Although the name of Lincoln Kirstein (1907–1996) today appears most often in the context of dance—specifically ballet—in America, he was also actively involved in theater, writing, and collecting art. Over a span of some forty years, he donated more than a thousand works from his personal collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These works—found in rare book and print shops around the world—all display some spark of ingenuity, aesthetic grandeur, or legerdemain that attracted his eye.
This exhibition celebrates the centennial of Kirstein's birth and recognizes his great generosity to the Metropolitan Museum. It includes drawings by Paul Cadmus, more than a dozen Japanese woodcuts, and about a dozen small sculptures and drawings by Elie Nadelman. Of particular interest is the Augustus Saint-Gaudens cast of Diana that greeted visitors to Kirstein's townhouse near Gramercy Park.
Born into a prosperous Boston family, Kirstein found his calling in the theaters of America and Europe, and at Harvard University, where, in the late 1920s, he started the innovative literary magazine Hound & Horn and established a gallery for avant-garde pictures and sculpture that laid the groundwork for the Museum of Modern Art. He is probably best known for bringing to America in 1933 the Russian choreographer George Balanchine, with whom he founded and directed the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet.
The installation at the Metropolitan is part of a citywide celebration of the Kirstein centennial. Other participating organizations include the Harvard Theatre Collection, New York City Ballet, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, School of American Ballet, Wadsworth Atheneum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.