Skip to content

Frankfurter, Alfred M.

    Full Name: Frankfurter, Alfred M.

    Other Names:

    • Alfred Moritz Frankfurter

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1906

    Date Died: 1965

    Place Born: Chicago, Cook, IL, USA

    Place Died: Jerusalem, Israel

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Abstract Expressionist and Expressionist (style)


    Editor of the Art News during the critical years of Abstract Expressionism. Frankfurter was the son of Moritz Frankfurter and Freda Heyman (Frankfurter) of Chicago. He attended the Boy’s Latin School in Chicago followed by one year at Princeton University. He transferred to Humboldt University, Berlin, where he was awarded an undergraduate degree and graduate degree from the Institut für Kunstgeschichte (Institute for Art History). He worked for the esteemed historian of Renaissance art, Bernard Berenson, at the Villa I Tatti in Florence before returning to the United States. There he became art critic for the Studio International in 1927 in New York. In 1929 he became editor of the Antiquarian and later Fine Arts magazine (through 1934). After free-lancing as an art critic for two years, Frankfurter was named editor in 1936 of the Art News, America’s oldest art magazine. Under his leadership, he turned the journal into a seminal source for art information and criticism. Frankfurter formed part of the Executive Committee of the 1939 New York World’s Fair under Wilhelm Rheinhold Otto Valentiner. During World War II, he served as policy control chief for psychological warfare in the overseas division of the Office of War Information between 1942 until 1945. Frankfurter was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service. Following the War, he was director of the American pavilion at the 1948 Venice Biennale International Exposition, garnering the Order of Merit by the Italian government for this achievement. He advised numerous private collectors in acquisitions and served formally on the board of the Clark Art Museum, Williams College, Williamstown, MA. During the 1950s, when other art magazines were scoffing at the emerging artists of the New York School, he allowed his assistant editor, Thomas B. Hess to make the magazine a progressive voice for emerging art movements, particularly abstract expressionism. Frankfurter himself, however, was generally unenthusiastic of the movement. In emulation of the foreign art press for which he once wrote and with which his magazine was in some competition, Frankfurter recruited important art writers. Continental writers and art historians invited to write for the Art News included Director of the Musée national d’art moderne Jean Cassou, National Gallery directors Kenneth Clark and Philip Hendy, Victoria and Albert Museum Curator John Pope-Hennessy, French arts minister André Malraux, and the writer Cyril Connolly. Americans writers included the critic Henry McBride (1867-1962) (whom he rescued after McBride’s dismissal from the New York Sun), Harvard curator Agnes Mongan, Walter Pach, MoMA curator John Rewald, and the architectural critic Aline Saarinen (1914-1972). After the death of his second wife, Frankfurter married an assistant editor of the Art News, Eleanor C. Munro (b. 1928) in 1960, a woman 22-years younger than he, and daughter of the art historian/educator Thomas Munro. He was a signer to the 1961 letter to the New York Times, protesting the biased writing of its art critic, John Canaday, toward modern art. Frankfurter sold the magazine, of which he had controlling interest, to the Washington Post company in 1962. While in Jerusalem attending the opening of the Israel museum, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. He was succeeded at Art News by Hess. He is buried in the Lutheran cemetery at Jerusalem. Frankfurter published few books and those he did were usually commemorative catalogs. His importance lies in his editorship of an art journal developing at the same time as the New York art scene itself. The French government made him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor for his services to French art. Frankfurter campaigned for architectural preservation and quality; a particular cause was against demolition of historic buildings, especially when replaced by mediocre modernism. His celebrated fight with the New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) in 1954 over the New York Coliseum was well documented.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Valentiner, William. Masterpieces of Art: Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair, 1939. [official souvenir guide book] New York: Art News, 1939; and Dwight, H. G. Art Parade: Seeing the Past Forty years through Art News and the Frick Collection, New York. New York: The Art Foundation, Inc., 1943; Interpreting Masterpieces: Twenty-four Paintings from the Kress Collection. New York: Kress Art Foundation, 1952, [reprint from the 1952 Art News Annual 21].


    [obituaries:] Art Journal 25 no. 1 (Fall 1965): 54; Hess, Thomas. “Editorial: Alfred Frankfurter, 1906-1965.” Art News 64 (Summer 1965): 25, 56; American Artist 29 (September 1965): 6; “Alfred M. Frankfurter, 59, Dies.” New York Times May 13, 1965, p. 37.


    "Frankfurter, Alfred M.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: