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Letter from Max Weber to Alfred H. Barr, Jr., 1956
Alfred H. Barr, Jr., founding Director of The Museum of Modern Art, knew and corresponded with many modern artists. This letter is one example of the personal and professional relationships Barr built with artists. In his letter of April 25, 1956, Max Weber thanks Barr, Director of Museum Collections (1947-67), for his telegram sent on the occasion of the artist's seventy-fifth birthday. Weber continues by remembering Barr for his part in the artist's 1930 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, Weber, Klee, Lembruck, Maillol (MoMA Exh. #4, March 12-April 2, 1930), which included ninety-eight of the artist's works. In the first lines of the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, Barr wrote, "It is difficult to write briefly of Max Weber. His spirit shines with a grave simplicity. But his mind is complexly furnished with an intimate knowledge of the art of our day and of past and exotic periods..."
The respect demonstrated by Barr in the preface was mutual; Weber concludes his letter by writing that Barr has made a "valuable contribution to the life and significance of universal Modern Art."
Barr championed many now-famous artists from early in their careers, helping them find a wider American audience. For example, during Barr's time as Director (1929-43), the Museum held the first major Matisse exhibition in the United States, Henri Matisse (MoMA Exh. #13, November 3-December 6, 1931) and the first American Picasso retrospective, in collaboration with The Art Institute of Chicago, Picasso: Forty Years of His Art (MoMA Exh. #91, November 15, 1939-January 7, 1940). In 1944, The Museum of Modern Art was the first museum to purchase a Jackson Pollock painting, The She-Wolf (1943). Barr selected four works of art for the Museum from Jasper Johns's first one-man show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958. His insight and dedication to artists of his time was instrumental in building the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.