Taken of the Museum’s inaugural exhibition Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, van Gogh (MoMA Exh. #1, November 7-December 7, 1929), these photographs document the installation at the Museum’s first location, the twelfth floor of the Heckscher Building, 730 Fifth Avenue at the corner of 57th Street. The exhibition, consisting entirely of loans, attracted 47,293 visitors. From Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, van Gogh, the Museum was to eventually receive for its permanent collection, either by gift or bequest, eight masterpieces including Cézanne’s Still Life with Apples (1895-98), Gauguin’s Portrait of Meyer de Haan (1889) and van Gogh’s Hospital Corridor at Saint-Rémy (1889).
The photographs, and the envelope in which they were placed, belonged to Jsreal Ben (J. B.) Neumann, an eminent art dealer, critic, author, publisher, and good friend of founding Director of The Museum of Modern Art, Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Neumann moved to New York City from Germany in 1923, where a year later he opened a gallery and meeting spot which would eventually be called the New Art Circle. There he championed progressive living artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, and Georges Rouault, among others. He and Barr first became acquainted in 1924. Neumann lent work from his gallery to an exhibition Barr organized that year at Vassar College, where he was briefly an instructor in the history of art. The note scrawled on the envelope in Neumann’s hand reads, “first show of the Museum of Modern Art which I helped to hang.” Barr would eventually purchase works of art from Neumann’s gallery for The Museum of Modern Art’s collection.