Modern Art in America

By Martha Candler Cheney | Go to book overview

5. THE SPIRIT OF RESEARCH AND SIGNIFICANT FORM

CONSPICUOUS among the younger modernists were the experimenters with symbol images for the American machine-age architectural and industrial constructions which contributed an outstanding aspect to contemporary life. Stefan Hirsch and Niles Spencer, among them, based their painting upon an elementary Cubism, which like Picasso Houses in Horta and Factories in Horta, reduces the scene to its simplest terms as a pattern of three-dimensional plane relationships.

Of his paintings of this order, which extended over a considerable period, Stefan Hirsch Lower Manhattan, dating from 1921, is the most notable. This is a complex design of cubed forms from which all particularization of surface, texture, and shapes has been drastically eliminated, and in which a totality of effect has been achieved that presents to the perception an idea of the massed power of metropolitan constructional complexes. The less familiar New England Town, owned by the Worcester Art Museum, shows a more conventional scene reduced to the terms of abstract design. House and pool, plant forms, and the small constructions and equipment are reduced to an elemental unity. Much of the interest derives from the suggestion of machined shapes added to by the reflection of the smooth surfaces in metal-hard water.

Stefan Hirsch was born in Germany in 1899, but he has spent most of his life in this country and received here his education, which has been to a large extent self-education. "I was much affected at the

-72-

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Modern Art in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1. the Beginning of American Modernism 6
  • 2. Backgrounds in European Art 20
  • 3. American Backgrounds 35
  • 4. New Directions After 1913 53
  • 5. the Spirit of Research and Significant Form 72
  • 6. Significant Vision 90
  • 8. the Painters Discover America 120
  • 9. Regionalism in a Broadening View 138
  • 10. Sculpture 151
  • 11. the Meaning of Modernism: A Summary 164
  • Definitions 177
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 183
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