Early American Modernist Painting, 1910-1935

Early American Modernist Painting, 1910-1935

Early American Modernist Painting, 1910-1935

Early American Modernist Painting, 1910-1935

Excerpt

This book attempts a survey of the field of early American modernist painting from 1910 to 1935, the period before American avant-garde painting assumed its position of international leadership. The American modernists of 1910 to 1935, inheriting those attitudes of modesty toward their accomplishments shared by the American painters preceding them when they too confronted their work in comparison with European painting, made no proud claims, issued no manifestos (except for the Synchromists Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Morgan Russell). Rarely did they acknowledge that they had made a dramatic break with American painting of the late nineteenth century. They did not refer to their paintings as Fauvist, Expressionist, Cubist, Futurist, Abstract, Dadaist, or Surrealist.

Like the European Fauvists and Expressionists, they replaced local colors of objects with colors revealing states of feeling, inner reactions to the subject. Like the European Cubists, they fragmented objects, or took them apart, placing their flattened parts next to one another. Like the Futurists, they arranged objects or parts of objects in a kaleidoscopic manner, or overlapped forms or parts of forms to convey in a nonrepresentational way the sense of motion or speed. No less than Kandinsky or Mondrian, they presented shapes and colors that bore no resemblance to anything in the world the eye recognized. Like the Dadaists and Surrealists, they evolved a conceptual sort of art. Like the Surrealists, some early American modernists (Demuth, Dove, and others) illogically juxtaposed objects in groupings that could not have occurred in real life. If these painters did not exhibit the revolutionary fervor of the Europeans, it should not blind us to the significance of their accomplishments.

The beginnings of early American modernist painting may be set generally at about 1910. That was the year of Arthur G. Dove's first nonobjective paintings, of Max Weber's nudes based on Picasso's Iberian figures, and of Morgan Russell's . . .

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