Skip to main content

Classic Modern

The Art Worlds of Joseph Pulitzer Jr.

Marjorie B. Cohn


List Price: 45.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Joseph Pulitzer Jr. inherited the famous name and occupation of his grandfather, the journalist and publisher who established the Pulitzer Prize. Yet while he carried on the family business in St. Louis, he was also building one of the greatest private art collections of the 20th century. Classic Modern is the first biography to focus on this often-overlooked aspect of Pulitzer's life—arguably his greatest passion.

Marjorie B. Cohn reveals how Pulitzer helped to introduce modern art, including the work of artists such as Picasso, Miró, and Beckmann, to the Midwest, despite the region's lack of receptiveness. The book also includes details about Pulitzer's commissions—the first outdoor, site-specific works by Serra, Flavin, and Judd among them—along with never-before-released purchase prices. Integral to the account are tensions between upper-class collectors and countercultural artists, and between connoisseurs and the cultural theorists who were gaining ground in the academy.

Praise For Classic Modern: The Art Worlds of Joseph Pulitzer Jr.

“Enjoyable for its look at one of the most famous American families during the Gilded Age as well as how [Pultizer Jr.’s] appreciation for modern art developed and evolved.”—Antiques & The Arts Weekly

— Antiques & The Arts Weekly

 “It is very agreeable to find such an even balance between a biographer and a subject; disciplined, clear-headed, with an author fully aware of the responsibility of the occasion. It is truly a major exploration of a wonderful subject and a remarkable man who profoundly helped shape our understanding and, in many cases acceptance. . . of contemporary art, something he did with a knowing and civilised sense of history and his place in it.”—Joseph Rishel, The Art Newspaper

— Joseph Rishel

“In Cohn’s beautifully written and detailed biography Pulitzer comes across as an extremely attractive personality, a man of great confidence, towering intelligence and irresistible charm. In the age of art consultants, auction houses and art fairs, Cohn’s account is a timely reminder of what it takes to build a great collection, above all aesthetic genius and an unwavering faith in the creative power of artists. Joseph Pulitzer, it seems, had both in spades.”—Karsten Schubert, The Burlington Magazine

— Karsten Schubert

Harvard Art Museums, 9780300179835, 464pp.

Publication Date: February 19, 2013

About the Author

Marjorie B. Cohn is Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints, Emerita, at the Harvard Art Museums.