blank Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, Mark Rothko, Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Hedda Sterne

In 1950, twenty-eight of the most prominent artists in the United States signed an open letter to the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art protesting a juried exhibition intended to increase the museum's collection of contemporary art. The letter accused director Francis Henry Taylor and curator Robert Beverly of loading the jury with critics hostile to "advanced art," particularly Abstract Expressionism. Nina Leen brought fourteen of the signatories together for a photograph that came to be dubbed The Irascibles. Detractors considered the protest typical avant-garde posturing, but it proved to be only one of many quarrels that the Metropolitan would face over the ensuing two decades about how to update its permanent collection.

Nina Leen (1909–1995)
Gelatin silver print, 1950
Published January 1979
Photographs of the Artists Collection, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

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Portrait of the Art World: A Century of ARTnews Photographs
National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian Institution