J. F. Griswold’s “The Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush Hour at the Subway)” obviously was looking to Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending Staircase” (1912) as a model of the cacophony of modern life. The comic first appeared in the New York Evening Sun, March 20, 1913. (General Research Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations via armory.nyhistory.org)

If we are accustomed today to the waterfall of reactions on social media, blogs, television, street art, and dozens of other channels to the latest happenings in contemporary life, in 1913 the response to the Armory Show must have seemed overwhelming in an era where opinions found fewer outlets for amplification.

Lampooned by newspapers and cartoonists, the Armory Show may have since become a symbol of the once awkward marriage of European avant-gardism and American mass sensibilities, but at the time it was also a war over what art was and could be. These comics, from publications as varied as the UK’s satirical Puck magazine to New York’s various dailies, give you a sense of the tension brewing in the culture during that period.

If these comics, which can be found at the New-York Historical Society’s “Armory at 100” website aren’t enough to excite you about the museum’s major Armory show opening October 11, then I don’t know what will.

Abel Faivre, “At an Exhibition of ‘Cubist’ or ‘Futurist’ Pictures,” The Century, April 1913

Clare Briggs (1875–1930), “The Original Cubist,” New York Evening Sun, April 1, 1913

Thomas E. Powers, “Art at the Armory by Powers, Futurist,” New York American, Feburary 22, 1913

“With the Cubists and Futurists,” Puck, March 19, 1913

Alek Sass, “Nobody Who Has Been Drinking is Let in to See This Show.” New York World, February 17, 1913

Winsor McCay, “The Modern Art Show,” New York Herald, 1913.

M. T. “Penny” Ross (1881–1937), “Mamma’s Angel Child has a Cubist Nightmare in the Studio of Monsieur Paul Vincent Cezanne Van Gogen Ganguin,” 1916 (click to enlarge)

Mary Mills Lyall and Earl Harvey Lyall, The Cubies’ ABC (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1913; repr. New York: Readymade Press, 2010). (image Courtesy Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York via armory.nyhistory.org)

Robert W. Chanler (American, 1872–1930), “Parody of the Fauve Painters” (1913), oil on hardboard, 38½ × 45½ (97.8 × 115.6 cm). Woodstock Artists Association and Museum Permanent Collection, gift of Gertrude Jarvis, 1974-20-01)

F. Fox, “Cubisto Picture Composed by Dad, Under the Inspiration of the Incoming Bills for the Ladies’ Spring Purchases,” New York Evening Sun, April 8, 1913. (General Research Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations)

“Art, Past, Present, Future,” Life, April 24, 1913, 83. (New York Society Library)

Frederick Opper (American, 1857–1937), “The ‘New Art’ Fest,” New York American, Feburary 27, 1913, 20. (From the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers)

John T. McCutcheon (American, 1870–1949), “How to Become a Post-Impressionist Paint Slinger,” New York Evening Sun, March 6, 1913, 11. General Research Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

5 replies on “Vintage Comics React to Radical 1913 Armory Show”

  1. I love how so many of the cartoonists recognized themselves in the art and then reacted with winking admiration or hate born of self loathing. Completely fascinating.

  2. ” I am hyperallergic ” to parody…..so much hatred…..Fascinating even 100 years after.

  3. Windsor McCay’s rendition of a Picasso horse and ‘Penny’ Ross’ Cubist Nightmare were rather skillfully done.

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