- About Lincoln Kirstein
Reprinted from Lincoln Kirstein: A First Bibliography, 1978
During every generation a few exceptional individuals appear who are incisively dedicated and destined to the achievement of unique missions in the art of their time. The best of these persons seem to burn like beacons of supreme consciousness or conscience during the lifetime they inhabit. Implacable and original in overcoming obstacles in their fidelity to a vision, even before the responsibility of their accomplishments becomes fully known, the leadership provided may be recognized as the making of a legend.
Lincoln Kirstein has been known to the general public primarily as General Director, founder, supporter, and collaborator with George Balanchine since 1934 in the establishment and maintenance of the School of American Ballet, and the New York City Ballet, which for more than twenty-five years has been the leading company in the creation and performance of original works based on classic ballet technique and native vernacular dance. A theatrical producer who has operated as a public benefactor, he is the instigator and supporter of an untold number of dance, theater, exhibition, and publication projects. On behalf of art forms, artists and works of art, he has invented schools, companies, exhibits, and repertories, and has stimulated means to sustain them.
While it is far too early to assess the career and work of Lincoln Kirstein, this first bibliography of his published writings to date, accompanied by a chronology, is an initial step. An author who continues to publish widely, his writings form an important body of work in themselves. Together, his books, articles and essays have functioned to support and illuminate the central meaning of his enterprises. They include a continuing assessment and appreciation of the accomplishments of individual artists and creators, many of whom became friends and collaborators. The writings chronicle an attitude of full responsibility. In them the author performs the role of poet, novelist, historian, essayist, scholar, and critic—even more, and perhaps essentially, the role of the artist acting in the guise of being a member of the audience, by active appreciation making possible works of art and performances that would not otherwise exist.
Throughout the contents of this bibliography a unifying point of view is evident. The point of view is at once intellectual and civil, esthetic and practical, democratic and aristocratic, effectively complex without being paradoxical. It is marked by a determination to serve art and the public, championing by actual example in performance rather than by theory, claim or ulterior motivation.
The writings act to perpetuate especially those historic forms of art which are based on or depict the inexhaustible grace and vitality of the human body, schooled and trained as instrument and subject in art. They study the human image given formal expression, particularly in dance and the visual arts, whether still (as in sculpture and photographs) or in motion (as in dance and on film). The author's efforts may be said to have helped not only to renew classic ballet so that it has taken root in the United States as a native art form, but also to reassert classic human values and formality in other arts. The writings develop values superficially renounced during an age ravaged by fragmentation and exploitation. They oppose the new philistinism that battens on technological excuse. They battle on behalf of the employment of the inherited techniques of discipline most modern esthetics have assiduously sought to abandon. One finds in the writings explicit conviction that authentic modernity in art arises from spontaneous progression, not from a programmatic rejection of the past.
The author's principal identifications have been with such compeers and associates as Balanchine, Stravinsky, T. S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, E.M. Forster, Eisenstein, Tchelitchew, Walker Evans, Hart Crane, James Agee, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Also evident are particular interest in and influences by American artists and exemplars for whom art and life were co-equal or closely related forms of public performance, the public mask being correlated to a deeply private self: figures such as Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Eakins, and others of European origin, notably Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Nadelman.
The bibliography is based on standard indexes and available primary sources, composed of an unusually broad range of periodicals, books, exhibition catalogues, programs, and newspapers. The independent and pioneering nature of Lincoln Kirstein's interests has resulted in appearances not only in established and easily located publications, but as well in some now obscure and difficult to trace. In certain categories, such as program and exhibition notes, letters to newspapers and periodicals, and occasional writings, the entries depend on random scrapbooks, clipping files, and incomplete archival collections. As this is a first bibliography and chronology, the compilers will gratefully receive any additional information.
The unorthodoxy of the career allows for unusual presentation. The bibliography is divided into two major categories: first, the published writings in creative forms—fiction, poetry, drama, and ballet libretti; and second, books, essays, reviews, commentaries, and notes on dance; on drawing, painting, sculpture, and architecture; on photography; on film; on music and drama; and on literature, history, politics, and other subjects. Citations are arranged chronologically under each heading. The consistency is evident throughout: an essay in 1975 carries forward ideas formulated clearly in 1932 or earlier. One or more books or major statements in each field of interest have followed previous writings which were preparatory explorations. Each section of the bibliography is preceded by a representative excerpt from the author's published work.
At the time of this compilation Lincoln Kirstein has published twenty books. Twelve are on dance, two are novels, two are volumes of poetry, two are on drawing, two are on sculpture. In the listing of books in the bibliography, distinct editions are noted but not later printings by the original publishers.
The listings of contributions by Lincoln Kirstein under the titles of periodicals he founded and edited do not indicate his editorial guidance and responsibility for their continued existence. These include the distinguished literary journal Hound & Horn(1927-1934); Films (1939-1940); and Dance Index (1942-1948). Entries in the bibliography titled "Comment" served as prefaces to issues on special subjects often conceived and edited by him.
Many of the articles and books include sections of photographs and illustrations the author selected and arranged. These are essential to the texts and are in themselves significant to a degree not possible to make clear in the abbreviated citations of this volume.
Lincoln Kirstein's numerous unsigned notes on ballets in the programs of the American Ballet Company, Ballet Caravan, American Ballet Caravan, Ballet Society, and since 1948, the New York City Ballet have not been listed. Archival files may be consulted in the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library.
The author is known to have a number of writing projects in progress and further publications have been announced. The writings cited are those completed prior to May 4, 1977. There exists in addition a large body of completed but unpublished work. In the course of compiling this bibliography a collection of excerpts from many of the less accessible items has been made; typescripts of these excerpts are on deposit at the Yale University Library and at the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library.
The compilers are grateful to the staffs of the Dance Collection and Research Libraries of the New York Public Library, the Boston Public Library, the Library of the Museum of Modern Art, the Columbia University Library, the Harvard University Library, the Sterling and Beinecke Libraries of Yale University, and to the particular individuals who have assisted in making the publication possible.
Public tributes to artists, friends and associates appear frequently among the author's writings. It is appropriate that this bibliography has been prepared as a tribute to Lincoln Kirstein. This publication of the Yale University Library is a gift to him from George Balanchine, Mina Curtiss, Ira M. Danburg, Philip Johnson, George G. Kirstein, W.McNeil Lowry, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Mrs. Igor Stravinsky,MonroeWheeler, the Committee for the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Eakins Press Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Lassalle Fund, the New York City Ballet, and the School of American Ballet.