American Art of Our Century

By Lloyd Goodrich; John I. H. Baur | Go to book overview

11 the social school

The twentieth-century artist's relation to the governing forces of society is quite different from his predecessors'. Until the French Revolution, art had a definite social function: to act as pictorial spokesman and historian for royalty, aristocracy, or the church. But the Revolution changed all this. Capitalism and the modern state offer the artist no such system of beliefs, nor such imagery, as did the spiritual and temporal powers of the past. The creative artists of our age have been individualists rather than institutionalists, libertarians rather than authoritarians, interested in human and democratic values more than in championing material power and wealth. For some, socialism in its early Utopian phases had a strong appeal.

The cataclysm of the first World War, and the revolutions and courterrevolutions that followed, shattered the seemingly secure world of before the war. They brought home to artists, as to everyone else, the fact that political and social matters directly affect all of us. The artist's previous unconcern with such questions gave way to a growing social awareness. Modern war, with its mechanization, its increasingly destructive weapons, and its involvement of whole populations, was no longer the heroic hand-to-hand combat celebrated by the old masters, and since World War I most artists have been strongly antimilitarist.

The Depression of the 1930's gave American artists a firsthand realization of the economic ills of society. Even in normal times, painters and sculptors (except a fortunate few) are underprivileged citizens, and in hard times, they are the first to suffer. Widespread hardship among artists in the early 1930's produced a growing trend toward the left. This was intensified by the rise of fascism abroad. Like their fellows in other democracies, American artists were aroused by the Nazis' suppression of artistic freedom and their racial persecutions. These threatening events caused many to look to communism as the hope of mankind, and blinded them to its own brand of repression.

All these developments stimulated efforts to organize for economic security and defense of cultural freedom. In 1933 the Artists' Union was formed, on a trade-union basis, reaching 1,700 members within two years. In the words of its vice-president, Stuart Davis, "the artist recognizes his alignment with those who have not--the workers." The newly established government art projects gave Union members a sense of their social function and needs--and something to fight. There ensued a period of mass meetings, protests, strikes, picketing, and riots such as the art world had never witnessed. In 1936 a broader organization was launched: the American Artists' Congress, "For Peace, Democracy and Cultural Progress," and against "War, Fascism and Reaction, destroyers of art and culture." The Popular Front was endorsed, the expansion of the government projects was demanded, and the regionalist and American scene schools were branded as chauvinist. Though the Congress included individuals of differing viewpoints, its hard core became increasingly Marxist. While fascism was excoriated, the Soviet Union was always supported, even after the Moscow trials and the 1939 treaty with Nazi Germany. But when the Congress upheld the Russian invasion of Finland in 1940, its more intelligent members resigned, and its influence evaporated.

In the trough of the Depression, in 1933, the Roosevelt Administration had started a series of Federal projects employing artists for public work in their own field. While only a minute part of a vast relief operation, the projects were nevertheless the most extensive artist-employment programs ever undertaken by a modern democracy. They broke the conservative monopoly on public art, gave liberals their first opportunities in this field, and replaced academic neoclassicism with a lively interest in American life and history. And they did this while remaining relatively free of either censorship or official propaganda. Many leading artists were enabled to survive as artists, and future leaders

-98-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
American Art of Our Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Part One - 1900-1939 7
  • 1 - American Art in 1900 9
  • 2 - The Whitney Museum of American Art 12
  • 3 - The Eight and Other City Realists 20
  • 4 - Primitives 29
  • 5 - Pioneers of Modernism: Post-Impressionism and Expressionism 32
  • 6 - Pioneers of Modernism: Abstraction 42
  • 7 - Precisionists 50
  • 8 - Sculpture, 1910-1939 58
  • 9 - Representational Painting 67
  • 10 - The American Scene 84
  • 11 - The Social School 98
  • 12 - Fantasy 104
  • 13 - The Trend toward Abstraction 109
  • Part Two - 1940-1960 119
  • 14 - Romantic Realism 121
  • 15 - Traditional Sculpture 133
  • 16 - Precise Realism 138
  • 17 - Fantasy and Surrealism 148
  • 18 - Social Comment 157
  • 19 - Expressionism: Painting 169
  • 20 - Expressionism: Sculpture 190
  • 21 - Semi-Abstraction 197
  • 22 - Free-Form Abstraction: Painting 208
  • 23 - Free-Form Abstraction: Sculpture 230
  • 24 - Formal Abstraction: Painting 239
  • 25 - Formal Abstraction: Sculpture 252
  • Whitney Museum of American Art 265
  • Whitney Museum of American Art 266
  • Catalogue of the Collection 267
  • Index by Mediums 298
  • Exhibitions, 1914-1960 301
  • Books Published by the Whitney Museum of American Art 306
  • Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1956-1960 307
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 314

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.