The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950

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9780393047233: The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950

As the century draws to a close, America has become recognized as one of the most, if not the most, powerful artistic and cultural forces in the world. Why and how this came about, and the astonishing parade of artistic achievement that resulted, is the subject of this extraordinarily rich volume.

The American Century is the subject of a year-long exhibition at the Whitney Museum ― the most comprehensive display of twentieth-century American art ever assembled, incorporating a wide range of masterpieces from all sections of the country, by both familiar and lesser-known artists. This volume, covering the first half of the century, is a history of American art as well as a permanent record of the Whitney show. Here fine arts achievements are seen as part of the larger culture that helped shape them ― the art forms of film, dance, music, literature, photography, decorative arts, architecture, fashion, and industrial design. All are described and set in the context of political and social currents of the era in Barbara Haskell's rich and informative text. Essays by noted experts in many fields illuminate developments in different areas of artistic endeavor while over 750 full-color and duotone illustrations give visual testimony to America's dominant role in the arts. over 750 full-color and duotone illustrations

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Review:

To celebrate the coming millennium, the Whitney Museum of American Art is mounting a tremendous nine-month show covering American art from 1900 to 2000. The American Century: Art and Culture, 1900-1950, by curator Barbara Haskell, is the catalog for the first part of the exhibition. Included are images from painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, and design, providing a comprehensive overview of artistic and cultural ideas in the first half of this century. The book is broken into four chapters, beginning with "America in the Age of Confidence: 1900-1919," which includes beautiful John Singer Sargent paintings depicting American aristocratic life and silver objects from Tiffany and Company. Next comes the "Jazz Age in America: 1920-1929," with images documenting the importance of cinema: movie stills and an exquisite portrait of Gloria Swanson in lace. Also included in this period is a focus on industrial architecture as seen through the paintings of Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and Joseph Stella, with their precise but almost abstract renderings of the changing American landscape. Chapter 3, "America in Crisis: 1930-1939," and chapter 4, "War and Its Aftermath: 1940-1949," include many photographs that map the changes in American life during this tumultuous period, from the dustbowl photos of Dorothea Lange to Weegee's pictures of the seamier side of New York City. Within the immensity of this catalog are discussions that relate the works of art to specific cultural phenomena and map the changing trends in the creation of American art. --Jennifer Cohen

About the Author:

Barbara Haskell is curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is the author of many books and catalogues, including works on Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, Charles Demuth, and Donald Judd. She lives in New York City.

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