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Iris Barry

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Iris Barry 1895 – 1969 was a film critic and curator In the 1920s she helped establish the original London Film Society, and was the first curator of the film department of the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1935


  • 1 Life
  • 2 MoMA's Film Library
  • 3 Works
  • 4 Further reading
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Barry was born Iris Sylvia Crump, in the Washwood Heath district of Birmingham, England She was the daughter of Alfred Charles Crump and Annie Crump She studied at the Ursuline convent, Verviers, Belgium1

She moved to London in 1916 or 1917, where she met Ezra Pound She had two children with Wyndham Lewis, a boy in 1919, and daughter in 19201

She began publishing film criticism in The Spectator in 1923, and was film correspondent for the Daily Mail between 1925 and 1930, when she emigrated to the United States1 Her marriage to Alan Porter did not long survive the move1

The Film Society, the first of its kind, was launched in October 1925; she was one of its founders along with cinema owner Sidney Bernstein, film director Adrian Brunel, well-connected enthusiast Ivor Montagu, and fellow film critic Walter Mycroft

She is probably best remembered as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, which had opened in 1929 After coming to the United States in 1930, she founded the film study department in 1932,1 with an archival collection of rare films, library of film-related books, and a film circulation program She also collected films She became an American citizen in 1941, and married John E Abbott

Barry wrote a popular book on moviegoing Let's Go to the Pictures 1926 and the scholarly classic D W Griffith: American Film Master 1940, and became a regular book reviewer for the New York Herald Tribune

In 1949, she was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor1 by the French government, in recognition of her services to French cinema

She died 22 December 1969, in Marseilles1

MoMA's Film Libraryedit

The cinema studies scholar Haidee Wasson argues that under Barry's direction the MoMA's Film Library, the first American institution of film art, created the cultural and intellectual climate that allowed “ selected films to become visible to an emergent public under the rubrics of art and history, ” served as a “promulgator of discourses about cultural value and productive leisure,” and consequently defined “… what objects and media matter within the politics of cultural value and visual knowledge”2 Wasson further details MoMA’s director’s Alfred Barr and Iris Barry's continuous struggle to affirm the cultural status and value of cinema to powerful museum benefactors and to win over Hollywood film studios’ support in order to elevate cinema’s status to that of a unique American art form3 Wasson also elaborates on MoMA's Film Library’s effort to create modern audience for art cinema by employing overt disciplinary strategies The staff of the Film Library, and sometimes Barry herself, carefully monitored the spectator’s behavior in the cinematic salon, sanctioning improper conduct eg rowdiness, excessive chatter or laughter during screening etc by, at times, even terminating the film screening altogether These strategies, Wasson argues, sought to mold a new form of cinematic audience by instilling the values of “educated film viewing and studious attention”4

Through her work at MoMA's Film Library, Barry has earned recognition as one of the founding figures of the film preservation movement alongside Henri Langlois and Ernest Lindgren5

On October 10, 2014, MoMA presented an illustrated talk by Robert Sitton, author of Lady in the Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film 6


  • Splashing into society London: Constable, 1923
  • Let's Go to the Movies pdf via Internet Archive
  • D W Griffith: American Film Master Museum of Modern Art 1 January 2002 ISBN 978-0-87070-683-7 Retrieved 24 June 2013 
  • American Library Association; Iris Barry; Warner Bros Pictures1923-1967 1946 The motion picture: a selected booklist Retrieved 24 June 2013 

Further readingedit

  • Sitton, Robert 2014 Lady in the Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film ISBN 9780231165785 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Barbara Sicherman; Carol Hurd Green January 1980 Notable American Women: The Modern Period : a Biographical Dictionary Harvard University Press pp 56–58 ISBN 978-0-674-62733-8 Retrieved 24 June 2013 
  2. ^ Wasson, H 2005 "Museum Movies: The Museum of Modern Art and the Birth of Art Cinema" University of California Press, p7
  3. ^ Wasson, H 2005 "Museum Movies: The Museum of Modern Art and the Birth of Art Cinema" University of California Press, pp 110-149
  4. ^ Wasson, H 2005 "Museum Movies: The Museum of Modern Art and the Birth of Art Cinema" University of California Press, pp 168-182
  5. ^ Houston, Penelope 1994 Keepers of the frame: the film archives British Film Institute
  6. ^ MoMA Member Calendar, October 2014

External linksedit

  • Iris Barry at British Film Institute website
  • "Iris Barry: Re-View", MoMA
  • "Barry, Iris 1895–1969" in Butler, Ed, Connie 2010 Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art New York: Museum of Modern Art ISBN 9780870707711 

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