Gaddis, Eugene R. 1947-

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GADDIS, Eugene R. 1947-


Born 1947. Education: Amherst College, graduated; University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D.


Home—West Hartford, CT. Office—Wadsworth Atheneum, 600 Main St., Hartford, CT 06103. E-mail[email protected]


Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, William G. DeLana archivist and curator of the Austin House. Frequent lecturer on American cultural history and related topics.


(Author of introductory essays, with Patrick McCaughey) Linday Ayers, editor, The Spirit of Genius: Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hudson Hills Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Magician of the Modern: Chick Austin and the Transformation of the Arts in America, Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.

Also editor and coauthor of Avery Memorial: The First Modern Museum.


Archivist and museum curator Eugene R. Gaddis is an American cultural historian. He is a frequent lecturer and public speaker on cultural history in America, and has combined historical education with his position as curator of the Austin House at the Wadsworth Atheneum, the oldest public art museum in the United States. Gaddie is also the biographer of Chick Austin, who was himself the director of the Wadsworth Atheneum from 1927 to 1945. Austin turned the museum "into an avant-garde landmark," noted Booklist reviewer Whitney Scott. In Magician of the Modern: Chick Austin and the Transformation of the Arts in America, Gaddis provides both a full-scale biography of Arthur Everett "Chick" Austin and the story of how Surrealism, with Austin's help, was "conscripted to serve American needs and sensibilities" and became an important component of American art history, stated Herbert Muschamp in Artforum International.

Born into a wealthy family, Austin was deeply passionate about art, openly bisexual even though he was married, and a tireless genius who molded the Wadsworth Atheneum into a pivotal venue for art in America. With seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, Austin maintained a perpetual momentum of exhibitions, lectures, concerts, and related shows. He staged the premiere of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein's important operatic work Four Saints in Three Acts. He presented the first American exhibit of Picasso's works and was responsible for the first Surrealist exhibit in the United States, featuring works by soon-to-be greats such as Salvador Dali. After growing the reputation and importance of the Atheneum, Austin went to Florida, where he became the director of the Ringling Brothers Museum in Sarasota. Despite his passion for art, his wealth, and his Bohemian lifestyle, Austin was plagued by manic-depression and alcoholism. He died at age fifty-seven, but left a significant legacy to the art world in America and abroad. In his biography, Gaddis "sensitively recounts Austin's chaotic personal life" and places it in context with Austin's work in an "excellent example of biography," commented Martin R. Kalfatovic in Library Journal. Gaddis's biography "does justice to this pioneer of modernism in America," Scott concluded.



Artforum International, November, 2000, Herbert Muschamp, "Abracadabble," review of Magician of the Modern: Chick Austin and the Transformation of the Arts in America, p. 29.

Biography, fall, 2001, James Fenton, review of Magician of the Modern, p. 986.

Booklist, November 15, 2000, Whitney Scott, review of Magician of the Modern, p. 599.

Library Journal, October 15, 2000, Martin R. Kalfatovic, review of Magician of the Modern, p. 64.

Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2000, review of Magician of the Modern, p. 64.


Wadsworth Atheneum Web site, (September 23, 2006), biography of Eugene R. Gaddis.*

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