Painter, illustrator, poet, and author Peggy Bacon (1895–1987) studied at the Art Students League from 1915 until 1920, and later was an instructor in painting, drawing, and composition (1935–1936 and 1948–1952). The school was at the heart of her artistic circle, which included her teachers John Sloan, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and George Bellows; her husband artist Alexander Brook, whom she met at the League; and artist Reginald Marsh. Alfred Stieglitz, who organized an exhibition of Bacon’s work at his Intimate Gallery in 1928, was also a friend. Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon traces these associations and more, using photographs, letters, graphics, and archival documents from the Archives of American Art to illustrate Bacon’s connection to dozens of other prominent artists.
The “six degrees of separation” theory stretches back to the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who first used the phrase publicly in 1909. It gained wide currency from a 1967 Harvard study, but John Guare’s 1990 play of the same name pushed the expression into everyday use and spawned the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Further degrees of separation for Peggy Bacon reveal links to artists including Marcel Duchamp, Walter Pach,* Louis Bouché,* Philip Evergood,* John Lennon, Jackson Pollock,*Lee Krasner,* Georgia O’Keeffe,* Winslow Homer,*Augustus Saint-Gaudens,* Philip Guston,*Robert Indiana, Louise Nevelson,* and Jacob Lawrence.* (* denotes former Art Students League students and teachers.)
Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon was first shown in the summer of 2012 at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, D.C. Several of Bacon’s works from the Art Students League’s Permanent Collection are also on display in the current iteration of the exhibition, which runs through November 1, 2013 at the League’s Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery.
Six Degrees of Peggy Bacon is free and open to the public. Hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Notice of dress code in Lake George, N.Y. Elizabeth McCausland papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Peggy Bacon, ca. 1920. Photograph by Soichi Sunami. Peggy Bacon papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Romare Bearden, Map of Paris. Romare Bearden papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Alfred Stieglitz. Photograph by Kay Bell Reynal. Downtown Gallery records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Jacob Lawrence, letter to Romare Bearden. Romare Bearden papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Jacob Lawrence, letter to Philip Howard Evergood. Philip Evergood papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Philip Evergood, Commentary on the relationship between artists and critics. Philip Evergood papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.