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Our History: Featured Alumni: Kootz, Samuel M., 1921

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, congressmen, ambassadors, educators, businessmen and women, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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Samuel M. Kootz

Author, gallery owner, and promoter of modernist art

Samuel M. Kootz was born in 1898 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Kootz earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Virginia in 1921. He practiced law briefly before moving to New York City to work as an account executive in advertising, handling motion pictures clients. In 1930 he published Modern American Painters, an early text on contemporary American artists. In 1934, Kootz began working with the silk industry, where he commissioned Stuart Davis and Arthur Dove to design scarves.

Kootz was a leader in elevating American modernist taste and promoting the important artists of the New York School. 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 book on American art to treat positively the emerging Abstract Expressionist artists. 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 supported emerging artists such as Robert Motherwell and William Baziotes. In 1947, Kootz Gallery held the first post-World War II exhibition of Picasso's work in the United States, and he developed a close working relationship with Picasso, even closing his gallery at one point to sell Picasso's work exclusively by appointment. However, Kootz reopened his gallery, now on Madison Avenue, holding an exhibition of Abstract Expressionist painters called, "the Intrasubjectives," the term he coined for the movement in 1949. In 1950, he commissioned two important figures in the New York art world, the critic Clement Greenberg and the Columbia art historian Meyer Schapiro, to launch what was to become a series of modernist exhibitions, titled "Talent." These shows gave first-time exposure to Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis. Kootz also wrote two detective novels and one play during his career. He closed the gallery in 1966 and died in New York City in 1982.

Oral History Interviews, Archives of American Art

Kootz Gallery Records, Archives of American Art

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