In a post last February, I speculated that Miguel Covarrubias’ “Tree of Modern Art,” published in the May 1933 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, might have started the art-chart meme. It preceded Alfred Barr’s famous 1936 chart of modern-isms as well as Ad Reinhardt’s satirical 1946 tree of modern art. But as Tyler Green pointed out on Twitter, MoMA’s Inventing Abstraction Tumblr reproduces a 1930 Uffizi Gallery diagram of “Italian Schools of Painting.” It’s Renaissance, not modern art, though the design is distinctly modern. Chronologically, it beats Covarrubias by three years. MoMA quotes the Uffizi diagram: “The value of the Chart and its usefulness to visitors to the picture galleries and churches of Italy is obvious.”
Unfortunately the Uffizi chart’s image on MoMA Tumblr is too small to read the text. Does anyone have a higher-res image? Were there earlier precedents yet?
For those interested in diagrams of art history, the main news is the interactive chart MoMA created for “Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925.” Below, the Inventing Abstraction chart and Covarrubias’. Though they’re not covering exactly the same territory, it’s interesting how little overlap there is between the charts. Malevich and Mondrian are missing from the Covarrubias tree. To Covarrubias, and presumably to the 1933 Vanity Fair readership, pure abstraction was not perceived as a noteworthy development in “modern art.”