Partner Jim Hellyar

Queer Places:
110 Marlborough St, Boston, MA 02116
Noble and Greenough School, 10 Campus Dr, Dedham, MA 02026, Stati Uniti
Phillips Academy, 180 Main St, Andover, MA 01810, Stati Uniti
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, Stati Uniti
5 Linden St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103
A. Everett Austin House, 130 Scarborough St, Hartford, CT 06105, Stati Uniti
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243
Cemetery On the Hill, Range Rd, Windham, NH 03087, Stati Uniti

Arthur Everett "Chick" Austin Jr. (December 18, 1900 – March 29, 1957) was the innovative and pacesetting director of the Wadsworth Atheneum from 1927 through 1944. Austin's visionary gift included persistence in the introduction of then-modern theater and modern design and especially contemporaneous art. Salvador Dalí, Alexander Calder, and Gertrude Stein benefited from his advocacy.[2][3] Nicknamed "Chick", Austin used his looks and charms on both men and women.

Chick Austin helped alter the way Americans looked at and thought about modern art. For starters, he organized the first Picasso retrospective in the United States, put on the first show of Surrealist art and, with Lincoln Kirstein, helped engineer the immigration of choreographer George Balanchine and sow the seeds for Balanchine's School of American Ballet. — Michael Z. Wise, "The Man Who Pushed Picasso" [2]

Austin was born in Brookline, Massachusetts. His mother met his father in Berlin in 1895-96 while on a European trip and the two traveled to Athens to see the first modern Olympic Games. Though of modest rural roots, the family was well off. Austin's mother had received a hefty inheritance, while his father was a German and Harvard trained physician and founding faculty member of Tufts Medical School, as well as a professor at several universities. The family eventually settled at 110 Marlborough St., Boston, and worshipped at Trinity Church while Austin attended the prestigious Noble and Greenough School near Boston and Phillips Academy, Andover, before entering Harvard College in the Class of 1922.

He interrupted his undergraduate career to work in Egypt and the Sudan (1922-1923) with the Harvard University/Boston Museum of Fine Arts archaeological expedition under George A. Reisner, then the leading American Egyptologist. After taking his degree in 1924, he became a graduate student in Harvard's fine arts department, where he served for three years as chief graduate assistant to Edward W. Forbes, Director of the Fogg Art Museum. He was a first-cousin of the American artist Stephen Etnier.

Austin met Virgil Thomson when the latter was briefly back at Harvard as a teaching assistant in 1925. Henry-Russell Hitchcock introduced A. Everett Austin, Jr. to the great architect Philip Johnson in the late 1920s over lunch at the Copley Plaza.

Austin was appointed director of the Wadsworth Atheneum at the age of 26, and simultaneously joined the staff of Trinity College, Hartford, where he founded the fine arts department and taught throughout his tenure while director of the Wadsworth. In 1929, Austin married Helen Goodwin in Paris. The Goodwins were among the founders of Hartford, and related to and closely allied with the family of Hartford-born J. Pierpont Morgan, one of the Wadsworth Atheneum's great benefactors. Austin and Helen were very complementary of each other and if Austin was a hurricane of activity, Helen was the eye of his storm, a central calming influence. It appears that Austin kept his attraction to men out of view for many years, often limiting encounters to when he was away from Hartford.

Austin produced America's first comprehensive exhibitions of Italian baroque painting (1930), surrealism (1931), and Pablo Picasso's works (1934). The Picasso show formed part of the opening of a new wing, the Avery Memorial, largely designed by Austin himself (with Morris & O'Connor of New York City) and which boasted the first International style museum interior in the United States. At that time, Austin also inaugurated the Avery Theater (now Aetna Theater), one of the first theaters in an American art museum, with the premiere of the opera Four Saints in Three Acts by Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson. On the night of the premier, "the slim, graceful figure taking a bow, with his playful blue eyes and brilliantined hair, a gardenia in the lapel of his dinner jacket, was handsome enough to have stepped from the silver screen or out of a Noël Coward play." Frederick Ashton choreographed the show (his American debut) and John Houseman directed (his first time directing). The production is famous for the celebrities who went to see it. Guests at the premier included Alexander Caldor, Buckminster Fuller, Clare Boothe, and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. They and other attendees were said to have come by "private railway car, airplane, and Rolls-Royce; even, as one observer suggested, by jeweled pogo stick."

In 1928 Austin founded The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, a society that sponsored premieres or early performances of works by composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, Erik Satie, and Virgil Thomson, as well as Vivaldi, Scarlatti, and Couperin (played on period instruments). The 1936 American premiere of Satie's symphonic drama Socrate, for example, featured one of Alexander Calder's early mobiles. An innovation begun in 1929 was the showing of motion pictures (foreign, experimental, and Hollywood) seven years before films were shown at the Museum of Modern Art. The most far-reaching of Austin's theatrical ventures was the Wadsworth Atheneum's sponsorship, at Lincoln Kirstein's request, of choreographer George Balanchine's immigration to the United States in 1933, originally to found the School of American Ballet in Hartford.

Austin was also a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.[4] Later in life, he was the first director of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.[5] He was instrumental in bringing the Asolo Theater, first constructed in 1798 in Asolo, Italy by Antonio Locatelli, to the museum.[6]

Austin became obsessed by sleight of hand and magic, and having billed himself as "Professor Marvel" as a boy, he returned as "The Great Osram — Masked Master of Multiple Mysteries" in mature life, giving regular entertainments in public and even taking his act on road shows. This desire to amaze, time after time, also characterized the Masked Master in his parallel role as museum director. — Michael Peppiatt, "Professor Marvel at the Atheneum." [3]

Eventually Austin and his wife realized that Chick’s affairs with Tommy Hughes, Jim Hellyar and others were becoming public knowledge and that they were headed for public scandal. Helen agreed that it would be wise if Chick left Hartford. When in 1947 he was offered the directorship of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, which held the largest collection of baroque paintings in the country, he accepted, and took off for Florida with Jim. He and Helen remained friends, confidants, and married for the next ten years.

Austin spent his time in Florida both with and without his wife but almost always in the company of James W. "Jim" Hellyar (February 5, 1915 - February 24, 1990), a young man he had met in Hartford. Helen and Austin's two children mostly accepted this relationship. Then he was in terrible pain from lung cancer that had spread to his spine, he told Helen he never wanted to see Hellyar again. He didn't know the nature of his illness but he knew the end was coming. Austin died of lung cancer in Hartford, Connecticut on March 29, 1957, at the age of 56.[5]

A. Everett Austin House, the West End home Chick Austin built in 1930 after seeing the Palladian Villas of the Veneto on his honeymoon, is a National Historic Landmark.[7] It is among the homes featured in Bob Vila's Guide to Historic Homes: In Search of Palladio,[8] a six-hour A&E Network study of the work and influence of the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.

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