Albert E. Gallatin American, 1882-1952
Albert E. Gallatin was born in Villanova, Pennsylvania, named for his great-grandfather, a Treasury Secretary and a founder of New York University. His father taught at the university, and when he died in 1902, Gallatin inherited the family fortune. He moved to Fifth Avenue and began collecting and writing on his early passions, Aubrey Beardsley and James McNeill Whistler. As “one of New York's most eligible bachelors . . . and founder and first president of the Motor-Car Touring Society,” he was a collector with still conservative tastes. Despite publishing extensively, the 1913 Armory Show passed without comment. His conversion to modernism came during World War I, when he collaborated with Duncan Philips on the State Department's Committee on Exhibitions. He traded the motor-car club for a membership in the Société Anonyme, Whistlers for Cézannes, and began to plot his own museum.
In 1926, Gallatin joined the board of NYU, lobbying fellow trustees for a modern art gallery-and began painting, before setting aside the brush for a decade. His Gallery of Living Art opened the following December at the same Washington Square Park location where Samuel Morse developed the telegraph. Gallatin called it “an artistic laboratory”-and his experiments there informed his own painting when he plunged back into it in 1936. He soon showed in London, joining the Five Contemporary American Concretionists exhibition, and, with George L. K. Morris, Charles Green Shaw, and Suzy Frelinghuysen became known as a Park Avenue Cubist. He showed at his own museum in 1942 and was celebrated as “The Abstract King.” His triumph was dimmed, when NYU's chancellor evicted Gallatin's museum from its campus. The painter had intended to bequest his collection to the university, but Gallatin found a new home at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He continued to write, paint, and collect for the rest of the decade before his passing in 1952.