The Chicago-based attorney Arthur Jerome Eddy (1859-1920) was the boldest buyer at the Armory Show, purchasing eighteen paintings and seven lithographs. Although collector John Quinn surpassed him in total number of purchases, Eddy’s acquisitions reflected his adventurous spirit, as he bought works by the most radical artists on display, including Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, Francis Picabia, and Jacques Villon.
The Armory Show was scheduled to travel to Eddy’s hometown of Chicago, however the collector wasted little time and instead made his way to New York to see the show. Organizer Walt Kuhn later claimed that Eddy was determined not to be “outdone” by Quinn and he thus arrived at the 69th Regiment Armory with the intent to buy big. Between February 27 and March 2, Eddy embarked upon an avant-garde shopping spree that included André Derain’s Forest at Martigues (1908–09); Duchamp’s Portrait of Chess Players (1911) and The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912); Gleizes’ Man on a Balcony (1912); Picabia’s Dances at the Spring (1912); Villon’s Young Girl (1912); Maurice de Vlaminck’s Village (1912); as well as works by American artists Leon Kroll and Edward Middleton Manigault.
When the exhibition arrived in Chicago, Eddy continued to support the show, giving two lectures at the Art Institute in defense of the “new spirit” in art. On opening day, he also published a diagram in the Chicago Daily Tribune entitled “Here She Is: White Outline Shows ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’” – a visual aid intended to help Chicagoans locate Duchamp’s infamous nude.
Prior to 1913, Eddy had primarily collected works by late-nineteenth-century artists such as Manet, Whistler, and Rodin. The Armory Show thus marked a transitional moment in his collecting career when he began to focus on the works of European and American modernists. In the wake of the exhibition, he became increasingly interested in Expressionist painting, most notably the work of Wassily Kandinsky, and he contributed to the growing critical discourse on modern art, publishing his influential text Cubists and Post-Impressionism in 1914.
Following Eddy’s death, the Art Institute of Chicago celebrated the collector with a memorial exhibition, in which several of his Armory Show purchases were honorably displayed at the venue they had scandalized in 1913.
Shannon Vittoria, Research Assistant
The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution is on view October 11, 2013 through February 23, 2013 at the New-York Historical Society.