A collaborative project to digitize the exhibition checklists and pamphlets of the Macbeth Gallery, held by the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Art Reference Library, was completed in 2008. The combined collection numbers over 450 unique items published between 1895 and 1953.
The Macbeth Gallery was the first New York gallery to specialize in American art and is historically important for exhibiting work by many American artists well-known to us today, including Charles H. Davis, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, and Andrew Wyeth. In addition to solo exhibitions, many group shows were held at the Macbeth Gallery in the early 20th century – several would have a profound impact on the development and appreciation of American art.
One particularly well-known exhibition is one held in February 1908, Exhibition of paintings by Arthur B. Davies, William J. Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice B. Prendergast, Everett Shinn, John Sloan—these artists became known as “The Eight.” The exhibition’s intent was to challenge the dominance of the National Academy; it “received an immense amount of publicity and instantly entered into art history as a successful assault on tradition.” (1)
Due to their art historical importance, the Macbeth Gallery materials have been frequently used at Watson Library and the Frick, but they are also rapidly deteriorating. Much of the material was printed on highly acidic paper that is now very brittle, so it made sense from both service and preservation perspectives to move forward with the project before the checklists became damaged beyond repair. This Chauncey F. Ryder exhibition checklist from 1910 is one example of the damage sustained by some of the original items.
This project provides a more complete picture of Macbeth Gallery exhibition activity and complements the Archives of American Art’s effort to catalog their collection of Macbeth Gallery records and papers.
We are grateful to the Frick Art Reference Library and to our funding source, the Lifchez-Stronach Preservation Fund for the Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for their contributions in making this project a reality.