Modern Art in America

By Martha Candler Cheney | Go to book overview

1. THE BEGINNING OF AMERICAN MODERNISM

CONTEMPORARY art in America is represented by a body of painting and sculpture greater than that of any other country in the world; it shows evidences of sound craftsmanship; and, more significantly, it is alive and creative. If the statement sounds controversial and exaggerated, it is because of the revolutionary state of all creative effort and the current confusions about what is art; and because of the confusions and revolutions in every aspect of the national and international life from which art draws its substance and its character.

Until the end of the nineteenth century, no claim was made for an independent American art; that is, for an art that expressed the spirit of New World life and at the same time satisfied the prevailing technical requirements of international critics. Our artists were European educated, and our Academy drew its authority unquestioningly from European officialdom, at a time when all official art in Europe was in a state of unprecedented anemia. We have only to look at today's situation in perspective against the stagnant backwashes of late nineteenth-century American eclecticism to appreciate the contrast. Today's artist is independent. He may get his education exclusively in America. He is free to make a profession of painting or sculpture, and to express himself with all the originality and force he possesses in either field. Even more than the poet, the playwright, the novelist, he makes himself sensitive to the changing spirit of his age.

We may have no genius of the first rank in world art. We have no "school" of the kind that men from Charles Willson Peale to Arthur

-6-

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Modern Art in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1. the Beginning of American Modernism 6
  • 2. Backgrounds in European Art 20
  • 3. American Backgrounds 35
  • 4. New Directions After 1913 53
  • 5. the Spirit of Research and Significant Form 72
  • 6. Significant Vision 90
  • 8. the Painters Discover America 120
  • 9. Regionalism in a Broadening View 138
  • 10. Sculpture 151
  • 11. the Meaning of Modernism: A Summary 164
  • Definitions 177
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 183
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