American Art of Our Century

By Lloyd Goodrich; John I. H. Baur | Go to book overview

24 formal abstraction: painting

Geometrical abstraction, with its long and austere tradition in Europe, has not been a widespread movement on this side of the Atlantic. One of its leading practitioners, Josef Albers, was European trained. A few of our native painters have adhered as rigorously as Albers to the standards of a purely formal art, but the majority of those at all influenced by the style have tended to endow it with more romantic feeling and content than it ever had abroad--which, in itself, is not an inconsiderable achievement.

At the German Bauhaus, where Albers worked during the 1920's and early 1930's, there persisted the still radical concept (inherited from cubism, suprematism, and Mondrian's neoplasticism) of an art built exclusively on formal relations, an art freed from representation, devoid of associations, and depending solely on the interaction of form and color for its effect. When Albers moved to America, in 1933, the first of the Bauhaus refugees to reach here, he became an influential spokesman for this philosophy. In his own work, his writing and teaching, he has adhered to its strictest interpretation, often limiting his forms to the simplest of shapes (as in his Homage to the Square series) and his colors to pure, unmodulated hues, used its they come from the tube. The sense of absolute "rightness" in the choice and adjustment of these elements is, of course, the result of a long and painstaking process which involves primarily a study of what colors do to each other and what they do to form--giving it motion, contracting, expanding, rising, falling, advancing, or retreating. These relations are adjusted by Albers to a hairline poise which is both dynamic and serene. Although this is all aesthetic process, it is infinitely more than a decorative one, for it creates a paradigm of that precise point of balance be

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American Art of Our Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Part One - 1900-1939 7
  • 1 - American Art in 1900 9
  • 2 - The Whitney Museum of American Art 12
  • 3 - The Eight and Other City Realists 20
  • 4 - Primitives 29
  • 5 - Pioneers of Modernism: Post-Impressionism and Expressionism 32
  • 6 - Pioneers of Modernism: Abstraction 42
  • 7 - Precisionists 50
  • 8 - Sculpture, 1910-1939 58
  • 9 - Representational Painting 67
  • 10 - The American Scene 84
  • 11 - The Social School 98
  • 12 - Fantasy 104
  • 13 - The Trend toward Abstraction 109
  • Part Two - 1940-1960 119
  • 14 - Romantic Realism 121
  • 15 - Traditional Sculpture 133
  • 16 - Precise Realism 138
  • 17 - Fantasy and Surrealism 148
  • 18 - Social Comment 157
  • 19 - Expressionism: Painting 169
  • 20 - Expressionism: Sculpture 190
  • 21 - Semi-Abstraction 197
  • 22 - Free-Form Abstraction: Painting 208
  • 23 - Free-Form Abstraction: Sculpture 230
  • 24 - Formal Abstraction: Painting 239
  • 25 - Formal Abstraction: Sculpture 252
  • Whitney Museum of American Art 265
  • Whitney Museum of American Art 266
  • Catalogue of the Collection 267
  • Index by Mediums 298
  • Exhibitions, 1914-1960 301
  • Books Published by the Whitney Museum of American Art 306
  • Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1956-1960 307
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