Skip to main content

Biographical Note | A Finding Aid to the Walter Pach papers, 1857-1980 | Digitized Collection

Walter Pach papers, 1857-1980

Biographical Note

New York artist, critic, writer, art consultant, and curator, Walter Pach (1883-1958) was an influential promoter of modern art and was instrumental in organizing the landmark Armory Show in 1913.
Walter Pach was born in New York City, July 11, 1883. His father, Gotthelf Pach, was a prominent commercial photographer who, along with his family, ran the New York firm of Pach Brothers. The company did the bulk of the photographic work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the young Pach often accompanied his father on museum assignments. In 1903, Pach graduated from the City College of New York with a degree in art. He also studied with Robert Henri at the New York School of Art and went abroad to paint with William Merritt Chase in the summers of 1903 and 1904.
In 1906 Pach presented his first art history lecture at the Westfield State Normal School in Westfield, Massachusetts.
In 1907, Pach went to France and as an artist and critic moved among the Parisian avant-garde and became part of the Gertrude and Leo Stein circle. Gertrude Stein's "Portrait of Walter Pach was painted in 1908. Pach wrote extensively about modern art and through his numerous books, articles, and translations of European art texts, brought an emerging modernist viewpoint to the American public. In 1908 he wrote the first article published in America on Cézanne, and also wrote on such established artists as Claude Monet, whom he interviewed in 1908 for Scribner's Magazine..
Pach organized exhibitions of contemporary art for important New York City galleries of the period, as well as the landmark exhibition of 1913, "The International Exhibition of Modern Art," commonly known as the Armory Show. Along with painters Arthur B. Davies and Walt Kuhn, he brought together leading contemporary European and American artists. Pach served with Kuhn as administrator, publicist and gallery lecturer for the Armory Show Chicago for the run of the exhibition.
Pach helped to form major collections for John Quinn and Walter Arensberg. He was also instrumental in securing individual works of art for museums, such as a portrait for the Louvre Museum by American master Thomas Eakins, and Jacques-Louis David's Death of Socrates for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Pach married artist Magdalene Frohberg in February 1914, and their son Raymond was born at the end of that year. The Pachs lived primarily in New York, but spent time abroad from 1928 to 1932. Intermittently, they lived on the West Coast, where Pach taught at the University of California at Berkeley. In the 1920s he taught at the University of Mexico on a Shilling Fund grant, lecturing and writing on Native American art and developing a strong interest in Pre-Columbian art. He took an active interest in organizing exhibitions and raising money for a museum to be dedicated to the indigenous art of the Americas. In addition, he was a friend of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera and helped organize the Mexican chapter of the Society of Independent Artists, the New York-based organization he founded in 1917 with Walter Arensberg and Marcel Duchamp.
While not well known today as a painter, Walter Pach devoted much of his creative effort to painting. He considered himself both an artist and a writer, even though friends like art historian Bernard Berenson urged him to devote all his time to writing. Among his writings are monographs on a wide range of subjects, social commentary on the art world, and a book on museum structures. Among his first publications were a series of brochures produced for the 1913 Armory Show, including Odilon Redon and, in the same year, A Sculptor's Architecture, a book about the work of Raymond Duchamp-Villon, a close friend whom he admired greatly. In 1923, Pach wrote Georges Seurat, a book later cited by art historian John Rewald as an important early text on the artist. Masters of Modern Art and the monograph Raymond Duchamp-Villon were published the following year, and in 1928 Pach's well-known indictment of opportunistic artists and corruption in the art world, Ananias, or The False Artist, created a stir in art circles. Pach considered Vincent Van Gogh to be a seminal figure in the development of modern art and was the first historian to lecture on him in America. In 1936, he published his well-received monograph, Vincent Van Gogh. His recollections of a life spent in art, Queer Thing, Painting appeared in 1938. Ingres was published in 1939, as well as Masterpieces of Art, written for the 1939 New York World's Fair, for which Pach was exhibition director. His Art Museum in America, published in 1948, called into question the relevance, responsibility, and future direction of the American art museum. He long championed the artists of Mexico and published an essay on Diego Rivera in 1951 for the National Museum of Fine Arts, Mexico, for its 50-year retrospective exhibition on the artist. The Classical Tradition in Modern Art, Pach's last book, was published posthumously in 1959.
Pach's fluency in French, German, and Spanish allowed him to understand and interpret new avant-garde ideas developing in Europe and to translate them for an English-speaking audience. His language skills also allowed him to communicate personally with many noted artists in Europe and Mexico and to mediate between gallery dealers and museum curators on their behalf. His correspondence with major figures in 20th-century art are a fascinating and important source of information, not only about the artists themselves but about the art world in general during the first half of this century.
Chronology of Exhibitions and Writings
1908
"Cézanne," by Walter Pach, the first American article on the subject, published in December issue of Scribner's.
1911
"Albert P. Ryder," by Walter Pach, published in January issue of Scribner's.
1912
Met with Arthur B. Davies and Walt Kuhn to begin preparations for the Armory Show. Was responsible for the exhibition's European operations. Completed Portrait of Gigi Cavigli (exhibited at the Armory Show the following year). "Pierre-Auguste Renoir," by Walter Pach, published in May issue of Scribner's.
1913
Exhibited 5 paintings and 5 etchings in "The International Exhibition of Modern Art" (Armory Show), which opened in New York City on February 13. Served as administrator, publicist, and gallery lecturer for the Armory Show Chicago with Kuhn for the run of the exhibition. At the close of the show, Matisse, Brancusi, and Pach were hanged in effigy by the students of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
1915
Publication of The John Quinn Collection, catalog of a collection Pach was instrumental in assembling.
1916
Founded Society of Independent Artists in collaboration with Marcel Duchamp, Walter Arensberg, and others. Adviser to collector Walter Arensberg.
1917
Designed sets for Wallace Stevens's play, Bowl, Cat and Broomstick, produced at the Neighborhood Playhouse, New York City. Arranged a Gino Severini exhibition at Stieglitz's 219 gallery, New York City.
1918
"Universality in Art," by Walter Pach, published in February issue of Modern School. "Jean Le Roy," by Walter Pach, published in October issue of Modern School
1919
"The Schamberg Exhibition," by Walter Pach, published in May 17 issue of the Dial. Wrote introduction for Odilon Redon, the catalog for a graphics show at Albert Roulliers Gallery, Chicago.
1920
"The Art of the American Indian," by Walter Pach, published in January 20 issue of the Dial. His paintings abandoned the cubist-futurist mode and returned to a more naturalistic style.
1921
Publication of History of Art: Ancient Art, volume 1, by Elie Faure, translated by Walter Pach.
1922
Lecturer, University of Mexico, where he developed a strong interest in Pre-Columbian art. Lectured at Société Anonyme. Publication of History of Art: Mediaeval Art, volume 2, by Elie Faure, translated by Walter Pach. Contributed a chapter, "Art," to Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by Thirty Americans, edited by Harold E. Stearns.
1923
Publication of Georges Seurat by Walter Pach. Publication of The Art of Cineplastics and History of Art: Renaissance Art, volume 3, by Elie Faure, translated by Walter Pach. "Georges Seurat," by Walter Pach, published in March issue of the Arts.
1924
Publication of Masters of Modern Art, by Walter Pach. Publication of Raymond Duchamp-Villon, by Walter Pach. Publication of History of Art: Modern Art, volume 4, by Elie Faure, translated by Walter Pach. "The Greatest American Artist," by Walter Pach, published in January issue of Harper's Magazine.
1926
"Graveur Américain," by Léon Rosenthal, an article about Pach's graphics (illustrated with an original etching, New York), published in September issue of Byblis, Miroir des Arts du Livre et de L'Estampe. "Brancusi," by Walter Pach, published in December 1 issue of the Nation. Instructor, New York University. First solo exhibition at Brummer Gallery, New York, New York.
1927
"What Passes for Art," by Walter Pach, published in June issue of Harper's Magazine
1928
Publication of Ananias, or The False Artist, by Walter Pach. Pach family relocated to Europe.
1929
"The Evolution of Diego Rivera," by Walter Pach, published in January issue of Creative Art. "John Ruskin and Walter Pach: Defenders of the Faith," by W.H. Downes, published in August issue of American Museum Art.
1930
Publication of An Hour of Art, by Walter Pach. Publication of History of Art: The Spirit of the Forms, volume 5, by Elie Faure, translated by Walter Pach. "Notes sur le classicisme de Delacroix," by Walter Pach, published in June issue of L'Amour de L'Art.
1931
Solo exhibition at Kraushaar Gallery, New York City, with review published in March 21 issue of Art News. "Raymond Duchamp-Villon," by Walter Pach, published in May issue of Formes XV.
1932
"Le Classicisme de Barye," by Walter Pach, published in November issue of L'Amour de L'Art . Returned to the United States.
1933
"Address at the Worcester Opening of International, 1933," by Walter Pach, and "Georges Rouault," by Walter Pach, both published in January issue of Parnassus. "American Art in the Louvre," by Walter Pach, published in May issue of Fine Arts 20. "On Owning Pictures," by Walter Pach, published in August issue of Fine Arts 20. "Rockefeller, Rivera and Art," by Walter Pach, published in September issue of Harper's Magazine.
1934
Organized Maurice Prendergast retrospective for Whitney Museum of American Art.
1935
Exhibition at Knoedler Gallery, New York City included Walter Pach's Respice, Adspice, and Prospice, a fresco commissioned for the City College of New York by the Class of 1903.
1936
Exhibition of watercolors at Kleemann Galleries, New York City. Publication of Vincent Van Gogh, by Walter Pach." The Raphael from Russia," by Walter Pach, published in January issue of Virginia Quarterly Review. "First Portfolio of American Art," by Walter Pach, published in October 3 issue of Art News. Wrote foreword to First Exhibition in America of Géricault, catalog of exhibition at Marie Sterner Gallery, New York City. "The Outlook for Modern Art," by Walter Pach, published in April issue of Parnassus. Article about Pach's City College mural published in February issue of City College Alumnus Magazine.
1937
Publication of The Journal of Eugène Delacroix, translated by Walter Pach. Publication of Thomas Eakins, by Walter Pach, catalog of exhibition at Kleemann Gallery, New York City.
1938
Publication of Queer Thing, Painting: Forty Years in the World of Art, by Walter Pach. "Delacroix Today," by Walter Pach, published in January issue of Magazine of Art.
1939
Publication of Ingres, by Walter Pach. Appointed general director, "Masterpieces of Art" exhibition, New York World's Fair.
1940
Publication of Masterpieces of Art, New York World's Fair, 1940, Official Illustrated Catalogue, by Walter Pach.
1941
Solo exhibition at Schneider-Gabriel Gallery, New York City.
1942
"Newly Discovered Ingres: The Lovers," by Walter Pach, published in October issue of Art in America Exhibition at Whitney Museum of American Art, "Between the Wars: Prints by American Artists, 1914-1941," included Walter Pach's etching Saint-Germain-des-Pres (1911). Lecturer, University of Mexico, Shilling Fund grant.
1943
"A Newly Found American Painter: Hermenegildo Bustos," by Walter Pach, published in January issue of Art in America. "Unknown Aspects of Mexican Painting," by Walter Pach, published in October issue of Gazette des Beaux-Arts. Marriage of son, Raymond.
1944
"The Eight, Then and Now," by Walter Pach, published in January issue of Art News. "Problemas del arte americano," by Walter Pach, published in December issue of Origenes.
1946
"La Barricade in America," by Walter Pach, published in July issue of Art News. "On Art Criticism," by Eugène Delacroix (first published in Revue de Paris, May 1829), translated by Walter Pach for catalog of exhibition at Curt Valentin, New York City.
1947
Publication of Picasso, by Juan Larrea, edited by Walter Pach. Publication of "Museums Can Be Living Things," by Walter Pach, in Laurels Number One, Laurel Gallery. Etching, Scopasian Head, by Walter Pach, included in Laurels Number Two, Laurel Gallery.
1948
Publication of The Art Museum in America, by Walter Pach. "The Past Lives On," by Walter Pach, parts 1 and 2, published in October and November issues of American Artist.
1949
"Thus Is Cubism Cultivated," by Walter Pach, published in May issue of Art News.
1950
Contributed a chapter, "The State of the Arts in the Democratic Way of Life: A Postscript," to Perspectives on a Troubled Decade: Science, Philosophy and Religion, 1939-1949, edited by Lyman Bryson, Louis Finkelstein, and R. M. MacIver. Death of wife, Magdalene.
1951
"Reaciones entre la cultura nordeamericana y la ombre de Diego Rivera," a major essay by Walter Pach published in Diego Rivera, 50 años de su labor artistica, exposition de normenaje nacional, Museo nacional de artes plasticas, Mexico City. Married Nikifora.
1953
"A Modernist Visits Greece," by Walter Pach, reprinted in autumn issue of Archaeology.
1954
"John Sloan," by Walter Pach, published in August issue of Atlantic Monthly.
1956
"Introducing the Paintings of George Of (1876-1954)," by Walter Pach, published in October issue of Art News.
1958
Professor, City College of New York. Died, New York City, following an operation for stomach ulcers.
1959
Publication of The Classical Tradition in Modern Art, by Walter Pach.
1986
Exhibition, "Walter Pach, A Retrospective," at Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, North Carolina.
1988
Exhibition, "The Art of Walter and Magda Pach," at Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio.
1990
Exhibition, "Discovering Modernism: Selections from the Walter Pach Papers," at the Archives of American Art, New York City.
1991
Exhibition, "The Paintings of Walter Pach," at Forum Gallery, New York City.