The Galerie St. Etienne is the oldest gallery in the United States specializing in Expressionism and Self-Taught Art. Its predecessor, the Neue Galerie, was founded in Vienna in 1923 by the late Otto Kallir and was a principal exponent of German and Austrian modernism during the period between the two world wars. Having opened with the first posthumous Egon Schiele retrospective, the Neue Galerie was also the exclusive Austrian representative of such major artists as Alfred Kubin and Oskar Kokoschka. In 1930, Kallir rescued from oblivion the legacy of Richard Gerstl, today ranked with Schiele and Kokoschka as one of Austria's major Expressionists. Also in 1930, Kallir published the first catalogue raisonné of Schiele's paintings. Kallir functioned as a publisher of limited edition prints, working with such artists as Max Beckmann, Johannes Itten, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin--all of whom he knew well. In addition, Kallir, like many early pioneers of modernism, was extremely interested in the work of untrained artists. He would greatly expand upon this interest after the 1938 Nazi invasion forced him to flee Austria.
After emigrating to the United States in 1939, Kallir established New York's Galerie St. Etienne and helped to introduce Expressionism to this country. Numerous important Austrian and German modernists, including Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Egon Schiele, were given their first American exhibitions at the gallery in the 1940s and '50s.
Looking for art that reflected his enthusiasm for his newly adopted homeland, Otto Kallir became interested in American folk art. In 1940, the Galerie St. Etienne gave Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma") Moses her first one-woman exhibition. The gallery went on to become her exclusive representative, and Moses became one of the most famous and popular American artists of the immediate postwar era. More recently, the Galerie St. Etienne has expanded its interest in self-taught art to include Art Brut and "Outsider" material.