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A Figure of Influence

A Figure of Influence: Lincoln Kirstein and American Art

Lincoln Kirstein (1907–1996) was an art insider with the imposing personality and ambitious projects to match his sizable six-foot, three-inch frame. Kirstein was involved in the early history of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and co-founded the New York City Ballet.

Though he abandoned his own painting career, Kirstein directed considerable energy toward shaping the lives of artists and the art world. He organized exhibitions, wrote about art, and connected artists with collectors, museums, and private galleries. An avid collector himself, he eventually donated work by the artists he championed to several institutions, including The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

This exhibition features selections from Kirstein’s gifts, including three works recently given conservation treatment. They are shown alongside works by artists who were his friends and collaborators. These artists focused on human subjects—the lives of people and the human figure itself. Kirstein believed that their work expressed universal experiences and therefore possessed enduring appeal.

About Gallery 214 in the American Galleries
The American art collection features more than 600 works on paper. Small exhibitions in this gallery change every six months to showcase the variety of the collection and protect the art from overexposure to damaging light.

Learn more about Lincoln Kirstein’s influence on American Art with our Library Research Guide. Visit the Spencer Art Reference Library in the Bloch Building to browse a display of these titles and for more information.

Image of Lincoln Kirstein Battlefront by Andrew Wyeth

Images: Top of page: Elie Nadelman, American (born Poland, 1882-1946). Female Head, Draped, 1920. Drypoint, 10 1/16 x 5 3/8 inches. Gift of Mr. Lincoln Kirstein, 70-10/5. Elie Nadelman, American (born Poland, 1882-1946). Female Head, 1920. Drypoint, 9 x 6 inches. Gift of Mr. Lincoln Kirstein, 70-10/10. Pavel Tchelitchew, American (born Russia, 1898-1957). Brigitta Hartwig, ca. 1939-1940. Graphite on paper, 17 1/8 x 11 3/4 inches. Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 61-18/15. Bottom of page: Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), Lincoln Kirstein, 1933. Gelatin silver print, 8 3/4 × 6 9/16 inches (22.23 × 16.67 cm). Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.4431. Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), Battleground, 1981. Tempera on panel, 4 feet 1 1/2 inches x 45 5/8 inches (125.73 x 115.89 cm). Gift of the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation in memory of Jerome H. Scott Jr., F81-19.
Sunday: 10 am - 5 PM
Monday: 10 am - 5 PM
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 10 AM - 5 PM
Thursday: 10 AM - 9 PM
Friday: 10 AM - 9 PM
Saturday: 10 AM - 5 PM

Location: Gallery 214