Walter Pach Biography

Walter Pach




Artist, art historian, critic, and lecturer Walter Pach was born in New York City on July 11, 1883. His father was noted commercial photographer Gotthelf Pach of the Pach Brothers Studio and his mother, Frances Wise, was a prominent member of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Gotthelf would often bring his son with him on photography commissions - in particular, to photograph the inventory of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Pach graduated from the City College of New York in 1903 with his Bachelor of Arts degree in art history. Following graduation he studied independently with Leigh Hunt, William Merritt Chase, and Robert Henri (New York School of Art). Chase invited Pach to join him on a trip to Europe where Chase intended to start a summer art program in various countries. Pach became a part of the seasonal school as both a teacher and an agent, dividing his time between Paris and New York City.

In 1907 Pach remained in Paris to immerse himself in the city's avant garde art scene, and began writing about the modernist art and artists orbiting Gertrude and Leo Stein. He would become the first art critic to lecture in the United States on Vincent van Gough's contribution to modernism, as well as to publish an article on Paul Cezanne in the U.S. (Scribner's Magazine, 1908). He was the only American to be included in the Paris art group founded by the Duchamp brothers, Section d'Or, which focused on Cubism and Orphism. Wanting to help spur more interest in modernism in the U.S., Pach would become a major contributor to the formation of the first major modernism show in the U.S.: the Armory Show. Acting as a liason for European artists, he secured works by Henri Matisse, Odilon Redon, Marcel Duchamp, and Constantin Brancusi for inclusion in the exhibition. His role as defacto European agent would continue into and during the First World War, bringing works by Georges Rouault, Andre Derain, Roul Dufy, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and many others to states.

After marrying Dresden-based artist Magdalene Frohberg (1884 - 1950) and the birth of their son Rayond that same year, they settled in New York. Along with Marcel Duchamp and collectors Walter and Louise Arsenberg, they founded the Society of Independent Artists in 1916, modeled after the French Societe des Artistes Independants, which supported avent garde and other non-conforming artists who were rejected by more traditional institutions. Beginning in 1918 he began teaching throughout the U.S. and Mexico as a guest lecturer and teacher: at the University of California at Berkeley (1918), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (1922), and New York University (periodically). He became an active supporter of Indigenous arts and artists throughout North America and Mexico. In the meantime, Pach continued to work on his own art, including oils, watercolors, and etchings.

Walter Pach died on November 27, 1958 in Manhattan. His work is held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Modern Art, Princeton University, and the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, among others.

Find a more in-depth biography of the artist by Laurette E. McCarthy on