William Poundstone
William Poundstone on Art and Chaos

William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire

The Tree of Art Keeps Growing

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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.”

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  1. The tree, like the one in Lord of the Rings, seems to have withered and died.
    too many wannabes takina pizz on it.
    That way no one has to measure up, anyone can be an artiste, and so it is.

  2. A HIStory ruled by testastrone – why ignore women artists HERstory ? then again not much has changed now has it.

  3. Want forest of art.

  4. Got desert of artificiality.

  5. by Masha Chlenova

    We are glad you liked the Uffizi chart posted on our exhibition tumblr. just uploaded a higher resolution image of it, so that the text is legible. Also added the front and back covers of the booklet it was published in.

  6. by William Poundstone

    Masha, thanks for the higher-res chart! I will do a post on it in the near future.

  7. Which artists would be represented by the dead leaves that fell off the “Tree of Modern Art”? There are three yellowed leaves down at the roots. Something or somebody had to provide this natural compost/fertilizer, right?

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