By 1920, despite the giant shove of the Armory Show and the nudges of the Forum and the Independent exhibitions, native modernism was dying out. This period, from about 1910 to about 1925, has been called "the first wave of abstract art in America,"1 as indeed it was. Some critics have concluded, as one of them puts it, that our modern pioneers of modern art had only a "superficial understanding, no matter how enthusiastic, . . . [of the] abstract art in Paris," and that therefore, "as soon as the surprise faded most of them abandoned it."2 The early work of these pioneers stands as the most effective of all rebuttals of such an opinion, which shows little general understanding of that period in American art history.
Neglected by dealers, ignored by museums, passed over by collectors, unknown by the public, ridiculed and pressured by more conventional, more successful, fellow painters, the advanced artists in America lived in a cold and hostile climate. Even worse, they lived apart even from one another. Here the easy café life of Paris--the stimulating argument, the fruitful discussion--seemingly could not exist. Our sidewalks are reserved for walking. And let artists, ragged-poor anyway, try sitting overtime at a table with a waiter waving the check and newer corners staring holes in their backs! Not "surprise" fades in such a climate--bit by bit will fades, and enthusiasm, and vision.
So, by the early 1920's, the brightest of our native talents were in a near-fatal position. Max Weber and Alfred Maurer____________________