Alfred Barr Flowing Tree Of Modern Art

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Alfred Barr Flowing Tree Of Modern Art

Alfred Barr was an American art historian and the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. He was born on January 28, 1902, in Detroit, Michigan, and passed away on August 15, 1981, in Salisbury, Connecticut. Barr was captivated by modern art and grounded in classical connoisseurship, which helped him shape the way that generations of artists and art historians studied modern European and American art .

Barr’s most notable contribution to the art world is his creation of the “Flowing Tree of Modern Art” chart, which he drew in 1936. The chart illustrates the historical development, currents, and crosscurrents of modern art . It was a working draft of the first version of the chart that would appear on the dust jacket of the catalogue for Cubism and Abstract Art. Barr reworked the chart a number of times thereafter; he never considered it definitive . The chart is a visual representation of the genealogy of modern art, with the roots of the tree bearing the names of a number of great artists, all French, who can be seen as precursors to modern art, including Poussin, Ingres, and Delacroix . The chart is divided into four main branches: Cubism, Futurism, Abstract Art, and Surrealism. Each branch is further divided into sub-branches, which represent the different movements and styles that emerged within each main branch .

Barr’s formalist approach was an effort to help the viewer see and understand the new art that tended to deviate from traditional naturalism. His formalism would be consequential for subsequent critics, most famously Clement Greenberg, but also drew criticisms from more socially-minded critics. It has only been in recent years that the Museum of Modern Art has come to revisit Barr’s schematic, diversifying and complicating Barr’s original vision .

While Barr was interested in some of the most advanced art of the early-20th century, his more traditional art historical training led him to systematize the new art, just as art historians had always done. He wanted the Museum of Modern Art, one of the first-ever modern art museums, to be a place of scholarship