Kootz, Samuel M[elvin]

Date born: 1898

Place born: Portsmouth, VA

Date died: 1982

Place died: New York, NY

First author of an American art survey to write sympathetically about Abstract Expressionism; art dealer. Kootz earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Virginia in 1921. He practiced briefly before moving to New York city to work as an account executive in advertising handling motion pictures clients. During that time he published Modern American Painters in 1930, an early text on contemporary American artists. Kootz switch careers in 1934 again, now a silk converter, where he commissioned Stuart Davis and Arthur Dove to design scarves. He selected paintings of Abstract Expressionism for a 1942 show at Macy's department store. In 1943 his New Frontiers in American Painting became the first to positively treat the emerging Abstract Expressionist artists in a book on American art (Ashton). He resigned from his agency in 1944 to become a dealer of modern American art, opening his gallery the following year. As a gallery dealer, he subsidized the emerging artists in 1947, Robert Motherwell and William Baziotes among others, sending the two artists to Florida to paint uninterrupted. The Kootz Gallery held the first post-World War II exhibition of Picasso's work in the United States in 1947. His personal rapport with the artist led him--at Picasso's suggestion--to close his gallery and sell Picasso's work exclusively by appointment. However, Kootz missed greater public interaction. Kootz reopened his gallery, now on Madison Avenue, holding an exhibition of Abstract Expressionist painters--the first gallery to show--called, "the Intrasubjectives," the term he coined for the movement, in 1949. In 1950, Kootz commissioned two important figures in the New York art world, the critic Clement Greenberg (q.v.) and the Columbia art historian Meyer Schapiro (q.v.) to launch what was to become a series of modernist exhibitions, titles "Talent." These shows gave first-time exposure to Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. He closed the gallery in 1966, insisting that it had lost its usefulness as a venue for new art--the field now so full of "merchants." He also wrote two detective novels and one play.

Kootz was a leader in bringing elevating American modernist taste and promoting the important artists of the New York School. His Modern American Painters chided American chauvinism, pointing out that important American painters and found the roots in stiles outside the continent (Ashton).

Home Country: United States

Sources: Ashton, Dore. The New York School. New York: Penguin, 1979, pp. 35, 145; [obituaries:] Glueck, Grace. "Samuel M. Kootz Dead at 83, An Activist for American Art." New York Times August 9, 1982, p. D8; Art in America 71 (August 1983): 27.

Bibliography: Modern American Painters. New York: Brewer & Warren, 1930; New Frontiers in American Painting. New York: Hastings House, 1943; "Peinture moderne et expression sociale." in, Gagnon, Maurice, ed. Fernand Léger; la forme humaine dans l’espace. Montreal: Les Éditions de l’Arbre, 1945.