Milestones of American Painting in Our Century: Introd. by Lloyd Goodrich

Milestones of American Painting in Our Century: Introd. by Lloyd Goodrich

Milestones of American Painting in Our Century: Introd. by Lloyd Goodrich

Milestones of American Painting in Our Century: Introd. by Lloyd Goodrich

Excerpt

As the twentieth-century nears its halfway mark we begin to see it in perspective. When it opened, American art was dominated by a lifeless academicism. European developments after impressionism were unknown here. But within a few years all this was changed. The Eight, though far from advanced in style, broke the academy's hold. Young Americans abroad discovered the ferment of modernism and brought it back with them. By the early 1920's modernism had won at least half its battle. But it was never to be as organized a movement as in Europe. For American artists the movement was a liberation and a starting-point for highly personal developments. Instead of the European experimentation with form, our leading tendency was towards emotional expressionism.

The victory of modernism produced its own reaction. Rejecting its abstract and internationalist tendencies, certain painters turned to picturing American life, renewing the viewpoint of the Eight but with more drastic realism and deeper insight. Then came the depression, turning younger artists towards social comment and satire.

In the past ten years the pendulum has again swung back towards the subjective and abstract. Surrealism has introduced a new psychological dimension into content. And there has been a revival of abstractionism, this time on a wider scale and with a broader philosophy which takes account of the values of subject-matter.

The past half-century of American art, in variety of viewpoints and styles, in richness of creative gifts, in freedom of expression forbidden to artists in authoritarian countries, has been the most vital period in our history. From the provincial backwaters of 1900 we have entered the main stream of world art.

This book, the product of an exhibition organized by Frederick S. Wight of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, presents works by fifty outstanding painters of the period. The broad, representative selection, with Mr. Wight's illuminating survey and commentary, should go far towards enlarging our understanding of the times through which we have lived.

LLOYD GOODRICH Associate Director, Whitney Museum of American Art . . .

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