The Arts in Modern American Civilization

The Arts in Modern American Civilization

The Arts in Modern American Civilization

The Arts in Modern American Civilization

Excerpt

Made in America forces attention as few books have done upon the main question which American art has long been putting to itself. What is its relation to American life? Or what ought to be its relation? The second question is not quite the same as the first, but under the illusion that it is, it has been asked with even greater anxiety, not to say vehemence. Not to say, also, conviction that the answer is easily known.

John Kouwenhoven makes it brilliantly clear to one reader that the answer is within reach. Mr. Kouwenhoven has his own answer, and everybody who is interested in American art should note it-indeed, will note it, for I cannot imagine that Made in America will fail to be widely discussed. But I should like to pay the book a still more serious tribute. It deserves to be deeply discussed. For its answer is of less weight at last than the care, the intelligent and responsible care, with which it frames the question. It is more important that we should think well about American life and art than that we should agree with Mr. Kouwenhoven. I often disagree with him. But never until I read his book had I seen the whole matter in the perspective it now occupies for me. This is what I call "making a contribution."

American art for Mr. Kouwenhoven is of course but a local phase of something much vaster in extent. His broadest view takes in all of Western civilization since the day when democracy and machinery got married and set up their modern house. It even foresees the universal triumph of this force, and I suppose there is no reason to doubt that even now such a triumph is taking place. The "vernacular" is on the march. Yet Mr. Kouwenhoven finds most of his instances in America, and sometimes his horizon is . . .

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