Spokesmen: Modern Writers and American Life

Spokesmen: Modern Writers and American Life

Spokesmen: Modern Writers and American Life

Spokesmen: Modern Writers and American Life

Excerpt

Sit possible for an artist to exist in the United States?" To many people that perennial question, now being debated more eagerly than ever, has grown exasperating. Obviously, they say, it is possible; are not the arts at present unusually prosperous? Whether the comparison is made with our own past or with the present condition of other countries, there is no reason for discouragement. Painting and music, for instance, are more flourishing than ever before on our soil. Probably never -- certainly not for a hundred years -- has our architecture been in so thriving a state; by general consent it is far more interesting than that of any foreign nation. Not for seventyfive years has our literature shown an equal vigor, and for the first time it measures well up to the contemporary literatures of Europe. Evidently, therefore, an artist can not only exist but do good work among us; and nowhere else would he be better off.

Such an answer, however, in spite of the truth it contains, implies a misunderstanding of the question; in fact, the question itself as stated above is misleading and needs to be rephrased. It should rather be: "Is the lot of the artist in the United States susceptible of improvement? Is he impelled by his environment to do the best of which he is capable?" For, after all, there is small cause for rational satisfaction in comparing the present situation . . .

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