi, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, and Jacques Villon, and to the powerful dealers Ambroise Vollard, Eugène Druet, and Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler. In so doing he helped to secure numerous loans for the exhibition, including that of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912, Philadelphia Museum of Art), one of the most influential paintings in the show. Without Pach’s vision and connections, the Armory Show would certainly not have been nearly so successful.

Megan Holloway Fort, Ph.D., Research Assistant

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