Born in 1882 in Villanova, Pennsylvania into a prominent banking family of Swiss descent, Albert Eugene Gallatin inherited a family fortune upon his father's death in 1902. His great-grandfather Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) had served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison before founding the New-York Historical Society and New York University.
A. E. Gallatin moved to Park Avenue in New York and became one of the most eligible bachelors in Manhattan. He also became a passionate and knowledgeable collector and patron of modernist art after World War I. "His collection brought together paintings by American modernists including Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler, and John Marin, and works by Picasso, Braque, Mondrian, Miró, and Juan Gris, fusing European and American development." (Hollis Taggert Galleries).
Gallatin began painting in 1926, studying with Robert Henri and in Paris, France. His style was strongly influenced by the Cubist work of Picasso, Braque, and Gris; with his artist colleagues George L. K. Morris, Suzy Frelinghuysen, and Charles G. Shaw, he set out to promote American abstraction. Between 1927 and 1936, Gallatin focused on the Gallery of Living Art, which opened on the campus of New York University, later renamed the Museum of Living Art and now home of the Grey Art Gallery. It was the first museum of contemporary art in the United States, predating the Museum of Modern Art by two years and the Whitney Museum of American Art by four years.
"During the museum’s fifteen-year existence, Gallatin regularly added to the collection, amplifying his interest in artists associated with Cubism and its offshoots, such as Russian Constructivism and De Stijl as well as the art of Jean Mirò, Jean Arp, and Kurt Schwitters. On the American front, Gallatin acquired works by Alexander Calder, Ad Reinhardt, and his fellow Park Avenue Cubists. With its unparalleled quality—and its location on Washington Square near many artists’ studios—Gallatin’s collection served painters such as Pollock, De Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Hans Hoffman as an indispensable laboratory for study. By the mid 1930s Gallatin himself was mining the collection, incorporating Cubist hallmarks into his own painting. Prizing compositional invention over subject matter, Gallatin distilled the raw material of the observed world, uncovering its underlying structure. His abstract forms cohere like the scraps of a Cubist collage, while his muted palette recalls the subdued tones of his own conservative wardrobe. With his fellow members of the Abstract American Artists, Gallatin regarded such recastings not as derivative, but rather as refashioning a pre-existing language into a distinctly American idiom." (www.nyu.edu)
The Gallatin collection moved to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1943. Albert Eugene Gallatin died in 1952.
Hollis Taggert Galleries, 2008