William Glackens was the Zelig of early-20th-century art, present for a series of events that shaped its progression—as well as an accomplished painter in his own right. Both sides are on display in “William Glackens,” the first comprehensive survey of his work since 1966, currently at the NSU Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale and then traveling to Long Island’s Parrish Art Museum (279 Montauk Hwy.; parrishart.org) and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.; barnesfoundation.org) later this year.
While Glackens gained some renown as a newspaper illustrator during the Spanish-American War and as a painter with the Ashcan school of American realists, his greatest contribution to American art might lie in his early attempts to bring European modernism to the States. Albert C. Barnes, the pharmaceutical magnate and a high school classmate, sent Glackens to Europe in 1912 with $20,000 and a mandate to build the bones of his collection. Glackens obliged, filling his notebooks with sketches and accounting ledgers (like the one pictured) for desired works from the likes of van Gogh, Cézanne, Renoir and one “Pecaso,” many of which remain on display today at the Barnes Foundation. After nearly 50 years in the shadows, the quintessential sideman of modern American art gets main billing. “William Glackens” runs through June 1; 1 E. Las Olas Blvd.; moafl.org.