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My Love Affair with Modern Art: Behind the Scenes with a Legendary Curator Paperback – July 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1 edition (July 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611455065
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611455069
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,042,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

[Signature]Reviewed by James LordThis love affair provides for those who care about art and artists a piercing, passionate glimpse of creative activity in America during the first half of the 20th century. Kuh (1904–1994) saw everything, knew everybody, went everywhere and in the miraculous lucidity of her old, old age still had the wit and discernment to tell the story of her vision, knowledge and travels. It is, of course, a very personal tale. The raison d'être of memoirs is not merely to relate experience but also to reveal the personality of the author. Thus, Kuh discloses how and why art became, as it were, the very backbone of her physical and spiritual adventure. It required exceptional courage and intellectual discipline. The revelations are aided and abetted, so to speak, by Kuh's friend, admirer and accomplice, Avis Berman, who edited and completed the manuscript after the author's death, at 89, and who disclosed vital information that Kuh's reticence would have set aside, describing, for example, details of the love affairs which contributed essential elements to the passion of art.Passionate as it indeed is, this around-the-art-world voyage invited mainly the happy few as fellow passengers. And Kuh possessed the resilient temperament enabling her to sail audaciously along when the happy few were very few. Almost all of her professional and emotional life was spent in Chicago, the pivotal center of the aesthetic doldrums then prevailing in America's cultural badlands. New York was artistically far more exciting, but Katharine was determined to create excitement within spitting distance of the stockyards.She opened her own gallery there in 1935, the nadir of the Great Depression, when even in New York it was difficult to give away a drawing by, say, Bonnard. Nonetheless, the gallery prevailed, introducing unheard of and unwelcome artists to Chicago, where a handful of prescient adventurers were prepared to pay a pittance for pictures their neighbors considered evidence of madness. Kuh's courage was rewarded when she was appointed to the prestigious post of curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, a museum which her sharp eye enriched with fine examples of avant-garde modernism.The love affair with the art of her time came fully into its own after WWII, when the enamored connoisseur developed close friendships with the artists, collectors and curators whom she had intimate cause to admire. The larger part of her autobiography is an account of her devotion to these individuals, almost all of them celebrated today: Brancusi, Mies van der Rohe, V.W. van Gogh, Rothko, Clyfford Sti·ll, Tobey, Berenson, Albers, Léger, Franz Kline et al. Her reminiscences vividly draw the reader into a deep sympathy for her love affair. Succinctly written, it is a fine memorial to a memorable journey.James Lord is the author of Picasso and Dora, Six Exceptional Women and, most recently, Mythic Giacometti, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Visionary gallery owners and curators were essential to bringing radical works of modern art before a recalcitrant public. Born in St. Louis in 1904, and inspired by the innovative art historian Alfred Barr, Katharine Kuh valiantly opened a gallery in Chicago to show the likes of Klee and Kandinsky. Kuh went on to become the first curator of modern art at the Art Institute of Chicago and art critic for the Saturday Review. So full was her life, she didn't start writing her memoirs until she was 87 and then died before completing the project. Berman has done a superb job of tying up loose ends and in his moving introduction reveals Kuh's struggles with polio and the many dimensions of her impressive life. Kuh herself is scintillating, incisive, and elegantly offhanded as she relates eye-opening anecdotes about her seminal curatorial adventures. She focuses most on the artists she knew best, astutely assessing both temperaments and aesthetics as she portrays, with rare intimacy and insight, more than a dozen brilliant artists, including Duchamp, Rothko, and Hopper. Kuh's evocative, engaging, and unique reflections enrich the stirring story of modern art and introduce readers to a refined and unstinting arts advocate who significantly enriched American culture. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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It is a vital and highly readable document of one of the most important eras in art history.
C. Ebeling
Although I was familiar with the work of all of the artists she highlighted it was the personal relationships Kuh had with each of them which made the book come alive.
Sondra Zell
Those interested in American art of the last century will find great pleasure in reading this book.
Christian Schlect

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on January 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Those interested in American art of the last century will find great pleasure in reading this book. Chicago and New York are the centers from which Katharine Kuh radiated. As a museum curator, art dealer, and published critic, she was personally close to many of the modern masters. In this book, she provides short but telling stories about their work and lives. I especially liked the chapters on Rothko, Tobey and Noguchi.

Disparate side characters, such as Judge Learned Hand and LBJ, pop up and add further to the value of Ms. Kuh's memoir.

Avis Berman has done a great service to all those interested in the history of twentieth century American art by completing the memoirs of Katharine Kuh. The author's reflections have been preserved in a form, while still true to the author, that is likely better than had the elderly Ms. Kuh herself remained alive to complete the job. Notes to the text and a more complete description of Katharine Kuh's personal background are some of the very much-appreciated work accomplished by Ms. Berman.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on June 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a general reader with an appreciation for art, I loved MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MODERN ART. It is a vital and highly readable document of one of the most important eras in art history.

Katharine Kuh (1904 - 1994) was a gallery owner, then curator, then art critic (Saturday Review) and in the course of her long career, she came to know the international movers and shakers. Many came to trust her and call her their friend and shared their private lives and ideas about art with her. She outlived just about all who parade across her pages--each chapter profiles a different artist or collector--and had the luxury of reflection at the end of her life to select what about each personage mattered most. For example, though she opens the chapter on Mark Rothko with the tragedy of his 1970 suicide, that's not how she wants him remembered and thus her story emphasizes what he was like twenty years before as he struck his flow. The chapter on world-class collector Bernard Berenson seems anomalous at first--his heart was pre-Modern--but in many ways the story of such a man living in the heart of the Modern era is quite revealing. That is the one chapter where the very private Kuh allows for some self revelation as well.

The portraits of the lights like Brancusi, Hopper, Noguchi and Kline, to name a few, are priceless, and they offer Kuh a chance to discuss a number of issues, including the dynamics of cultivating collectors in hopes of donations to museums, government interference, general public taste, fakes, curating a retrospective exhibit, and artists' estates. Though she keeps the attention on the artists, Kuh comes through as a very interesting person, one who chose to go against the conventional choices for women of her time. Avis Berman, who edited and completed the book posthumously, has kept Kuh's extraordinary voice intact without a quiver.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In the 1930s interest in modern art was low - but Katharine Kuh opened a gallery in Chicago anyway, exhibiting many then-obscure artists form Paul Klee to Ansel Adams and Marc Chagall. Her passion for modern art fostered their careers and led to a world-wide revitalization of interest, documented here in a blend of modern art history and autobiography. Her friend Avis Berman, a art historian, edited her writings for this book after Kuh's death: it provides a moving memoir of a life in the art world at a time when her artists' visionary works weren't widely recognized.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By sylvia caplow on November 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. It consists of short vignettes about the author's interaction with artists she met in the course of her career as a curator at the Chicago Institute of Art and later as a gallery owner. Her insight and her ability to describe the artists are wonderful. The story about Edward Hopper was just great!!
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By Sandra Percy on March 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kuh's memories revealed her deeply personal ties to some of America's most outstanding 20th Century artists & provided richly refreshing vignettes. Her charm, wit, and breathe of knowledge of the art world in her era made the book delightful reading.
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