The Eyes

The Eyes

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Cubies' ABC and the Armory Show of 1913

Much has been written about the importance of the Armory Show of 1913, indisputably regarding this watershed event with changing the course of art in America. A little gem of a children’s book, The Cubies’ ABC, published in 1913, rhymes through the alphabet invoking the images and ideals of the Show’s participating artists. The red, yellow, and blue Cubies take on Matisse, Picasso, and other artists as well as the modern art collector, Gertrude Stein, in quirky and bizarre poetry that hardly seems to be written for a child. About Stein, the Cubies exclaim for the letter G:

G is for Gertrude Stein’s limpid lucidity,
(Eloquent scribe of the Futurist soul.)
Cubies devour each word with avidity:
“Alone words lack sense,” they affirm with placidity,
“But how wise we’ll be when we’ve swallowed the whole!”
G is for Gertrude Stein’s limpid lucidity.

With images by architect Earl Harvey Lyall and verses by his wife, Mary Mills Lyall, the book is dedicated to the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, organizers of the International Exhibition of Modern Art (the Armory Show). The entry for the letter Y expresses the boredom with art before this exhibition:

Y’s for the Yawn overcoming each Cubie
At sight of a painting not done in his style
“If man doesn’t use all the colors, from ruby
To sapphire and emerald and topaz—the booby!—
To look at his canvas is not worth one’s while!”
Y’s for the Yawn overcoming each Cubie.

The jokes and thought-provoking prose leave you smiling with the excitement the art world must have felt putting themselves and their work forward for an unsuspecting public to encounter and interpret. The illustrations in this book are as whimsical and fun as the language. See the complete book on I leave you with this:

I is for the Cubies’ Immense Intuition—
“The only real need of an artist,” they say:
“Without it we all would go straight to perdition!”
Between you and me, I’ve a sneaking suspicion
The Cubies themselves appear well on the way!
I’s for the Cubies’ Immense Intuition.

1 comment:

Susan G said...

That is so cool - I had no idea! I learned something today!