The New York Times called Lincoln Kirstein "one of the most valuable
of living Americans," and Susan Sontag suggested he should be named a national
treasure. His actual titles were President Emeritus, School of American Ballet,
and General Manager Emeritus, New York City Ballet. He founded both institutions
with choreographer George Balanchine.
Kirstein's career dates from his days at Harvard, from which he graduated in 1930.
While there he founded and edited the seminal literary magazine Hound and Horn
and founded the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, the forerunner of New York's
Museum of Modern Art.
Nurturing the dream of an American ballet, Kirstein brought Balanchine to America
in the early 1930's. With Edward M.M. Warburg they founded the School of American
Ballet. Performing companies soon followed, culminating in the establishment of
New York City Ballet in 1948.
Kirstein wrote and was published extensively. His dance books include Dance
(1935), The Classic Ballet (1952), Movement and Metaphor (1971),
and Thirty Years-The New York City Ballet (1978). Other works are Flesh
is Heir (1932), Rhymes of a Pfc (1964), Lay This Laurel (1974),
and monographs, essays, and books on artists such as Pavel Tchiletchew, Elie Nadelman,
Gaston Lachaise, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, George
Tooker, Paul Cadmus, and Jamie Wyeth. In 1987 he published Quarry: A Collection
in Lieu of Memoirs and The Poems of Lincoln Kirstein.
Kirstein was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1984) and the
National Medal of Arts (1985), among other honors. He died in 1996.