Letter from New York

ABR Arts is generously supported by ABR Patrons and Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.
Sally Grant Tuesday, 31 July 2018
Published in ABR Arts

Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele: 1918 Centenary (Neue Galerie)


In 1993 Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library held an exhibition entitled Nothing but Degeneracy: Modernism at The Dial, which consisted of documents from the library’s archival holdings of the influential American literary magazine The Dial. While the magazine was established in the 1840s as a periodical for the Transcendentalism movement, in the 1920s The Dial was relaunched. Under the new ownership of James Sibley Watson Jr and Scofield Thayer, it became an important publisher of now-canonical modernist art and literature. It was in the pages of The Dial, for instance, that first appeared works such as W.B. Yeats’s poem ‘The Second Coming’ (1920), and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street (1923), the short story precursor to her more famous novel. The title of the Yale exhibition referenced a letter from a contemporary subscriber of The Dial who objected to these new artistic forms as ‘nothing but degeneracy’.

As The Dial’s editor from 1919 to 1926, Scofield Thayer (1889–1982), the heir of a wealthy Massachusetts family, was the modernist magazine’s shaping influence. Alongside literature and criticism, he published reproductions of contemporary art. By including works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Henri Rousseau, he introduced the American public to the European vanguard which was then defining a new artistic style (such images likely contributed to the subscriber’s accusation of ‘degeneracy’). When Thayer died in 1982 at the age of ninety-two, he left his own vast art collection to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where part of it is currently being shown in the exhibition Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection.

Sign up to the fortnightly ABR Arts e-bulletin for news, reviews, and giveaways

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in ABR Arts
Sally Grant

Sally Grant

Sally Grant is a freelance arts and culture writer based in New York. Born and raised in Scotland, a working holiday visa first brought her to Australia. She subsequently completed her undergraduate degree and PhD in Art History and Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. She is an Honorary Research Associate of the Australasian Centre for Italian Studies, where her scholarly research focuses on the art and experience of eighteenth-century Venice and the Veneto villa.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.