Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins

By John H. Lienhard | Go to book overview

5
Remington to Modern:
Finding the Core on the Fringe

The driving forces of change reveal their essential and primitive form, not at the core of an intellectual movement, but on the fringe. Once ideas lose their raw edge and begin finding a center of refinement, the forces that formed them blur and become harder to identify.

In chapter 3, for example, we see that the public's almost slapstick response to the new X-rays was an avenue through which modern physics raised general expectations. Chapter 4 describes the way hopes for the raw commodity of ingenuity spiraled upward for a season, after 1900. The popularization of genius in America reflected a deep change in expectations.

The fringes can be especially revealing when we try to understand how radical new forms of modern art evolved around the turn of the century. The French impressionist painters had set in motion a huge revolution just after the American Civil War. Impressionism was a radically new way of looking at the world, one in which artists captured their fleeting, momentary impressions of the reality before them.

Did those artists still report the same world we had always seen? Perhaps not. Impressionism was a very early stage of upheaval in a world where external reality itself was shifting. Artists began inventing new vocabularies to reflect new realities long before Modern established itself, and they created new realities as they found those vocabularies. It was very much a chicken-and-egg process.

Beginning around 1886, a new French school of postimpressionism took root. The postimpressionists went much further in augmenting the limited evidence of our eyes with material of the mind. French postimpressionists, such as Gauguin and van Gogh, created a huge emotional impact by taking us further and further away from visual literalism.

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Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • Inventing Modern xi
  • 1 - 1846: Great-Grandpa and Manifest Destiny 1
  • 2 - Short-Lived Technologies: Searching for Direction 21
  • 3 - “the Irruption of Forces Totally New” 39
  • 4 - A New Genus of Genius 53
  • 5 - Remington to Modern: Finding the Core on the Fringe 64
  • 6 - Fires and the High-Rise Phoenix 84
  • 7 - The Titan City 101
  • 8 - Automobile 115
  • 9 - On the Road: of Highways and Gasoline 137
  • 10 - The Back Door into the Sky 152
  • 11 - Flying Down to Rio 172
  • 12 - A Boy's Life in the New Century 190
  • 13 - Inventing a Better Mousetrap 204
  • 14 - War 219
  • 15 - A Funeral in the Fifties 244
  • 16 - After Modern 258
  • Notes 269
  • Index 285
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