Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Gallatin, Albert E.
Villanova, Pa., 1881–New York, 1952

A. E. Gallatin’s New York–based Gallery of Living Art was the first public collection of modern art in the country. It opened in late 1927, preceding the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s opening by two years. 

A. E. Gallatin was the great-grandson of Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison and a co-founder of New York University. Bolstered by an inheritance from the family banking fortune, A. E. abandoned a law degree for a career in the arts, working first as a critic and curator before becoming a collector and finally a painter. Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s he traveled frequently to Europe where he met dealers and artists from whom he directly acquired artwork. During one of these trips, in the spring/summer of 1927, Gallatin met Pablo Picasso and his dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, in Paris. Over the course of the next decade, Gallatin purchased at least thirteen works from Kahnweiler, including a number of Cubist pieces. 

The Gallery of Living Art opened on December 12, 1927, at 100 Washington Square East with 43 pieces (some of which were loans) representing 13 American and 24 School of Paris painters. Its minimal operations budget meant that Gallatin handled all aspects of the business himself, from writing press releases to hanging pictures. Over the next few years, the gallery’s collection grew considerably to include works such as one of six examples of Picasso’s The Absinthe Glass (1914; Philadelphia Museum of Art; another is in the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection). Gallatin considered Cubism to be the cornerstone of his collection, and in 1931 a leading critic declared that the Gallery of Living Art offered “probably the fullest representation [of Cubism] publicly visible [in the US].” He was a major lender to the seminal exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art (1936) at MoMA. In 1943 New York University closed Gallatin’s gallery, then known as the Museum of Living Art, and later that year he presented his collection, which included 14 examples of Cubist art by Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Picasso, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Contributed by Julia May Boddewyn, January 2015
For more information, see:

A. E. Gallatin Collection: “Museum of Living Art.” Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1954. 

Stavitsky, Gail. “The A. E. Gallatin Collection: An Early Adventure in Modern Art.” Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 89, no. 379/380 (Winter–Spring 1994): 1, 4–47. 

For three scrapbooks about the Gallery of Living Art, including newspaper clippings, press releases, exhibition announcements, new acquisitions, and publications (1927–1943), see: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives. 

For correspondence, legal documents, appointment books, address books, invitations, visiting cards, writings, clippings, accounts, wills, certificates, a genealogy, an extra-illustrated book, articles, minutes, ration books, and other papers of Albert Gallatin and the Gallatin family (1794–1952), see: New York Historical Society, New York.