Will the Real Janet Sobel Please Stand Up?


to send him biographical information and other relevant material that he would send to Peggy Guggenheim (Guggenheim had already closed her New York gallery, Art of This Century, and moved back to Europe). Rothko’s letter was addressed to Sobel’s Plainfield, New Jersey, address, which proves that someone in the New York art world or, at least, its Peggy Guggenheim contingent, knew, as far back as 1947, that Sobel was no longer living in Brooklyn.

Levin argues, “Except for Greenberg’s brief citation, Janet Sobel was for a time completely forgotten by the New York art world.”19 However, the question then arises, “How did William Rubin know where Janet Sobel lived in New Jersey and what led Rubin to visit her there?” These questions apparently also occurred to Janet Sobel’s son Sol, because he seems to have written a note to Clement Greenberg asking him if it was he who had directed William Rubin to his mother just before her death in 1968. In a postcard dated March 16, 1971 [photocopy of this card provided to me by Gary Snyder and reproduced on Documents page], Greenberg answered Sol Sobel, admitting that he had given “Bill Rubin his lead” to Janet Sobel, and telling Sol that he would welcome a meeting with him; Greenberg also gave Sol Sobel his phone number and home address (one wonders, however, how Sol’s note reached Greenberg if Sol did not know Greenberg’s address; the fact that Greenberg mailed Sobel a publicly accessible postcard stating his home address and phone number also suggests how much more open the New York art world was thirty-seven years ago than it is today. Presumably, Sol Sobel had written to Greenberg after seeing his mother’s work in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition Recent Acquisitions: Painting and Sculpture, July 27–September 13, 1970 (extended through October 18, 1970).20

Although Janet Sobel’s exhibition history during her lifetime was relatively short and straightforward, Levin confuses it when she writes, as if about two different shows, “Sobel’s work had last been shown in ‘A Painting Prophesy’ at the David Porter Gallery, Washington, D.C. in 1950,”21 and, in the same article, Levin writes, “[Peggy] Guggenheim also encouraged Sobel to participate in a show called ‘A Painting Prophecy, 1950’ being organized by her friend, the artist and dealer


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All texts copyright © Libby Seaberg, 2009