Wheeler, Monroe 1900-1988
WHEELER, Monroe 1900-1988
CAREER: Administrator, publisher, editor, and author. Worked in publishing in Europe in 1920s. Established publishing company Harrison of Paris, 1930-34; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, head of department of exhibitions and publications, 1935-67, trustee, and member of International Council.
(Compiler) A Typographical Commonplace-Book, Harrison of Paris (Paris, France), 1932.
(Editor) Modern Painters and Sculptors as Illustrators, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1936.
(Editor) Britain at War, text by T. S. Eliot and others, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1941.
Twentieth-Century Portraits, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1942.
(Editor) Modern Drawings, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1947.
Soutine, Museum of Modern Art/Cleveland Museum of Art (New York, NY), 1950.
(Editor and author of foreword) Textiles and Ornaments of India: A Selection of Designs, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1956.
(With others) Bonnard and His Environment, Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1964.
SIDELIGHTS: Monroe Wheeler published many art books in the middle of the twentieth century, starting in Paris in the 1930s and then spending the majority of his career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Born in Illinois in 1900, Wheeler went to Europe in the 1920s, traveling with his friend Glenway Wescott and studying typographical design and book production in England, France, and Germany. He began publishing books in the 1920s, producing works such as The Bitterns by Wescott, and books of poetry in the Manikin series, including Janet Lewis's The Indians in the Woods, William Carlos Williams's Go Go, and Marianne Moore's Marriage. In 1926 Wheeler published another book by his friend Wescott, Like a Lover.
He settled in Paris in the 1930s, and joined with Barbara Harrison to establish the publishing company Harrison of Paris. Harrison supplied the financial backing, and Wheeler handled the typographical design and book production; Wescott helped select manuscripts for publication. The firm became well-known for producing limited-edition artistic books at modest prices; between 1930 and 1934, they published thirteen books. Their first endeavor was a publication in October, 1930, of Shakespeare's poem Venus and Adonis, with a cover illustration by Wescott. That same year, the firm published a collection of seven tales by Bret Harte titled The Wild West, an English translation of Thomas Mann's autobiography titled A Sketch of My Life, and the first edition of Wescott's The Babe's Bed. Other publications of Harrison of Paris include a 1931 edition of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron, Hacienda by Katherine Anne Porter, and Wheeler's own A Typographical Commonplace-Book, the last a compilation of literary anecdotes in a wild variety of type styles, many of which were generally deemed unsuitable for book printing. The firm transferred its operations to New York in early 1934, and closed its doors at the end of that year, citing high costs and inadequate facilities as impassible obstacles.
In 1935 Wheeler joined the staff of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He became head of the department of exhibitions and publications in 1941. He also did some work for the American Institute of Graphic Arts. During his career with the Museum of Modern Art, he helped produce more than 350 books on visual art. Some of the topics he tackled included Indian textiles, drawing and portraiture, illustration, sculpture, and the late works of Henri Matisse. In 1954 he directed the publication of Wescott's Twelve Fables of Aesop. Wheeler's compilation Britain at War is a collection of over one hundred paintings, drawings, photographs, cartoons, and posters, with a poem by T. S. Eliot, brief text, and biographical notes on the artists represented. Works ranges from straight photographs of bombed buildings in London to Henry Moore's impressionistic studies of life in bomb shelters.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 4: American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980, pp. 413-414.
Books, August 3, 1941, review of Britain at War, p. 6.
Saturday Review of Literature, June 21, 1941, review of Britain at War.
New York Times, August 17, 1988.*