A fresh and exhilarating work of cultural history – the first book to follow the lives of five pioneering art patrons who, in the late 1920’s and the 1930’s, were instrumental in bringing modern painting, sculpture, and dance to America.
These patron saints – young, rich, Harvard-educated, and at the center of the American establishment had unbounded energy, passion, money, and social connections.
Lincoln Kirstein at twenty-two and Edward M.M. Warburg at eighteen (both in their junior year at Harvard), starting something they called the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art (housed in two small rooms on the second floor of a building on Harvard Square)… exhibiting, for the first time, the works of Lachaise, Thomas Hart Benton, Arthur B. Davis, Edward Hopper … presenting Buckminster Fuller’s then shocking and revolutionary Dymaxion House and Alexander Calder’s astonishing and enchanting Circus … establishing a vital precedent for New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, which was later to introduce the work of Modigliani, Seurat, Arp, Kirchner, Rodin, Kandinsky, Klee, and Brancusi…bringing George Balanchine to this country to create the first American ballet school and company.
Agnes Mongan, brilliant young art historian and assistant to Paul Sachs, associate director of the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge and patron of the Harvard Society, challenging the male-dominated museum world…
James Thrall Soby, heir to a Connecticut tobacco fortune and art critic for The Sunday Review of Literature, curating, first for the Wadsworth Atheneum and later for the Museum of Modern Art, exhibitions of works by Balthus, de Chirico, and Gris, all then scarcely known in America.
A. Everett (Chick) Austin, Jr., the genius director of the Wadsworth Atheneum, mounting the first museum exhibitions of works by Picasso, Miro, Tanguy, and Dali, and hosting the world premier of Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thomson, and Frederick Ashton’s Four Saints in Three Acts, as well as Balanchine’s first American ballet, Alma Mater.
Nicholas Fox Weber has immersed himself in the fascinating details of the world he writes about, and at the core of this book are his extensive conversations with the principals, their friends, their colleagues, and their rivals. Patron Saints is authoritative, illuminating, and enormous fun to read, and provides a look at one of the most creative periods of this century.
REVIEWS ON PATRON SAINTS
“Mr. Weber’s vivid re-creation of those distant but still inspiring events makes for an edifying and even exhilarating avant-garde entertainment.”
— Sam Hunter, New York Times Book Review
“A brilliant tribute to pioneers of our cultural history. Highly recommended.”
— Library Journal
“A welcome inside look at a loose circle of patrons in an era when money, taste, and risk-taking could steer the progress of art in America.”