James Thrall Soby


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American art historian, administrator, and collector, born in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1926, having abandoned his studies at Williams College, Williamstown, he visited Paris, where he made his first purchases of contemporary art. From 1928 to 1938 he worked at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, and during this period built up a collection that included works by such illustrious figures as Ernst, Matisse, Miró, and Picasso. In 1943 he began a long association with the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was briefly director of painting and sculpture, 1943–4, and was a trustee until his death, organizing a number of exhibitions on major artists (including Rouault in 1947, Modigliani in 1951, Balthus in 1956), as well as group shows (notably ‘Twentieth-Century Italian Art’, 1949, on which he collaborated with Alfred H. Barr). He also wrote a number of books unconnected with exhibitions, including After Picasso (1935) on the French Neo-Romantics, and two on Ben Shahn (1957 and 1963), and he contributed a monthly column on art to The Saturday Review of Literature in the 1940s and 1950s. His art collection, together with most of his archive material, was bequeathed to the Museum of Modern Art.

Subjects: Art.

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