Modern Art in America

By Martha Candler Cheney | Go to book overview

6. SIGNIFICANT VISION

LARGE groups of contemporary artists work more visibly in the "middle kingdom," as Ernest H. Short (in The Painter in History) has called the region where the artist may impose on matter what form he will and may invent activities that give a complete ideal satisfaction to the contending faculties of sense and spirit.

The plastic structure which gives the paintings of these artists their claim to a place in modern art though substantially apparent is not that of the conspicuous post-Cubists and seekers for significant form. The visual content, drawn as it is from the familiar world, is careless of actual appearances, but glows with the unique coloring of the artist's personality as seen in the shapes of his dream. The paintings are spontaneous creations, in which form is fused with vision into unities which often have great distinction and beauty. Outstanding independents, with a discriminating knowledge of painting "style" in its essence, an understanding of tradition in its continuity, and historical sense, work in this way. Intuitives, aware of a subconscious life underlying the surface semblance of nature, also work this way.

John Carroll and Yasuo Kuniyoshi are familiarly classed as independents. Henry Mattson is an intuitive, whose paintings have an affinity with work by Ryder and are understandable in the light of Chinese canons of painting of the fifth century, just as the contemporary painting of George Grosz (now an American citizen) is related, by the intensity of its subjective mood, to Van Gogh's work. Louis Eilshemius, in the phases in which he has often been called a "primitive," or Lauren Ford, when her theme is inspired by an innate

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