PRINT February 1979

The Big Show: The First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, Part I

The modern artist must understand group force; he cannot advance without it in a democracy.
—Jane Heap (in a review of the Independents, The Little Review, Winter 1922)

THE FIRST ANNUAL EXHIBITION of the Society of Independent Artists opened at the Grand Central Palace in New York City on the evening of April 10, 1917. Thousands gathered to celebrate what was to be the largest art exhibition ever held in New York—almost twice the size of the famous Armory Show four years earlier. This First Independents’ Exhibition, or “the Big Show” as Rockwell Kent later dubbed it,1 contained some 2,500 works of painting and sculpture, by 1,200 artists, from 38 states.2

Sheer bulk was undoubtedly the exhibition’s most celebrated feature, and the unusual quantity and diversity of the work shown was a result of the liberal principles of the society, whose goal it was to establish an organization dedicated to total freedom in the arts. Anyone who paid an initiation fee of one dollar and an annual dues of five dollars automatically became a member of the Society and was allowed to show two works in the annual exhibition. The governing principle of the exhibition, emphatically stated in the numerous press releases, was taken directly from the Société des Artistes Indépendents of Paris: “No jury—No prizes.” Quotations from both Ingres and Renoir were evoked in the foreword to the first catalogue to confirm the adoption of such a liberal platform, and it was hoped that the open exhibition would for the first time reveal the state of contemporary American art.3 The society’s commitment to freedom in the arts was overwhelmingly received by the American public, which, upon President Wilson’s declaration of war with Germany a few days before the opening of the exhibition, was officially committed to a parallel struggle for world democracy.

It has been generally assumed by historians of modern American art that this First Independents’ Exhibition was largely ignored, by virtue of America’s coincident entrance in the First World War. A thorough review of the newspapers and magazines of this period reveals, however, that precisely the opposite occurred; columns of print were devoted to reviews of the exhibition, and almost every major art magazine ran articles debating the principles of the society. In fact, numerous journalists and critics even chose to establish a direct connection between the democratic policies of the society and America’s simultaneous struggle for political democracy.

It is only through a detailed examination of these sources that we can fully recognize the importance of this great exhibition, which, more than the celebrated Armory Show, presented a thorough cross-section of the various currents of modern American art in one of the most crucial periods of its development.

The society, officially incorporated in 1917, was founded by a highly diverse group of individuals, who varied from liberal academic to ultra-modernist. They held in common a defiance of the elitism of the National Academy, which, with its annual juried exhibition, determined artistic success by a formula of rigid conformity to accepted tradition. Two artists who assisted in the organization of the Armory Show were given high posts in the newly formed society: William Glackens was elected president, perhaps because he served as chairman for the selection of American art at the Armory Show; Walter Pach, who served unofficially as European liaison for the earlier exhibition, was made treasurer (a position he held for 15 years). Charles Prendergast was elected vice-president, while John Covert served as secretary and Walter Arensberg as managing director. A host of eminent American artists filled the roster of directors: George Bellows, Katherine Dreier, Rockwell Kent, John Marin, Man Ray, Morton Schamberg, Joseph Stella, etc. And, although Albert Gleizes, Jean Crotti and Henri-Pierre Roché helped to establish the society, Marcel Duchamp was the only European listed in the catalogue among the exhibition’s directors.

Exactly whose thought it was to form an independent society at the time is difficult to say, although one instinctively suspects Duchamp, whose aim, even before his arrival in America in 1915, had been to challenge all the accepted notions of the artistic process. The idea of a jury-free exhibition, however, was not entirely new to this country, as precedents had been established as recently as the independent exhibitions of 1907 and 1910, organized by Robert Henri in defiance of the rigid and inbred selective processes of the National Academy.4 But the new Independents’ Exhibition was different: unlike the earlier showings, it was conceived from the very beginning on a grand scale, with total relinquishment of any selection committees—literally anyone who paid his dues could exhibit, and it seems that practically everyone did.

During the winter of 1916–17, the organizers met informally at the home of the collector Walter Arensberg, who, along with his circle of avant-garde friends, formed the dominant element among the society’s founders.5 Duchamp and Covert, undoubtedly with the help of Dreier, Arensberg and other financially prominent members of the society, assembled the 12 backers, who together guaranteed $10,000 to cover expenses incurred by the first exhibition.6 The list of guarantors was headed by Arensberg and Dreier, and also contained the names of other prominent patrons of the arts, such as Archer M. Huntington, Mrs. Philip M. Lydig, Eugene Meyer Jr., Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney.

On opening night Mrs. Whitney headed the reception committee to greet the throng of well-wishers, who were, reportedly, as diverse in appearance as the paintings hanging on the walls. Nearly everyone associated with the New York art scene made an appearance—from the crudely clad, long-haired artists of lower Washington Square to the starch-fronted academicians accompanied by their consorts in formal evening dress and opera gowns. Along with a full brass band conducted by David Mannes, the invited guests patiently awaited the arrival of Mayor John Mitchell, who was scheduled to open the exhibition. Though the mayor never showed up, it did not put a damper on the enlivened crowd, which spent the evening strolling up and down the endless avenues formed by large temporary partitions set up between the classical columns of the palace, upon which hung a myriad of confusing submissions. It was even reported that a fleet of wheelchairs was hired to save fatigue and, as one reporter put it, in order “to get by the terrible works quickly.”

To insure against personal prejudices within the hanging committee, the 2,500 or so works were positioned according to the artist’s last name, in strict alphabetical order. This freedom from the unavoidable implications that would result from any grouping system was Duchamp’s idea.7 He was also responsible for the suggestion that the first submission hung be determined by the chance drawing of letters from a hat—thus the first of the entries began at the northeast corner of the main gallery with the letter “R.”

In the first alcove, visitors to the exhibition encountered a work which was widely discussed by reviewers, the majority of which found the painting worthy only of disgust. Dorothy Rice’s Claire Twins, now lost, was an enormous canvas—about 5 by 6 feet—depicting two somewhat overweight middle-aged women, which one critic called “portraits of circus avoirdupois freaks.” The critic Henry McBride, one of the society’s most outspoken supporters and, through his weekly art column in the New York Sun, the exhibition’s most assiduous chronicler, recorded an amusing conversation that took place in front of this painting on opening night:

But Glackens laughed again when he saw the “Claire Twins” by Miss Dorothy Rice. Everybody laughs when they see those twins. Even the Baron de Meyer laughed. Marius de Zayas of the Modern Gallery seemed positively glued to the floor in front of them.

“You’ll be having that down in your gallery next,” I bantered him.

“I should be only too proud,” he returned. “I can’t believe a woman did that. It’s strong.”

It is not surprising in a period when the independent American woman was first given serious recognition that the most often talked about and daring works in the exhibition were by women artists. Charles Buchanan of the Bookman noted that “nine times out of ten, when my attention was arrested by a picture, that picture was painted by a woman.” In fact, the most arresting work in the exhibition, if by virtue of sheer bulk alone, was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s Titanic Memorial. Carved from a single block of granite, this figure of a partly clad male youth stands 18 feet high, with outstretched arms spanning over 15 feet; its ultimate destination was Washington, D.C., where it now stands as a gift to the nation in the name of American women.8

If most reviewers applauded the classic monumentality of Mrs. Whitney’s sculpture, they found the humor and ephemeral nature of Beatrice Wood’s Un peu d’eau dans du savon downright offensive.9 Wood, a young actress friend of Roché and Duchamp, and a close associate of other members of the Arensberg group, submitted a painted nude torso of a woman emerging from her bath, upon which was strategically affixed an actual piece of bath soap. On opening night crowds gathered before the assemblage. One fortunate reporter by the name of Theodora Bean even had the opportunity to interview the artist. To the cryptic question “Are you living for soul yearns?,” Wood responded in a manner revealing both the serious intent and the humorous content of her entry: “The emotions of a jeune fille can be acquired at home. I am out for red blood. I want to return to the ecstasy and wild imaginings of childhood. To laugh is very serious. Of course, to be able not to laugh is more serious still.” She went on to describe the difficulties she experienced in assisting the hanging committee to arrange the great quantity of works alphabetically. Here is her discussion of her own entry, as fanciful as something extracted from a dream sequence:

I ran in and on and over walls. Once I jumped in a picture and sat still, looking like a Chinese god while men passed. “I am worth $800,” I thought, and I laughed. And I was a piece of soap, with nails in my back, stuck on a canvas. A big flood came and swamped all the first floor, and the canvases began whirling on the ground: blue arms and green legs floated past, and I said to myself, “Those are the art critics.”

Not so disjointed, however, were the opinions of art critics, who resounded unanimously in their distaste for this work. Most dismissed it as simply “a bad joke,” but Harvey M. Watts of the Philadelphia Public Ledger went further, calling it “the keynote of childish whim, the unbridled extravagance, the undisciplined impudence and immature ignorance and even derangement that have been allowed free fling. . . .” Wood later recalled that when it was discovered such an erotically suggestive piece was the creation of a woman, gentlemen left their calling cards attached to the picture’s frame.10 Although critics apparently found the fig-leaf position of the “Vignola” soap bar morally offensive, they were equally concerned with the threat implied to the almost sacred tradition of the painted female nude. Hard-core academicians still found any variation from Ingresque representation unacceptable; the nude human form was the perfection of natural beauty and to tamper with it in any way was considered a defiant, almost blasphemous act.11

Nudes of every imagined position and proportion filled the alcoves and avenues of the exhibition space. A staff reporter for the New York American observed that among the many “isms” represented in the exhibition, “Nudism seem[ed] to claim the largest number of votaries.” Not all of these nudes pleased the academicians. George E. Lothrop’s Nude, for example, was admired for its technical proficiency but received considerable ridicule for having violated the traditional rules of painterly illusionism; Lothrop apparently attached real jewelry to the fingers and hair of the model represented.

Far less sculpture was exhibited than painting, and most of what was shown was figurative and rather conservative. Notable exceptions were Raymond Duchamp Villon’s Torso, Brancusi’s Portrait of Princess Bonaparte and Adelheid Roosevelt’s Tennis Player. The latter work was widely reproduced in reviews of this exhibition and represents one of the most advanced sculptural works produced in America at this time.12 Mrs. Roosevelt, who was related by marriage to ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, was immediately labeled a “futurist,” a term that reviewers often employed to describe whatever modern work they didn’t understand. Harvey M. Watts, who really didn’t like anything in the show, save Mrs. Whitney’s Titanic Memorial, made a characteristically ignorant attempt to trace the inspiration for the two works submitted by Mrs. Roosevelt: “Mrs. A. Roosevelt goes to the Negroes of the Niger basin for her inspiration for her bronze statuette, ‘The Tennis Player,’ while she goes freely over to the mumbo-jumbo fetish idea of art in her slightly carved piece of wood stained brown, entitled ‘Munga,’ which belongs to ‘the sticks and stones and worse than senseless things’ of the African taboo.” Watts also attacked the primitive aspect of Brancusi’s entries: “. . . Brancusi, one of the sensations of years ago, who develops all human beings from the egg form, has a ‘baby crying’ and a ‘Portrait of Princess Bonaparte,’ which present forms usually consigned to the alcohol jars in biological museums, while forcing the primitive to its extremes of savage expression.”13

Many reviewers complained that, despite their titles, nothing human could be deciphered in Brancusi’s strange forms. One reviewer said that the Princess Bonaparte “. . . looked] like a retort filled with quicksilver,” while H. de B. Nelson may have been the first critic officially to recognize an erotic content in Brancusi’s work, complaining accordingly: “We are not of the class that favors drapery for the legs of the piano stool, but phallic symbolism under the guise of portraiture should not be permitted in any public exhibition hall, jury or no jury . . . America likes and demands clean art.”

Since the time of the Armory Show, most objects open to double readings were met with skepticism by the American critic. The reviewer for The Outlook calls works of this type “puzzle pictures,” and suggests that the only way one could truly solve their mysteries would be to experience a personal tour through the exhibition with the artists themselves. He then provides us with a rare and valuable explanation of John Covert’s Temptation of Saint Anthony, informed by precisely such a personal tour:

As explained by the artist . . . at the upper left-hand corner is the motive of the Cross. Near it is the hand of the saint thrusting from him temptation in the guise of a candle which is held by a woman. Her head is seen just to the right of the Cross, and her form is suggested by the sweeping lines that run down through the picture and out of it at the bottom in knee-like angles. The monk’s cowl is to the right, just above the vast shadowy arm.14

Unfortunately, not every interview with the artist proved so fruitful. The same reviewer reported that Edith Clifford Williams refused to provide such an enlightening explanation of her painting Two Rhythms, preferring that her art “make whatever impression it might on the beholder.” It was further mentioned, however, that Williams had objected to the interpretation that her painting represented a flea climbing a hair (the most popular analysis among critics), stating simply “. . . it was plain enough that ‘it conveyed the idea of rhythm.’”

The organizers of the exhibition had hoped that the jury-free show would reveal at least one artist-genius among the thousands of works on display. The hopes that a discovery would be made echoed in the art columns long before the opening. As if not to disappoint such aspirations, Marcel Duchamp, employing a strategy similar to that with which he selected his numerous readymades, announced on opening night that Dorothy Rice’s Claire Twins and Louis Eilshemius’ Supplication were the two great paintings that the exhibition had brought forth. For some reason, several critics were in agreement with Duchamp’s selection of the Claire Twins, but most regarded his choice of Eilshemius a mistake. Eilshemius, who had long bombarded New York art critics, in vain, with letters complaining of his neglected genius, was in fact to receive considerable recognition as a result of Duchamp’s discovery. Thanks to the scandalous reception of the Nude Descending a Staircase in the Armory Show, Duchamp’s name was associated with the most advanced level of modern taste, and a nod of approval from him was taken seriously, despite the numerous reservations that critics immediately expressed. McBride even suggested that Duchamp may have been affected in his decision by the exorbitant price tags on the two paintings: Claire Twins was marked at $5,000 and Supplication at $6,000.

Long before the opening of the exhibition, reporters were naturally curious to know what Duchamp had planned to exhibit. Apparently to mislead intentionally, the rumor was circulated that he was to submit a painting entitled Tulip Hysteria Coordinating, a Cubist canvas said to have been inspired by a yellow tulip bed he had seen at an earlier flower show at the Grand Central Palace.15

The now infamous object that Duchamp actually submitted, however, was to challenge the very principles of the society he helped to found. In the name of a so-called Philadelphia artist by the name “R. Mutt,”16 Duchamp sent to the exhibition a glistening white porcelain urinal, under the simple but suggestive title Fountain. Objections, on both esthetic and moral grounds, were immediately voiced, and an emergency meeting of the society’s directors was called to decide whether R. Mutt’s contribution was to be accepted. Heated arguments were heard from opposing viewpoints before the issue was finally put to a vote. Throwing open to question the jury-free principles of the exhibition, Rockwell Kent proclaimed: “Do you mean that if a man chose to exhibit horse manure we would have to accept it?”17 We know that Arensberg, who was later to purchase the item in question, responded affirmatively. But the conservative majority refused to understand such logic. Glackens, the society’s president, declared that matters of this sort were the product of “suppressed adolescence”; he was so adamantly opposed to this entry that he may have been singly responsible for its disappearance and possibly even its subsequent destruction.18 Dreier, who carried both an affection for Duchamp and a great respect for his intelligence, never really grasped the essence of his nihilistic spirit, and therefore also submitted her negative vote on this issue.19 The “nays” had it, and the Fountain was never seen by the public. The day after the opening, the society’s board of directors released the following statement to the press: “The Fountain,” said the majority, “may be a very useful object in its place, but its place is not an art exhibition and it is, by no definition, a work of art.”

In protest, Duchamp and Arensberg immediately resigned from the society. In an apologetic letter to Duchamp, Dreier pleaded that he reconsider his resignation, fearing that his break from the society would endanger its future growth. She further stressed that it was his presence and not “the piece of plumbing” that was of such importance to the independent spirit of the organization.20

Despite the fact that Duchamp’s entry failed to make its appearance among the thousands of alphabetically arranged works, his omnipotent presence, if even in a somewhat ghostly form, was physically manifest in the “C” section in his portrait in wire and drawn lead, which was the contribution of his French colleague Jean Crotti.21

Duchamp, who initially made no public effort to reveal his identity as the artist of the Fountain, responded by organizing the second issue of The Blind Man around the topic of R. Mutt’s rejected submission. Henri-Pierre Roché and Beatrice Wood both helped with the production and editorial details of the magazine. Even Alfred Stieglitz contributed by taking a photograph of the urinal on its back.22 There was a feature editorial by Louise Norton entitled “Buddha of the Bathroom.” It was argued that the Fountain was no more immoral than a bathtub, and could claim originality by virtue of the artist’s choice, and placement of that object in a new context.23

In celebration of its publication, this issue of The Blind Man also announced a costume ball to be held on Friday evening, May 25th, “at Prehistoric, ultra-Bohemian Webster Hall.” The invited guests were informed that “Romantic Rags are requested,” warning, “There is a difference between a tuxedo and a Turk and guests not in costume must sit in bought-and-paid-for boxes.” Beatrice Wood was given the task of designing the poster, and she came up with a stick figure arrogantly thumbing its nose at the world. Roché tells of an amusing incident at the ball, where Duchamp, having consumed too many cocktails, scared everyone half to death by perching himself at the end of a very high flagpole suspended over the dance floor.24 In a highly personal album composed for Roché in June of 1917, Wood also provides us with a delicate sketch illustrating a rare glimpse of the evening’s riotous festivities.

Fancy costume balls were very much in fashion in this period, and another had been staged a month earlier on the mezzanine floor of the Grand Central Palace in honor of the Independents’ Exhibition. The attendants here were said to have worn costumes representing the various modern schools of art—from post-Impressionism through Cubism. Unusual sights were certainly seen, as it was reported that John Covert appeared in the costume of a hard-boiled egg, Selma Cudlipp as an Egyptian lady, and Clara Tice in “her familiar steam radiator costume.”

Arthur Cravan, the amateur boxer and editor of the famed Parisian journal Maintenant, was said to have shown up wearing only a bedspread, with his head wrapped in a towel. Guests became apprehensive when he removed the bedspread and disrobed to the waist, for he had created quite a similar sensation a few days earlier at the Palace where he had been invited to lecture on “The Independent Artists in France and America.” Retold later in many conflicting versions, the incident is accurately recorded by a journalist of the New York Sun, who attended the affair and published its account in the next day’s paper. Cravan arrived in the company of some friends who escorted him to the speaker’s table. The crowd of several hundred men and women craned their necks to get a good look at the handsome six-foot frame of this man “who combined poetry and pugilism without even mussing his hair.” Apparently drunk, Cravan faced the crowd and silently swayed back and forth until he fell, “striking the hard surface of the speaker’s table with an independence of expression plainly heard on Lexington Avenue.” Back on his feet again, he began disrobing, first removing his coat, vest, then collar, and finally suspenders. His attention was then drawn to a painting in the exhibition hall of a beautiful nude Eve, and, fearing his assured inspiration from this source, the crowd fled the lecture hall and house detectives were quickly summoned to the scene. A group of men immediately encircled the star lecturer and he threatened to employ his boxing talents when detectives revealed their shiny metal handcuffs. Cravan and friends were then escorted to the 46th Street entrance of the Palace, and quickly whisked away in an automobile. Picabia’s wife, Gabrielle Buffet, tells us he was taken to the home of Walter Arensberg, where he quietly recovered from his drunken stupor.26

This was just one of the many events staged by the Independents, who sought “a common ground for the free expression of all the arts.” Poets were invited to read, while on other evenings, film presentations, concerts and various other lectures were staged. Robert Coady, gallery owner and editor of the Soil, lectured on recent American film; the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Elmer Ernest Southard delivered a lecture entitled “Are Cubists Insane?”; one evening inmates from Sing Sing gave a talk in the Palace’s Tea Garden on their experiences as prisoners.

Although the exhibition was seen as a success in the eyes of most participating artists—over 20,000 people attended during the four weeks it was open—it was a financial failure. The income earned from a 10 percent commission on works sold, combined with gate receipts, was not enough to cover the operational expenses incurred, forcing the society’s treasurer, Walter Pach, to call upon the individual guarantors to make up the over $8,000 deficit.27 In spite of the fact that exhibitors were urged to set low prices on their works in order to encourage sales, prominent collectors of the time, curiously, took little advantage of the situation. Only John Quinn, who provided legal assistance for the Independents—as he had done earlier for the organizers of the Armory Show—made several significant purchases. He bought both works exhibited by Charles Sheeler, the two paintings by Delaunay and several minor works by J. Garvey.28 Katherine Dreier purchased Roosevelt’s Munga and a river scene by Walter Fitch, and, although she did not purchase them directly from the exhibition, she eventually secured four major paintings by Stella, Covert, Bruce and Frost that were in the show.” We also have no conclusive evidence that Walter Arensberg made purchases from this exhibition, although he too would eventually secure five works exhibited here for the first time. In all, only 45 works were sold.

On the whole, the exhibition was enthusiastically received by artists of every persuasion, including even some academics who had already been accepted under the protective wing of the National Academy. Most critics, on the other hand, felt the general public was ill-equipped to separate wheat from chaff, and few granted their total approval when examining the ruling principles of the society. (The critics’ response to the exhibition will be examined in a subsequent essay.)

For Beatrice Wood, who inspired this article and whose continued dedication to the arts began with this exhibition over fifty years ago.

Francis Naumann is preparing his doctoral dissertation “Wafter Conrad Arensberg and New York Dada, 1915–1921” at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

I would like to thank Professor Robert Pincus-Witten for his guidance and encouragement in this project, as well as Professor Robert Herbert and Eleanor Apter of the Société Anonyme Collection, Yale University, and Anne d’Harnoncourt, Department of Twentieth Century Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, for access to archival material and photographs relating to this exhibition.



1. Rockwell Kent, “The Big Show,” It’s Me O Lord: The Autobiography of Rockwell Kent, New York, 1955, pp. 3–318.

2. The number of works exhibited is difficult to establish with precision, as estimates vary from review to review. The catalogue (for full citation see the following note) lists 1,129 artists and only 2,103 works, although considerably more works were probably exhibited but submitted too late for inclusion in the catalogue.

3. Catalogue of the First Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, New York, 1917, unpaginated. I would like to thank Mr. Henry Reed for allowing me to consult his copy of this catalogue.

4. On the earlier independent exhibitions of Robert Henri, see William Innes Homer, “Henri and the Independent Movement,” Robert Henri and His Circle, Ithaca, 1969, pp. 126–156 and Milton W. Brown, American Painting from the Armory Show to the Depression, Princeton, 1972, pp. 37–38.

5. Official announcement of the exhibition was not made until mid-January of 1917, though it is most likely that initial plans for such a large-scale undertaking took place months earlier. On January 31, 1917, Walter Pach wrote to McBride: “I am sure you will be glad to hear that our membership, after less than two weeks that the notices are out, has gone past the six hundred mark—in fact it is well on toward seven hundred” (Archives of American Art, McBride Papers, microfilm roll 11, frame 597). John Coved the Society’s treasurer, sent notification to the directors of a meeting to be held at the studio of Walter Arensberg, 33 West 67th Street, on the afternoon of March 13, 1917 (letter from Covert to Dreier on the stationery of the Society of Independent Artists, dated March 9, 1917, Société Anonyme Collection, Yale University: hereafter abbreviated to Soc. Anon. Coll.).

6. Covert later reported that it was he and Duchamp who rounded up the guarantors in advance (see Rudi Blesh, Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900–1956, New York, 1956, p. 72). The figures reported by Covert, however, are slightly inaccurate. A statement by Katherine Dreier delivered at a meeting of the Society (Soc. Anon. Coll.) states that guarantors furnished $10,000; according to a letter from Walter Pach to Dreier (dated May 2, 1917, Soc. Anon. Con.), $50 was not refunded, as Covert claims. but rather $500 was requested from each guarantor, to cover expenses incurred by the exhibition.

7. See Blesh, Modern Art USA, p. 71.

8. See James M. Goode, The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, Washington, D.C., 1974, p. 391; the date of 1931 given in this guide refers to the date when the sculpture was installed in Washington’s Channel Park. Preliminary studies for the Titanic Memorial date from 1915 (see the small bronze reproduced in Goode) and the terminal date for the completion of the large granite version would be early in 1917, as it was shown in its final form in this exhibition (the sculpture was reproduced in the reviews of Eddy and Coady).

9. The poor French of the title is attributed to a slip of the tongue which Duchamp wished preserved (see Wood’s account of this exhibition, “I Shock Myself Excerpts from the Autobiography of Beatrice Wood,” Arts Magazine, May 1977, and Francis Naumann, Beatrice Wood and Friends: From Dada to Deco, exhibition catalogue, Rosa Esman Gallery, New York, 1978).

10. Wood, “I Shock Myself,” pp. 136–137.

11. So it was expressed on at least one occasion in an unsigned editorial entitled “Frightfulness in Art,” The American Magazine of Art, April 1917, p. 244. Also see Brown, American Painting, p. 55.

12. See the entry “Adelheid Roosevelt (1878–1962),” by Douglas Hyland, in Avant-Garde Painting & Sculpture in America 1910–25, exhibition catalogue, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, 1975, p. 122.

13. The only entry by Brancusi listed in the catalogue is the Portrait of Princess Bonaparte, but the so-called Baby Crying is recorded as having been in this exhibition by other reviewers as well. The latter work is illustrated in Henry McBride’s article on the exhibition (The Sun, April 8, 1917) and can be identified as the same work entitled The New-Born (1915), now in the Arensberg Collection (see The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1954, vol. I, entry no. 9). From its first showing in the Independents, this work has an interesting and unusual history. It was first purchased by Walter Arensberg for his collection, though probably not from this exhibition, as his name does not appear among the list of purchasers in the surviving ledger book (see discussion of sales following and n. 30, below). Arensberg subsequently sold the work, via the Modern Gallery, to John Quinn in 1922 (see Zilczer catalogue cited in n. 29). After Quinn’s death, it was purchased at auction by Marcel Duchamp and, in 1933, sold back to Walter Arensberg, with whom it remained until its bequest to the Philadelphia Museum in 1953. In his novel Victor, Henri-Pierre Roché describes another sculpture by Brancusi shown in this exhibition: “Une sculpture pour aveugles de Brancusi fut exposée, invisible dans un sac, avec deux manches, pour la palper en y passant les mains” (Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, ed. by Jean Clair, Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1977, Vol. IV p. 33). It should be noted that Roché freely expanded and interchanged the chronology of events in his novel, and here he probably refers to Brancusi’s Sculpture for the Blind (Arensberg Collection, cat no. 18), which he most likely had seen exhibited in this manner in another exhibition.

14. Covert’s own explanation of this painting contributes greatly to the “careful analysis” proposed by Michael Klein (“The Art of John Covert,” unpublished dissertation, Columbia University, 1971, pp. 59–61). Regarding the painting’s subject matter, it is also important to note that in his review of the Independents, Gustav Kobbe observes that The Temptation of St. Anthony was shown for the first time “in one of the rooms attached to the Church of the Ascension . . .,” adding. “It will be interesting to see what tempts a cubist.”

15. No entry by Duchamp is listed in the catalogue. In her strange review of this exhibition (to be discussed in a subsequent article), Jane Dixon supplies us with an interesting description of a painting with this title, without, however, identifying the name of the artist. “Those were the most hysterical tulips I ever saw in my life. So hysterical were they that every vestige of resemblance to their former symmetrical selves had been lost and they were merely lurid splotches of color running wild all over the canvas.”

16. Journalists reported that the entry came from Philadelphia, most likely deriving this information from the identification tag submitted with the work (which can be seen attached to the urinal on the lower left in Stieglitz’s photograph). In an interview almost fifty years later, Duchamp explained that the pseudonym derived from a sanitary equipment manufacturer by the name of “Mott Works” (in fact, the specific reference is probably to the J. L. Mott Iron Works Company, then located at 118 Fifth Avenue, in Chelsea; see the New York Telephone Directory, February 1917, p. 393). Duchamp also explained that he altered the name to Mutt in reference to the popular daily comic strip characters, “Mutt and Jeff” (interview with Otto Hahn, “Passport No. G255300,” Art and Artists, July 1966, pp. 7–11). In a letter to Glackens (April 26, 1917; Soc. Anon Col.), Katherine Dreier, who apparently by this time had still not known R. Mutt’s true identity, remarked: “I told Covert and Arensberg that in my judgement Richard Mutt caused the greatest confusion by signing a name which is known to the whole newspaper world as a popular joker. ‘Mutt and Jeff’ are too famous not to make people suspect, if their name is used, that the matter may be a joke.”

17. Conversation reported in Wood, “I Shock Myself,” p. 136.

18. Glackens expressed his feelings regarding Duchamp’s submission in a letter to Katherine Dreier (dated May 1, 1917; Soc. Anon. Coll.): “I am afraid I do not appreciate Mr. Duchamp’s originality. To me, as an artist[,] psychologist and man, he is very much attenuated. At the same time I am always ready to change my opinion when convinced that I am wrong.”

Duchamp told Rudi Blesh that Arensberg purchased the urinal at the exhibition and brought it directly home (Modern Art USA, p. 79), while later, in his interview with Pierre Cabanne, he said “The ‘Fountain’ was simply placed behind a partition and, for the duration of the exhibition, I didn’t know where it was . . . After the exhibition, we found the ‘Fountain’ again, behind a partition, and I retrieved it!” He went on in the same interview to say that Arensberg then purchased it and later lost it (Dialogues With Marcel Duchamp, trans by Ron Tadgett, New York, 1971, p. 55). In a letter to Duchamp of April 13, 1917, however, Dreier refers to the work as having been “surreptitiously stolen,” and in her letter to Glackens of April 26, 1917, she congratulates him (Glackens) by commenting “ . . . with one stroke you cleared the atmosphere and forced Richard Mutt to show whether he was sincere or did it out of a spirit of bravado” (both letters in the Soc. Anon. Coll.).

It is difficult to establish exactly what Glackens’ “one stroke” consisted of, but if we can loosely interpolate the account supplied by Charles Prendergast, the solution is perhaps fairly evident. According to Prendergast, “a chamber pot, tastefully decorated, was also submitted (to the exhibition) by someone,” and, at a meeting of the executive committee, Glackens disposed of the spurious entry by intentionally smashing it (see Ira Glackens, William Glackens and the Ashcan Group, New York, 1957, p. 188). The “chamber pot” and Duchamp’s Fountain were probably one and the same item. It is also unlikely that Arensberg, who was then in the process of assembling as complete a collection of Duchamp’s works as possible, would have lost the treasured item.

The precise details of this event may be revealed in an account of this exhibition by John Sloan, now on deposit in the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware. Unfortunately, access to this document has been denied me by someone who is currently preparing a book on the Society of Independent Artists.

19. Dreier admitted her decision to vote against acceptance of the entry in her letter to Duchamp (dated April 13, 1917; Soc. Anon. Coll.): “When I voted ‘No,’ I voted on the question of originality—I did not see anything pertaining to originality in it.” Dreier’s understanding of Dada, or, better, her lack of understanding, is well explored in an article by Ruth L Bohan, “Katherine Sophie Dreier and New York Dada,” Arts Magazine, May 1977, pp. 97–101.

20. From the letter to Duchamp, cited in previous note.

21. Glackens also found objection with this entry by Ciotti. In his discussion of the Independents (see bibliography), he remarks. “Of course every man has a right to paint just as he pleases, but one cannot get too far away from representation (which the modernists are so afraid of) without reacting into materialism. A man is afraid to paint in the usual forms for fear he will represent an actual object. On the other hand. he attempts to represent the character and quality of a human being with a piece of wire and a few glass eyes. Hunting for new expressions is all very well, but it cannot be very important unless you now and then find one.” This work by Crotti was extensively discussed by New York reviewers when shown a year earlier at the Montross Gallery (see “The Climax of Audacity in the Modern Art Revolution,” Current Opinion, June 1916, p. 431) and a photograph of the sculpture in profile appears in Frederick James Gregg, “The New Sculpture, and Painter-Sculptors,” Vanity Fair, June 1916, p. 87.

22. The photograph must have been taken at Stieglitz’s studio, and the work returned to the Palace before it was lost or destroyed (see n. 19 above), for Stieglitz writes to McBride on April 19, 1917, “I wonder whether you could manage to drop in at 291 Friday some time. I have, at the request of Roché, Covert, Miss Wood, Duchamp & Co., photographed the rejected ‘Fountain.’ You may find the photograph of some use. —It will amuse you to see it. —The ‘Fountain’ is here too” (Archives of American Art, McBride Papers, microfilm roll 12, frame 445).

23. The Blind Man and other ephemeral publications from the Dada and Surrealist periods are discussed and catalogued in Dawn Ades, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, exhibition catalogue, London, 1978. Specifically for the New York publications, see also Dickran Tashjian, Skyscraper Primitives: Dada and the American Avant-Garde, 1910–1925, Middleton, Conn, 1975.

24. H. P. Roché, “Souvenirs of Marcel Duchamp,” in Robert Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1959, pp. 79–87.

25. This album, entitled “Pour-Toi—Adventure de Vierge!” and dated “2 Juin 1917,” is now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum (gift of the artist, 1978).

26. “Arthur Cravan and American Dada” (1938), in The Dada Painters and Poets, ed. by Robert Motherwell, 1951, pp. 13–17.

27. See n. 7, above.

28. The record of Quinn’s purchases is preserved in his ledger books, currently in the collection of Thomas F. Conroy. I am indebted to Judith Zilczer for having allowed me to consult a copy of the page listing Quinn’s purchases from this exhibition. For a complete account of Quinn as a collector see Zilczer, _‘The Noble Buyer:’ John Quinn, Patron of the Avant-Garde, exhibition catalogue, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 1978. In a letter to Walter Pach concerning the Independents’ Exhibition, Quinn uses the opportunity to discuss his deeply elitist position in regard to art and art education (see letter dated Jan 31, 1917). On Quinn, see now Bryce Rhyne, “John Quinn: The New York ‘Stein,’” Artforum, October 1978, pp. 56–59.

29. Dreier’s original purchases from this exhibition are recorded in a ledger book in the Papers of the Society of Independent Artists, on deposit at the Delaware Art Museum. Although I was not given permission to make a firsthand inspection of this book, I am indebted to Dr. Clark S. Marlor for having passed on to me information regarding the expenditures and sales from this First Exhibition.