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The eventual opening in 1929 of the New York Museum of Modern Art reduced Dreier's hopes of the Société becoming a permanent museum. The Société made an urgent appeal to the Carnegie Corporation for assistance, but was refused and its headquarters in New York closed. From this point on, it continued only through Dreier's personal efforts in organising events, a lecture series, writing and further accumulating the Société's collection. In 1939, as war broke out Dreier began a plan to open 'The Country Museum' (also known as the Haven), at her house in West Redding, Connecticut - this merged the Société's and her own private collection.

She approached Yale University about funding and maintaining the Haven but, because of the high costs of renovating and maintaining it, Yale offered a compromise to take over the Société's collection if it were moved to the Yale Art Gallery. Reluctantly Dreier agreed, and began sending the collection in October 1941 shortly before the US entered another war with Germany.


"In 1942, Dreier was still adamant about her desire to open the Country Museum and to use her private collection as its basis. She continued her attempts to convince Yale to fund her project, but when Yale gave a final negative answer in April, Dreier decided to sell the Haven. In April 1946, she moved to a new home, Laurel Manor, in Milford, Connecticut. She continued to add artwork to the Societe Anonyme collection at Yale, through purchases and through gifts from artists and friends. In 1947, she attempted to reopen membership to the Societe Anonyme and printed a brochure, but Yale blocked distribution of the brochure because of the ambiguous connection between Yale and the membership campaign. In 1948, Dreier and Duchamp decided to limit the activities of the Societe to working on a catalog of the collection and to acquiring artwork." 16


On the thirtieth anniversary of the Société's Anonyme's first exhibition, 30 April 1950, Dreier and Duchamp hosted a dinner at the New Haven Lawn Club, where they formally dissolved the Societe Anonyme. In June, a catalog of the Société's collection at Yale, Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920, was published. Dreier died on 29 March 1952.

It was partly because she dared not move the fragile Large Glass monolith, that she had considered converting her home into a Museum. Troubled by the matter even at the end of her life, she confessed to Duchamp that she might not leave enough money to guarantee its upkeep and safety. After her death Duchamp acted as her executor and entered it into the Arensberg Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which contained most of his works.

Duchamp had helped to amass the collection of the Société Anonyme, and with Dreier gone, he tried to provide for its long-term survival, anxious about the rapid deterioration of works. There was no money for conservation, so Duchamp approached Mary Dreier who contributed $1,500 per year until she died. Eventually, under Duchamp's supervision, the Large Glass would be cemented to the floor of the Philadelphia Museum of Art amidst the Walter and Louise Arensberg Collection where it had all began when they were young.

The Société Anonyme begun in 1920; Albert Gallatin's Gallery of Living Art at New York University did not emerge until 1927, most dominant of all the Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1929; and then the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1930. The Museum of Non-Objective Art - later to be better known as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum - was founded in New York in 1937. The Société Anonyme's art collection eventually became the basis of the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggemheim collections.



1. Ruth L. Bohan, The Société Anonyme' s Brooklyn Exhibition, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor 1982, p.12). Quoted from http://www.brickhaus.com/amoore/magazine/p2contents.html

2. The Armoury show has been recreated at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MUSEUM/Armory/gallerytour.html

3. http://etrc.lib.umn.edu/travbio.htm

4. Duchamp's 'Coffee Grinder' (1911) was originally done as a decoration for his brother's kitchen.

5. http://www.people.virginia.edu/~sls8y/gender.html

6. Ibid.

7. http://www.craftsreport.com/april97/wood.html

8. Charles Sheeler Interview, conducted by Martin Friedman for the Archives of American Art, 1959 http://artarchives.si.edu/oralhist/sheele59.htm

9. Ibid.

10. Marforie Perloff, Avant-Garde Tradition and the Individual talent. http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/perloff/dada.html

11. New Thoughts on an Old Series, John D. Angeline, http://www.brickhaus.com/amoore/magazine/Davis.html

12. Stuart Davis (a leading US modernist) underwent something of a conversion with the Brooklyn show stating that "the exhibition itself was an inspiration to me and has given me a fresh impulse." Fascinated by El Lissitzky's work, Davis was supplied by Dreier (who had kept up a strong appreciation for Russian modernism since 1922 when she visited the Erste Russiche Kunstausstellung in Berlin) with knowledge which would inform his seminal 'Egg Beater' series. She simultaneously supplied Lissitzky with sports magazines which reflected American culture. Such closeness between US and Soviet modernism has since been downplayed because of the Cold War. See Angeline above. The over-emphasis on Parisian Modernism which critics such as Harold Rosenberg note in much American art stems from critics reflecting its predominance and over-emphasis in Peggy Guggenheim's collection.

13. Marcel Duchamp as Conservator, Mark B. Pohlad, http://www.toutfait.com/issues/issue_3/Articles/pohlad/pohlad.html

14. Ibid. I would recommend the Duchamp magazine http://www.toutfait.com this regularly over-turns conventional wisdom on Duchamp.

15. Ibid.

16. The Katherine S. Dreier Papers / Societe Anonyme Archive, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.




chapter 1



August 1962


MAE MOBLEY was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, thatís what I do, along with all the cooking and the cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.


But I ainít never seen a baby yell like Mae Mobley Leefolt. First day I walk in the door, there she be, red-hot and hollering with the colic, fighting that bottle like itís a rotten turnip. Miss Leefolt, she look terrified a her own child. ďWhat am I doing wrong? Why canít I stop it?Ē


It? That was my first hint: something is wrong with this situation.


So I took that pink, screaming baby in my arms. Bounced her on my hip to get the gas moving and it didnít take two minutes fore Baby Girl stopped her crying, got to smiling up at me like she do. But Miss Leefolt, she donít pick up her own baby for the rest a the day. I seen plenty a womens get the baby blues after they done birthing. I reckon I thought thatís what it was.


Hereís something about Miss Leefolt: she not just frowning all the time, she skinny. Her legs is so spindly, she look like she done growed em last week. Twenty-three years old and she lanky as a fourteen-year-old boy. Even her hair is thin, brown, see-through. She try to tease it up, but it only make it look thinner. Her face be the same shape as that red devil on the redhot candy box, pointy chin and all. Fact, her whole body be so full a sharp knobs and corners, itís no wonder she canít soothe that baby. Babies like fat. Like to bury they face up in you armpit and go to sleep. They like big fat legs too. That I know.


By the time she a year old, Mae Mobley following me around everwhere I go. Five oíclock would come round and sheíd be hanging on my Dr. Scholl shoe, dragging over the floor, crying like I werenít never coming back. Miss Leefolt, sheíd narrow up her eyes at me like I done something wrong, unhitch that crying baby off my foot. I reckon thatís the risk you run, letting somebody else raise you chilluns.


Mae Mobley two years old now. She got big brown eyes and honey-color curls. But the bald spot in the back of her hair kind a throw things off. She get the same wrinkle between her eyebrows when she worried, like her mama. They kind a favor except Mae Mobley so fat. She ainít gone be no beauty queen. I think it bother Miss Leefolt, but Mae Mobley my special baby.


I LOST MY OWN BOY, Treelore, right before I started waiting on Miss Leefolt. He was twenty-four years old. The best part of a personís life. It just wasnít enough time living in this world.


He had him a little apartment over on Foley Street. Seeing a real nice girl name Frances and I spec they was gone get married, but he was slow bout things like that. Not cause he looking for something better, just cause he the thinking kind. Wore big glasses and reading all the time. He even start writing his own book, bout being a colored man living and working in Mississippi. Law, that made me proud. But one night he working late at the Scanlon-Taylor mill, lugging two-by-fours to the truck, splinters slicing all the way through the glove. He too small for that kind a work, too skinny, but he needed the job. He was tired. It was raining. He slip off the loading dock, fell down on the drive. Tractor trailer didnít see him and crushed his lungs fore he could move. By the time I found out, he was dead.


That was the day my whole world went black. Air look black, sun look black. I laid up in bed and stared at the black walls a my house. Minny came ever day to make sure I was still breathing, feed me food to keep me living. Took three months fore I even look out the window, see if the world still there. I was surprise to see the world didnít stop just cause my boy did.


Five months after the funeral, I lifted myself up out a bed. I put on my white uniform and put my little gold cross back around my neck and I went to wait on Miss Leefolt cause she just have her baby girl. But it werenít too long before I seen something in me had changed. A bitter seed was planted inside a me. And I just didnít feel so accepting anymore.


ďGET THE HOUSE straightened up and then go on and fix some of that chicken salad now,Ē say Miss Leefolt.


Itís bridge club day. Every fourth Wednesday a the month. A course I already got everthing ready to goómade the chicken salad this morning, ironed the tablecloths yesterday. Miss Leefolt seen me at it too. She ainít but twenty-three years old and she like hearing herself tell me what to do.


She already got the blue dress on I ironed this morning, the one with sixty-five pleats on the waist, so tiny I got to squint through my glasses to iron. I donít hate much in life, but me and that dress is not on good terms.


ďAnd you make sure Mae Mobleyís not coming in on us, now. I tell you, I am so burned up at herótore up my good stationery into five thousand pieces and Iíve got fifteen thank-you notes for the Junior League to do . . .Ē


I arrange the-this and the-that for her lady friends. Set out the good crystal, put the silver service out. Miss Leefolt donít put up no dinky card table like the other ladies do. We set at the dining room table. Put a cloth on top to cover the big L-shaped crack, move that red flower centerpiece to the sideboard to hide where the wood all scratched. Miss Leefolt, she like it fancy when she do a luncheon. Maybe she trying to make up for her house being small. They ainít rich folk, that I know. Rich folk donít try so hard.


Iím used to working for young couples, but I spec this is the smallest house I ever worked in. Itís just the one story. Her and Mister Leefoltís room in the back be a fair size, but Baby Girlís room be tiny. The dining room and the regular living room kind a join up. Only two bathrooms, which is a relief cause I worked in houses where they was five or six. Take a whole day just to clean toilets. Miss Leefolt donít pay but ninety-five cents an hour, less than I been paid in years. But after Treelore died, I took what I could. Landlord wasnít gone wait much longer. And even though itís small, Miss Leefolt done the house up nice as she can. She pretty good with the sewing machine. Anything she canít buy new of, she just get her some blue material and sew it a cover.


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 845

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