How Art Becomes History: Essays on Art, Society, and Culture in Post-New Deal America

By Maurice Berger | Go to book overview

II
Of Cold Wars and Curators:
The Case of
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

ON THE EVENING of June 19, 1953, the journalist Bob Considine offered an eyewitness account from Sing Sing Prison of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Convicted of conspiracy to steal and then pass to the Soviet Union "the secret" of the atomic bomb, Ethel, 38 when she died, and Julius, 35, were the only American citizens ever given a death sentence for espionage by a United States civil court. Considine's lengthy description, filmed by Hearst Metrotone News but never distributed, was alternately scornful, emotional, and rattled--not surprising for one who had just witnessed the gruesome spectacle of death by electrocution.

As Considine reported, Julius Rosenberg went to the electric chair first. He stared impassively as he walked slowly to the death chamber. Preceding him was Sing Sing's Jewish chaplain, who chanted the 23rd psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . ." Rosenberg said nothing. He sat down in the chair, straps and electrodes were applied, and the first of three jolts of electricity was sent into his body. Two minutes later, the prison doctor announced to the three press-corps witnesses that Julius Rosenberg was dead.

-23-

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How Art Becomes History: Essays on Art, Society, and Culture in Post-New Deal America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction: How Art Becomes History xiii
  • Notes xxii
  • 1 - FSA: The Illiterate Eye 1
  • II - Of Cold Wars and Curators: the Case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg 23
  • III - World Fairness 46
  • V - Race and Representation 78
  • VI - Black Skin, White Masks: Adrian Piper and the Politics of Viewing 93
  • VII - Culture Stories/American Myths 114
  • VIII - Are Art Museums Racist? 143
  • Notes 166
  • Index 195
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