Stanford White, Collector

Stanford White may best be known for his murder by Pittsburgh businessman William Thaw, but he was also an antiques collector, and we might also note, an architect. I imagine White himself might like to be best known as an architect, so I’ll note his achievement in the Washington Square Arch, which I mentioned previously in my post about John Sloan.

His firm, McKim, Meade and White was responsible for achivements of perhaps the most-ever lamented loss, Penn Station, the Columbia University Morningside Heights Campus, the Boston Public Library as well as Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Museum, the later two of which I see most every day.

The notion of Stanford White, the antiques collector, came in a book I’m reading called Conquering Gotham. The book refers to him as a “frenetic collector of beautiful things.” So much so that White, having an affiction many collectors of art and antiques share, overspent, and went into debt. More, owning up to his faults, White moved a large number of French antiques to a warehouse where they would be auctioned. If your suspecting this story may also be a tragedy, you’ve got good sense. The warehouse burned and all but the bronzes was lost.

Is there more tragedy? The murder of Stanford White was over a woman (Stanford White was known to have seduced Thaw’s wife, showgirl Evelyn Nesbit.) He was also shot in a building of his own design, Madison Square Garden, above where the figure of Diana, emblem of chastity, by Augustus Saint Gaudens pointed her arrow.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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