Jane Heap

Biographical Information
Name

Jane Heap

Birth

November 1, 1883, Topeka, Kansas

Death

June 18, 1964, London, England

Country of Origin/Citizenship

United States/American

Kind of Artist/Cultural Worker

Editor, Publisher, Critic, Gallery Owner, Writer, Painter, Teacher

Avant-Garde Movements Associated With

Surrealism, Dadaism, Constructivism

Date & Places of Overlap with Loy

New York, New York (1917-18), Paris, France (1923-c. 1933)

“Jane was her name and Jane her station,” wrote Gertrude Stein in a brief but complimentary consideration of American editor, publisher, art gallery owner, and teacher, Jane Heap, in the December 1929 issue of The Little Review (10). Born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1883, Heap moved to Chicago after her high school graduation, where she attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and stepped into the arenas of avant-garde theater and art.

Heap’s influence on avant-garde movements came primarily through her work as editor and publisher of the experimental magazine, The Little Review (1914-29), which published modernists on both sides of the Atlantic. Established in Chicago in 1914 by Margaret Anderson, Heap joined the venture when the two met in 1916 (Baggett 3). They became co-editors and lovers and moved the magazine to New York City in 1917. Between 1918 and 1920, the Little Review famously serialized James Joyce’s Ulysses. After pornography charges brought Joyce’s work under scrutiny of federal law, installments were forcibly terminated, Ulysses was banned in the U.S., and censorship debates were incited nationally (Burke 287). Mina Loy was on the front line of such discussions. Her poem, “Apology of Genius,” published in The Dial in 1922, denounced what she called the “censor’s scythe” (Burke 309).

As editor, Heap showcased the work of female avant-garde writers. The 1920s era of the magazine was characterized by “covert or even overt lesbian themes” and saw the coalition of women’s voices, including those of Loy, Mary Butts, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, and Heap herself (Baggett 12). A lesbian who openly and carefully balanced a masculine and feminine appearance by combining “[men’s] suits” with “deep-red lipstick,” Heap saw the Little Review as a platform for interrogating modern “representation[s] of self” (Weissman 60; Baggett 12). Loy’s poetry and prose began appearing in the Little Review in 1920 and would continue to appear until 1929, when Heap discontinued the magazine to teach George Gurdjieff’s philosophies in London (Baggett 5). As various photographs depict, Heap and Loy were in close contact during the 20s when Heap traveled regularly from New York to Paris (Burke, Ch. 17, n.p.). The “Exiles Number” of the Little Review, published in Paris in 1923, featured Loy, Ezra Pound (co-editor), Stein, and Ernest Hemingway (Bourguignon 208). Yet Heap was not content with the periodical press as a sole means of disseminating Modernist art, and so she assumed the dual roles of editor and curator. In 1924, Heap established the Little Review Gallery in New York City. In 1927, she created the International Theater Exposition and the Machine Age Exposition, exhibits that showcased modern technology and architecture from around the world.

Unlike her avant-garde social circle, Heap did not leave behind an extensive oeuvre and is one of the most understudied yet vital figures of Transatlantic Modernism (Baggett 2). Heap, Susan Noyes Platt has asserted, “played a crucial role in presenting the raw data of international modernism to America” (12). Heap’s philosophy to let art speak either for itself or be spoken about by its creator is evident in her reprinting of manifestos in the Little Review “without comment” (Platt 94). In the Machine-Age Exposition Catalogue, the artists and their work take center stage. Until her death in London in 1964, Heap advocated experimental modern art as a means of expressing and connecting with the average, everyday person—or, in her own words, “the general public” (Heap 36).

Featured Image: A Little Review Reunion of Heap (left), Loy (center), and Pound (right)

Works Cited

Baggett, Holly A. Introduction to Dear Tiny Heart: The Letters of Jane Heap and Florence Reynolds. Edited by Baggett. New York UP, 2000, pp. 1-20.


Bourguignon, Katherine. “American ‘Little Magazines’ in Paris.” A Transatlantic Avant-garde: American Artists in Paris, 1918-1939. Edited by Sophie Levy, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003, p. 208.  


Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996.


Heap, Jane. “Machine-Age Exposition.” Machine-Age Exposition Catalogue. Edited by Heap, New York: Little Review, 1927, pp. 36-37.


Platt, Susan Noyes. Modernism in the 1920s: Interpretations of Modern Art in New York from Expressionism to Constructivism. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985.


Stein, Gertrude. “An Appreciation of Jane.” The Little Review, vol. 12, no. 2, 1929, pp. 9-10.


Weissman, Terri. The Realisms of Berenice Abbott: Documentary Photography and Political Action. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.


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