Nina Leen, The Irascibles. From left, rear, they are: Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Hedda Sterne; (next row) Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jimmy Ernst (with bow tie), Jackson Pollock (in striped jacket), James Brooks, Clyfford Still (leaning on knee), Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin; (in foreground) Theodoros Stamos (on bench), Barnett Newman (on stool), Mark Rothko (with glasses), Life, January 15, 1951, page 34
On May 22, 1950 an open letter by a group of prominent American artists was published in the New York Times criticizing the exhibition “American Art Today,” which was organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The intention of the exhibition was to increase the collection of contemporary art at the museum. Contemporary artists were invited to submit their work and a jury decided what would be selected for the exhibition. According to the letter, director Francis Henry Taylor and curator Robert Beverly had influenced the selection of artworks by commenting negatively on the “advanced arts” and Abstract Expressionism in particular. Although Taylor was known for his low opinion of modern art—he referred to the Museum of Modern Art as “that whorehouse on Fifty-third Street,” a short article in Life on January 15, 1951 reflected an overall positive response to the Met’s decision to actively present American contemporary art.