Now I Have Become Death: Picturing the Bomb

PICTURING THE BOMB

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE SECRET WORLD

OF THE MANHATTAN PROJECT

Pasadena City College Art Galllery

October 5-Novemeber 12, 2011

One of the strangest confluences in art history was the painter, Georgia O’Keeffe, and the father of the atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. Both loved the southwest. He had discovered the rough and radiant lands of Los Alamos on his holidays, when he was riding on horseback through the desert terrain. She had found artistic and personal salvation in the arid landscapes around Taos, far away from New York. One day, the lives of the artist and the scientist fused together during a bright and savage moment of the brightest light on earth—the first explosion of the first atomic bomb in history. The day was July 16, 1945; the place was Alamogordo and the bomb was named “Trinity;” and the dawn was irradiated with an unearthly glow that hovered above the earth, yet shook and scorched melted it.

After that moment in time, after that strange event, nothing would be the same. The outsiders of the neighborhood, who saw the light and felt the rumbling and heard the shattering of windows, were bewildered eyewitnesses to the coming of a new age. As W.B. Yeats said in The Second Coming of 1919, “…Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned…” These photographs, from the collection of the granddaughter of Enrico Fermi, Rachel Fermi, a faculty member of Pasadena City College, are routine documentary, slice of life images of the banality of the unimaginable (the un-image-able), showing that the majority of the people connected with the Manhattan Project had little or no idea of what they were participating in.

Los Alamos in the 1940s

Working with her partner, the photohistorian, Esther Samra, Fermi published a book on Picturing the Bomb in 1995, so this project is not a new one. The exhibition probably came about because of Fermi’s position on the faculty, but, sadly, the installation does not do justice to the gravity of the topic. Painted a sickly institutional pink, the gallery walls provide an unappetizing backdrop for prints of the original photographs of the building of the bomb at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Although the prints provide some information for the viewer, they are literally thumbtacked to the wall. One can charitably assume that such causal amateurism is an attempt to mirror the studied normalcy of the building of the bomb.


Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Total secrecy was combined with at attempt to create a normal life for the scientists, their families, the workers and the children who lived in forced isolation in faux towns of Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. Children play “ring around the rosie” outside an Oak Ridge Schoolhouse and scientists play with their children during their family time. Language was deployed, perhaps subconsciously, to domesticate the horrible death machine by calling it “the gadget.” And the “gadget” was treated with the same mundanity.

For example, the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were named “Fat Man” and “Little Boy.” For example, the Trinity bomb was assembled in the room of a farmhouse named McDonald’s. For example, someone casually recorded Herb Lehr, a member of the “Special Engineering Detachment,” whatever that meant, carrying the assembled bomb core in a case that resembled a six-pack for beer cans. Dressed in a white tee shirt and a pair of baggy highwaisted chinos, Herb looked unperturbed as he went about his mission. In contrast the photograph of Trinity, a day before “the gadget” was to detonate, is a large, leering and menacing orb entangled in thick vein-like wiring, looking like a creature from another world.

But the inhabitants of these atomic villages knew of the seminal nature of their project. Even if the workers were somewhat in the dark, all know that that level of secrecy would not be imposed unless something important to going on. And yet there was a fair amount of documentation going on, both official and governmental and private and perhaps clandestinely. Fermi and Samra worked for quite some time to put together a collection of family photographs from the collection of Enrico Fermi and the archived and declassified images of the Manhattan project.

With decades of history to look back on, these images resonate with meaning. Because we know what happened next—the annihilation of two cities, decades of Cold War, and the stockpiling of a nuclear arsenal that haunts us to this day. When my colleague and I visited the gallery, there were a few interested visitors as intrigued as we were over the combination of what we were seeing—eye witness accounts of the dawn of the atomic age—and what we knew about the ongoing debate over whether or not the Bomb should have been dropped or not. But the exhibition was not about now; the show was about then and the traces of a time suspended: the time of doing a task while doing the job of trying not to think of the consequences to other human beings.

The time of reckoning was to come, as Robert Oppenheimer foresaw when he famous quoted the Bhagavad-Gita: “…now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds…” But the installation does not take us beyond that moment and allows the audience to come to its own conclusions. For years the official histories of the United States skirted around the story of the “Bomb,” as it was called, by stressing the inevitability of the decision and the righteousness of the outcome, without discussing the actual effects of the explosion and radiation itself. As though there were a governmental conscience in deep denial, the United States allowed civilian populations and military personnel to be exposed to nuclear radiation from Nevada to Bikini.

Georgia O’Keeffe in the 1960s

In the same way, there is a gap in the art historical version of the life of Georgia O’Keeffe. The official histories of Ghost Ranch celebrate the presence of O’Keeffe but one has to dig to find out that this rough and rugged dude ranch was the approved site for the atomic scientists who needed relief from the isolation of Los Alamos. They arrived at Ghost Ranch for the weekends and stayed under assumed names. Their average and unassuming American names were at odds with the strong foreign accents, but the guests at the Ranch, like O’Keeffe, came in search of privacy and peace and respected each other’s right to small talk. O’Keeffe was famous for her imperious ways and would have been a far less congenial guest than the scientists who were, by all accounts, very sociable.

After years of living on the Ghost Ranch property she owned, Racho de los Burros, O’Keeffe purchased and restored an old house in Abiquiu in 1945 and spent three years making it a place she could live in. But she found building supplies hard to come by because of the construction of the military base at Los Alamos. There is an interesting parallel between an artist who was building a place where she could find solitude and scientists who were building a temporary site from which to launch destruction. Surely she was shaken awake the morning of July 16 by what felt like an earthquake, by the false dawn of the explosion, and the rushing winds that sent scouring sand exploding against the walls of buildings.

O’Keeffe. Pelvis Series, Red and Yellow (1945)

In contrast to the well-documented accounts of life at Los Alamos, little has been said of O’Keeffe and her art and the atomic bomb. One would think that she might have written to her husband about the strange event, witnessed and experienced by thousands of residents of the region. But no one seems to have put together the painting, Pelvis Series, Red and Yellow, painted in 1945—a view of a sky engulfed in a bright yellow ball of light—and the Trinity explosion. But then, for years after the event, the government did not permit photographs of this event to circulate. But when one compares the photograph of the explosion in the archives of Life Magazine and O’Keeffe’s painting, the resemblance is astonishing.


Even though the exhibition is based upon a project—-the Manhattan—-that is now sixty years old and a book—Picturing the Bomb—that was published over twenty years ago, the show was a timely one. As American recedes from two wars and rushes to intervene in other nations, none belonging neither to the twentieth nor the twenty-first century, we have yet to come to terms with the self-inflicted wound that is the cost of unconditional surrender and victory at any costs. Those who made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan are long dead and have faced any Reckoning that was due to them; those who were determined to enter into a foreign policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) are contemplating the fruits of their actions in their waning years. We try to ask ourselves the question, after the Kami-Kazi attacks, after Iwo Jima, after Okinawa, what would we have done? Dropped the Bomb? Or not? And then what?

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Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

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Podcast 69: Georgia O’Keeffe and The Bomb

Georgia O’Keeffe, Part Four

During the 1940s, Georgia O’Keeffe split her time between Taos and New York and while in the Southwest she was present at some remarkable little discussed events. Her home away from home, Ghost Ranch was the site where dinosaurs have been unearthed for over a century. The Ghost Ranch was a vacation refuge for the atomic scientists from nearby Los Alamos. Although it is rarely mentioned in texts on O’Keeffe, she was present at the dawn of the atomic age—the explosion of the first bomb called “Trinity.”

 

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

info@arthistoryunstuffed.com

Important Announcement

The Podcasts from this Website

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available through iTunes and can be listened to on your iPad or iPhone.

Remember that you must download iBooks on your iPad or iPhone.

Art History Unstuffed: The Podcasts

Also the complete

Art History Timeline Videos

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available and can be viewed on You Tube

This twenty-seven episode series of five minute videos span Western art history, from the Caves to Romanticism. The videos can be used by students and teachers as introductory, supplementary or review material. Each video is written,narrated and produced by the author of this website, and is reinforced by written text and is richly illustrated by many images. The entire Timeline can be accessed through

this link: Art History Timeline

Podcast 68: Georgia O’Keeffe—The Context of Bones

Georgia O’Keeffe, Part Three

Liberated from the steel canyons of the skyscraper-lined avenues of New York City, Georgia O’Keeffe found “her country” in New Mexico. Here the painter found new vistas—the extraordinary landscapes of the Southwest—and unique motifs—the bleached bones of cattle and sheep. This podcast discusses the unexpected link between O’Keeffe and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, as evidenced by her iconic paintings of the American West.

 

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

info@arthistoryunstuffed.com

Important Announcement

The Podcasts from this Website

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available through iTunes and can be listened to on your iPad or iPhone.

Remember that you must download iBooks on your iPad or iPhone.

Art History Unstuffed: The Podcasts

Also the complete

Art History Timeline Videos

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available and can be viewed on You Tube

This twenty-seven episode series of five minute videos span Western art history, from the Caves to Romanticism. The videos can be used by students and teachers as introductory, supplementary or review material. Each video is written,narrated and produced by the author of this website, and is reinforced by written text and is richly illustrated by many images. The entire Timeline can be accessed through

this link: Art History Timeline

Podcast 67: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Skyscrapers

Georgia O’Keeffe, Part Two

Refusing to be trapped by demeaning art writing that discussed her flower paintings as inherently female, Georgia O’Keeffe defied gender expectations by taking up that most masculine of subjects—the new towering skyscrapers. This podcast discusses the practicalities of actually building and living with the skyscraper and the challenges faced by O’Keeffe in depicting this new subject matter. The skyscraper became the gateway to the artist’s getaway out of New York and into the West.

 

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

info@arthistoryunstuffed.com

Important Announcement

The Podcasts from this Website

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available through iTunes and can be listened to on your iPad or iPhone.

Remember that you must download iBooks on your iPad or iPhone.

Art History Unstuffed: The Podcasts

Also the complete

Art History Timeline Videos

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available and can be viewed on You Tube

This twenty-seven episode series of five minute videos span Western art history, from the Caves to Romanticism. The videos can be used by students and teachers as introductory, supplementary or review material. Each video is written,narrated and produced by the author of this website, and is reinforced by written text and is richly illustrated by many images. The entire Timeline can be accessed through

this link: Art History Timeline

Podcast 66: Marketing Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe, Part One

The career of Georgia O’Keeffe was a paradox: on one hand, she was dependent upon the patronage of her husband, photographer and art dealer, Alfred Stieglitz; on the other hand, she always had an independent vision. The podcast, the first of four parts, focuses on her first mature phase: the flowers and how she broke away from gendered art writing.

 

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

info@arthistoryunstuffed.com

Important Announcement

The Podcasts from this Website

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available through iTunes and can be listened to on your iPad or iPhone.

Remember that you must download iBooks on your iPad or iPhone.

Art History Unstuffed: The Podcasts

Also the complete

Art History Timeline Videos

by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

are now available and can be viewed on You Tube

This twenty-seven episode series of five minute videos span Western art history, from the Caves to Romanticism. The videos can be used by students and teachers as introductory, supplementary or review material. Each video is written,narrated and produced by the author of this website, and is reinforced by written text and is richly illustrated by many images. The entire Timeline can be accessed through

this link: Art History Timeline

Feminism in Art and Culture

ART AND FEMINISM

According to Lee Krasner, the art world in New York in the late 1930s was an egalitarian place. Discrimination arrived in the persons of the French Surrealists, renowned misogynists, who considered women to be children or muses. In the 1940s, the few token women in the art world had been either sponsored by or associated with a male in the art world. In the pre-war era, the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe were among the most valuable in New York, but she moved to New Mexico and left the scene in the late forties. A new generation of artists, mostly male, displaced the aging coterie of American Modernists led by Alfred Stieglitz who died in 1946. It was only after the Second World War, when New York became the leading capital of art, that women began to be pushed to fringes of the gallery scene. The memory of important women artists, from O’Keeffe to Gertrude Greene to Lee Miller and Margaret Bourke-White, evaporated and these women vanished from history.

Krasner and Eileen de Kooning were overshadowed by their famous husbands and their art careers were doomed by the prevailing machismo left over from the war. Although she too was married to a well-known artist (Robert Motherwell), Helen Frankenthaler survived the coupling and the divorce because she was sheltered by Clement Greenberg, the most powerful art critic in New York. Both O’Keeffe and Frankenthaler owed their careers to the attentions of amorous and powerful men who were willing to promote them. It is doubtful that either woman could have succeeded without this male support but, to their credit, they rose above their protectors and became significant artists.

With these exceptions in mind, it is fair to say that in the post-war period most women were ignored or belittled as artists and were rarely shown in galleries or taken seriously. The main reason was economic. Given that art was an investment, a mini hedge fund, no collector would pay the same amount of money for a work by a woman as by a man. The work of women, whatever that work was, was universally devalued in comparison to that of men, and it made no economic sense for a gallery owner who was a business person to carry a commodity that did not bring the greatest monetary gains. The other reason for ignoring women who were artists was the universal male practice of dominating women by excluding them from the lucrative spheres reserved for men.

The Personal is Political

In the Sixties, women in the art world existed solely due to the tolerance of men and to their acceptance of the superiority of the male as the norm. Thus in New York City, Carolee Schneemann was a favorite of the male community because she performed in the nude. But by the 1970s, for many women, the Women’s Movement was a revelatory experience and a means of articulating their experiences in a male world. Schneeman shifted her art to feminist issues and her performance, Interior Scroll, is considered a classic example of the reclamation of the female body.

Feminism was unavoidably a political challenge to the status quo of male domination. As the post on the history of feminism suggested, for a woman to claim control over her own destiny was a political act in and of itself: “The Personal is Political.” Over time, Feminism developed its own discourse. The feminists appropriated the Marxist methodology of “consciousness raising” to help women to see the means of their oppression. The prevailing ideology placed the male above the female by claiming that male supremacy was “natural.” Because the secondary status of women was near universal, it took years of hard work on the part of feminists to lift the “veil” of ideology to reveal that male domination was, in fact, cultural and not at all natural.

The term the feminists used was “click”, meaning that something supposedly “natural” “clicked” into place as being part of the culture of male oppression. When the New York art world was introduced to feminist theories, surely one of those moments of raised consciousness had to be the contradiction between the prevailing practice of formalist art criticism which focused on the formal elements of the art work alone and the near complete lack of women and artists of color in the galleries and museums. Clearly, critics and curators were not looking at the work only, as they claimed; they were looking first at the artist and then at the art. The resulting exclusion of women and people of color or gays and lesbians was disastrous for those who were rejected, denying them economic opportunities solely on the basis of gender, race or sexual preference.

The late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of pushback from the gay and lesbian community and from the women in the art world. The American feminist movement was divided into two parts, East Coast and West Coast. Broadly speaking, both feminist movements changed the art world but they did so in different ways. To counteract the male domination in the art world, women in New York challenged the dominate institutions and demanded membership in the boys’ club of the art world. They had to assault the fortresses of the museums and of the established galleries. They had to fight to enter into male dominated fields, such as painting, that had been reified as sites of masculine struggles. They had to confront the entire tradition of humanism in academia, where women were considered problematic students or teachers.

Feminism in New York

Women protested and organized and marched during the Seventies. New York City was a bastion of male power, and museums and art galleries were supported by male curators, male art historians, male dealers, and male critics, and it was these powerful institutions that had to be assaulted. Thanks to the expansion of graduate programs during the Sixties, there were many educated women coming into the art world as art and art history teachers. These women attempted to reform history and criticism by researching about forgotten “women artists” and by writing about contemporary “women artists.” In 1970 Linda Nochlin wrote the now canonical essay, Why Have there been no Great Women Artists? It was a brave question with a social answer: women were excluded, denied opportunity, pushed aside because of their gender and the roles that the culture had devised for women.

Nochlin went on to co-curate with Ann Sutherland Harris, Women Artists, 1550-1950,a landmark exhibition of women artists that restored women to the history of art. The exhibition was a direct counter to the traditional art history “survey” texts that routinely and stubbornly refused to include women, even when they were, like Georgia O’Keeffe, historical figures. It was easier for courageous art historians to begin the archaeological re-discovery of women artists—Mary Garrard wrote on Artemisia Gentileschi—than for contemporary women artists to get a gallery in the 1970s.

This recovery and support effort was international, extending to England, where Griselda Pollock joined the efforts of Linda Nochlin and Lucy Lippard and Cindy Nemser, who began to specialize in writing about women in the arts in New York. Lippard, who had been key in writing of Process Art in her The Dematerialization of the Art Object, switched to writing of women and other outsider artists. From the Center was another early work exclusively on women artists and Lippard could make this career move only because she was already established as an art critic. In London, film critic Laura Mulvey used Jacques Lacan’s male-made theories about women in order to demonstrate how men dominated women in Visual and Other Pleasures. Griselda Pollock followed up with Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology in 1980.

Feminism in Los Angeles

The courage of the women art historians and art writers in New York should be noted and applauded. Each took great risks in taking up an unpopular and contentious topic—women artists—and in the process they laid the foundation for a historical discourse on women. If the name of the game in New York was seizing a place in the economic and intellectual terrains, the game in Los Angeles was re-educating women. Women in Los Angeles countered male bias in education by founding separate courses and classes. According to feminist theory, there was an essential “feminine” which would emerge in women’s art if they were allowed to make art freely, taught by women in an all female environment. To those who came later, this discourse would seem “essentialist”, a mere reiteration of Freud’s “anatomy is destiny,” but to the women of the Seventies, it was a necessary concept that enabled them to understand their own art in their own terms.

There were no powerful art institutions in Los Angeles, but those that existed also managed to ignore the presence of women in the art world. Because the art world was less visible and the territories were less guarded and not as well established, the women in Los Angeles had more opportunities to make a difference than those in New York City. The education of women through teachings in the classrooms became one of the main avenues of liberating women. For the first time, women in large numbers were taking up teaching positions as the California system expanded to accommodate the baby boomers and the growing population. Some women, such as Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz, were political activists, demonstrating publicly against the treatment of women by law enforcement and the characterization of women by the press In Mourning and in Rage (1977). Many of these early feminist women became important teachers at prestigious institutions, such as Sheila de Bretteville now at the Yale University School of Art.

Other women attempted to reform the unequal education of women as artists. Judy Chicago set up women only programs at California State Fresno and one of her pioneering programs in feminist art making and art teaching was the Feminist Art Program with Miriam Schapiro at Cal Arts. Paralleling the co-ops of women artists in New York, the Woman’s Building was founded in Los Angeles in 1973 and all-women classes were taught there as well. The Woman’s Building, like the co-ops in New York, gave artists a place to gather together and exchange ideas, discuss and critique their art, and, most importantly to exhibit their work. In these early years, a key idea was the deliberate separation of women from men, with the assumption that, without men, women could flourish.

The climax of these separatist activities is The Dinner Party, 1979, conceived and designed by Judy Chicago and made by a cooperative workshop of women (and men). An installation exhibition ahead of its time, this work was criticized for its sociological and anthropological bent and for its political-historical subject matter. Encyclopedic in nature, The Dinner Party was an attempt to visualize and celebrate the history of women. For the mainstream art world, the brief vogue of politically aware art was over and the implied critique of all that art theory asserted was irritating to conservative critics.

Aside from celebrating women and their contributions to history, The Dinner Party refuted the notion of the lone artist and refused to accept the distinction between art and craft. The Dinner Party remained in storage for over a decade and was rarely exhibited. Recently, through a generous gift of a woman donor, this large work was donated to the Brooklyn Museum, now its permanent home. In retrospect the best thing about The Dinner Party was and is the delighted reaction of the art audiences which have embraced the complex work.

When Feminism Becomes Art

For women artists, Feminism meant a new designation: “Women” artists became a new category to be not excluded but considered. Previously, “artist” was a word referring to men and women-as-artists had existed as exceptions that proved the rule of male superiority. Feminism brought the problems and concerns of women in the arts to the fore, to the relief of those who hoped for an end to discrimination by museums and galleries and universities and to the irritation of women who merely wanted to be “artists” who made “art.”

Thanks to the G. I. Bill, meant to benefit male soldiers, a university education became common and many women naturally followed their brothers to college. During the Viet Nam War, graduate schools expanded and, for artists, it became more and more common to have an undergraduate and a graduate degree. Thanks to Civil Rights legislation, it was difficult to deny women entrance to higher education. As a result, women, seeing an unprecedented opportunity, poured into colleges and into art schools. By the 1970s, the sheer number of women in the art world made progress inevitable, if slow.

In the early years, many women sought refuge from male-orientated art schools where “toughness,” “hardness,” and “strength” were taught as necessary attributes of art and from the narrowness of art history which considered any work of art by any woman to be “derivative” (of men) by definition. In theory, there was an essential “feminine” which would emerge in women’s art if they were allowed to make art freely, taught by women in an all female environment. Forty years later it is difficult to understand the need to find “essential” female forms but certain landmark exhibitions such as the Womanhouse of 1972 where the intimate relationship between the female and domesticity was explored in a series of themed rooms and provocative performances showed the particularity of a woman’s life.

The first generation of feminist artists, such as Louise Bourgeois and Nancy Spero, were not successful or recognized until old age. Many of the younger women, such as the late Hannah Wilke, would become significant historical figures but not famous artists. But the next generation of women would benefit from the pioneering efforts of their predecessors and Jenny Holzer and Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger and Sherrie Levine learned how to speak “feminism” without saying the word. They would become famous artists, leaving the qualifying adjective “woman” behind in the dust bin of history.

Some women welcomed the new visibility, others feared being ghettoized by the title “woman artist.” Some women felt that women as artists would make very specific forms of art, not just social content, but formal content. Others felt that women were artists, period, and should make whatever kind of art they wished. Although there were women who ultimately disagreed with the aims of the Women’s Movement of the 1970s, any woman who choose to do so benefited from the efforts of the pioneering women in New York and Los Angeles who felt that the only way to be equal was to be separate—at least they would be allowed to develop their art without interference.

The exhibition of The Dinner Party would be the high water mark of the Women’s Movement as the now-famous conservative revolution swept the nation in 1980. One could argue that a decade is simply not enough time to change the habits of millennia. In the end, most women preferred to remain attached to the (male) mainstream traditions and inside preexisting (male) institutions, hoping to succeed within the male world and striving to eradicate the term “woman artist.”

The Feminist Art Movement not only opened doors for non-male, non-Caucausian artists, it also opened the doors for new content that was personal, political and expressive, even decorative and figurative art was made newly respectable, thanks to this new impact. The Pattern and Decoration Movement made “mere” decoration acceptable, if a male did the art; and New Figuration brought back representation, as long as it was a male representation. In a larger sense, feminism was part of art world Pluralism in general and part of a new demand for more content orientated subject matter in art. In the cultural and social sense, feminism was part of the Civil Rights Movement that liberated people of color, gays and lesbians, and that biggest group of all—women.

If you have found this material useful, please give credit to

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed. Thank you.

info@arthistoryunstuffed.com

 

The Making of the New York School

THE ART SCENE SHIFTS FROM EUROPE TO AMERICA

In 1983, art historian, Serge Guilbaut, wrote a provocatively titled book, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art. How, indeed? While the first chapter of this book discusses the politics of the New York intelligentsia and the various stances and shades of Marxism, I wish to look to the cultural matrix between the wars that drove avant-garde innovation to the shores of America. Socially and politically, this was a period of isolation and appeasement in Europe. Artistically, the period between the wars was a Return to Order. The result was a marketable and conservative version of avant-garde in Paris and a radical return to an unflinching realism in Germany.

After the Great War, European powers would have given away anything and anyone to avoid losing another generation of young men. The result of the very natural desire to save lives was to allow a rising tide of Communism in Russia and Fascism in Italy and Germany and a continental drift towards totalitarianism. The Great Depression of the 1930s made desperate people susceptible to the lure of a leader. Whether Communist or Fascist, both types of regimes were repressive to avant-garde art, which was banned by Hitler (collected by his henchmen) as “degenerate” and replaced by socialist realist art in Russia. As Clement Greenberg pointed out art in the Soviet Union devolved into kitsch of which Nazi art, based upon debased classicism, was a perfect example. Less well known is the position of Fascist art in Italy, which was based upon debased Modernism, appropriated by Mussolini in order to ally the new Roman Empire with modernity.

Artistically, the state of avant-garde art after the Great War was conservative. In France this return to traditionalism was termed rétour à l’ordre and this New Classicism was the foundation of the School of Paris. Although Paris as center of international art scene, it was not as dynamic as it had been before the War. The young artists were decidedly minor, compared to the maturing leaders, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. The only overtly avant-garde movement was Surrealism. Surrealism did not originate in the visual arts but in the psychology of Sigmund Freud, used by the poets of the movement to search for different sources for inspiration beyond or “sur” reality. The visual artists, who came to the movement later, adapted and played with Surrealist ideas and techniques, some of which, such as écriture automatique, would have a life beyond the movement.

In Germany, the subject matter of New Objectivity was highly active and provocative and confrontational but the styles employed by the artists were deliberately old world. The famous art school, the Bauhaus, was not innovative in the fine arts but was very avant-garde in the world of design and architecture. In comparison to the acceptance of the French version of the avant-garde and its highly lucrative art market, the artists in German who were trying to challenge the establishment met with hostile reactions from the Weimar government. The Bauhaus designers had ideas that were ahead of the technological and industrial capabilities, which would be achieved only after the Second World War. At any rate this flowering of the avant-garde art scene in Berlin was brief, not well received in its own time and ended abruptly under Hitler in 1933.

Meanwhile, the situation in America was not one of a need for order no matter what the costs. America was not faced with a Hobson’s choice between totalitarianism versus the need for peace no matter what the costs or accommodation to the forces of “order.” Although the nation participated reluctantly in the Great War, America had traditionally been isolationist in its mindset towards European art, preferring its own utilitarian culture of necessity. The idea of art-for-art’s-sake, so dear to Europeans, was alien to Americans. Art was a useless luxury. What art there was existed in New York. Despite the brush with the avant-garde of Europe at the 1913 Armory Show, conservative and backward versions of outdated art styles from the Old Country, such as the regressive realism of the Ashcan School.

But the early twentieth-century artists of the Ashcan School suited American audiences who had always preferred realism and art about themselves. Nevertheless, there were two small groups of avant-garde artists in New York, the group of artists around Alfred Stieglitz, the American Modernists: Paul Strand, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, John Marin, Charles Sheeler, and Charles Demuth. Coexisting and crossing paths with the Stieglitz group were a more radical set circulating around the collectors, Walter and Louise Arensberg. The New York Dada, consisting largely of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, was only tangentially related to the Dada groups in Europe and was arguably more significant for artists in the fifties than the artists of the forties.

At any rate, these early twentieth century movements were no longer coherent groups by the thirties and the members were scattered and had gone on to follow their personal interests. The exhaustion of American Modernism and Dada left a space that was filled by nationalist art movements, the regionalism of Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood and the political activism of Social Realists, such as Ben Shahn. The decade of the thirties was a decade of “American” art, not the “American” art of Sheeler and Demuth and Stuart Davis and Ralston Crawford, all of which celebrated the industry of the nation, but the folksy, rural agrarian tradition of “Americana.” In contrast, Social Realism and versions of politically active art practiced by the Mexican muralists introduced content that attempted to reveal the grim truth of the Depression.

The Depression, however, was good to artists. The United States government attempted to find work for all Americans who needed work and provided specialized jobs for specialized communities. Artists and writers were allowed to remain artists and writers in an economic climate that would have ordinarily wiped out the careers of most of them. For the first time, artists were recognized as “artists” and were mobilized by the government as professionals and given honest work. Art history has tended to ignore the work done by artists under the New Deal on the basis of aesthetic judgment and because the artists were hired hands with little freedom to invent. However, the New Deal projects were important to the future because New Deal spread art throughout a nation where art had never existed, where artists were unknown. The New Deal kept artists actively making art, whether mural art or easel art and paid them a living wage. Perhaps the Depression artists were given commissions and parameters to follow but their situation was far superior to that of artists under Hitler or Stalin.

Although not articulated at the time, it was clear to the avant-garde American artists involved with the tradition of European modernism, that the avant-garde overseas was exhausted. The previous leaders, from Picasso to Breton, were aging and were intent upon consolidating their careers and reputations. The steam had gone out of the European avant-garde and nothing had happened to take the place of Surrealism as the leader in innovation. Because of the many interdictions on avant-garde art in nations under totalitarian rule, much of the work being done by European artists who could still make art was not widely circulated. The international art scene that had existed up to the thirties no longer existed and the free flow of artistic ideas was dammed up.

But there was an island, and an unlikely island at that, where avant-garde art could be seen in its variety and entirety—New York City. As early as 1921, there was an exhibition at Brooklyn Museum of Cézanne and Matisse and in 1926 very new and cutting edge artists, Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian, and El Lissitzky. And then in 1929 the Museum of Modern Art opened under Alfred Barr. The Museum of Modern Art became a major site for introducing Modernist ideas and modern art to the American public. A number of exhibitions at the museum set up the history of Modernism with shows of the work of Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Vincent van Gogh in 1929, Toulouse-Lautrec and Redon in 1931. And to get the New York art audiences up to date Barr mounted a Survey of the School of Paris, Painting in Paris, a show featuring Léger in 1935, and the iconic exhibition, Cubism and Abstract Art in 1936. Recent movements were also made available with the 1936 – 37 exhibition, Fantastic Art, Dada & Surrealism and the show of the Bauhaus 1919 – 1928 in 1930 to 1939.

Ironically when Barr mounted exhibitions of the art of Vasily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, American artists became better educated in modernist art than their European counterparts. The Museum of Modern Art used the decade of the thirties to give Americans a crash course and a history lesson (exemplified by his famous chart in the beginning of his catalogue Cubism and Abstract Art) on Modernism. However, these exhibitions also served to convince the local artists that they had to break out of what was clearly an avant-garde that was now part of history. American artists began seeing other sources for inspiration and other approaches to art, from the exhibition, African Negro Art in 1935, the exhibition Prehistoric Rock Pictures in Europe and America of 1937, and a very influential exhibition of Native American art, Indian Art of the United States in 1941.

While of great importance, the Museum of Modern Art was symptomatic of the early evidence of the establishment of a genuine art world in New York. Albert Gallatin’s Museum of Living Art in the library of New York University showed Neo-Plasticism and Constructivist art. The Museum of Non-Objective Painting (later renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim) opened in 1939. Under the leadership of Hilla Rebay, the museum began to collect the best examples of European modernist art, such as Kandinsky, Arp, Malevich, Léger, Delaunay, Giacometti. A few American artists were included, such as David Smith but for the most part the Museum looked mainly to Europe. Local artists were certainly receptive to modernist art. Art collector, Katherine Dreier and Dada artist, Marcel Duchamp, founded the Société Anonyme in 1920 for avant-garde thinkers, and abstract painters came together when the American Abstract Artists was established in 1936.

Although artists in New York often complained that MoMA was biased towards European artists, half the museum’s exhibitions were of American artists and the range of art shown was astonishing, from photography to design to architecture. As further evidence of the growing importance of New York as a cultural center was the large numbers of political refugees that arrived during the 1930s. German artist, Hans Hoffmann, had a school of fine arts in Munich but he was among the many perceptive artists who saw the handwriting on the wall and closed the school in 1932 and came to America. Hofmann opened his own school in New York City in 1934 and a summer school in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1935. The Bauhaus artists and architects, fleeing Hitler after the closure of the school in 1933, would join him in exile. Josef and Annie Albers became teachers at the famous Black Mountain College and while their impact upon the New York artists of the forties was certainly less than that of Hofmann, the presence of experienced teachers of modernist art would shape a generation of artists.

For the first time, American artists could hear European art theories, taught by an artist who combined German Expressionism with French Cubism. Clement Greenberg, largely a literary critic, began attending Hofmann’s lectures, learning studio talk and crafting himself as an art critic. Hofmann joined other émigré artists already in place. Arshile Gorky (Vosdanig Adoian) had arrived in New York ten years earlier and had assimilated the same traditions as Hofmann, but from visits to museums. In what would be a typically American strategy of synthesizing European movements, Gorky added Surrealism to the mix. John Graham (Ivan Gratianovitch Dombrowsky) came to the United States from Russian and never looked back, becoming an America citizen in 1927. A decade later he wrote “Picasso and Primitive Art” and Systems and Dialectics in Art. Writing in 1937, Graham, who was in touch with European art, suggested that American artists look to the “primitive” art forms and championed abstract art. Graham was concerned with the development of an art that could be expressive

Graham was one of several figures that mentored the new generation of artists in New York, including the Mexican mural artist, David Siqueiros who experimented with airbrush and spray techniques in his painting. Jackson Pollock, whom Graham knew well, visited this workshop twice, intrigued with the large scale of the murals and with the non-fine art tools. The first mural done by a Mexican artist was produced in 1930 by José Clemente Orozco at Pomona College in the small town of Claremont, California, east of Los Angeles. Jackson Pollock, who had grown up in Los Angeles, went out of his way to see the Prometheus mural on his way to New York. Diego Rivera was also in New York but sadly his mural for the Rockefeller Center was destroyed in 1934 but the concept of a wall scaled work of art would have a lasting impact on the New York School.

The last group of artists to arrive in America was the Surrealists from France. Like Piet Mondrian and Marc Chagall, they came to America in 1940 as a last resort. As the irresistible wave of Hitler’s Wehrmacht rolled over Europe and as London huddled under a rain of bombs, New York was the only safe place for an artist who was avant-garde or Jewish or both. By the time the Surrealists arrived, the New York artistic scene was ready for the last dose of heady European art theory. Although the Surrealists, led by André Breton, were not interested in communicating with the locals, Roberto Matta, a Chilean artist, acted as go-between and the ideas and techniques of the French artists were transmitted to the New York artists. Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, André Masson, and Yves Tanguy circulated more than Breton and Tanguy and Ernst married American artists, Kay Sage and Dorothea Tanning, respectively.

The famous Peggy Guggenheim returned home, but with European booty, a treasure trove of avant-garde European from artists who were desperate to sell their works. She tried to purchase “a work a day,” her motto. This large and significant collection became the foundation of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, established when she returned to Venice in 1946. In addition to collecting art, Guggenheim also collected the German artist, Max Ernst who had been interned as an enemy alien in Aix-en-Provence in 1940. But when the Germans conquered France, Ernst, as a “degenerate artists” was still in danger and was arrested by the Nazis. He escaped from the Gestapo and, with the help of Peggy Guggenhiem, was able to get to America through Portugal. Ernst and the art collector married in 1941 and in 1942 she opened her gallery, Art of This Century.

Always competitive with her uncle, Guggenheim was now a full-fledged rival and became a major player on the New York art scene, presiding over her gallery, designed by Frederick Keisler. At the urging of Lee Krasner, Peggy Guggenheim began to sponsor Krasner’s boyfriend, Jackson Pollock. Major questions faced the artists of the New York School to extend the European tradition of Modernism, now ossified, or stake out new territory and create their own art, a new American tradition. Also up for discussion, what of this European tradition to retain and what to discard, what to take from the “American” scene and what to learn from the Mexican artists. Now, with the arrival of so many European artists, the Americans were able to acquire not just new tools for painting but also the words, the language, which allowed them to talks about art. The stage was now ready and the scene was set. All the players were in motion and the art world had shifted the New York, which had “stolen” the idea of Modern Art.

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Modernism in New York City, 1920s

AMERICAN MODERNISM

The New York Artists in the 1920s

As an avant-garde entrepreneur and increasingly experimental artist, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) had a gift for gab and a penchant for younger followers. By the beginning of the Great War, the photographer had surrounded himself with up and coming American artists. Stieglitz made his mark in the small art world of New York City as a promoter of art photography and “straight photography,” and as the presiding spirit in his famous 291 Gallery on Fifth Avenue. Here New Yorkers could see the first American exhibitions of Rodin, Cézanne, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Matisse, Picasso, and Rousseau got their first one-person shows in America at the 291.

The introduction of the European avant-garde paved the way for a new generation of American artists to break away from the lingering realism of the Ash Can School. In contrast to American expatriate artists, such as Patrick Bruce, Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell, most of the American artists of New York modernism were homegrown products. Arthur Dove, Charles Sheeler, John Marin, and Charles Demuth were painter who combined the suggestions of Cubism with the pragmatism of the American tradition of realism. Marsden Hartley had a European based career until the start of the Great War forced him to leave his German lover behind and return to America. Hartley’s art was a combination of Cubism and Expressionism, but the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe were free of European influences.

Under the guidance of Stieglitz, these artists were able to have careers in a territory hostile to avant-garde art—indeed, Stieglitz, his gallery and his influence, were virtually the only game in town for an ambitious American artist. The American Modernists were aware of avant-garde European art–more than most American artists–and yet their art stayed in the conservative vein of a precise and stylized realism based upon American subject matter. Even the most radical of the Modernists, Stuart Davis (1892-1964), looked back on the assimilation, mockingly called one of his paintings, Colonial Cubism of 1954.

After the Armory Show in 1913, it was clear that Americans could deal with European Modernism only in a diluted fashion. Clearly, the nation was not ready for Marcel Duchamp, but there was an art audience for American subject matter slightly radicalized by a nod to Cubism. Charles Sheeler’s (1883-1965) precise paintings (Americana, 1931) and radically abstract photographs of early American architecture (Doylestown House—The Stove, 1917) combined with local and the historical with a stylized depiction inspired by de-centered perspectives from European painting.

Charles Demuth (1883-1936) painted American industry shot through with Cubist fractures that did not disrupt the image. My Egypt (1927) shows a fully assimilated understanding of the look of Futurist lines of force, of the shooting diagonals of Rayonism, but he seemed to understand little of the concepts behind the device of the dynamic line. I Saw the Figure Five in Gold (1928) was a nod to the Synthetic period of Picasso’s Cubism combined with Futurist motion. Demuth did not embrace the theoretical thinking but manipulated the aesthetic or the appearance of the European avant-garde.

Demuth’s approach is very similar to that of Gerald Murphy (1888-1964), a painter more respected in Europe than in New York. Murphy, an international sophisticate, was admired by the Europeans for his uniquely “American” subject matter. Only seven of Murphy’s fourteen paintings are extant and Razor (1924) and Watch (1925) are very close to the work of Fernand Léger during that decade. What Murphy offered the French was the modernism of a young and vigorous nation combined with the classical approach of the School of Paris. In comparison, Arthur Dove’s Goin’ Fishin’ of 1925 is a downright folksy response to collage. What these disparate artists have in common is the intention to produce “American” art to counter the dominance of the Europeans.

It would take the New Yorkers another three decades to produce a kind of “American” art that would eclipse European Modernism. But an important beachhead was established. America was considered the most advanced and modern nation. Greatly admired by Europeans, New York City was the model for the city of the future imagined by the German film director, Fritz Lang, in his groundbreaking science-fiction classic,Metropolis (1925). Far more than the art being produced in Europe, American art reflected the modernity of the nation and, indeed, of the century to come.

An example of Modernism in American, Precisionism, flourished in the 1920s and 30s, as a painterly counterpart of the New Vision photography of Paul Strand. Precisionism was a reductive and precise painting style. Often based upon a photographic original, these paintings eliminated all ancillary detail and abstracted a landscape or an object to a strong design. Ralston Crawford (1906-1976) (Overseas Highway, 1950) and Charles Sheeler (Church Street El, 1920) celebrated America’s factories and industrial might as their ancient ancestors had celebrated pyramids in Egypt and the Parthenon in Athens. These Modernists are often looked upon as important precursors to American Pop Art in their preference for American popular subjects and American icons.

Of all the American Modernists who reacted to European avant-garde art, perhaps Joseph Stella’s (1877-1946) series on the Brooklyn Bridge, 1919-1920 was the closest to the Europeans. For him, this Bridge, built in 1883, embodied the “new civilization” that was American in all its “perpetual motion.” Stella’s fractured and fragmented Bridge is a superb example of late Salon Cubism, reminiscent of Albert Gleizes when he was waiting out the Great War in New York. During the 1920s Alfred Stiegltz and his group became a lively center of American intelligentsia and provided a counterpoint to a more underground avant-garde group, an outpost of radical European art called, New York Dada, presided over by Walter and Louise Arensberg.

In closing, the art of Georgia O’Keeffe is possibly American Modernism at its best. Stieglitz was very proud of the fact that she had not been impacted by European art and that her art was an unalloyed response to America. With his entrepreneurial handling, she became the most famous and highest priced artist in pre-World War II America. She was perhaps the best painter of the new skyscrapers in New York City, and her large flowers in close-up countered this “masculine” territory. With the exception of Marsden Hartley, O’Keeffe was the only one of the New Yorkers to attempt to represent the American West and to expand the definition of the content of “American” art. After the death of Stieglitz in 1946, O’Keeffe left the city of skyscrapers for good and moved to the land that had always enthralled her, the open land and the open skies, and spent the rest of her life in New Mexico.

Perhaps because of their Americanized approach to European Modernism, these artists were always popular and well respected by the American public in their time. However, the idea of what “American” art should be became more complex in the 1930s with the trend towards Social Realism and Regionalism. Turning away from this message art, the New York School of the 1950s took up an exhausted European Modernism and “Americanized” the old styles of Cubism and Surrealism by combining the geometric and biomorphic and enlarging the format to mural scale. Aside from the move to abstraction, the tactics of the new generation of the New York artists was similar to their precursors. After the Second World War, a new generation of artists and their promoters asserted themselves so aggressively that their important predecessors, the American Modernists, were all but forgotten.

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Alfred Stieglitz and American Modernism

AMERICAN MODERNISM

The Significance of Alfred Stieglitz

American Modernism dates approximately from the first half of the Twentieth Century. For the sake of convenience and to take note of a key figure, it is possible to roughly date this period in relation to the career of Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). The photographer returned from Germany in 1890 with a knowledge of avant-garde art in Europe and with experience in “art photography.” In America, photography was largely the province of professionals who worked commercially, but in Europe, there were groups of well-to-do “amateurs” who had the time to experiment and the income to produce fine art. In addition, New York City had no notable or current avant-garde art scene, a situation the young photographer would attempt to rectify. Stieglitz would preside over Modernism in America until his death in 1946.

The self-given mission of Stieglitz, a New York City native, was to make the American public accept photography as a fine art. He began with joining the Society of Amateur Photographers in 1891, and became the editor of The American Amateur Photographer. Resigning from this post in 1895, Stieglitz merged the Society with the Camera Club of New York and in 1896-7 published Camera Notes to put forward his own ideas. He insisted on the idea of a “picture” as opposed to a mere photograph, a term denoting an artistic, rather than a mechanical, endeavor. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Stieglitz would formulate his concepts of the nature of photography itself, based in a combination of what a camera could do—clarity of vision—and what an artist contributed—composition and design.

Photographs of America’s first photographic salon, the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts and the Photographic Society of Pennsylvania, show a rather haphazard salon style of hanging art. Stieglitz exhibited ten of his “pictures” in the exhibition, but, when he opened his own gallery, the installation style would be quite different. The New York group he had put together was a bit too tame for ambitions nurtured in Berlin. When Stieglitz met the young photographer, Edward Steichen, at the Camera Club, the two of them made a bold move. He and his enthusiastic follower started the Photo-Secession, an avant-garde movement of New York photographers who wanted to be both professional artists and progressive photographers. In the time-honored fashion of European movements, in 1901 these photographers “seceded” from the more conservative club. The “Little Galleries” of the Photo-Secession opened in Steichen’s vacated studios at 293 Fifth Avenue and soon became a beacon for the art cognoscenti of New York City.

In 1908 the gallery broke through the wall to next room at 291, a number that would become a site of a circle of American modernist artists. Until 1907, the prime intention of the gallery was to promote photography as art in terms of Pictorialism. The photographers of 291 began as fashionable Pictorialist photographers. This approach to photography attempted to align photography with “art” by emulating artistic styles and looks, such as graphic effects and painterly effects. Pictorialism was often soft in focus and the photographers built on this soft focus by drawing on the image during the developing process. The result was a photograph that looked like a watercolor or a charcoal sketch, often of picturesque subject matter or staged sentimental or narrative scenes.

But in 1907, Pictorialism was challenged by a new way of photographing called Straight Photography, that is, photography that was sharp and clear, based upon only what the camera could do, un-manipulated in the darkroom. In 1907, a year as important for photography as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was for painting, Stieglitz moved definitively away from Pictorialism with The Steerage. This seminal image was an unmediated shot of third class passengers on an ocean liner, devoid of narrative or mood. The viewer must learn to observe, not the emigrants, but the interplay of diagonals and verticals. Suddenly, “straight photography” ended the reign of Pictorialism.

Advanced photographers favored “Camera Vision,” based upon the way in which the camera sees, a mechanical statement for a technological age. Pictorialism suddenly seemed a relic of the last century, and Pictorialists, like Clarence White and Gerturde Kasebier, went their separate ways, separating from Stieglitz. In his turn the middle-aged Stieglitz took up with other younger straight photographers, Paul Strand and Charles Scheeler. Under the influences of the well-traveled Steichen, Stieglitz soon learned to appreciate avant-garde movements in Europe and expanded the repertoire of the gallery to non-photographic art. In a city where the realist Ash Can artists caused consternation, Stieglitz was the first to give artists like Picasso, Matisse and Brancusi shows in America.

During the early years of the twentieth century, Stieglitz played many roles in New York. In a city where there was little interest in progressive art, he continued his career as a photographer, ran the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, published Camera Work and promoted art photography and avant-garde art from Europe. The cover of Camera Work was designed by Edward Steichen in the popular Art nouveau style, connoting an art perspective on photography. Camera Work published seminal art writing by writers such as Sadakichi Hartmann. It was in these pages that Gerturde Stein was given her first publications, on Matisse and Picasso. The gallery 291 was a tiny room lined with storage cabinets and shelves below the wainscoting. A curtain hid the shelves and above the chair railing, the walls were reserved for the exhibition of works of art, displayed on the line, in one row. In the center of the room was a table which held a large copper bowl with the flowers of the season.

The viewer reached the gallery via a small elevator that held there people, including the operator. Once in the gallery, s/he might meet the small talkative man who lectured tirelessly, often for hours, on avant-garde art. Stieglitz was also interested in promoting American artists and American art and his efforts and “his artists” provided an important way station between American provincialism and American hegemony of the post-War period. In these early years in New York City, Stieglitz was the only source of advanced art until the Armory Show in 1913. In the last issue of Camera Work, Stieglitz featured his protogée, Paul Strand, and in the last exhibition of 291, he featured an obscure artist living in Texas, Georgia O’Keeffe.

When the 291 Gallery closed in 1917, Stieglitz opened The Intimate Gallery and later An American Place, as showcase galleries for his work and the work of his circle, a group of young men, the painters, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Charles Scheeler, Charles Demuth, John Marin, the photographer, Paul Strand, and the only woman, his lover, Georgia O’Keeffe. These artists would be the American Modernists, part of a larger group that included Abraham Walkowitz, Gerald Murphy and Edward Hopper. With their New York approach to the challenge of European modernism, this group would represent “America,” the most industrialized nation in the early twentieth century.

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Podcast 39 Painting 5: Art Between the Wars

Art Between the Wars

Although art history usually passes over this inter-war period quickly, pausing only for Dada and Surrealism, these decades were significant for the continued development of painting. After decades of avant-garde art, Europeans began to consolidate the innovations and inventions of the new century. While the art scene in Paris returned to conservative market-based art, the experimental mind-set shifted to Berlin, the new capital of art between the wars.

 

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