Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

September 30 to November 1, 2013
Exhibited in New York at the Art Students League

Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone in the world is no more than six relationships away from any other person. The idea stretches back to Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi and it was made famous in a 1967 Harvard study, but John Guare’s 1990 play of the same name pushed the expression into everyday use. Riffing and serious study continue. The trivia game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” plotted celebrity connections. Last year, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan determined that the degrees are now a mere 4.74.

The painter Peggy Bacon knew a lot of people in the art world. Taking her as the central figure, the collections of the Archives of American Art reveal the deep and diverse history of art in the United States and beyond. How did the creative, significant, and trivial interactions between student and teacher, artist and dealer, and even lover to lover work? How many degrees separate her art world from ours–and us from her?

Who was Peggy Bacon?

Join Peggy Bacon’s social circle: Facebook.com/SixDegreesofPeggyBacon

The New York artist Peggy Bacon (1895–1987) is not a household name, but she should be. Her long career was various, productive, and successful. She was famous for her witty caricatures of celebrities and artists; she excelled at printmaking; wrote and illustrated numerous children’s books; and published poetry and novels.

As the only child of Elizabeth Chase and Charles Roswell Bacon, painters who met at the Art Students League in Manhattan, Bacon grew up in an artistic family. She studied at the League herself, taking classes with the most popular teachers of the day, John Sloan, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and George Bellows. She also formed her lifelong circle of friends at the League, and its summer school in Woodstock, New York. In the 1920s, her career took off and her accomplishments are still to be envied: a first one-person show at Alfred Stieglitz’s Intimate Gallery in 1928; in 1934, a book of caricatures, Off With Their Heads, funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship; in 1953, she was nominated for an Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel by an American author for The Inward Eye.

Bacon stood at the center of a vast network of artists, dealers, critics, and family members. Its connections, intersections, and separations can be, by turns, surprising, amusing, or, predictable, and they illustrate the concept of the six degrees of separation.

View Items from This Exhibition

Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Charles Roswell Bacon letter to Philip Leslie Hale

Charles Roswell Bacon letter to Philip Leslie Hale, 1898?

Creator: Charles R. (Charles Roswell) Bacon

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Yoko Ono, John Lennon and Andy Warhol

Yoko Ono, John Lennon and Andy Warhol, 1971 June 5

Creator: David Bourdon

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Ray Johnson mail art to David Bourdon

Ray Johnson mail art to David Bourdon, not before 1962

Creator: Ray Johnson

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Ray Johnson invitation to Joseph Cornell

Ray Johnson invitation to Joseph Cornell, ca. 1970

Creator: Ray Johnson

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Maxfield Parrish letter to Cecilia Beaux

Maxfield Parrish letter to Cecilia Beaux, 1909 July 11

Creator: Maxfield Parrish

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Association of American Painters and Sculptors meeting minutes

Association of American Painters and Sculptors meeting minutes, 1911 Dec. 19-1912 Jan. 2

Creator: Walt Kuhn

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Sketch of Louis and Marian Bouché

Sketch of Louis and Marian Bouché, 192-?

Creator: Peggy Bacon

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Reginald Marsh diary

Reginald Marsh diary, 1912

Creator: Reginald Marsh

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Lloyd Goodrich letter to Max Weber

Lloyd Goodrich letter to Max Weber, 1954 May 12

Creator: Lloyd Goodrich

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Art Students League group portrait

Art Students League group portrait, 1950 January

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Joseph Cornell, New York, N.Y. letter to Marcel Duchamp, Flushing, N.Y.

Joseph Cornell, New York, N.Y. letter to Marcel Duchamp, Flushing, N.Y., between 1955 and 1968

Creator: Joseph Cornell

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Marcel Duchamp letter to Louis George Bouché

Marcel Duchamp letter to Louis George Bouché, 1960 June 23

Creator: Marcel Duchamp

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Map of Paris

Map of Paris, ca. 1950?

Creator: Romare Bearden

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Jacob Lawrence letter to Romare Bearden

Jacob Lawrence letter to Romare Bearden, 1971 Apr. 3

Creator: Jacob Lawrence

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Jacob Lawrence letter to Philip Howard Evergood

Jacob Lawrence letter to Philip Howard Evergood, 1963

Creator: Jacob Lawrence

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Commentary on the relationship between artists and critics

Commentary on the relationship between artists and critics, between 1910 and 1970

Creator: Philip Howard Evergood

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz, ca. 1940

Creator: Kay Bell Reynal

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Dorothy Liebes memoir of her friendship with Frank Lloyd Wright

Dorothy Liebes memoir of her friendship with Frank Lloyd Wright, ca. 1970

Creator: Dorothy Liebes

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Artists' protest letter  to James Johnson Sweeney, New York, N.Y.

Artists' protest letter to James Johnson Sweeney, New York, N.Y., 1956

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Jackson Pollock letter to Reuben Kadish

Jackson Pollock letter to Reuben Kadish, 1945 Nov. 10

Creator: Jackson Pollock

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Jules Langsner, Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish and David Siqueiros with the mural Inquisition in Mexico

Jules Langsner, Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish and David Siqueiros with the mural Inquisition in Mexico, circa 1934

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Jackson Pollock, Alexander Brook, and Freddie Lake

Jackson Pollock, Alexander Brook, and Freddie Lake, ca. 1950

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Peggy Bacon and Alexander Brook with their children

Peggy Bacon and Alexander Brook with their children, ca. 1920

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Group portrait at an Art Students League dinner

Group portrait at an Art Students League dinner, ca. 1950

Creator: Tom Milius

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Robert Indiana photograph sent to Louise Nevelson

Robert Indiana photograph sent to Louise Nevelson, 1971

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Art Students League Group portrait

Art Students League Group portrait, ca. 1950

Creator: Tom Milius

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Charles R. Bacon self-portrait and portrait of Peggy Bacon

Charles R. Bacon self-portrait and portrait of Peggy Bacon, circa 1900

Creator: Charles R. (Charles Roswell) Bacon

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Panama-Pacific International Exposition Show list of jury members and award winners

Panama-Pacific International Exposition Show list of jury members and award winners, 1915 July 25

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Homer Saint-Gaudens letter to Winston Churchill

Homer Saint-Gaudens letter to Winston Churchill, 1921 August 18

Creator: Homer Saint-Gaudens

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

The Later Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens

The Later Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1920

Creator: Homer Saint-Gaudens

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Panama-Pacific International Exposition jury members

Panama-Pacific International Exposition jury members, 1915

Creator: Gabriel Moulin

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

World's Columbian Exposition participant list

World's Columbian Exposition participant list, ca. 1893

Creator: Charles M. (Charles McMeen) Kurtz

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Elihu Vedder list of works sold since the year 1856

Elihu Vedder list of works sold since the year 1856, 1907?

Creator: Elihu Vedder

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Winslow Homer letter to Louis Prang

Winslow Homer letter to Louis Prang, 1895 November 6

Creator: Winslow Homer

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Exhibition of paintings by Arthur B. Davies, William J. Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice B. Prendergast, Everett Shinn, [and] John Sloan

Exhibition of paintings by Arthur B. Davies, William J. Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice B. Prendergast, Everett Shinn, [and] John Sloan, 1908

Creator: Macbeth Gallery

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

John Sloan painting

John Sloan painting, 1939

Creator: Ernest Knee

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Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon

Notice of dress code in Lake George, N.Y., given to Elizabeth McCausland by Alfred Stieglitz

Notice of dress code in Lake George, N.Y., given to Elizabeth McCausland by Alfred Stieglitz, not before 1931

Creator: Board of Trustees of Lake George Village (Lake George, N.Y.)

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